I met so many cool people at Standing Rock. All of us thrown together in a crazy mess with a common goal to do whatever we could to stop the pipeline. Common goal and common love. Beautiful. What was insane is that I met two other South Carolina vets there at the gym.

I was taking a break from my work in the kitchen and noticed a couple of sleeping pads and some gear next to my cot. The place was starting to fill up. There was a long haired skinny guy wearing Guatemalan hippie pants and, as I approached, the smell of patchouli permeated the air. I am thinking, hot damn, this guy has to be a Deadhead. It was Walid, from Columbia, SC. Very nice guy and a major social activist. Turns out he is also an ex-Marine. Not a Deadhead, though, I didn’t hold that against him too much.

He didn’t look like my vision of an ex-Marine. I don’t look like an Army vet, either. He was born in Kuwait and is an actor in some pretty recognizable TV shows like Homeland, Outcast, and Iron Man. Despite his peaceful appearance, he had come to Standing Rock to take whatever abuse the police could throw at him. He was a lot more ready to get himself hurt than I was. I think a lot of the veterans were looking for some action. It is what we do, I guess, on some level. I wanted some action, too, like having the pipeline shut down permanently, preferably peacefully.

 

Walid the Actor

Walid the Actor, I saw one pic of him in full Taliban regalia on the set of a TV show, I think Homeland.

 

Walid and I outside the Rec Center

Walid and I outside the Rec Center

 

Before heading back to work, I went to the smoking area where this big in a not fat way, slightly balding guy wearing Marine field pants, bummed a smoke off me. We got to talking as people in smoking areas do. Turns out he had seen some shit in the taking of the Kandahar airport and in Kabul. He is a writer, too, and a graphic novelist in the last stages of editing his epic. His own blog series on the Standing Rock trip is excellent. Read his work here. I highly recommend all episodes from the beginning:

Robert Chambers Musings and Brusings 

This was Robert, an ex-Marine infantryman and self-described bi-polar intellectual barbarian. Just my type of person. I always get along with guys like this although I am never as hard core on the barbarian part. Not to mention he is brilliant. I have mentioned all through my writing about how screwed up Veterans Stand was. Robert is not as kind as I, he bashed the hell out of them, saying the leaders came for the publicity and left as soon as they could, leaving thousands of veterans completely stranded.

 

Robert and I outside the Rec Center

Robert and I outside the Rec Center

 

Robert and Walid were indeed stranded. Their car was 120 miles south in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, the other end of the reservation. And the roads were closed. They had come up on buses arranged by Veterans Stand. Those buses were nowhere to be seen and there was no communication with anyone with Vets Stand. Robert and Walid, like me, were lucky they ended up at the Rec Center and not the casino. The casino was nothing but veterans overflowing and overwhelming the place. Nothing anyone was doing there was helping the NODAPL cause, they were having trouble taking care of themselves.

Robert and Walid had spent the night at the camp. They actually found the veteran’s tent Brent and I couldn’t. It had not been erected properly. I have been in a tornado in one of those tents and it stayed up. It was in the minus 20s that night and their tent blew down. Brent and I had come so close to finding that same tent. They had a rough night and you can read about it on Robert’s blog here.

In the confusion of falling tents and arctic weather, some of Walid’s gear was stolen, reminding us that not everyone at camp are good people. In a positive place like this, that is always sad. In the morning, they found a ride to the Rec Center and our paths converged for a while.

I had met a couple of the Rez dogs on Monday. One was “Puppy,” a young dog with a cut on its head that didn’t seem to bother him much. Puppy kept getting kicked out into the cold because he was, well, a puppy and acted like a puppy. He would always find a way back in. Then, there was “Old Dog,” by far my favorite and a dog the media people had adopted. A local dog, he wouldn’t go home and the owners gave up trying to keep him there. He had a sore on one of his footpads. A young teenage local reservation girl who had befriended me asked what we could do to help Old Dog. We decided that some antibiotic ointment and a bandage might help. We got it on him and it lasted at least a couple of hours before he took it off. These are some tough dogs, they can live outside if they have to. Many did. Maudie would have been super jealous. She also would have had a heart attack over how cold it was.

 

Robert and Puppy and Walid and Old Dog

Robert, Puppy, Walid and Old Dog

 

Robert was a dog person and made friends with both these beasts. He left his sleeping pad on the ground so Old Dog could sleep with him. Anyone who loves dogs like this is OK by me.

 

Robert and Old Dog

Robert and Old Dog

 

Back to the kitchen for me.


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