Hurtin’ for Certain

 

I stayed up most of last night, drinkin’ and smokin’. It was kind of a cheat, because I had a doctor’s appointment at 0930 this morning, so I’d arranged to do some other admin duties (renewing car registration), so I knew I wouldn’t have to haul my sorry self out of the rack until at/about 0900, and I wouldn’t be going to work, so I wouldn’t need to be at the top of my game. Cheat time.

“The lads” next door are all dive instructors and guides. The lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo calls them “the puppies.” They each have palavered their experience here in the Keys into launch pads for bigger and better things. The party last night was for Jake, who left this morning for Hawaii to be an assistant director for a dive operation out there. Jake and I are pretty tight. Jake didn’t like his life as a Crip gang member out on the west coast, did not like the things that his gang membership forced him to do. He was frustrated that the only things he seemed to have a talent for were violence and mayhem. Left the west coast and basically hitch-hiked to the Keys. Once here, penniless and homeless, he worked effectively and hard enough to become a diver, then a dive instructor, then a dive master. Then he did well enough to get recruited to a leadership role with the dive gig out in Hawaii. We’ve spent hours outside, talking about how to build a moral compass, and that there is, in fact, redemption (okay, those are my talking points, but they led to hours of discussion). His decision to sojourn to the Keys and leave the thug life behind was made instantly, when his pregnant fiancé was slain sitting next to him in a car.

Adam is a college graduate and departs soon for a year-long “audition” running a dive operation in the Cayman Islands. Maria is going with him. She started out as a one-night stand. Then she became a long-term friend, but Adam was always adamant that it was just a “friends with benefits” situation, and that there was never going to be a long-term relationship. I’ve been watching her reel him in for over a year. Now he tells me (on the DL; he’s afraid if Maria finds out, any bargaining power he may have is shot. Sucker. His single life is over, he just doesn’t know it yet. I ain’t telling him.) that he doesn’t think he can live without her. I’m pretty sure he’s sincere about that, because pulling in bumper isn’t an issue for him. Know that guy that plays Thor in the Marvel movies? He looks just like that, only probably a little more buff. So it’s not like the kid doesn’t have options.

All the four puppies are great, all of them are unique and special and a pleasure to watch learn and grow. So going to their party to say goodbye to Jake was a no-brainer, especially knowing I wasn’t going to work today. I got a note from my doctor. Whom I’ve waited far too long to see.

When I mustered out, part of my VA claim was my hip, because it wasn’t working right, and it hurt, and it had been violently dislocated a coupla/three years before I got out. Now, I think it’s a lumbar spine issue that used to only feel like the hip, but now has decided on a hostile takeover. So, girdle of pain across (as my old football coach used to say, “acrosst”), the hips, with pain shooting all the way down to my heals. On my feet, taking a big breath expands the diaphragm and causes an…inappropriate amount of discomfort. Last week, I decided “ok, go see the doc” when, while walking the dog on her SOP morning two-mile walk, I found I couldn’t take a deep (i.e., sufficient) breath, without taking a knee. Doing any kind of extended walking is putting me into an O2 deficit. Then I’m, what, panting for the next coupla hours. No Bueno. See a doc, dummy. And, because I’m passing on work, party with the puppies to say goodbye to Jake.

I established a hard out time with the lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo and we went over to hoist a few with the puppies. Blew that hard out time to smithereens. Fell into the rack before sunrise but after BMNT. But it wasn’t all party, party, party that kept me up and drinking all night. I met a guy, and we talked.

I’d marked him as soon as we got into the house. Imagine looking at a terrarium full of garden snakes, and then you see, in the middle, a boomslang viper. This was like that. I mentally tagged him as soon as the lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo and I entered the house. In my usual party positioning, I made sure that I was positioned so that I could see the door, and so that I could always see him. I dunno what goes into my internal threat assessment mental software, but this dude pinged it — hard, so he bore watching.

I noticed about 20 minutes in, he was doing what I was doing; floating with the ebb and flow of the crowd, but he always had me and the front door in his line of sight. Huh.

After a while, one of the puppies asked me, “Hey, you were in the Army, right?” Yeah, for a little bit. You need to be introduced to Joe. Joe was in the Army, too! Ok.

Joe had spent six years in the Army, all of it with the Ranger Regiment. It’s not hard to suss out poseurs and pretenders. Not hard to establish bona fides. A guy either knows what he’s supposed to know, or he doesn’t. All kinda people claim to have been special operators. Not all that many have. If I find a guy, even a vet, that’s doing some stolen valor special operations selling of wolf tickets, I’ll usually give him an option: right here, right now, do a public disclosure of what you are not, or get wheeled out on a gurney. Has never failed.

