Monday, April 25, 2011

Turtle Bay Fundraiser a success

     Thursday, April 21st was our first ever Team Zombie Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser. The fundraiser took place at Turtle Bay Bar and Grill in Manhattan. The management was very accommodating and I would like to thank team members LeeAnna K. and Otto C. on coordinating with the Turtle Bay to make this fundraiser a success.
   Happy hour bracelets were on sale at the door for $5 and it gave you half off drinks and appetizers. We had sold approximately a hundred bracelets. Team Zombie was reserved the second floor of Turtle Bay. It was a slow start. As people got out of work, the place began to fill. Drinks were poured, high fives exchanged and good times ensued.
    The date auction went well. Auctionees advertised/pimped themselves out to prospective bidders. Special thanks to my wife, Jane for hustling in getting bids and for pimping out our handsome and beautiful auctionees. The silent auction bidding picked up as the end of the auction ended at 2130hrs. It reminded me so much of Ebay bidding when bidders try to sneak in their last minute bids. I would like to thank the auctionees for selling off their hides for the Wounded Warrior Project. Our wounded veterans thank you.
Otto(Center) with our Male auctionees

A.J. (auctionee#1) stating to Tuan and Anna why he'd make a great date
(LtoR)Chris, Huong (auctionee #6), Karen (auctionee #8), Grace
In a crowd, a Zombie sticks out.
Auctionees (LtoR) Colette, Betsy, and AJ, dressed to kill.
With fellow veteran and QSVA member Lex (Left), Me (Right)
Jane rocking her self customized Team Zombie shirt
Beautiful friends Huong and Lucy. Thanks to Lucy we were able to sell some Team Zombie shirts.
Menu of auctionees
    All in all, a very joyful night. Not bad for our first fundraiser. Spoke to people about the Wounded Warrior Project and how it has helped out veterans. Some didn't want to hear it, and some gave their time to listen, but that's just part of raising awareness. Thankfully, I've surrounded myself with a lot of supportive friends and family. Team Zombie thanks everyone for coming and showing their support. We continue to train because there are people out there that believe in us and believe we can accomplish our goals.
    I would like to thank my best friend Myther Ganibe in providing these excellent pictures of the fundraiser. If anyone has photographic/videographic needs for any event, you can check out some of his work on his website: Myther Ganibe Studios. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Tonight will be our fundraiser at Turtle Bay Bar and Grill:

987 2nd Avenue (btwn 52nd and 53rd Street) New York, NY 10022

It will be from 1800-2100hrs for happy hour special drinks. $5 will get you half off on drinks and appetizers. Stay or come afterwards. We will still be there selling shirts and raffles. All proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Feeling lonely? Bid on some of our voluptuous auctionees during our date auction. The group date will take place at approx. May 7th location TBD.

All team members have been working hard to promote this fundraiser and also coordinate the event. Special thanks to Leeanna, Otto, and Jane for their help.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fall in!

