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Books I highly recommend
Friday, September 16, 2005
|______As the days dwindle down, I find myself feeling, well...a little changed perhaps, and perhaps a little unsure, but certainly very odd. Above all, I find myself reflecting a lot. Like, even for me. One issue that has been very much in my reflections has been why I joined the Marine Corps in the first place. To be sure, this is almost exactly what I envisioned it was like to be in the Marines, that I would go to Iraq almost as soon as I was done with Initial Active Duty Training. Only in time did I realize most other guys have to wait longer. But the question still remains, why did I join? I now see that one of my first posts ever, which touched on this very question, did not quite sum it up as well as I now wish, in part because of the fact that it was written before I was in. Few people I knew or was related to were not surprised to hear about my decision, regardless of how certain or uncertain I was at the time. On my first ever visit to the recruiting station, Msgt. Grim came in and told me that I had a hard sell to pull off with regards to my mom, to whom he had just been talking. Most people figured I'd just get some sort of a scholarship and go to college, and so my plans were proceeding until the first Friday in May of this year. I guess a lot of people figured that I'd end up and art critic or something, but no one expected this, myself least of all. I first became aware of the Marines as a separate service when I was about thirteen. I was reading an article about them and their training. When I got to the part about the Crucible, and it being fifty-four hours with little food and sleep, getting dirty and wet, my reaction was "damned if you're ever going to get me to do that". Later, when I was seventeen and going to the Naval Academy's Summer Seminar, I suffered so much on the runs that whenever we'd sing a Marine Corps cadence or talk about the Marines, I was filled with a sense of inadequacy, certain that I could never hack it with them if I couldn't hack it at this seminar. But when the brochure came in the mail, something spoke to me. I hardly even noticed the many other pamphlets from other colleges I had never heard of. I'm not saying I believe in love at first sight, but something rather like that happened when I got that leaflet.|
______First let me say, however much it may disappoint this entire generation of Drill Instructors and MCT instructors, that I did not join the Marines "to kill!". I seriously doubt anyone really wants to take another human life for it's own sake, and if they do, they either underestimate how hard it is to do, or it really is easy for their twisted and perverted souls, and they need to be in prison as a hazard to society. I did not join for the college money, as I had already been offered a partial scholarship at Christendom, and the rest of college could probably have been paid for without the Marines. If I had joined to pick up chicks for an unending series of one-night stands, I would have been, among other things, highly mistaken, as it really doesn't work like that. I didn't do it to get out of the hood, as some of my peers did, because I was not in any danger from rival gangs. On that note, my joining had nothing to do with "getting out of trouble" in any form whatsoever. In some respects, other parts of my life have actually taken a cut after I joined. I am in more difficult contact with family and friends, and as I mentioned, my college plans which were going fine are now returning to the embryonic stage.
______But still and all, something felt like I was being called. My later experiences at boot camp and since, and the number of times my butt has been saved from some disaster, great or small, have only served to strengthen this notion. As a firm, almost fanatical believer in Divine Providence, I felt certain that I had followed down the right path, although at that time I had no idea why it felt right. When I see coincidences that bring about unforeseen results, I actually see Providence at work. I now have a notion what the purpose, or part of the purpose was, but I have to wait until this chapter of my chronicles is fully written (perhaps, as Whodehouse would say, "in book form") before I can see it all make sense. That's one way in which belief in Divine Providence makes a life more stress-free: one is more comfortable with not knowing the reason for what one is doing or how it will work out in the grand scheme.
______I feel, and I think, that I am doing this for the right reasons. I'm not really worried about that as much as for most of the other Marines in this company. A lot of them joined for the reasons mentioned above, (though I hasten to point out that not all of them are wrong reasons), and some others, when they ask the same questions I was asking above, do so with a lot of cursing and grumbling. The ones who think they made the wrong decision are the ones I'm really worried about, though I'm worried about everyone. I'm worried about the ones whose week revolves around next weekend and how drunk they're going to get, because if we are in Iraq and the fan gets dirty, that seems very little to live for. I worry, in short, about those who seem to have less to live for than I think I do. But I would hope that's a moot point, because as I was reflecting on the Sunday I got home on leave, as much as some of these people tick me off, and as much as I hope never to see one or two of them again after this, there's not a damned one of them I don't want to see come back alive.