Joe passed the test. Joe also vetted me–turnabout is fair play. Apparently, I passed his smell check. Then we started talking. That dude is hurtin’ for certain. Got out of the Army, was definitely suffering from that “now I’m a civilian” dislocation. Got himself a girlfriend when he got out, same girlfriend who was at Jake’s going-away party (so hopefully this couple has some staying power). They went to a bar. They had some drinks. Someone grabbed her butt. Joe told that someone that random butt-grabbing was not acceptable, and turned back to his girlfriend. Said butt-grabber sucker punched Joe.

Joe doesn’t remember anything else. He came to from his blackout with people pulling him off of butt-grabber. And butt-grabber was a mess. Joe beat butt-grabber so hard, the EMS had to use the defibrillator twice before they evac-ed him by air.

The authorities charged Joe with attempted murder. Then offered him a plea deal, and he pled out. Fifteen months in prison. I assess that’s kind of rooty-poot. If you’re actually trying to murder someone, there should be more of a sanction than 15 months. If the person trying to murder you is a former Army Ranger, chances are you’d done be murdered.

So, I spent all night (until the birds started tweeting at BMNT) talking to Joe. He and I put down most of a bottle of Bulleit’s rye whisky. A couple of thoughts that I hadn’t had before hit me. Some about Joe, some about me.

Joe did two three-year hitches, all in the Ranger regiment. Y’know what we pay the Rangers to do? Kill people and break things. As efficiently as possible, but more equals better. Then this kid got out. No counseling, no adaptation assistance protocol. Just six years of killing everything on the objective, and then boom! Civilian. Good luck.

About 99.95% of head-shrinkers are totally unequipped to deal with a former Killer of Men. I went, on advice, to head-shrinker when I retired, and decided therapy wasn’t going to work. When you get booked for a one-hour session, and 45 minutes of that is just providing context and perspective, you’re not going to get a lot out of it. I quit. Joe quit. There needs to be something better. I don’t know what that is. Oh, and going to the VA ain’t the answer.

Something I realized last night, talking to Joe: we mistakenly co-mingle guilt with trauma. I have helped numerous ne’er-do-wells achieve room temperature. No guilt, none, ever. Joe kinda/sorta had the same experience. But that kind of activity does induce trauma. One may have done the right thing, and have no guilt whatsoever, but it’ll still leave a mark. I don’t know how to fix that.

Our military is so extruded from regular society, that when troops muster out, they have a hard time figuring out what the moral and societal calculus is, because decision-making and policy-making are so bass-ackwards of anything sane.

I cried a lot when Joe and I were talking. Mostly (hopefully) on the inside. Mostly for Joe. I’ll admit it, maybe a little bit for me. It seems extraordinarily unfair to train a guy to become a human killing machine, and then prosecute him and put him in prison for being provoked and sucker-punched and reacting like a human killing machine.

I got Joe’s phone number. Not this weekend, but next, I’ll give him a call and make sure he’s doing all right.

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There are 51 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Boss.

    • #1
    • September 12, 2019, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Vance Richards Member

    Boss Mongo: It seems extraordinarily unfair to train a guy to become a human killing machine, and then prosecute him and put him in prison for being provoked and sucker-punched and reacting like a human killing machine.

    Yeah, the guy who threw the sucker-punch should have expected retaliation(he just got more than he imagined). Sounds like Joe needed a better lawyer.

    Some of this stuff sounds like Rambo (First Blood, not the sequels where he singlehandedly defeats the entire Soviet army). There needs to some better transition for guys moving back to civilian life.

    • #2
    • September 12, 2019, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  3. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Wow. You make excellent points. I hope it can get figured out. Thanks for being there for Joe.

    • #3
    • September 12, 2019, at 2:29 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Barry Jones Thatcher

    A sheep dog has to do what sheep dog does…keep ’em safe. Like they say, leave no one behind – you can do him a lot of good if he will stay the course.

    • #4
    • September 12, 2019, at 2:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher

    God bless you, Boss.

    • #5
    • September 12, 2019, at 2:34 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. Instugator Thatcher

    Boss Mongo: Something I realized last night, talking to Joe: we mistakenly co-mingle guilt with trauma. I have helped numerous ne’er do wells achieve room temperature. No guilt, none, ever.

