My Fellow Veterans

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For all those who have ever done field KP in an MKT hundreds of miles from civilization

To those who still get chills during roll call at memorial services

If you’ve ever donned your protective mask praying you are just fast enough

To all of you who’ve ever boarded a plane wondering if you were ever coming home

And have endured brutal extremes on both ends of the spectrum

Who have known the exhausting satisfaction of loading a fleet of vehicles on planes and trains and ships

Out of necessity, learned to sleep anywhere…anytime

When the smell of gunpowder never grows old

Who have proudly watched the American flag wave high over many lands

All of those who have said our final good byes to the fallen at austere ramp ceremonies

To those that have fought for everyone else’s freedom…I salute each and every one of you

Ralph’s first exercise

img_1913Ralph Castillo had always enjoyed entertaining people with stories. I didn’t matter if the stories were his or not…but if those stories by him, those were his favorites.

T​he tales of the ancient mythologies intrigued him. By far, his favorite reading matter – he devoured the books in his library on Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian myths. Characters for creating his own pantheon are strong in his bubbling pot of ideas.

H​e used to be rebellious and anti-establishment. His friend Becky is correct about him changing. The time in the Army around order and discipline will leave a person craving those. Hopefully not to the extent that one must abandon all childhood fantasies. Not that he doesn’t have his adult dreams. And not that he has lost his creativity. But we must all grow up.

H​e loves his family. His kids and grand kids. But he didn’t realize how much he would miss his siblings and parents until he went away. He would not have exchanged his opportunity to see the world and its deep cultures. But he would have planned better, and he would have swallowed pride and pettiness, to support peace…and promote better relationships. Specifically with his wife and his father.

Life didn’t end on a sour note with his father, but he missed out on a lot by not being proactive and communicating better. This month, his father would have turned seventy-six. And it nags at the back of his mind not to be able to share more with Julio Castillo (his father). He would have been so happy to share all his genealogical research with his father. Before his death, Julio was working to reestablish his relationship with his own father and sisters. An odd turn here. Ralph’s father and grand father both had strokes and it’s become a concern for Ralph to discover any significance to his own health.

H​e did love his wife with all his heart when they were married. He thought that she would share that if he waited long enough. In her defense she did tell him that she wanted it to be more a friendship than like an actual exclusive marriage. Ralph agreed and that was the wrong reason for marriage. His understanding now is that people should marry out of love, not out of necessity. It’s easier now that he’s middle-aged and has no significant other in his life.

H​e has started back up on the online dating scene. We’ll have to see how that goes. A recent connection with a beautiful woman from a town an hour away. She shows some promise. But it’s been a couple of days. He asked for her number and most women who have spoken this much would have gone ahead and shared their phone numbers. He will hopefully be patient, because she seems to be worth waiting for.

Ralph is an aspiring writer. He wants to write the next Great American Novel. But baby steps, after all. If he can begin a freelance writing career, then he can probably get those creative juices flowing. Working ones imagination, is surely like working ones muscles. They get leaner and stronger…more buff as well?

These musings are an exercise for him. He doesn’t write in the third person when speaking of himself. That’s arrogant and childish. But for him, on this specific occasion, the idea is to be childish. To get back to basics. To teach himself to write again.


In the beginning, there was nothing.  then, because nothing cannot be, something came. It was, as nothing, without description and impossible.

It caused the impossible to be. It defined all description to come.  It destroyed the nothing, in as much as nothing can be destroyed.

It had no name and no needs. It cared not what it created, it just did. Every place arrived and everything was.

Stories are told; signs no one has seen. All cause one to cry, some help us to sing.  All gather to lift the spirits; all need the moment of release.

The forlorn make dancing a moment of glee. We flight our good judgement and accept a fleeting moment to forget – to accept.

Tales will transport us to isles not of men. Be still and listen, and let our journey begin.

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The Journey

All eyes gaze upon the journey. All stars from the blue to the red.

The moon tells the sun. When I grow up, I want to be like you.

The sun tells the planets. Gather round so I may guide you.

Leaving home to the outer reaches of space, the universe.

Moving their families along, the planets, the moons and cosmic dust.

Like nomadic tribes who venture towards unknown corners of reality. Comets come visit like curious wild animals scampered off almost as quickly as they came.

Everyone huddled together for the last track into the cold and dark expanses of space.

And as all of reality existence watches the cosmos weeps.

Playing for keeps

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I thought this was supposed to be a game. I didn’t realize I would have been inserted into a wild wild world of chaos. I certainly would not have agreed to the plan. Serves me right for reading the flyers in the comic book store.

It all began with a call to a toll-free number. “Hi. I am interested in what your game is about.”….”Yes. I have been playing table top games for years. I’m well aquatinted with role playing.”…”You’ll advise me when all the players have confirmed? Okay, I guess I’ll wait.”  And then nothing until last night.

My familiar ringtone sounded briefly and then nothing. I didn’t even have time to answer. By the time I rolled over to go back to sleep, one wall of my bed room swirled in a greenish haze. I got closer to check it out and then it was on.

A suit reminiscent of Dune draped over me and a pair of young men were waving me on….”Let’s go”. I didn’t even hesitate. “Right.” I followed them because they seemed to know where they were heading. That impression disappeared quickly when they were swallowed up by what I can only describe as quicksand with teeth. I steered clear.

And I observed a horizon speckled with dozens of groups. Some appeared very organized and others….less so. One wore, a period army uniform, but the men looked more like they were deteriorating…akin to zombies.

Artillery sounded off in the distance, but it seemed to be rolling in from every direction. A small town of dilapidated buildings loomed ahead…and I ran for the cover it would provide. As I ran, I checked myself for weapons, but had nothing. I heard the sounds of gun fire, explosions, and crumbling buildings…amid the cries of pain and fear.