     "Fall in!" a common command given in the Marines. It commands a group of Marines standing around to organize themselves into a formation. The width of the formation are called squads and in length, the rows are called ranks. The command can also be given to a single Marine, it commands him/her to join a group already in formation. When a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Coast Guardsman returns from service they return to a group they've been away from for quite a while.
      The Marines I have served with were still young when they left home. Eighteen, some even seventeen come into boot camp and learning for the first time how to shave; how to shine their boots; how to iron properly; how to properly address and greet someone in a respectful manner. In essence, the DI (drill instructor) was the father we never had. He puts us to bed at exactly 2100hrs every night and gets us up, like children getting prepared for school every morning. For many of the young recruits, this was their only solid father figure. And boot camp, was the furthest and longest they've ever been away from home. We learned so many things in boot camp. We learned how to walk again, this time in step with the person to your front and to step off with your left foot at all times, and the importance of the three S's every morning; Shit, Shower and Shave.
     We learn about life in a different manner compared to the everyday man. I speak of men because this is the only perspective I can see it. Don't think of it like I'm excluding women. I can only speak of what I know.
     I know a Marine, a very good one, that when we were leaving the Marine Corps, he had serious doubts on what to do. He didn't know if he wanted to stay in or leave and return to the civilian world. He was young when he joined, only eighteen. Jose Vazquez from East Los Angeles, CA, or from "East Los" he would say in his layed back MexiCali accent. On our flight to Kuwait during our first deployment, he sat right next to me. He was anxious and looking out the window. California's bright sunshine was coming through the porthole. He turned to me and if he had a tail, you would see it wagging at this point.
Vazquez roof top overlooking Ramadii, Iraq
     "This is my first time flying Zoleta", he said, huge grin in place. I thought to myself, "Get the fuck outta here". Imagine experiencing the first flight you were on was not to some tropical vacation spot, or to visit grandma because you miss her chocolate chip cookies so much; but to Kuwait, not knowing if destiny had purchased you a round trip flight. You won't be landing in Hawaii where women in grass skirts and coconut bras put a lei around your neck. Instead, you would be rushed to the furthest reaches of the desert to participate in the largest assault in modern combat.
     Flash forward to 2005. We were now two time combat veterans now. Hardened like a sword that was tempered with a hammer, but now we were scared and uncertain. He did not know if he would go to college. What would it be like to be away from the barracks? The unknown lay in front of Vazquez. Not only did he tell me that he feared it, it was showing in his every expression.
     Today, I asked about those doubts he had. It was rough for him in the beginning but he managed to find his way through. Perseverance, Marines don't quit. They find they're way, one way or another.

How did you feel as your EAS (End of Active Service) date came closer?

I have to say the Marine Corp was the best decision I could have made for myself. My choice to volunteer my life during September 11, 2001 was an amazing and incredible time. I met a great group of elite people who took it upon themselves to make a commitment to sacrifice every ounce of sweat, tear and blood to take on matters that were beyond our control. Upon returning from my 2nd tour from Iraq my morale was ecstatic about my separation from the service. What was so mentally draining for me was thinking about what to do once I was out. Safe to say school was the plan and idea, but really had no clue about what to pursue as a lifelong career. Honestly, separating from the Marine Corp was terrifying for me because I wanted to be a “lifer” a term we utilize for those who make it a career. Personal problems and family made me come to my decision to go through my separation and transition to a civilian. 

What was going through your mind when you were out and living your life as a civilian?
Living life as a civilian was a huge transition for the first couple of years and continues to be. The thought of having to go back to school was scary even though there was nothing to fear. Apparently, my thoughts were so powerful controlling my emotions and feelings that my thought process was completely disillusioned about what I wanted in life. This was a challenge for me and I took it upon myself to find help and make that effort to find what would give me a happy medium for my life. Therapy has helped me and continues to help me bridge the gaps that make me feel as if I cannot fit in society. Also, staying busy and making the right choices continues to be part of my success being a civilian. Making goals and keeping them in perspective keep my mind focused and on track.

What problems do you face and expect to face in the future?
I personally believe that you have to go through trial and error and find out for yourself what works for you and what makes you function effectively and efficiently. When you feel like there is no answer, know that others have been there and have overcome their challenges. Semper Fidelis!

   Vazquez and I still remain close. We have made it a plan to be only a phone call away when we had problems coping with flashbacks, stress, nightmares and just regular life. We were brothers at arms and remain to be eternally. War had made us family and that is as good as blood. Semper Fi indeed Vazquez.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Training Ops

Setting up our transition area
As with any great training plan, as time goes by, there will be a point where you have to kick it up a notch. This weekend was one of those times we kicked it up, kicked it up into outer fucking space.
Approx 3/4 mile point. Still all smiles

Team Zombie is compromised mostly of members from Xtreme Dragon Boat Racing Team (including me). At this time of year, practice begins for the oncoming dragon boat competitions. Not to neglect any practice, we've incorporated it as part of our workouts. The usual DB (dragon boat) practice days are in the morning every weekend. Those participating in the biathlon will have to train to complete their brick workouts either Saturday before DB practice or Sunday after DB practice. Then we've got the nut jobs that decide to do it both days of the week. More power to them.
Cynthia C. telling us she's still ok

Unfortunately, no pictures were taken during Saturday's practice and I was not able to attend due to work commitments. I will tell you this, mostly every body that went to Saturday's brick workout also went to Sunday's. That's dedication right there.

