Broken Promises, part II

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Boulder Weekly Staff

return to Broken Promises Part I

Dan Janosko, U.S. Marine Corps, Sergeant E5, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2005-2010

It was Easter weekend 2012, in the wee hours bleeding into Monday.

This
weekend was a lot like other weekends for Dan Janosko. The 25-year-old
from Catawba, Va., had been off active duty with the Marines for
a little under two years and his drinking had become a problem. He’d
jumped right into college after leaving the military, but found little
inspiration for the endeavor and dropped out of Colorado State
University after a year. He worked in the oil and gas industry for about
a year, and at this point in his story, this fateful Easter weekend, he
was employed as a roughneck in the North Dakota oil fields.

He’d had multiple brushes with the law since coming back to civilian life, but this night, Janosko ran head first into trouble.

Drunk
and angry — Janosko can’t remember what triggered it — he fired 18
rounds into a wall of the house he was living in at the time.

“After
your first deployment, you really come in touch with anger a lot,”
Janosko says. “In some ways I found myself yelling a lot more. I
remember when I got home, somebody’d say something and I’d turn around:
‘You wanna fucking go?’ [They’re] like, ‘What?’ When you’re over there
[on combat deployment],” he pauses to think. “I don’t know if it’s
necessarily how you handle business, but everybody’s so stressed and
frayed that it does happen quite a bit.”

Janosko
joined the Marines in 2005 at 17 years old and deployed for Iraq in
October of 2007. He was a radio operator, but like every Marine he was a
rifleman, and he volunteered to be a turret gunner during his first few
days in Iraq. He spent the winter holidays of 2007 living out of a
Humvee in northern Iraq, drinking instant coffee and eating Ramen
noodles, “happier than a pig in shit.”

But
in 2010 he made the choice to come home. He wasn’t interested in
further promotions that would have taken him away from the front lines,
and college — while he still wasn’t sure it was the right choice for him
— was “what you do next.”

“Up until literally the day I got out, my command was like, ‘Do you wanna stay?’” says Janosko. “And
had they let me stay for the Afghanistan deployment I would have stayed,
but they weren’t allowing Marines to extend. I got out on the first
wave of the downsize.”

And so began his rocky road to reintegration.

That
incident over Easter, he’s not afraid to say, turned Janosko’s life
around. He’s still working through four years of probation, but he’s got
a good relationship with his parole officer — he calls her his
“state-appointed girlfriend.” As long as he keeps his nose clean, his
only charge will be negligent discharge of a weapon. He no longer owns
any guns.

And it
brought him to Veterans Helping Veterans Now, a nonprofit organization
in Longmont that provides free services to vets, from support groups to
legal aid to massage therapy. Janosko completed his 200 hours of
court-mandated community service at the vet organization in around three
months. These days, Janosko works full-time as a policy coordinator and
program manager for VHVN through AmeriCorps’ Vista program.

Janosko admits he’s completely stopped listening to the news.

“There’s
no point to it. It’s like, ‘Who could’ve believed this shit?’ I don’t
know,” he pauses, his words heavy under the weight of sarcasm. “From the
day we set up the Green Zone to the day we left the Green Zone, there’s
still mortar rounds dropping — OK, let’s be real fucking honest, you
know?” “I actually remember being [in Iraq] for the anniversary of the
initial invasion,” he says. “The U.S. has been there for five years at
that point. This is part of the stuff I struggle with to this day. At
that point, you couldn’t be a rah-rah patriot. There’s enough shit on
either side, whether it was conspiracy, whether it wasn’t. I remember
walking into my battalion building and hearing another guy go, ‘Fuck! It
cost us X billion dollars to fucking keep one convoy and infantry
battalion in the country.’ And you just kind of …” He throws his hands
up and shrugs.

“The
esprit d’cour and the morale for being there for each other, the mission
at that point was just — I don’t know. It started to fall apart. The
stuff we were doing, you know, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun
wound.

Like here, here’s your Barney Band- Aid. Don’t let it bleed through.”

“Iraq,
whether you believe biblically or textbook or whatever, it’s where the
cradle of civilization started. I mean the Euphrates and Tigris river
valleys. And we’re gonna change something that’s been in place from the
dawn of time? We’re going to go in and convert them?

How
are we going to go in and create something that’s never been created
and it’s gonna take 10 years? Full of shit. What’s gonna happen? What
did we expect to happen?” He couldn’t say if he felt like his efforts
were wasted in Iraq, but he does know one thing: “There are still days
when I wish I’d never left the Marines.”

Jason J. King, Sergeant E-5 U.S. Marine Corps, 2005-2010

I
was primarily based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., but overseas I was
stationed in Camp Falluja, Iraq [Sept. 2006-April 2007], Camp Al Asad,
Iraq [2008], and finally Camp Leatherneck/ Bastion, Afghanistan [April
2009-Nov. 2009]. The first two deployments were scheduled for my unit
and I volunteered for the Afghanistan deployment.

“I joined for a few reasons. I had always had a desire to join some type of branch of military when I was

younger
and almost enlisted in the Navy after high school. However, I decided
to give college a try first and join up if I didn’t like where it was
taking me. Well, I really didn’t have a plan for college, I was just
taking classes for the sake of taking classes and I started to really
dislike it (I was never a huge fan of school to begin with anyways). I
saw myself sitting in front of a computer and wasn’t too pleased with
that. I also wasn’t too pleased with my state of mind. This meaning that I really didn’t feel like I had much of a purpose or really
belonged anywhere. Well, the Marine recruiter must have sensed that and
really harped on it. I also figured if I was going to join a branch of
the military during a time of war it might as well be the Marines so I got a chance to go overseas.

