Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"The impossible is accomplished with the Lord's help, and a few Marines."

I've just discovered this blog, Green.....again, written by a Marine officer in Iraq. His writing is quite powerful. In the piece below he writes about young grunts he's serving with.

March 22, 2006

The Boy Grunt

I see him, or one like him, almost daily, standing in line at the mess hall, waiting his turn at the phone center, or sometimes even at the base chapel on Sunday. He lives out in the city, sleeping on floors, on rooftops, or in the walled courtyards of Fallujah with his buddies, surviving on adrenaline and MRE’s. He comes back to the camp periodically to get a shower, a hot meal, a haircut, and some clean cammies. Maybe even a day off to send home an e-mail or make a telephone call. But it never lasts. Soon enough, he’s back outside the wire, doing what grunts do.

Sometimes his youth is almost astonishing. His face shows the teenager that he is. He laughs and jokes and talks loudly about his girl back home, or his car, or how PFC so-and-so made a fool of himself while out on the last operation. He’d probably never been away from home prior to joining the Marines. Probably still has a room at his parents’ house back in the states, waiting for him when he gets out after his enlistment or goes home on leave.

I look at him, and he seems just like a kid coming home from high school football practice sweaty and tired, but happy. Only this kid didn’t just come from football practice. He just came in from standing a security post where he didn’t know whether or not a sniper was sighting in on him from the back of a shadowy room, away from the window so as to be invisible. Or he might have came in from manning a vehicle checkpoint, where every car that rolled toward him may or may not have carried a vehicle borne improvised explosive device, about to detonate and send him and his buddies all to their maker. Or maybe he just came off a long, hot day of foot patrols through streets where the children of the neighborhood smiled and waved, but none of the adults did. And yet there he is, full of smiles and jokes, acting as though there was never really any danger at all. Is it courage? Bravado? Blissful ignorance? Or is it living in the moment simply because he never knows which day might be his last?

Occasionally I see him with reality in his eyes. Usually right after he pulls up at the surgical unit to drop off one or more of his buddies, broken and bleeding from a firefight or an IED. It’s then that he no longer looks eighteen years old, shaken by the realization that he is not immortal. There’s no talk of cars or girls or video games. It’s at these times that the visage of youth is gone, replaced by one of stark reality. The reality that we are all made of flesh, blood, and bone, and anyone can die on any given day.

At these times there’s often something else in his expression that he cannot hide: anger; outright rage that someone did that to his friends, and with it an unquenchable thirst for payback. The need to bring violence and punishment upon the enemy because he desecrated one of the most cherished things a Marine has: the friendship of his buddies. It’s a need that I hope he gets a chance to satisfy.

I look at this boy, a young man really, and wonder what will become of him. Will he go home, get out of the Marine Corps when his hitch is up, and go to college? Will he be the guy in class who is a few years older than his peers, who’s seen and done things that those other kids will never understand? Maybe he’ll try to explain, or then again maybe he’ll just try to blend in and never bring it up. Or he might just get a job somewhere and be the young war veteran who gains the instant respect of his co-workers. Will he go home to his family and his old friends and not know how to act around them because he thinks they would never understand him again? Or worst of all, will his tour end tragically? Will my team answer a call one day to send this young man home, while back in the states his parents answer a dreadful knock on the door to find two Marines in dress uniform bearing terrible news? But then again, maybe he’ll be just fine, going home to catalog his wartime experiences as an important, defining time of his life, and simply move on.

Whatever the conclusion, one thing is perfectly clear. Despite all the naysayers, America is still perfectly capable of making young men who willingly set aside the frivolities of youth and step up. They sacrifice their personal lives, put their ambitions on hold, and say goodbye to their friends and family, only to subject themselves to untold pain, hardship, and perhaps even death. Boys one day, grunts the next.

1 comment:

Leap Frog said...

You are right that was an excellent read thanks for posting it.