    Something similar happened to me about 6 months ago. Was picking up my car from the only guy I could find to work on it. Electrical Engineer turned mechanic, from Iraq. Had a tough time, first as a refugee single dad of 1 now a single dad of 3. New American, but is worried about his mom, also a refugee.

    While I feel no guilt for dropping bombs on Iraq (or planning/assessing dropping bombs) off and on over the last almost 30 years, that day I felt a measure of, well, responsibility shall we say.

    I am glad to say I have never had dealings with the VA, almost makes it worthwhile not filing the paperwork.

     

    • #6
    • September 12, 2019, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. She Thatcher
    She

    God bless, Boss. It’s a different kind of service, for sure. But you’re still in the game. Good on you. Thank you.

    • #7
    • September 12, 2019, at 3:51 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Caryn Member

    You are a very good man, Boss. It’s a privilege to “know” you. I hope one day to say so to your face. All best to you and Joe. And Jake. In Jewish teaching it is said that what G-d does with His day of rest, apart from keeping the world going, is make matches. Usually it’s referring to marriages, but I think it also goes for friendships. And perhaps for those whom one sometimes finds as neighbors. Blessings on you all. Healing for the hip/spine.

    • #8
    • September 12, 2019, at 4:28 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  9. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    We are so lucky to have you share your thoughts with us. I think it helps you to let it out, and it enlightens those of us who want to understand the hurt that accompanies the men who have served in the most dangerous circumstances imaginable. You have touched us all far deeper than you can know. 

    • #9
    • September 12, 2019, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. kelsurprise, drama queen Member

    Thanks, Boss. 

    I just love your posts. It always makes me happy to read them.

    Even when they sometimes make me sad. 

    • #10
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:42 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  11. Hank Rhody, on the blockchain Contributor

    It’s a small overlap of personalty types, but I gotta figure the Venn diagram of combat vets and practicing psychiatrists has to have some intersection.

    You’re right, by the way. The military spends time and effort to (at least in part) psychologically equip people to become Killers of Men, and there’s no corresponding “welcome back to society” plan on the way back out. Got no idea how to solve that problem, but I’ll acknowledge that it is a problem.

    • #11
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:46 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  12. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Caryn (View Comment):

    You are a very good man, Boss. It’s a privilege to “know” you. I hope one day to say so to your face. All best to you and Joe. And Jake. In Jewish teaching it is said that what G-d does with His day of rest, apart from keeping the world going, is make matches. Usually it’s referring to marriages, but I think it also goes for friendships. And perhaps for those whom one sometimes finds as neighbors. Blessings on you all. Healing for the hip/spine.

    @caryn, thank you. These kids have enormous potential. I know we conservatives like to bemoan the upcoming “kids,” but these kids’ll do all right.

    • #12
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:49 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    She (View Comment):

    God bless, Boss. It’s a different kind of service, for sure. But you’re still in the game. Good on you. Thank you.

    @she, Thanks.

    Only problem is that it’s a different game. Still trying to work out the rules.

    • #13
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:52 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    We are so lucky to have you share your thoughts with us. I think it helps you to let it out, and it enlightens those of us who want to understand the hurt that accompanies the men who have served in the most dangerous circumstances imaginable. You have touched us all far deeper than you can know.

    @goldwaterwoman: Thank you, ma’am.

    • #14
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    kelsurprise, drama queen (View Comment):

    Thanks, Boss.

    I just love your posts. It always makes me happy to read them.

    Even when they sometimes make me sad.

    @kelsurprise: Kel, thanks. This post has some messed up stuff in it, but hopefully more reasons for joy than sadness. 

    Keep crushin’ it at the deathstar.

    • #15
    • September 12, 2019, at 5:55 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  16. kelsurprise, drama queen Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    This post has . . . . hopefully more reasons for joy than sadness.

    Always. 

    Keep crushin’ it at the deathstar.

    Ibid.

     

    • #16
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  17. Judge Mental Member

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):
    Got no idea how to solve that problem, but I’ll acknowledge that it is a problem.

    They need a Basic Untraining program. Eight intensive weeks of not dressing the same, not marching in step, not shouting in unison, and not following orders.

    At least semi-serious here. Give as much attention to training on the way out the door. Conflict de-escalation, anger management, hell, balancing a checkbook… whatever is tripping them up on the other side.

    • #17
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:03 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thanks again, @bossmongo, for letting us peek into your heart; it’s a big one. I’m sure those “thugs turned divers” will appreciate your friendship and generosity for a very long time. And I probably don’t need to say this, but Joe may not be as far along in his healing process as you are. Stay safe, and know that all of us are with you.