______My job over there will not be to "win the hearts and minds". If it were, I would have joined the Red Cross or the Peace Corps. It is not to "come back alive" as many of my peers might think. If it were, I would just have given the Marines a pass. My job is not to "bring everyone home alive". If it were, I'd go into Congress as a democrat and vote to curl up in a ball and surrender the War on Terror. In training, they tell us repeatedly things such as "if you do such and such, you're going to get someone killed", or "every month there's Marines getting killed because other Marines were stupid". That is true, but what I wish many of those people to bear in mind is this: Combat is bound to be a dangerous place, and the bitch of it is that even if everyone does their job right (keeping weapons safety, staying awake on watch and on the guns), there is still a chance that one of use could go at any time. At least in this war, that is the nature of the enemy. Treating a combat death as though it is always and everywhere the result of carelessness or laziness on the part of other Marines is detrimental, in my view. It makes dying in battle seem almost lame, pointless and stupid, and it seems to glorify staying alive for it's own sake. There was something more someone could have done? You're kidding me. Welcome to war, welcome to the world.
______My own view, derived from my reflections, is that someone among us dying over there is not the end of the world. The best we can hope for is that it will not be because someone was asleep on post or a driver took a wrong turn. As for the rest, all we can hope for is that our Father will keep us as safe from harm as possible, and should we lose anyone, to give strength and forbearance to those they left behind, until such a time as it shall please Him to send out the laborers for the great harvest of Humanity. When every one will be called to give an account, I hope at least that anyone who loses their life in this mission, should it happen, will have the consolation of not having to worry about whether or not the account they have to render will balance out in their favor.
______And so I believe I must close this now. I would be surprised if I have any blogging time over there, as I place a higher priority on the e-mails that family and friends will be expecting. So this may be my last post (as it were) until I get back. I don't regret it, as I would hope to call this a good note to end on. I wish you all good luck. To those whom I link to who are at Christendom, study hard. To those of you thinking of going on long and indefinite sabbaticals, don't. Congratulations to anyone who graduates high school or college, gets married or has a kid while I'm gone. And last of all, I hope all of you will pray for me and the Marines of Small Craft Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion until we come marching home in April.
Monday, September 12, 2005
|_____Well, would you look at that. All this free time at home, post training, and so much to talk about, and I say so little. Please at least understand that a lot of what I could have related was of no interest to the civilian, or so I would imagine. Leave certainly went by rather fast, as tomorrow I go back down, this time with our primary objective being not to train, but to wait for the scheduling of a flight to Kuwait. From there I think they have some sort of transport arranged for us. We certainly won't be humping it, at any rate. It used to be not my style to take no interest whatsoever in a problem as logistical as "how do we travel the second leg of the journey", but in the Marine Corps, I at least want to take advantage of the few opportunities I have in which I can shrug my shoulders and say "not my problem". We will definitely get there, and I am sure that if God is willing, the flight back will require just as many seats.|
Saturday, September 03, 2005
|Sorry I haven't been updating much recently, but things have been really busy. We just got done with what they called the tactical riverine FEX, basically our final field op before going on pre-deployment leave. The first day, I fired the MK-19 which I am in charge of as aft gunner on my boat. This is a fully automatic grenade launcher, which means it shoots grenades rapid fire. We had a lot of wind, and since we were nearly a kilometer away from any land, we all had to tie ourselves to this offshore platform and hold on tight until the wind stopped rocking us. The weather was fine after that. Che bella cosa na jurnata 'e sole, n'aria serena doppo na tempesta. The rest of the time tends to run together in my head. One night we did a night gun run, and I fired the .50 caliber machinegun. I had always heard it was very powerful, but I didn't know the half of it. As I sat six feet away from it, it was deafening even with earplugs. The air around me literally pulsed with each round, and it felt like I was getting a massage just from the shocks.|
The sky above a rural area is actually really nice to look at at night. The funny thing about my situation is that although I'm two or three years behind my plans for college and things like that, I've seen some things one simply does not see anywhere else. It's not all backbreaking work, lots of mosquito bites, and stupid working parties. Where else would I have seen the Milky Way galaxy and a meteor shower through night vision goggles?
Most of our time was spent on various patrols, and one simply has to get used to standing up at your gun for periods of multiple hours. On the very last day, Thursday, we had some sort of endurance course. Apparently it served to reassure some people who secretly were not sure if our company had what it would take to be successful in Iraq. Some hours after the endurance course, there was a promotions ceremony, it being the first of the month. We immediately had to get working on preparations for our next and final patrol, but during those preparations, some Marines took a few seconds to congratulate Lance Corporal Pena and Lance Corporal Morris on their promotions. During our final patrol, we ran aground so badly that I would have flown through the coxswain station behind me if I had not been holding on to my gun firmly. I think we're ready. At any rate, I think we've got the hang of this whole boat business. There are some parts that really rather bite, but when think about it, the is just about the most fun thing one could possibly spend an Iraq deployment doing, so I really rather lucked out.