The group of individuals immediately ahead were all firing automatic weapons at shadows the size of houses; the impacting bullets caused the appearance of blood spurts and loud shrilling sounds. The creatures could die, but I did not want to be any where near these scene. I made a hard right and picked up speed crossing the littered terrain.

There were other groups engaging with beasts or opposing groups. The bestial nature of man was quite evident. Through all the chaos I did see one man running around and collecting up young men and women who had obviously entered into “play possum” mode. Some would think that they were useless, but I knew, as did the tall lanky man that a defense mechanism had them holding very still until the danger had passed. I ran in the direction of the cowering souls.

Twenty five meters out, the ad hoc leader turned to me and shouted me off. I maintained my distance, but I didn’t leave. “I belong here.” I reasoned with him as he checked the others for injuries. I counted five,  but the environment was very chaotic.  “Why do you think you do?” He words seemed more cautious than adversary. “Because I’m like all of you. I have figured out this all of this is for real…somehow.” He waved me on.




A Subtle Introduction

The most recent addition to the group set everyone at unease. The roguish, good looking youth was of an undeterminable age. He spoke little and glared from under his dark hood. He was added almost an afterthought because the party was light in the warrior department, and he was armed with a variety of blades and a bow.

Vikram did not care that the group didn’t trust him. In fact, he went out of his way to aggravate their apprehension. He was a natural bully who pressed the matter home every chance he got. The rest of his companions were novice sorcerers and adventuring priests.

He consistently undermined the leader’s authority. The priestess Athlin had formed the band to join her in her quest to destroy malevolent forces where ever she may find them. And she believed that with here heavy armor, magic and healing abilities, she was more than a match for the upstart. However, she didn’t want an open fight in front of the others. A worse scenario was if she sent him away that he would return quietly as an embittered enemy.

A great relief came in the form of a pilgrim hobbit hero. Santy “Slim” Sasquil, believed that his pilgrimage to the sea would be enhanced by helping the novice travelers. He was a kind hearted and noble soul; it didn’t take long before he and Vikram clashed.

The small group had just completed an exhausting trek through Morz Swamp north of Kalyn. Everyone was on edge and a brief argument erupted between Athlin and Vikram over the best use of a small cache of gold retrieved from some bandits who chose the wrong band to plunder. When it seemed that the argument was at a stalemate, Santy interfered and brusquely silenced the malcontented young man. The tension burned all observers. Santy’s victory would soon be forgotten.

When the group paused to camp late that afternoon, Santy predictably volunteered for the first tour of watch. The surprise was when Vikram quickly volunteered for the second shift. Fatigue silenced any objections, and the party settled in for a rest.

Soon enough it was time for his tour, Vikram made himself useful keeping the fire cackling, high and hot, for his teammates’ comfort. When that was done, he began whistling four young and strong tree branches, bark and wood falling into the roaring fire. His fine dagger made shirt work of the thin saplings, and after heating the tips in the fire, soon had some wicked looking punji sticks.

He did not smile as he noiselessly crouched over the sleeping hobbit. All his strength was mustered as he plunged a pair of the sticks into his victim. Death came instantaneously, but the message wasn’t finished…the second pair were thrust into the corpse’s ears. Vikram then lay down for a dreamless sleep.

In the morning, alarm came slowly when the others realized how late they had slept. Horror and disbelief welled within them as Vikram stated that the hobbit had never woken him and suggested that someone from Santy’s past must be the assassin. Nobody tried to stop Vikram when he announced would now travel alone.

A Vision

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Clouds part before her – not much more than a child

A light stirred within her – saw more than with eyes

A world, people in peril – knew not their sad plight

Dark nameless forces  – in strength – had sent forth their call:

To war!


From town and from home was pulled – unhappy

Unknown plains and water before her – lost

A season or two it would take her – past childhood

Still move on she must – doomed she was – to hope



A Son’s Tale

This past Sunday would have been my father’s 75th birthday (or 74th for some people who insist he was born in 1945). The point being that he was always teaching us something. Either a lesson in life, or trying to teach us valuable skills (which we resisted at every turn).

Julio Rafael Castillo, Jr was great at a lot of things. He taught us how to be a good brother, a good father and grandfather. He epitomized the husband and the good friend. He was respected for his firm but fair approach at work…and admired for his discipline and loyalty.

It’s been just over eight years since we lost him, way to early. But his cheesy jokes and long lectures passed right down to me. And every time I hear the girls call me dad or grandpa, I smile. And I think about him.



I Just Have to Ask

Before daybreak, my thoughts begin

There’s so much here, I had to give in

A call, a note to start it all

For far too long your name’s been gone


They run amok, these lofty talks

Or so, I think, if you’ll just let me start

So much is lost and never missed

We never knew just what to ask


Where have you been and with whom?

Why is it dark when you’re not in the room?

Who is it that stands by your side?

Why is there no one by mine?


You know what to do for the masses

You never ask for the same in return

You think you can help, all you know, but you can’t 

What is the name of the knight in your heart?


Life’s a blur all around without

Your sweet breaths’ uttered sounds

One knows he’s had his and 

Knows how he did lose it all

When does the moment arrive –

For your own dear love, and his soulful cries?


How long will you wait and how hard

Will you seek?

A moment has passed by – and now it is two

A plan in your eyes, it is good, 

Come to pass

A dream is that hope without 

Trust, without love



Will today be the day?

Fear abides in the past

You aspire, you hope

Now will you act, and will

You talk, will you walk toward 

Your dream?

And will you share it – maybe- with me?


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