    • #18
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:05 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  19. Western Chauvinist Member

    So, we have a lot of vets in Colorado Springs. A. lot. And many of them Special Forces guys. 

    It’s because of this, I presume, we have a lot of therapists trained and certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Retraining) for PTSD. My kids see two of them for trauma related to our medical trials. 

    The idea behind EMDR is to have the patient recall a traumatic episode while alternately stimulating one side of the brain and then the other. It is accomplished either by eye movement, alternating audio through earbuds, or gentle electrical stimulation while holding a device in each hand, or some combination of the three. It is intended to retrain your brain to separate the memory from your primitive brain response. And it has been shown to be quite effective. One Chauvinist has completed EMDR treatment and felt it helped immensely and the other is currently undergoing treatment. 

    Now, I know a SF retiree (AF Bird Colonel) who is suffering pretty severe PTSD right now. When I described EMDR to him, he was “triggered” just by telling him he’d have to recall traumatic events. And none of his are hand-to-hand encounters, but rather command decisions he had to make requiring some men to go out on missions from which he knew they wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even talk about the treatment. 

    Don’t let it get to that point, Boss. Find an EMDR certified therapist for you and Joe. We’ve got your 6 o’clock covered in prayer.

    • #19
    • September 12, 2019, at 6:26 PM PDT
    • 19 likes
  20. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    Sadly, I talk to way too many guys from the Regiment like this. I know for a fact better transition is not being ignored though.

    Yes, please do make it a point to check up on him, Boss.

    If he needs anything, tell him he can reach out to Bryce Mahoney ([email protected]) at the Darby Project or Karl Monger ([email protected]) from its parent organization, GallantFew. Great guys doing great things for the Ranger community. I’ve been dealing with them 7-8 years now trying to support transitioning Rangers on many different levels.

    https://www.facebook.com/TheDarbyProject/

    Thanks!

    • #20
    • September 13, 2019, at 1:54 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  21. aardo vozz Member

    Great post. We would appreciate updates on doctor visit and on Joe.🙂

    • #21
    • September 13, 2019, at 3:39 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Doug Watt Member

    Another great post, Thanks Boss.

    A couple of observations, I’ll start with butt-grabber. Whether butt-grabber realized it, or not he’s looking for the toughest guy in the room. Grabbing a butt is just a fringe benefit of conducting the search. The problem with searching for the toughest guy in the room is you’ll find him when you least expect it, and he did.

    Cop’s problems start when they keep everything bottled up, and that includes not talking to their wives about what they are seeing, and having to do on the job. That’s called not bringing the dirt home. They become angry and unfortunately other officer’s will isolate them because they may be dealing with their own problems. Help is available, but seeking it is considered a sign of weakness. Then the fear is that they will be declared unfit for duty even though counseling is confidential.

    • #22
    • September 13, 2019, at 4:47 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  23. She Thatcher
    She

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, on the blockchain (View Comment):
    Got no idea how to solve that problem, but I’ll acknowledge that it is a problem.

    They need a Basic Untraining program. Eight intensive weeks of not dressing the same, not marching in step, not shouting in unison, and not following orders.

    At least semi-serious here. Give as much attention to training on the way out the door. Conflict de-escalation, anger management, hell, balancing a checkbook… whatever is tripping them up on the other side.

    Needs to be done while they are still in uniform and still subject to orders. Letting them go, and then begging them to come back doesn’t work. This program seems to be having some success and is gaining converts: https://thefreqmedia.com/2019/01/19/military/patbristol70/post-traumatic-winning-hits-the-2nd-marine-division-the-response-is-beyond-overwhelming/

     

    • #23
    • September 13, 2019, at 5:01 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):

    Sadly, I talk to way too many guys from the Regiment like this. I know for a fact better transition is not being ignored though.

    Yes, please do make it a point to check up on him, Boss.

    If he needs anything, tell him he can reach out to Bryce Mahoney ([email protected]) at the Darby Project or Karl Monger ([email protected]) from its parent organization, GallantFew. Great guys doing great things for the Ranger community. I’ve been dealing with them 7-8 years now trying to support transitioning Rangers on many different levels.

    https://www.facebook.com/TheDarbyProject/

    Thanks!

    Chris, thanks. Will definitely pass that along.

    • #24
    • September 13, 2019, at 5:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    That’s called not bringing the dirt home.

    @dougwatt, I know all about that, and you’re right: nothing good comes of letting those wounds fester.

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Help is available, but seeking it is considered a sign of weakness.

