I'll probably get my ass flamed off for this, but it's posted here as a community service. Might save a life. For what it's worth, it's written by an old warhorse, and it was sent to me by a buddy who is a retired Marine Corps Gunny (recon), so it ain't the typical anti-war b.s. Just a dose of reality.
flame away... (If you're still alive when you're 50, tell me what you think then.)
A Grand Adventure: Except That it isn't
September 18, 2005
The Army at work. Be all you can be.
A friend recently asked me what I would tell a young man thinking
about enlisting in the military. (He had in mind his son.) I would
tell him this, which I wish someone had told me:
Kid, you are being suckered. You are being used. You need to think
carefully before signing that enlistment contract.
First, notice that the men who want to send you to die were draft-
dodgers. President Bush was of military age during Vietnam, but he sat
out the war in the Air National Guard. The Guard was then a common way
of avoiding combat. Bush could do it because he was a rich kid who
went to Yale, and his family had connections.
He dodged, but he wants you to go.
Vice President Cheney, also of military age during Vietnam, also
didn’t go. Why? When asked by the press, he said, “I had other
priorities.” In other words, he was too important to risk his precious
self overseas. He dodged, but wants you to go.
If you take the time to investigate, you will always find this
pattern. The rich and influential avoid combat. Harvard, Yale, and
Princeton do not send young men to Iraq. The editors at magazines that
support the war, National Review for example, didn’t fight. They are
happy to let you go, though. The reason for the All Volunteer military
was to let the smart and rich avoid service and instead send kids from
middle-class and blue-collar families. It works.
In talking to recruiters, you need to understand what you are up
against. You are probably nineteen or twenty years old, full of piss
and vinegar as we used to say, just starting to know the world. Which
means that you don’t yet know it. (Do you know, for example, what
countries border Iraq?)
You are up against a government that hires high-powered ad agencies
and psychologists to figure out how to lure you into the military.
Over many years they have done surveys and studies on the weaknesses
of young males to find out what will get them to join. They know that
young men, the ones that are worth anything anyway, want to prove
themselves, want adventure, want to show what they can do. Everything
a recruiter does is carefully calculated to play on this. They go to
recruiting school to learn how.
“The Few. The Proud.” You don’t think that came out of the Marine
Corps, do you? These phrases—“An Army of One,” “Be All You Can Be"--
come from ad agencies in New York. Nobody in those ad agencies, I
promise you, was ever in the Marine Corps. New York sells the military
the way it sells soap. It has no interest in you at all.
Recruiters know exactly what they are doing. They are manly, which
appeals to gutsy young guys who don’t want to be mall rats. They are
confident. They have a physical fitness, a clean-cut appearance that
looks good compared to all those wussy lawyers in business suits. They
invite you to come into a man’s world. They promise you college funds.
(Check and see how many actually ever get those funds. Read the small
And of course the military is a man’s world, and it is an adventure,
and it does beat being a mall rat—until they put you in combat.
Driving a tank beats stocking parts in the local NAPA outlet—until
they put you in combat. Days on the rifle range, running the bars of
San Diego far from home and parents, going across the border into
Mexico—all of this appeals powerfully to a young man. It did to me. It
beats hell out of getting some silly associate degree in biz-admin at
the community college.
Until they put you in combat. Then it’s too late. You can’t change
your mind. They send you to jail for a long time if you do.
Combat is not the adventure you think it is. Know what happens when an
RPG hits a tank? Nothing good. The cherry juice—hydraulic fluid that
turns the turret—can vaporize and then blow. I saw the results in the
Naval Support Activity hospital in Danang in 1967. A tank has a crew
of four. Two burned to death, screaming as they tried to get out. The
other two were scalded pink, under a plastic sheet that was always
foggy with serum evaporating from burns where the skin had sloughed
off. They probably lived. Know what burn scars look like?
The recruiters won’t tell you this. They know, but they won’t tell
you. Ever seen a guy who just took a round through the face? He’s a
bloody mess with his eyes gone, nasty hole where his nose was, funny
white cartilage things sticking out of dripping meat. Suppose he’ll
ever have another girlfriend? Not freaking likely. He’ll spend the
next fifty years as a horror in some forsaken VA hospital.
But the recruiters won’t tell you this. They want you to think that
it’s an adventure.
Other things happen that, depending on your head, may or may not
bother you. Iraq means combat in cities. Ordinary people live there.
You pop a grenade through a window, or hit a building with a burst
from the Chain gun, or maybe put a tank round through it. Then you
find the little girl with her bowels hanging out, not quite dead yet,
with her mother screaming over what’s left. You’d be surprised how
much blood a small kid has.
You get to live with that picture for the rest of your life. And you
will live with it. The recruiter will tell you that it doesn’t happen,
that it’s the exception, that I’m a commy journalist. Believe him if
you want. Believe him now, while you can. When you get back, you’ll
A lot of things in America aren’t what they used to be. The military
is one of them. The army didn’t always use girl soldiers to torture
prisoners. For that they had specialists in the intelligence agencies.
You won’t get assigned torture duty, almost certainly, because the
Army got caught. Ask your recruiter about it, just to be sure.
Don’t expect thanks from a grateful nation. Somebody might buy you a
drink in a bar. That’s about all you get. Many will regard you as a
criminal or a fool.
Wars seem important at the time, but they usually aren’t. Five years
later, they are history. About sixty thousand GIs died in Vietnam. We
lost. Nothing happened. It was a stupid war for nothing. Today the
guys who lost faces and legs and internal organs back then are just
freaks. Nobody gives a damn about them, and nobody will give a damn
about you. A war is a politician’s toy, but your wheelchair is
forever. If you want adventure, try the fishing fleet in Alaska.
Think about it.
Community service....That might save a life.....
Whatever you say.
"Theres Right and theres Wrong. You gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living. You do the other and you may be walking around but in reality you're dead." -John Wayne