I originally wrote this while in Iraq, on March 23, 2005. I have lightly edited it for this post.
The DVD was in, I had seen Star Gate many times, and was bored enough to have the voiceover of the director and someone else while watching the show. 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.
What’s special about them is that 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 from themselves. 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.Published in