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Storyteller | Combat wounded veteran | Metalhead | Designer | My war memoir—Where Cowards Go to Die—drops Spring 2022:

When calamity strikes, leaders emerge. Just not anymore.

Left: Governor Gavin Newsom; Wikipedia | Center: Ted Cruz Meme; Bighurtrocks | Right: Pastor Carl Lentz with Oprah; Instagram

I was confused when the soldier pointed toward the front of the line. Men in fatigues stood conversing, waiting for their turn to eat among an endless sea of people. Sheepishly, I moved past the soldiers who continued to joke, and though I was cutting in line, they paid me no mind. Scanning each rank, I continued to make my way forward until I reached my posse — the lowest of the low — Privates. Having recently graduated basic training, I carried the second lowest rank one could have in the United States Armed Forces. I was used to Drill…

A former soldier explains the emotional vacancy of “the fatherless generation”

Photo by Oliver Ragfelt | Unsplash

“Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves — in their depravity — design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.”

―Homer, The Odyssey

I don’t have the group picture from the day my dad visited my fraternity house at Oklahoma State University. It was awkward compared to the “Mom’s Day” photo we would snap a few months later. …

Growing older brings about wisdom and perspective. Here’s what I wish someone would have told me.

Author through the years: (Left) In my 20s (Center) In my 30s (Right) Current Day

Years ago I read a lackluster book that talked about the stages in a man’s life. While the book was meh, I liked how the author broke down the stages mend tend to go through. In our 20s, we’re wild and carefree. During your 30s, you’re more set on becoming established and building your own little empire (think home and career). Yet in your 40s you often mellow out, growing wise and calm.

I’ve thought a lot about that this last week. My desire in my 40s is to be a lot less piss and vinegar and a whole helluva…

What people might hate about you can become your greatest strength

Yes. That’s me in high school | Photo courtesy of author

“Faggot” might as well have been my nickname in portions of middle school.

Between my long hair, band t-shirts, JNCO jeans, chain wallet, and love for metal music, I attracted the ire of some of our student body populace. I got body checked into lockers, name called, and generally ostracized. It was enough to make me cut my hair and start wearing Abercrombie & Fitch to fit in. The tactic worked, and well into college I popped my collar, often looking like I belonged in an episode of Jersey Shore. And yet, I never felt free like I did when…

When you fail hard enough, you tend to learn something

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I once had a girl dump me hours before a Valentine’s Day date. I’d planned a romantic evening at a schmancy restaurant overlooking the lake, bought flowers, and even purchased a small gift to make her feel special.

When I finally got ahold of her on the phone — after showering and preparing for our night out — she informed me she couldn’t make it… and that we weren’t going to make it either. Crushed, I hung up the phone and, dressed in slacks and a button down, meandered down the street to a strip of college bars. …

If you keep playing with fire, eventually you’ll get burned

Photo by antony on Unsplash

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”
— Seneca

“Once I get married, I won’t have to look at porn anymore.”

The room had emptied and the young man stood casually, with his arms crossed in defiance. A wry smile formed at the edges of my mouth, which I quickly stifled. Instead of berating him, I prodded at his reasoning.

“What makes you say that?”

“I use porn to fulfill unmet needs,” he stated. “I don’t have a girlfriend at the moment, and by the time I get married, I won’t need it.”


A final article, love letter, some nostalgia, and reflection

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash

I was too shy to participate in the couples skate.

Instead, I would wait on the carpeted benches where I had stashed my knock off Reebok pump tennis shoes in the cubbies underneath. Sometimes I’d stand, courage flooding my system, only to walk a few paces, chicken out, and retreat to the dim nook with a few arcade games. A soft slow jam — usually Boyz II Men — would croon gently through the speakers while the lights dimmed and the disco ball reflected the yellow, pink, and purple neon of our local haunt.

The boys’ bathroom reeked of too…

On living with posttraumatic stress and overcoming it

Photo courtesy of author

In the waning daylight, when pictures are best known for their golden hour hue, I discovered a beautiful sunset was synonymous with shrapnel, explosions, and death.

It was my first day on a small forward operating base in the mountains of Afghanistan, early in the Afghan War. During the early evening dusk, Taliban and al Qaeda operatives would launch rockets and mortars at our outpost nestled in a mountain valley. It was a demoralization tactic learned from Vietnam, in which the enemy knew we were less likely to pursue them into the mountains with the onset of night. …

The con is on, but we can’t stop clicking

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Kitboga is a popular Twitch streamer who’s made a living by scamming scammers. The ruse began when his grandmother became a victim of a scam targeted toward the elderly. Taking personal offense, he started streaming in front of an audience while running a hilarious reverse scam. Using a voice changer, Kitboga takes on personas like a sweet old grandmother named Edna or a valley girl, Nevaeh (“Heaven” spelled backwards). Watching his stream is wildly entertaining, hilarious, and gratifying. Some of my teammates at HeartSupport have also appeared as guest scammers alongside Kit, posing as bratty children. …

From saviors to wolves, our view of police, military, and first responders is becoming skewed

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

“It’s not the cartels,” the voice on the other end of the phone states. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re ruthless and will do a drive-by at your house, but the Chinese mafia puts them to shame.”

I nod, though my friend cannot see me. Years earlier, I worked in geopolitical intelligence and tracked Mexican cartels. I’d create maps of the flow of drugs into the U.S. along with the cartel’s ever-changing areas of influence. One day El Chapo would have the largest territory, only to be usurped by the Sinaloa cartel.

Despite an iron stomach from my time in combat…

Benjamin Sledge

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