Today’s guest post comes to you from Stan Lake, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who is continuing to pursue his passion for both wildlife and shenanigans…
“Lake beat your face, just beat your face!” That phrase was echoed time and again while I was deployed in Iraq back in 2005-2006. I enlisted in the North Carolina Army National Guard September 5, 2001. Six days before the towers fell! To put icing on the cake I decided it in my best interest to sign up for a combat job because that sneaky devilish recruiter assured me that the guard rarely, if ever, got called to active duty. He played to my most base desires telling me that I’d get to blow stuff up every weekend as an MLRS crewmember. Sign me up for field artillery! I love blowing stuff up. Then 9/11 happened and that small chance to go active just increased exponentially.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself with my upper torso hanging out of an old 998 Humvee with homemade armor and my hands white knuckling a .50 cal machine gun. A few short months prior, I was a college student in my 3rd year of studying environmental biology, and now I was defending my country against terrorist threats in a foreign country.
While deployed I decided as a way to maintain some sort of normalcy I would do what I did back home, mainly catch and film wildlife and other shenanigans. So on my downtime I would recruit my buddies to hold video cameras I had purchased with the extra tax free money I was making and we began making little videos about the Iraqi wildlife and practical jokes among ourselves. I earned the call sign “critter getter” as well as a reputation as the unit funny guy. My personal mission was to help my brothers escape the hell around us, even if for just a moment so that we could feel human. My upper body was finely tuned during that season of my life because of all the punishment push-ups but even the leadership appreciated the perspective I brought to the table and above all else I was a good soldier.
The coolest part of that deployment was what I took home from it. My sergeant became my best friend and after Iraq he and I kept filming little animal documentaries and short films under the name Catching Creation. I was able to produce 4 DVDs of my animal adventures so far and have various TV and Radio interviews out of it and I can trace all of it back to my time in the desert.
We all came back from Iraq different, changed and broken but there was always the light that we shared the hell together and that our brotherhood was something that couldn’t be replicated and the friendships could go dormant for years and be rekindled in a moment. The bond is deeper than anything I can describe. I am actually in the process of making a documentary of our deployment with my best friend, Daniel, on the cusp of our 10 year anniversary of deploying. You can view the trailer here.