That's a modified Paris Hilton-ism, we know, but... of course we're talking about Rudy Reyes, former 1st Recon Marine, playing himself on the HBO series, "Generation Kill," from the book of the same name, by Evan Wright. (If you've read Nate Fick's wonderful book, "One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer," you've also read about Rudy Reyes in that.)
We've written about Rudy Reyes before on this site; and we're secretly chuckling about how absurdly many people worldwide are searching for -- literally -- ANY scrap of news about The Hotness That Is Rudy-- or preferably any pictures. His own website seems to be "under construction" -- let's hope it gets online soon to satisfy the teeming hordes of fans, internationally.
In the meantime, though -- it's important to remember that Rudy has seen and done, many many things in his time - in battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. First Recon Marines are known as "Swift, Silent and Deadly" ... and if you think Marines in general are ROCK STARS (we certainly do -- our friend the Beautiful Redhead, married to a Marine officer, gave us a T-shirt that said just that) -- well, Recon Marines are all that and then some. It's the most physically, emotionally, mentally demanding job in the Marine Corps.
If, while you're waiting around for Rudy Reye's website to become active, or learn more about his "Hero Living" DVD series planned -- you might want to take a few moments and educate yourself more fully about some of the downsides of being "the best of the best" -- it's the PTSD that can come from the obscene amounts of combat and arduous undertakings you're exposed to. The good news is that not everyone gets PTSD. The bad news is, the chances of it increase with exposure to combat trauma -- and, for those whom it affects, it's a battle harder than any fight they've ever had.
Rob Honzell, who, like Rudy Reyes, was also a Marine sergeant in First Recon -- but in Vietnam -- has written a good book about his experiences. He calls it "First Person: Combat PTSD," and it's pretty eye-opening. I had it on my bookshelf for quite a while before I opened it and really gave it a read -- but when I did, I couldn't put it down. Rob in the meantime has become a friend, and frankly I was feeling guilty about not having taken his book more seriously; so I did. It's quite a book.
If you know Rob at all, you know that the reason he's willing to plumb the depths that he has in this book, and draw water from the deep end of the pool, is because of his deep, abiding and heartfelt concern that veterans today not have to go through what he's gone through as a combat veteran with PTSD. Rob spent "one year, seven months, and twenty-one days" as a Recon Marine in Vietnam -- and has fought courageously ever since, to keep a toehold in the land of the living, and the land of the sane. For anyone who thinks that Vietnam vets with PTSD just check out of life and don't contribute to society, Rob isn't in that mold. He had his fun -- years as a traveling musician in Canada (he was a drummer in a bar band) -- but also his serious side -- decades spent in law enforcement as a police officer, police chief, K-9 officer, and criminal justice teacher. He's completed his master's degree, and is struggling to complete a Ph.D. in psychology -- so that he can help other veterans, with PTSD.
First, though, he has to get his own case in check, and that's been an arduous battle since Vietnam, where the nightmares and hallucinations started, while he was still in combat. Killing dozens of people, up close and personal has left its mark -- in his book he gets wistful over snipers having it easier, because at least they kill their targets at a distance, and don't have to get soaked with their victims' blood, or watch them take their last breath, from inches away. By the end of the book, when you realize how many people Rob killed in combat, and then also realize the kind, caring person he is (evidenced by his work in law enforcement, for instance -- his book shares some good stories about that) -- you can see why his experiences in Vietnam got to him.
On the one hand, he was at the top of his game. His prowess in Okinawan karate gave the Marines an opportunity to further hone his skill as a killing machine; and his overall smarts helped him to be a very strategic, effective one at that. But one thing comes through loud and clear in his book: that the innocent, 17 year old boy who joined the Marines straight out of high school, and later raised his hand to volunteer for Recon, when the call went out -- that boy not only died in Vietnam, that boy had literally no idea what he was getting himself into.
