Guest Post: Tactical Talismans


This post submitted by Mack:

A recent post on Facebook from a former colleague brought back a flood of memories. In the attic, I have a couple of foot lockers full of gear. One is from the days when I wore the Boy Scout khaki as a professional. One is from my days as a cadet of the Eagle Battalion. And one is full of my for real, no shit, door kicking, life taking, beer drinking, coffee making, Army days.

And strangely, it is mostly full of what some would consider junk. But to me, they are things I couldn’t quite bear to part with after I was medically retired. That footlocker has my tactical talismans.

I’m a lapsed Methodist, me and the Lord got some issues I never worked out with the Padre. But, when I got my jump wings, my adopted little sister gave me a St. Michael medal. I wore it on my dog tag chain for a while. And after I nearly lost it on an FTX, I wrapped a piece of 1000 MPH tape around it to one of my tags.

There are also a handful of name strips. Some are the old OD green, some are ACU, and some are multi cam. All are simply stenciled “A POS”, my blood type. I would affix a blood type name strip to every piece of gear I could. Doc once told me it never saved time, but, and big but here, that guys who had it prominently marked seemed to fair better upon traumatic injury. Sort of hot wiring the brain into self preservation.

I kept a loaded M-9 magazine, a MecGar one that I privately purchased, in the back pocket of my pants. That mag came home with me. That was my last ditch ammo.

One red and one black grease pencil. The Benning School for Wayward Boys impressed upon the need for a grease pencil.

Three old bandages. I had a fear that I was gonna have to watch one my guys bleed out due to lack of bandages. I hold on these because they work in a pinch and I never had to use one. I hope to stay that lucky.

A genuine USMC issue Ka-Bar fighting knife in leather sheath. I got a cousin who flew Harriers in the Marines. He’s kinda a prick. But he gave me that after his tour as a FAC. Said he hoped I never needed it.

And, lastly, I have a nearly destroyed Ranger handbook. I’d read it sometimes when I felt especially apprehensive. It brought back memories of instructors who seemed to know no fear. Who would have insisted that if you followed the plan to the letter, trained hard, thought ahead, and acted decisively, everything would be okay.





  1. When I got out my BDU top hung on the stair bannister from when I took it off the last time for probably 4-5 years before I could pack it up for safekeeping. My green memoranda notebook with chalk times and tail numbers, pallet weights and vehicle axle weights to calculate CoG for the loadies when my unit left Iraq in ’03. One of the free toothbrushes they handed out on the pre-deployment line I used to constantly brush out the sand and moon dust from my M16. A folded up copy of Psalm 23 I kept in my ID carrier with a short email from my wife telling me not to forget to duck. And my ruck, I ain’t ever getting rid of that thing.
    Funny, now that I think about it, my pops has an old cigar box full of similar things from his time in service. That made me think of that just now.

    • I threw out a whole bunch of stuff when I was medically retired. Most of it out of bitterness. I had been running an HHC, which sucked, and was looking at a career as a full time Boy Scout, which also sucked. But that one locker of actual combat related items I couldn’t part with. And my Old Man has a footlocker full of stuff from Vietnam, too.

      • Going from knowing exactly what your role and place in life since the age of 17 through twelve years of service seeing the visible impact of what you were doing… to sitting on the couch with the cats asking myself, “well now what?” took some serious adjustment. Much of the acquired detritus of my service was either passed on to others or just junked too.

  2. Hey Mack;

    I understand the bitterness, I packed up all my stuff when I got out in 1991 after getting RIF’ted, the drawdown had started and everyone wanted their “Peace Dividend”, and it sucked for us Army guys. I still have a bunch of stuff packed up in boxes and I had kept my GI M16 Magazines and LBE with a buttpack that I kepty a couple of extra magazines in case I ran out and some stripped MRE’s and Helmet. and I had several “lucky” charms from my clip loader that I kept on my helmet to of all things my E-tool, it was the old style with the wooden handle and I had put an edge on it so I could bash someone if necessary. Strange things we would do as a “Lucky Talisman”


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