“My
mental state has changed dramatically over time. It’s changed from
deployment to deployment and is still changing since I’ve separated from
active duty.

After my first deployment I was incredibly bitter and resentful. I was angry.
I was angry because I had changed and experienced and accomplished so
much in seven months while my friends and people back home were partying
and continuing with their lives. I felt like my life had been put on
hold. It sucked. I
watched through Myspace people throwing parties and generally living out
their lives. Then to come home all excited to join back in the fun and
have nothing going on was rather disappointing. It felt like a lot of my
friends kind of looked at me differently, too; hard to really explain
that but it felt like they just looked at me in a new light. People
wanted to ask me ‘Did you kill anyone?’ or ‘Are you alright mentally?’
Don’t get me wrong, they still hung out with me and talked to me but
something just seemed different. Who knows… maybe it was just me.

“My
second deployment was much easier. I was on a larger, nicer base that
even had an ‘indoor pool’ where we had mandatory PT sessions. By then I
had a much better understanding of the whole process — going to and
leaving a war zone. When I got back, all I wanted to do was just go out
and have a good time or sit and relax in my parent’s backyard — the
backyard is like a sanctuary; nice and peaceful — and drink.

“I volunteered for my third deployment for two reasons: The second deployment left a bad taste in my mouth.
It was really pretty boring (which can be viewed as a good thing, too).
And, secondly, I wanted to go to Afghanistan. Never been before and I
had a chance. I wanted to see what it was all about. When I got home
from this last deployment I was no longer super resentful towards
everyone else. Instead, I understood there was a strong disconnect
between military and civilian and I just accepted it for what it was.

I
left active duty about five months after that deployment with no real
plan to do much. I figured I would eventually go to school and use the
Post 9/11 GI Bill, which not only pays for school, but also pays us a
monthly living stipend to assist in covering bills or whatnot. But for
the majority of the summer in 2010 I sat around and did a lot of
drinking (a portion of that drinking was just out of boredom) and played a lot of video games.

I
managed to pick up a job at a private paintball field running games for
private parties, which only took up a few days a week. I made a few
trips out to the shore to see a buddy of mine during the summer who
eventually helped me get into the school down there.

“School
was something else. Here I was, a 25-year-old combat veteran, sitting
next to a bunch of kids who have never experienced life outside of their
parent’s protection. Many times I wanted to get in their face for being
disrespectful to the professor (like talking during a lecture or
blatantly playing on their phone) but I kept my cool and found myself
connecting better with the professor rather than the other students. The
students’ priorities were drinking and partying; I was past all that, I
was there to learn. I didn’t make too many friends through school. I
really only talked to other veterans (of all branches) at the school and
we had a pretty close-knit group that participated in the Student
Veteran’s Group. I didn’t work until my last semester of school because
the mentality was that school was my job. But the fact that I
legitimately got accepted for a position was pretty satisfying, even though it was for a food store as a produce guy.

“Anyways,
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for because of my girlfriend. I met her
in 2010 and started dating later than year and she’s been absolutely
great to me. She’s helped me through so much: I used to smoke and I used
to drink a lot (alcohol abuse was a common trend after deployments and
separation from service). I didn’t have much direction — I didn’t really
care at all for anything. But she has helped me deal with a lot of
garbage. She’s helped me get through college, quit smoking, cut back on
drinking and helped me get a job. She’s gotten me to realize that not
everyone has experienced the things I have and I need to accept that and
so much more.

“I’ve
never been a part of something where I’ve had to fight so hard for a
piece of land — I’ve really only been a part of missions where I’ve been
passing through areas or we go to it, complete a task and get out. So
to see Iraq fall apart like it is… it sucks but not on the same level as
other veterans may feel. I hate the fact that the Iraqi forces we
trained and spent so much time protecting and building up are failing.
To see so much time and effort wasted on a group of people who don’t
care as much as you do is a huge let down and demoralizer. Now that we
have ‘advisors’ on the ground over there brings a slight relief to me,
but at the same time I feel like the Iraqis need to fix this themselves
and leave American forces out of the game. They are failing because they
don’t want it as much as we do, I suppose.

“When
you spend months or even years around the same people, as you are on a
military deployment, you’ll talk about nearly everything, politics
included. Sure we questioned the decisions of our superiors all the way
up the chain but it never kept us from doing our jobs.

“There
are a ridiculous amount of resources at my disposal both online and
face-to-face. The thing I had an issue with is what to actually use to
help me. Everything seems to be the same thing and everyone wants to
help. It’s a great feeling to have so much support behind me but it’s
almost like being dropped in the middle of the sea and asked to pick a
direction to shore; you almost can’t go wrong either way.

“A
large issue I had trouble with was finding a real job. I had been in
charge of multiple people’s lives and equipment worth more than most
people’s houses and I felt I could absolutely take on any challenge that
was thrown at me. However, trying to convey that on a resumé was
different story. No one cares about the things you were in charge of;
they care about whether they need to train you for the job you are
applying for. It sucked, but after seeing a management position from the
inside I understood that I didn’t have the necessary knowledge to
really effectively hold that title. It was a shot to my pride, but after
a while I got over it and did my best to absorb as much information as
possible so that I became an asset for the company instead of just
another part-time employee.

“There
really isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss some aspect of the
Marines. I miss the guys, I miss the action, I miss the fact that every
day was different than the last, I miss the training, I miss the
deployments, I miss being accountable for other people, and I even miss
the bullshit where I got punished for other people’s mistakes. But at
the same time, that last reason was a part of why I didn’t reenlist.
Also got tired of living out of a bag.

I never owned much so it was easy for me to move around or deploy but I was getting to a point I wanted to settle in somewhere.”

King is now employed by Veteran’s Affairs (VA).

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com