Marines in Afghanistan
Many people don’t like the military or the military way of doing things. Yet they are quick to send our troops into harm’s way. The military, especially the Marine Corps, is about war. War is brutal and people die. Being in the military is not a “feel good” vocation. If you want to have a feel good job become a social worker. The naked truth is that the military is about killing your fellow-man. Think about that Mr. Politician the next time you want to start a war.
I just read an article about a young Marine who kept falling asleep on guard duty in Afghanistan, a combat zone. His fellow Marines beat him up and he later shot himself (committed suicide). The author of the article (a civilian) stated that the young man had been driven to suicide because of a “gaffe.” A pretty lightweight word for an action that could have easily gotten his comrades killed or maimed. When I think of the word gaffe I think of a social gaffe (this was no social gaffe). If I had been his Sergeant I would have beat him up too, or thrown him in the stockade.
In the old days falling asleep on guard duty was punishable by death, yes it really is that serious. At the very least it would have resulted in a Courts-martial. Believe it or not his buddies were doing him a favor. They were trying to modify his behavior without destroying his career. That he committed suicide as a result of being disciplined is sad, but not the fault of his buddies. He was not psychologically fit to be a Marine, and that should have been discovered long before he ever got to Afghanistan.
His “politically connected” aunt forced an investigation, and probably got those involved in what she euphemistically called a “hazing” Court-martialed (effectively ending their careers). The Marines follow the Code of the Warrior, you might not like it but it’s necessary. A Marine has to be able to trust his fellow Marines, bottom line, end of story. Without that implicit trust it all falls apart. It can be a hard, gritty life. What do you expect?
Stories like this piss me off. The movie “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise pissed me off. Cruise played the role of a panty-waist Naval lawyer (a role he was naturally suited to) going after a tough Marine Colonel (Jack Nicholson). Cruise was the hero of course (I’m sure it was in his contract), but I rooted for the Colonel the whole time. Nicholson’s best line in the movie was: You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.
Civilians can’t handle the truth. They want their military to be politically correct, polite, gender-neutral and sanitized. It doesn’t work that way. My Marine Corps boot camp platoon started with over 80 recruits, by the end of 14-weeks that number was reduced to about 62. The rest couldn’t hack it for one reason or another: physically, emotionally or psychologically. There was hazing, beatings and severe emotional testing (call it abuse). The weak were systematically weeded out and eliminated. Better there than in a theater of war (that’s what boot camp is all about).
War is not pretty. A civilized human being doesn’t kill automatically. A warrior justifies his actions to preserve his sanity. You must become less human to kill your fellow-man. To live by the Code of the Warrior is survival. You fight for survival and the survival of your comrades. If you don’t like the truth, the truth being that war is ugly, brutal and inhuman, then quit starting your goddamn wars in the first place. And don’t be so quick to send your sons (and now daughters) into quagmires with no exit strategy, and then refuse to fix them when they return home damaged. End of rant.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler
Sergeant – U.S. Marine Corps
1965 – 1971
(Vietnam 1967 – 1968)