Was 40 years of nightmares and the torture of a PTSD-wracked life, with all that that entails, a "fair trade" for not even two heavy-duty years in Vietnam? That's a tough one. How about the health problems, coping struggles, failed marriages, hard relationships with children, and simple fight for sanity and survival? Rob carries the memory of the people he killed, and the way he killed them, every day. I think that's part of how you can tell he's a "good person" -- because it still bothers him -- in fact it started bothering him at the time. But of course he had to suppress that, a) to survive and b) to continue to do a good job. Ever since, though, those memories have been a constant companion, despite the amount of good he's done in his life, and continues to do.
He writes poignantly in the book about that 17 year old boy, who's long gone by now, except in spirit, as he talks about what he imagines the "end of the road" will be like:
"I don't know when or where my journey will end. You don't terminate dozens of people's lives and not have to stand in front of God and ask his forgiveness. I have used, and I have been used, in my life; and I'm sure I'll have to answer to God for that also. I know it sounds weird, but I hope to go into heaven as that 17 year old boy that was always smiling, laughing, loving, and full of life..."
I have to say, because I've come to really care about Rob, I sure hope his "exit" isn't anytime soon. But it's impossible to learn his story and not realize how high a price veterans can pay, in service to their country. And the more intense the service -- like Recon Marines -- the more intense the price they're likely to have paid. They deserve our respect, and honor, and with that, our compassion.
In the civilian world, there's a concept called "Informed Consent." If someone informs you of the risks, say of surgery or medication, you can always evaluate them and decide pro or con. Then, if something comes back to bite you later, at least you know that you were warned ahead of time, and made your own decision. In the military world, obviously, not so much.
I seriously doubt that if any commanding officer had explained to that 17 year old guy at the time, "hey, you look to be in great physical shape, how'd you like to do a super-demanding job for us that's called being a Recon Marine" -- and then explained what the human cost of suffering would entail, for the next 40 years of his life -- that he'd have had any takers. I wonder sometimes whether even the officers knew what the costs would be for the recruits. In any case, it's been one hell of a journey for Rob, during which he's contributed quite a bit of good to society, and also never been able to fully and completely manage the horrors of what being a Recon Marine exposed him to.
I have to say, I'm proud of him for what he did -- both as a Marine, and as a veteran -- to do his job, no matter how terrible, excellently at the time, and then afterwards, have this considerable desire that other veterans not have to walk the same incredibly difficult path he's walked. It's an honor to be his friend, and I hope that somewhere in the bazillions of hits from people wanting to find out about one former Recon Marine -- Rudy Reyes -- that they take the time to also learn about the life and struggles of another former Recon Marine -- Rob Honzell. They're both worthy of our attention; but I wonder -- will they both receive it? If you haven't picked up Rob's book, it's a short but effective education in what it takes to serve our country, and the cost that can exact from the veteran, in very human terms.
I learned just the other day that Rob's counselor at the VA is hoping to recommend his book to all her patients who are combat veterans. That's a nice, and belated, testament to the caring heart behind this warrior: someone who's willing to pull the skeletons out of his closet, in the hopes that more recent veterans, and their families and caregivers, will understand more quickly the tremendous costs of combat trauma in terms of human suffering among the participants.
Rudy Reyes is also a gem: someone who's had a hard life and made much of it, given it his all, and is pretty much poised right now to be a star. I know he knows firsthand the challenges of extreme combat, as a Recon Marine. I hope that he will use some of his burgeoning celebrity power and charisma for good -- lending his influence for issues that concern wounded Marines and other servicemembers, like combat PTSD. Like Rob Honzell before him, and his prowess with Okinawan karate, Rudy's facility with martial arts has been a big part of his success, and where he finds some much-needed personal balance.
Wherever life takes these men, I hope that others will continue to be blessed for knowing them, and for the substantial contributions they have made, both in service to their country and beyond. In Rob Honzell's case, with the publication of his book devoted to making clear the lifetime cost in suffering from just one former Marine's longtime battle with PTSD, I'm pretty sure we already are. Thank you, Rob.