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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Those Who Serve pairofmarines.png
The two men were talking to each other, and to their unseen audience. They were talking about those who risk their lives in the military to keep the country safe. They both expressed the obligatory platitudes, the nice things you're supposed to say about those in the military. There was nothing to indicate insincerity, they seemed genuinely in admiration of people who march toward the sound of cannon.

But then they ruined it by showing a complete misunderstanding of what they were admiring. After saying how wonderful these men were, they then denigrated themselves and confessed that they could never do such a thing, and they laughed, each at the other, pointing out that it's a good thing they weren't in the military, for the sake of the military.

They just don't understand.
Except for those who are physically incapable of being in the military, due to health or mental reasons, there is nothing to prevent anyone from being in the infantry. There are some elite units that have slightly higher standards of fitness, but in general any healthy male can be an infantryman.

There's no special personality. There's no special hardness. There's no special calling.

The men in the Marine Corps infantry are just men. All types. Big, small. Smart, dumb. Lazy, energetic. Outgoing, shy. Verbose, laconic. Coarse, refined. Vulgar, pious.

I've seen all kinds get through officer candidates school or boot camp. There are no requirements that any average man can't accomplish if he is healthy and he doesn't quit.

That's all it takes, heart. It takes an intelligent desire to do what is needed to get the job done.

So when I hear some yahoo saying that it's a good thing he wasn't in the military, for the military's sake, I conclude that he really doesn't understand the makeup of the people who are in the military. They aren't superhumans, they aren't special genetic mutants. They are you. They are the guy next to you. They are those two men talking to the audience.

And that's what's special about them. They don't have special abilities, yet they are there.

They don't have some genetic fear-suppressant. Yet they are there.

It somehow cheapens their bravery when someone implies that these Marines are somehow of a different stock. It's that they are the same that makes them special. It is their decision to forego safety, comfort, and society despite being regular people that is special.

I watch the men in my battalion. Some are goofy. Some are serious. Some are followers, some are leaders. But they are all here, and when the bullets fly toward them they all feel the same twist in their gut. But using their minds and their wills, they run forward nonetheless.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Defending Nowhere
The repeater site is nowhere. I mean nowhere. Well, the whole country I've seen so far is nowhere. Nothing but dirt, a few sparse and dry plants, and occasional badly maintained roads. If you can call them roads, that is. Most are barely passable by tanks and other extreme off road vehicles. People live near the Euphrates, but go more than few hundred meters from the river and you're nowhere. We're nowhere.

Last night I went on a patrol of this part of nowhere. Our standing orders are to kill anyone inside the wire that isn't a Marine. I took the place of a regular member of the fire team. Our mission is to patrol the site and prevent people from taking items that can be used as bombs. There are a lot of such things nowhere. And people want them badly enough to risk meeting us. They know we're here and what we do.
That morning some of my Marines went on another patrol. They were delivering water and rations to an outpost. Twenty minutes after they left, we heard a distant boom. The corpsman was on the radio and came running out, "Oh shit! They hit a mine!" Officers earn their money by not showing excitement at times like this. I calmly and deliberately got my war gear on and prepared to move out if needed, but it turns out our Marines were safe, someone else ran into the mine and of them, no one was hurt.

That's about the best they can do. A few mines here and there. That's it. It's pathetic. Most of their mines and IED's are seen before going off, and those that go off only hurt or kill a very few. It's a bad thing for the victims, but in the big picture it doesn't even dent our capability to go where we want to go. Trucks get blown up, the other trucks tow them out. Broken down vehicles are never abandoned for terrorists to dance on them as Al Jazeera cameras film the scene. So, we move on no matter what with all our gear. We don't stop our mission, every convoy is completed.

Young boys that are seen selling sodas to Americans have been cut in half while alive. Others have their limbs hacked off one at a time. Terror is their only power. Militarily there is no contest, we dominate where we wish to dominate. We will only lose if the American people lose their resolve and become terrorized.

One thing's for sure, the Marines won't lose theirs.

PS. Check out the comic book author Joe Sacco's story that is where i am at now, and my battalion replaced 1/23. You can view his story online here (PDF format) -- and it's pretty cool.