Guest Blogging: Saving Private Ryan?:
(This is from PFC Margheriti -not his real name- an active duty soldier.)
Yeah, Tom Hanks did get him home, and then Ryan got to go to the cemetery and reflect on the war. Legit, right? I guess they said "cut" before Ryan got into his car and drove home, daydreaming of steering his vehicle into oncoming traffic. The idea that Hollywood's portrayal of the U.S. military is dead-on is pretty much common knowledge amongst the American public, and we know that the mythical hero who can level a building full of Iraqis is completely justified to do so because he eats MREs and has to masturbate in a port-a-potty. But who am I to criticize? Oh, that's right; I'm a soldier, too!
My recruiter forged his smile while he fed me everything I wanted to know about the U.S. Army: "Free college! Steady paycheck! Getting your head sawed off on YouTube!" I guess by "career" he meant only if you don't die fighting the civilian being paid to endlessly throw rocks and grenades at your convoy. With this career, you'll be left feeling skull-fucked on a daily basis by flashbacks of seeing that brown civilian kid take a .50 caliber round to the face. That subsequent nagging urge in your guts to go on a homicidal rampage. One recruiter called me and based his entire campaign to enroll me based on the fact that I'd get into Disneyland for free. How did he know that I always wanted to hug Mickey Mouse with blood all over my hands? Yes, PTSD is very real, and anyone related to a service member will tell you that their soldier was not the same after coming home, but they won't tell you that he wakes up at night running around looking for his M16 that isn't there, while tactically clearing the living room of insurgents.
Practically every non-commissioned officer has deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than once, and probably got their rank from deploying, thus our direct supervisors are normally specialists who fell ass-backwards into their spiffy sergeant rank, and they subsequently make it their personal mission to assert and flaunt their new-found power at any given time of day because of what they've "seen" or "done." It isn't like 20 years ago when you had to have top physical fitness scores and 36/40 targets during rifle qualification, and spend roughly half a decade as a lower-enlisted soldier first. There are some very good leaders in the military who actually give a shit about their soldiers, but many people are fucked in the head by this point. I respect soldiers, their sacrifices for their families, and every mother, father, and child who is left asking, "Why is my soldier dead?" It is that question that has led me to turn my back on the military and the pseudo-conquest of "protecting the country."
I said my goodbyes to my family and was picked up and flown to Fort Knox, Kentucky for Basic Combat Training. It's as one would assume it would be: getting your head shaved, vaccinations, basic issue of uniforms and gear - the works. Drill Sergeants. The apex of military discipline, complete with personality disorders. The fuckers simply love watching you work out; and, since they can't kick your head into the dirt during pushup hour anymore, they find fun and imaginative ways of getting their dick hard that doesn't include violence: having you salute wildlife in front of the chow hall, and then having 30 seconds to eat as opposed to 3 minutes; being given a time limit after the Drill Sergeant spray-paints a grouping of small rocks. Your mission: to turn over each and every rock so that he cannot see any more spray paint. One of them based his mood off of the latest pep talk from his even-less-emotionally-stable superior, mixed in with whatever PTSD-related issue was happening back at home. Be all you can be, now with alcoholism!
My best sense of camaraderie in the military was in basic training, because we were all there for one purpose: to graduate and get the fuck home. Serving the country wasn't even in the equation. It was you, your buddies, and your weapon, and you never went anywhere without those. It was not this epic undertaking of duty; it was a shit-ton of running, shooting, and barracks inspections. And, at the end, you get about 4 hours with your family before moving on to train in your occupational specialty. Afterwards, I went to my appointed unit where we eventually received our warning order to prepare for war, about 9 months away. We all went home and told our families what could be happening, where we could be going, as we don't know anything until just before it happens. A soldier could be ordered to Kandahar, Afghanistan and end up being told that he or she will be going to Iraq 2 months before leaving. (Props to women for wearing a uniform; female soldiers have generally been very proficient soldiers. And sex between soldiers in Afghanistan? Fuck yeah, it happens all the time. Normally in a unit there is at least a 2 to 1 ratio of male soldiers to female soldiers, if not even higher, so there will be the females who act professionally, the closeted lesbians, and the married or single females who want to fuck the shit out of you. And with the males, practically all of them cheat - so think of that the next time your husband changes duty station to a stripper's bacteria-ridden anus that he met off-post.) Deployment weighed heavily in our minds, but we tried to distract ourselves, as we're taught to block out all emotion and continue on.
The fact is, we do appreciate all the respect, handshake, hugs, and thank-yous, but we're just regular people with everyday problems. We're all there to either make money, or to go to college. The only ones who are there to "serve their country" are the high-ranking officers and long-term sergeants who have been in so long that the military is all they know anymore. I may be completely different than my fellow soldiers, either because I no longer agree with what we're doing anymore, or the fact that I'm writing this as a resolute declaration to myself that I am not like them, and never was. During boot camp, they played us many videos of footage recorded in Iraq or Afghanistan. The first was a video of a soldier lying on the floor of a dusty desert house. His head was wrapped in white cloth except for his orifices, and men were talking in their native dialect in the background. I immediately knew where it was going and I didn't want to watch it, but we had to sit there. A frail, underfed native approached the bound form of our comrade and lifted him to rest on his knees. He drew a long knife and tilted the soldier's head close to the camera, hovered over the figure who knew that he was about to die, and then sawed the man's head off his shoulders. There was screaming and blood was everywhere. And then his killer set his head on top of his body and laughed. How the fuck did this guy meet his fate? I felt so much rage I could have gone to war that moment and dealt fire and death to everyone responsible for the mutilation.
