Disruptive Juxtaposition

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The guy on Page 5 could be my brother

My brother was in the Navy for 6 months, from Novemberish 2003 to July 2004. His enlistment followed a torturous few years of appeal and letter-writing campaigns with the aim of getting him admitted; although he'd been diehard about the military from the age of 10 to 18, and although he was in impeccable, lifting-a-Buick-over-his-head shape, he was washed out on the day of his enlistment due to an operation he'd had at 13. The foot was a non-issue, actually, but apparently the military reads into medical records so to expedite the selection & enlistment process. Anyway, after said appeal process, he was admitted. After Boot, he went to Gunnery School at Great Lakes Naval Station on the shores of Lake Michigan, a bit north of Chicago. Last July, home on leave, he struck out with his girlfriend for Canada and ultimately Alaska, where his girlfriend's mother lived. My parents talked him into coming home, and to accept the consequences. Back in Norfolk, VA, the vessel on which he'd been scheduled to ship had left for the Gulf. The boat's CO, on hearing of my brother's situation, demanded that he be flown directly from Virginia to the Gulf. That's what happened. Surprisingly and for reasons I still don't yet comprehend in full, he was not placed into the brig or even under strict observation. He served and came home with the ship on schedule just a few months later. On the way he received shore leave like any sailor and in Cordoba, Spain stopped into a Taco Bell for some authentic cuisine (sarcasm). Stateside, he received an Honorable Discharge - again, for reasons I still don't yet comprehend in full - and embarked on a civilian's life.

I offer this account by way of contrast to the way most combatants' stories unfold. For all of the concern his situation and his being situated within the war, however temporarily, caused us, it completely pales in relation to the daily realities thousands of kids just like him face and face and face. My brother didn't see combat as these kids did.

I've attempted to write about the soldier's experience in Iraq a handful of times. Politics typically and unsurprisingly leak into those attempts, not always to the poem's detriment but often at the cost of the honest, profane, hysterical, chilling portrayals contained in Radar Magazine's recent piece.

This story like few others helps put faces to the numbers.

Is it too early to begin to process this war in any terms more complex than concern for its participants? I hear that our President begins a five-week vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch and fall into a silent rage from which I awake only when prodded by company. I feel a profound outrage that I shouldn't try to put in context with other historical anti-war outrages but that I must still acknowledge. And I recall now and again who pays the cost of a course of action devoid of intelligence, rife with hegemonic overconfidence, and defended on the Sunday news programs by hairsplitting the meaning of "throes".

This post revolves, I suppose, around the "Love the troops, hate the war" sentiment that most thinking folks and especially hawkish progressive Dems hold.

I want to admit and act against what I feel are this country's crimes. But I want to remember always and render accurately the boys and the girls and the men and the women "accentless Anywhere" whose numbers dwindle and whose names appear in my paper. Drawing this line between war and warrior isn't easy. But is anything crucial?