After DB practice Sunday at the World's Fair Marina in Flushing, we headed off to Alley Pond Park, the site of most of our brick workouts. There was a great turn out with 17 team members at ready. Bikes were staged and the route briefing was given. Shortly we were off. The distance we would be covering is a 2mile run-2 mile bike- 2mile run. Of course, what's a workout without its share of hills.
Adrian C. (Left) and Joseph Z. (Right) determined

How were these people so motivated? How did I get persons that hate to run, throw on running shoes and freakin run? One member didn't even know how to ride a bike until she heard of the team. Interesting fact, I'm the only veteran in the team. None of them has the impact of wounded veterans as much as I do, yet they're doing as much as I am. Running the dreaded hills, biking the distances, sacrificing their time to spread the word about the team. What would you rather do on a beautiful weekend? Probably sleep the fuck in or vegetate in front of the HD flat screen. Negative. Not these Zombies. I can tell you why they're motivated. Cause they have a lot of fucking heart. They believe in this cause as much as I do. More than the veterans in my college do. That's another damn story.

Team Zombie, you've made me proud. You're the platoon I've been looking for since I've left the Marines. I am honored to have fallen in your ranks. Semper Fi and Ooo fuckin Rah!
Marilyna L.

Otto C. (Left) and Leaanna K. (Right) off for the 2nd Run

Jane Z. is Xtreme-ly excited

Cynthia C. showing off her new found bike skills

Jeremy K. had some technical difficulties (Pedal broke off from too much torque)

Gary L. is Xtreme
Eddy K. checking his finishing time

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Thanks to Zack from Design and Life for the creation and production of our first team shirt. Look for us in the upcoming events. These shirts are for sale for $20. Proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. Email me and let me know what size you would like. -Semper Fi!


Transition Area
This past Sunday a few of us signed up to volunteer for the Brooklyn biathlon at Prospect Park. None of us had done a biathlon before, so we took this opportunity to see what it was all about. Also, it allowed us free registration to the Queens biathlon. Team members Jane Z, Jeff L., Bud P. and I arrived early in the morning at Prospect park at 0600hrs. Not to waste a good Sunday to train, we also bought along our bikes to train at the completion of the biathlon.

What did we learn? There are some elite athletes out there. In the transition area, where competitors would change from running to biking and vice versa, they planned out how they would come to their station and change. They would ask where they would come into the area and which direction they would leave. We "note to self" those minor details and watched as they warmed up. Some competitors ran around a little bit, but few warmed up on the bike.
Starting Line

At the starting line, everyone was poised and ready to go. Layers of warm clothing were removed and everyone looked more streamlined. Off they went down the pavement at Prospect park and the first person would come back from the 2.1 mile run in just under 11 minutes. I was astonished. He changed and was off quickly. At the end, the winner one in an approximate time of 50 minutes after completing a distance of 2 mile run, 10 mile bike and 2 mile run.
Bud P. would rather be racing
L to R, Eddie G, James L., Kevin C. Sam E. 
Else where in Queens, self proclaimed Team Zombie Bravo was gathering for a brick workout in Alley Pond Park. Team members Eddie G., Sam E., and new members James L. and Kevin C. met up at 1000hrs to practice the hills of Alley Pond Park. Today they would complete a course marked by Eddie G. to be 2 mile run-7 mile bike- 2 mile run. This workout would be beneficial for race day.
Team Zombie Bravo's James L. pounding the pavement

Sam E. motivated to improve his run
 Back in Brooklyn, at the end of the Brooklyn biathlon, Team Zombie Alpha was gearing up to go on their brick workout. Joining them would be members Zhiyu L. and new member Adrian C. Our course would be a 2 mile run- 6.5 bike- 2 mile run. For Jane Z., it would be longer for she took the wrong path and did two smaller bike loops. But, not to cheat the team or herself a workout, she continued onto an extra large loop biking for a total of 7.5 miles. After wards, we were starving and why miss an opportunity to eat out in Park Slope. Lunch was well deserved at Dizzy Diner. Till the next workout. Ooorah!