We then watched several videos of the Taliban insurgency being shot down and blown to smithereens, and we found ourselves laughing. Laughing. Like the guy who just cut a man's head off. We may as well have done it ourselves and shit down his neck for good measure because, in that moment, we were no longer the guys that our families hugged and cried on. We were the instinctual killers we were trained to be, without fear, pity, or remorse. I thought about every time someone talked about killing like it was supposed to be fun.
The exploits of the Taliban include things like strapping bombs to mentally challenged people and blowing them up at our gates, or paying a child to shoot at our convoy, which ends with the kid getting his brains blown out, courtesy of the red white, and blue. Other ways they have fucked with us is shooting at us from a schoolyard over kids' heads, because we can't fire at schools or churches, though mosques were assaulted at the beginning of OIF to pursue insurgents. That obviously ended quickly, and also the case of the Air Force gunner who opened fire at a mob of little black blobs of people fleeing from a building. Nobody could prove that they weren't insurgents, so we ass-raped some civilians with Lady Liberty's torch and called it "progress." This sort of killing isn't new to us; ever wonder why we never see many Native Americans?
In the time I trained for deployment, I took a look at how other military factions saw war. The Japanese believed that it was glorious to die in battle in service to a deity; they've since been renamed "Right Wing." Religion is its own animal - not my thing. "God is so great, I push all my guilt on him and I don't have to feel responsible about a thing! And, the best part is, he made a magical land that we float up to when we die as long as we rally to take away civil rights!" Wasn't this kind of thing started in a time when it was okay to fuck the underage and enslave the poor to the government, when most people were delusional due to mental illness and disease? Oh wait, that's 2011. Most soldiers don't know a damn thing about politics, myself included, but I'll call it like I see it. We're just not exposed to as much politics on Army bases, We constantly talk about Army, Army, Army, and that's it. I don't doubt that any soldier who reads this will either be laughing his ass off or breaking his laptop by the third paragraph, because it's a hard reality to accept that there is no winning this war. We'll never completely eliminate every terrorist; but, if we did, what would be next? Killing their kids? They already have more than a few reasons to hate us, all they've known their whole lives is war. And, yeah, maybe their dad did plant bombs on the side of the road, but that was their dad, not ours, and he may not have done those things out of hatred, the same way some soldiers don't go to war out of hatred, but to just put some food on the table.
Not every person over there is a monster. What is left of the Taliban is a broken, bankrupt circle of extremists who could never hurt you, or your family in the USA; it's just not possible. They have no resources other than what they can get from a hardware store, household chemicals, and whatever weapons they have stashed under the dirt we walk on over there. Ammonium nitrate is easy to make in the convenience of one's own kitchen, and it's one of the Taliban's favorite weapons because it's cheap. Other examples include pressure-plate activated charges designed specifically for certain vehicles, meaning they've tested them to know exactly what weight they need for the wires to touch completing the connection, and it's designed to detonate on our vehicles rather than lighter, civilian vehicles. They used to fire mortar shells into our bases but they'd be retaliated upon afterwards, so they would fill the mortar tube with ice and drop the mortar on top. The ice melts, and by the time to round gets down to the firing pin, the insurgent is long gone. They've lived in poverty their whole lives while people in the USA went to McDonald's then drove to Burger King because their kids wanted a slice of pie to go with their burger doused in thousand island dressing. I once met a kid from India and he said to me, "My dad said that Americans eat fried Snickers bars, is that true?" Not even I knew we had deep fried candy bars until I looked it up, but some kid from around the world knows about it. People in the unemployment line sure as hell don't think it's fair that they're losing everything they have while Iraq is being rebuilt. We can go help every other country who will destroy itself in civil war whether we're there or not, but we can't give our kids a decent education.
I used to be scared by the prospect of getting out of the military, but I realized that everything I've been taught about being a warrior would be completely contradicted by participating in this pointless endeavor. Honor, to me, is protecting the people you love, not blindly throwing myself into a mine-ridden wasteland. I'd have been more than happy to liberate a Jew and bring him to Hitler's corpse so he could piss on him; hell, I'd even hold his dick for him, but this? We're not fighting soldiers anymore. We see them now as enemies because we are told they're our enemies, and I can't be a part of that. If a foreign power was kicking in the doors of our homes looking for bomb labs and searching our families' personal belongings, we would fight back. What "honor" or "heroism" is there in shooting an opponent wearing no ballistic armor from the turret of an armored truck with a .50 cal machine gun? And, according to the Geneva Conventions, we are not allowed to shoot people with that weapon, but we are allowed to shoot at their equipment - as in the AK47 in their hands. Even civilians carry AKs there; practically everyone in Afghanistan has one, so I guess it can't be that inhumane to blow someone in half. That guy won't ever look at spaghetti the same way again.
I am a warrior. I will protect my fellow countrymen from legitimate danger. We have more to fear from ourselves; we may not have AK47s or IEDs, but we, as a country, carry a concealed weapon called stupidity. Nobody is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't be good people. I don't need to be in the Army to be a good man. I'm not by any means a hippie, but I love my life, and I love the people in my life too much to have them question why I'm not around. That's my reason for getting out, and I don't really give a shit if anyone disagrees; and, if they're so fucking righteous, then throw on a brain bucket and march their ass down to a recruiter for Disneyland tickets.