All that we are is the result of all that we have thought”

— Buddha

I want to tell you about Brent Koleno. 

I met Brent when we were serving in the 3d ACR. He was a mortar man for Fox troop when I was assigned as the field artillery forward observer after spending some time in Col. Martin Dempsey's back pocket as the Regimental COLT team lead/ Special Forces liaison. At the time I was too busy chasing tail and playing at soldier to care about music. The guitar had sat in the corner for years untouched except to move it from one place to the next. I was more into blowing stuff up and crawling in the mud to want to look up from what I was doing. I don't remember how or why it started; but I do remember the lesson: Music heals. Music moves. We lament there isn’t any real magic and make stuff up for TV and the movies, but we have real magic in our music. 

He inspired me to pick my guitar back up. To write. He almost forced me to do so. He would present me with stacks of lyrics and say... "See what you can do with these." Then he'd sit down, crack a beer, roll a cigarette, and laugh as I spun his words into a song. He would challenge me on purpose with difficult phrasing and extra syllables and had this funny mannerism when he found something particularly exciting or fun; he’d point at me and shake his finger; big ol smile on his face. I can’t do it justice. 

He moved me. He taught me. He opened my eyes. I learned how to look at the world differently. Once I was a small boy in a man’s body trying to find pussy instead of a partner; relying on sex and booze; looking to the material and superficial for justification and peace. But it doesn’t work like that. 

He is one of the people who made me; me. 

We dropped acid at the Blues Traveler 4th of July show at Red Rocks. We saw Shakedown Street and danced in the fields with a thousand others. We’d sit around the fire with everyone and play and sing, smoke and laugh. He was my best friend and I loved him dearly. 

Then we both left the service. He stayed in Colorado. I returned to the Pacific Northwest to be with my family. A few years later I learned he had passed. 

I’m still not over it.

When I first found Chris and Brent the scene was symbolic of our future together. Those two had managed to; through drunken vocabuslur and the slaughter of a foreign language "sell" one of Brent's kidneys to some Chinese businessmen. Brent was submerged naked in a tub of ice and Christian lay close by with some or other trauma to the head. Things have not changed much since those days as I am constantly pulling those two from the fire. They're good boys, so give them the same benefit of the doubt I did. Sometimes I wonder if they are actually worth all the trouble they have been, but in retrospect, I guess they could have sold one of my organs...”

— Colonel Richard Q. Hardquoque, ASAF (Ret)

I spent 46 years listening to people tell me I wasn't good enough. People I called my friends. Family. Do the safe thing Christian. Be an accountant, an attorney... Get married, have kids, pay your bills, die.

But you only live once and they are full of shit. That fear can paralize you for life. Stop you from living what you were made to be. I lived that fear most of my life. You can get used to it, so much so that it becomes normal and you forget. 

Then year 47 came. I realized something. I'm going to die and I have stuff to do. If I don't get on it now, I'll never do it. So I rejected that comfortable fear for a new one. The fear that's unspoken. The fear of success. What happens when you start something that takes on a life of it's own? What happens when you take your future back for yourself? It's an uneasy comfort to give up your future to someone else who agrees to give you just enough to survive. You know where your next meal is coming from. The problem is that it's coming from them. You have to live by their rules.

And then you can't. 

Because your soul is crying. 

You were not made to be a servant and neither am I. You are devine being of light and music. Reject the fear and find your soul again.

Believe in yourself. See your value.

Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser and you don't realize until later it's because you just got fucked.”

— My buddy's dad