    I think, the Army is getting better at this. Not only are we all human, and susceptible to all type of mental and physical vulnerabilities, but the Army invests a whole lot of time and money creating and improving soldiers. It’s just good business to protect that investment.

    • #25
    • September 13, 2019, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Now, I know a SF retiree (AF Bird Colonel) who is suffering pretty severe PTSD right now. When I described EMDR to him, he was “triggered” just by telling him he’d have to recall traumatic events. And none of his are hand-to-hand encounters, but rather command decisions he had to make requiring some men to go out on missions from which he knew they wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even talk about the treatment. 

    @westernchauvinist, I know exactly what kind of stressors you are talking about. Weird, but my nightmares these days are about things that didn’t happen. I’ll wake up sweating and panting (into my CPAP mask) and thinking, “Wait a minute, VOODOO made it out of the tunnel just fine, MAX LUMBER took out the sniper, not the other way ’round.”

    I’m basically a pretty lazy guy, but the thought of losing a guy through a fault of mine drove me to an OCD-like fixation on becoming the best military professional that I could be.

    • #26
    • September 13, 2019, at 6:10 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  27. Aaron Miller Member

    Boss Mongo: About 99.95% of head-shrinkers are totally unequipped to deal with a former Killer of Men.

    Is there anything like a psychiatric equivalent of military chaplains who will get into harm’s way? Could there be? 

    Perhaps credentials get in the way. If soldiers identify a fellow soldier who for whatever reasons shows a knack for helping his brothers adjust to civilian life, offer that man an opportunity to do it more formally and regularly. As your experience shows, soldiers can confide in veterans too and not just active killers.

     

    • #27
    • September 13, 2019, at 6:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Western Chauvinist Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Now, I know a SF retiree (AF Bird Colonel) who is suffering pretty severe PTSD right now. When I described EMDR to him, he was “triggered” just by telling him he’d have to recall traumatic events. And none of his are hand-to-hand encounters, but rather command decisions he had to make requiring some men to go out on missions from which he knew they wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even talk about the treatment.

    @westernchauvinist, I know exactly what kind of stressors you are talking about. Weird, but my nightmares these days are about things that didn’t happen. I’ll wake up sweating and panting (into my CPAP mask) and thinking, “Wait a minute, VOODOO made it out of the tunnel just fine, MAX LUMBER took out the sniper, not the other way ’round.”

    I’m basically a pretty lazy guy, but the thought of losing a guy through a fault of mine drove me to an OCD-like fixation on becoming the best military professional that I could be.

    I believe it, Boss. My friend’s experience also involved combat missions and aid missions to the Kurds (where he saw terrible suffering), but the weight of life-or-death decisions for his men are the heaviest for him.

    • #28
    • September 13, 2019, at 6:35 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Now, I know a SF retiree (AF Bird Colonel) who is suffering pretty severe PTSD right now. When I described EMDR to him, he was “triggered” just by telling him he’d have to recall traumatic events. And none of his are hand-to-hand encounters, but rather command decisions he had to make requiring some men to go out on missions from which he knew they wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even talk about the treatment.

    @westernchauvinist, I know exactly what kind of stressors you are talking about. Weird, but my nightmares these days are about things that didn’t happen. I’ll wake up sweating and panting (into my CPAP mask) and thinking, “Wait a minute, VOODOO made it out of the tunnel just fine, MAX LUMBER took out the sniper, not the other way ’round.”

    I’m basically a pretty lazy guy, but the thought of losing a guy through a fault of mine drove me to an OCD-like fixation on becoming the best military professional that I could be.

    Can my callsign be MACHO GRANDE’?

    Just askin’.

    • #29
    • September 13, 2019, at 9:10 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Mssr. Mongo’s post, and the horrifying story about Joe, remind me of an old saying:

    Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.

    It is Spot On that the ass-grabber was, consciously or not, looking to get his head beat in. You only do that kind of stupid if you’re looking for trouble, even if you’re so lacking in self-awareness that you’re literally waving your hands around over your head, asking people to punch you as hard as they can.

    The problem is when they get what they’re asking for, but much more of it than they expected. They tapped the wrong guy on the shoulder to ask for the punchin’. 9 times out of 10, it’s just a normal barfight. But if you bump into that Wrong Guy ™, all bets are off, and he’s lucky to be breathing.

    One of my minor Guy Fears is that I accidentally piss off the wrong guy, innocently, but it’s my fault. Which might explain why I run so much. Keep my wheels fresh, just in case.

    C

     

    • #30
    • September 13, 2019, at 9:17 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
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