Makeshift transition area

L to R Zhiyu L., Bud P. new member Adrian C. and Jane Z.

L to R Zhiyu L., Bud P., Adrian C. Jane Z., Joe Z. (me)

Juevos Rancheros post workout recovery meal

Hungry ass warriors

Saturday, April 9, 2011

November 8th, 2004

If you have read my blog post "Disposable Heroes" by Sam Pennock, read this article. This will entail one of the days that live on in our minds. The excerpt that I posted from his book talks about this day, a day that plays itself over and over again.

Sometimes all you've got are the memories.

-Semper Fi

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Diary

Would always be carried on the inside of my flak jacket
I was fishing through some of my things in the garage the other month and I happened to find this little black book. It was lightly covered with some sand. The binded edge of the book was taped with an olive drab duct tape. For a moment, it looked unfamiliar to me. Then it hit me, and I literally said out loud, "Oh shit!". It was my combat diary from my first tour in Iraq. It still had some sand on it and looked a little worn. A parachute cord was taped to the binding and I used the length of it to hold or mark a page.

Front binding
As I shuffled through its pages, I saw a lot of things that bought back memories. In the front book binding, I taped a picture of my wife (we weren't married yet at the time) and I on our visit to Disneyland. The picture was dusty and the lamination I put on it had some wear. I'm glad I laminated it. Taped to the back binding, was a picture of my niece, Kymora. She was wearing a blue jumper and light blue knit hat. Dare I say it being a Marine, she is adorable. She's so grown up and busy with selling girl scout cookies, gymnastics, and lacrosse.

Back binding

I shuffled through the beginning parts of the diary. The beginning had some poetry I had written. A lot of it were notes I had written during classes we constantly gave within our company. Classes like clearing a room of hostiles, the handling EPW's (enemy prisoner of war), combat 1st aid, and code encryption. This little black book was partially a book of notes, and partially my diary. I did not keep a good diary. Reading it, they were just a lot of ramblings of a kid stuck in the desert. The beginnings parts were boredom. Why didn't I keep a good diary? It's value to me would mean so much now than I would have ever imagined. I do recall, the time I should have spent writing, I spent sleeping. Sleeping was as valuable as water. It would be hard to come by as we rolled into Iraq. It did bring back memories, and emotions though. The texture of the cover reminded me of the constant struggle I had to keep sand out from between the pages. Sandstorms or even the regular wind made sand appear everywhere. This made it difficult for keeping weapons clean.
Back binding where I wrote the serial # to my M16 and Night Vision Goggles
Orders on our first mission into Iraq

Notes on interpreting arabic writing
How to fire a SMAW (Shoulder Mounted Anti-Tank Weapon)

How to say numbers in arabic

Notes on clearing a room

Its entries were very private. I would find myself cutting off an entry into the diary when another Marine would come by. I was afraid they would read it. They might think "Zoleta's writing his final words". I could take that Marine's hope easily knowing that I may have given up hope by writing my final words. Even now, it's hard to share. What would others think? I don't know. But. it's best to put them in my boots and share our story for no one may ever understand us. Our story may never be told.

Little by little I'll post entries of my diary. It's going to take some courage on my part but give it time and I'll build it up. So check back in regularly to read about some of our stories.

-Semper Fi

Monday, April 4, 2011


Alley Pond Park Tennis Center on beautiful Sunday

Prior to every mission, it is always a good idea to do a rehearsal. The planning phase has been drawn out already and tasks have been handed out to individual team leaders. It is vital that you allow time for rehearsals prior to the kick off of the mission. The rehearsal allows your unit to be put in the mindset of what the actual mission will be like prior to it being done. During my first deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom, we rehearsed our first mission for weeks while in the deserts of Kuwait. We were just waiting on the orders to cross the border into Iraq. Rehearsals also allow you to find any problems you'll encounter during your mission. Problems you didn't think of when you were putting your plans on paper.
All smiles before the run. That would quickly change.
Still a little chilly

This past Sunday, Team Zombie did their first rehearsal. For almost all of us, this would be our first multi sport event. In our mind, we did not know what it would be like. Our muscles, they had no fucking clue what they were in store for.

