Once upon a time I stumbled upon, and then drew attention to, a military blog called "Kaboom" written by a truly talented wordsmith who called himself "Lt G".
The blog Kaboom meandered on through the dusty day-to-day terrors, mysteries, and neighbourhood negotiations of the Iraq theatre, until Lt G wrote something that got Higher all cheesed off, and he was told to stop writing, and to scrub all that had been written so far. It was a terrible blow to his growing readership, and a big black eye for the Army that squelched him.
Contrary to the pooh-poohings of dinosaur media types who want us to believe that everything written by amateurs in the blogosphere will eventually dissolve into irrelevant vapor, Lt.G's loyal readers held tight, kept their ears to the ground, and were Ready to Launch when their faithful scribe, now self-identified as Lt. Matt Gallagher (Retired) published his Iraq chronicles in a book of the same name (Kaboom), and began his equally well-written civilian blog, now called Kerplunk. If you're not already a fan, buy the book, dial up the blog, and join the movement.
Not surprisingly, Gallagher has some words worth reading in the lead-up to Memorial Day. Here are some of the best, in an entry from last week called "Good and Evil":
I interviewed a young Marine corporal yesterday, recently back from Afghanistan, for a magazine article I'm putting together. Over the course of our discussion, he brought up an experience of his that defies human comprehension, even in the context of war.In spite of it all, Gallagher looks out at the wounded world and finds the silver lining in the clouds. For Memorial Day, he checks out the progress of one of his many colorful companions-in-arms from the Gravedigger platoon (where every man and every location had a colorful nickname to preserve anonymity).
"We were on a dismounted patrol in Marja ... and walked up on a box in the middle of the street. The IEDs we found were never that obviously placed, but we called EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), just to be on the safe side ... long story short, they came out, checked the box out, and then called us [on-the-ground leaders] up ... the box was empty except for a dead baby. It must've suffocated in there, or starved ... we later found out (through intelligence reports) that The Taliban did it for two reasons: One, it was the kid of a local that had turned some of them in. Two, they just wanted to fuck with us, like they were showing they were capable of anything."
These are ambiguous times we live in. Ambiguous wars, ambiguous purpose, ambiguous intent. In Iraq, sometimes I tried to humanize the enemy, and sometimes I didn't. It all depended on ... well, everything.
But pure evil exists. This wasn't an ambiguous act that occurred in Marja. A murdered innocent, not yet even self-aware. Pure evil in its most obvious and egregious form.
Sometimes, I think pure good must exist, if only to combat the pure evil of the world. Pure evil like this.
Sometimes, I think differently. Sometimes I think that good, at its best, can only aim to be ambiguous, if only because of the eternal flaw of humanity, original sin. And what kind of match is ambiguous good for pure evil?
And sometimes, most times really, I just don't know.
I just don't fucking know.
Corporal Matt Wheeler, known as "Hot Wheels", was severely burned and injured in June 2008. When Gallagher finds him winding up two years of surgery, recovery and therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Hot Wheels has gone from learning to walk again, to running two miles, to preparing to enter Mississippi State University next fall. Read some of his family's Caringbridge journal, and you'll know what a long haul it has been for all of them.
In spite of it all, Hot Wheels has this to say:
Being at BAMC is a truly humbling place. Everywhere you turn there is an injured soldier, some with similar injuries, some with worse. You see people who are terrifyingly maimed and disfigured, but when you talk with them, all you hear is how thankful they are for everything they still have.The question of the day continues to be, in a world of increasing self-absorption and isolation, where do we find these men? These very, very ordinary heroes.
Let's see.... I seem to remember....
You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.No, Senator Gigolo, Winter Soldier Sell-out, Unfit Presidential Wannabe, and Crashing Bore John Forbes Cash'n'Kerry.
The Gravediggers did not get "stuck" in Iraq. Lt G, theologian, knows all about Original Sin, AND about Free Will, which he and Bulldog and Big Country and Hot Wheels all exercised, to put themselves on the road to Iraq.
Look them in the eye, Senator, and tell them how not smart they are.