Dave creating the roster
The weather in New York was finally cooperating, at least for that Sunday. The temperature would finally be over 50 degrees and the sun was out shining. We met at Alley Pond Park's tennis center. Our bikes would be staged. Team supporter Dave Garcia, watched the bikes for us and recorded our times as we took off into the park's Greenway, an asphalt trail that runs through numerous parks in Queens.

I am very happy to say 14 team members showed up that day. In New York, taking the time out is very hard to do and I'm very appreciative of the time members made in order to train together.

With everyone not having bikes yet. The team was divided into two teams. The first group would run first and the second group would take off 10 minutes after the departure of the first group. This would allow us to rotate the bikes around so that everyone would have a bike to use. Unfortunately, we underestimated the course and overestimated our abilities. The first riders would take longer to get back causing a delay for team members Jane and Cynthia.

Brick Workout Route

The beginning part of the course proved the most difficult. I hate hills and that's what the beginning was. It was a serious of short steep hills. The first run was tough but it warmed us up. Team members Bud and Zhiyu flew up this hill though with no problem as I pretended to have a 100 yard rope attached to them and wished they were tugging me up with them. But, what goes up must come down. The turn around point came at the over pass of Springfield Blvd. An orange cone was put in place by Eddie G. and Mourtaz M. prior to the beginning of the course to mark the turn around point. Going back to the start point, all we had to do was ride the hill down. A little painful on the knees if you ask me.

Group 2 punishing themselves up the hill
After the 1st leg, bikes were positioned in the parking lot and we had to learn to transition onto our bikes quickly in order to shorten our over all time. Of course, helmets were important and putting them on along with bikes shoes adds extra minutes. Off we went confidently only to be doomed by the same hill that brought us trouble on the run. The turnaround point would be at 210 street, which was also marked by an orange traffic cone. It would be approx. 1.75 miles out.
Bud P. gives a thumbs up flying downhill unfortunately had to leave early=-(
Zhiyu L. going so fast that he's nothing but a blur

After the bike, it was back into the sneakers and pounding the pavement. Only problem was, my legs didn't feel like they were mine. They didn't want to move and it was difficult to take a full stride. The bike had worn out certain muscles and now they were tight during the run. It was like I changed into a 5 year old's legs. Stride length felt like it was cut in half. Everyone's running form looked funny. Looking at our times, most of us had added 4-5 minutes to this second run in comparison to the first.

Everyone's demeanor though was "Go hard or go home", as they finished up our first brick workout. This would only be a fraction of what the actual Queens biathlon would be. Rehearsal had taught us that our transition times would need to be smoother and that our muscles will have to get used to biking followed immediately by running. Overall, the distance and event gave us a good gauge on our current fitness and a rude awakening in that the biathlon would be harder than this. The route offered its difficulty in the uphills and this will pay off.

Dave G.'s chicken scratch time keeping.

Team member 1st Run Bike  2nd Run
Vincent 15min 4sec 19 minutes 20 minutes
Sabina 16min 2sec 27 minutes 21 minutes
Mourtaz 14min 15sec 19 minutes 19 minutes
Leanna 14min 15sec 23 minutes 37 minutes
Eddie 19min 07sec 17 minutes 23 minutes
Zhiyu 13min 21sec 11 minutes 18 minutes
Otto 14min 51sec 24 minutes 25 minutes
Bud 13min 21sec 11 minutes
Joe 14min 15sec 23 minutes 20 minutes
Group 2
Jeremy 13min 30sec 23 minutes 15 minutes
Jane 13min 15sec 20 minutes 17 minutes
Cynthia 13min 30sec 36 minutes 13 minutes
Jeff 18min 20 minutes 22 minutes
Sam 14min 09sec 21 minutes 24 minutes
Start Time 12:00:00

Group 2 10 minute gap

1st run: 1.6 miles
Bike: 3.5 miles
2nd run: 1.6 miles

Above posted are the individual times. Great job done by everyone. This will be our baseline. There's only room for improvement from here on out. Till next week, I shall leave you with the very famous quote, "The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle"

Team Zombie after their 1st brick workout (minus Eddie G.- was helping a damsel in distress w/ a jump start. He's such a firefighter)