1964–When I was about 13, I’d listen to my friend’s brothers who’d recently returned from Vietnam. Tales of rain, more rain, deprivation, jungle rot and fanatic Viet Cong insurgents who would even blow themselves up on occasion were the subject. Not since the Japanese in World War Two had we heard such things. Zack’s brother several blocks over from us was the first to come home missing his arm from the elbow down. I remember stroking the silky smooth cloth of his Purple Heart and wondering if the Vietnam War would still be hot when I graduated in 1969.
We were awkwardly transitioning from Mattel Tommy guns to girls. GI Joe dolls were just that- brand new and generally considered Barbie’s date. Future soldiers didn’t play dress up with dolls. Our fathers rarely talked about their recent war. We all watched weekly shows like Combat!, Twelve O’Clock High and The Rat Patrol but none conveyed the intrigue of the jungle war we were hearing about from Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley.
I look back in utter shock at my naivety now and wonder where George Santayana is when we need him to reiterate his sage advice all those years back. Unlike most, I consider this apt quote most apropos to my little war-Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
I received this from Mekong Brownwater Jim and it is a chilling reminder of just how jaded we have become. Newsie personalities have become cult figures and write of things they will never understand- let alone witness in living color. Lacking perspective and “depth”, some have desperately resorted to embellishing their exploits to lend more gravitas. Reporters embedded with troops in Vietnam needn’t have bothered. Many found themselves holding up IVs instead of cameras.
Marine’s View of what is really going on. This young man is articulate and has a flare for colorful language, and descriptive prose-Scorpions, Chiggers & Sand Fleas. It’s a great letter, a must read for every American citizen.
From a Recon Marine in Afghanistan:
From the Sand Pit
It’s freezing here. I’m sitting on hard cold dirt between rocks and shrubs at the base of the Hindu Kush Mountains, along the Dar’yoi Pamir River, watching a hole that leads to a tunnel that leads to a cave. Stake out, my friend, and no pizza delivery for thousands of miles.
I also glance at the area around my ass every ten to fifteen seconds to avoid another scorpion sting. I’ve actually given up battling the chiggers and sand fleas, but the scorpions give a jolt like a cattle prod. Hurts like a bastard. The antidote tastes like transmission fluid, but God bless the Marine Corps for the five vials of it in my pack. The one truth the Taliban cannot escape is that, believe it or not, they are human beings, which means they have to eat food and drink water. That requires couriers and that’s where an old bounty hunter like me comes in handy.
I track the couriers, locate the tunnel entrances and storage facilities, type the info into the hand held, and shoot the coordinates up to the satellite link that tells the air commanders where to drop the hardware. We bash some heads for a while, and then I track and record the new movement. It’s all about intelligence. We haven’t even brought in the snipers yet. These scurrying rats have no idea what they’re in for. We are but days away from cutting off supply lines and allowing the eradication to begin. But you know me; I’m a romantic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This country blows, man. It’s not even a country. There are no roads, there’s no infrastructure, there’s no government. This is an inhospitable, rock-pit shit-hole ruled by eleventh century warring tribes. There are no jobs here like we know jobs. Afghanistan offers only two ways for a man to support his family, join the opium trade or join the army. That’s it. Those are your options. Oh, I forgot, you can also live in a refugee camp and eat plum-sweetened, crushed beetle paste and squirt mud like a goose with stomach flu, if that’s your idea of a party. But the smell alone of those ‘tent cities of the walking dead’ is enough to hurl you into the poppy fields to cheerfully scrape bulbs for eighteen hours a day.
I’ve been living with these Tajiks and Uzbeks, and Turkmen and even a couple of Pashtu’s, for over a month-and-a-half now, and this much I can say for sure: These guys, are Huns, actual, living Huns. They LIVE to fight. It’s what they do. It’s ALL they do. They have no respect for anything; not for themselves, their families, or for each other. They claw at one another as a way of life. They play polo with dead calves and force their five-year-old sons into human cockfights to defend the family honor. Just Huns, roaming packs of savage, heartless beasts who feed on each other’s barbarism. Cavemen with AK-47’s. Then again, maybe I’m just a cranky young bastard.
I’m freezing my ass off on this stupid hill because my lap warmer is running out of juice, and I can’t recharge it until the sun comes up in a few hours. Oh yeah! You like to write letters, right? Do me a favor, Bizarre. Write a letter to CNN and tell Wolf and Anderson and that awful, sneering, pompous Aaron Brown to stop calling the Taliban “smart”. They are not smart. I suggest CNN invest in a dictionary because the word they are looking for is “cunning”. The Taliban are cunning, like jackals, hyenas, and wolverines. They are sneaky and ruthless, and when confronted, they are cowardly. They are hateful, malevolent parasites who create nothing and destroy everything else.
Smart? Bullshit! Yeah, they’re real smart, Most can’t read, but they’ve spent their entire lives listening to Imams telling them about only one book (and not a very good one, as books go). They consider hygiene and indoor plumbing to be products of the devil. They’re still trying to figuring out how to work a Bic lighter. Talking to a Taliban warrior about improving his quality of life is like trying to teach an ape how to hold a pen. Eventually he gets frustrated and sticks you in the eye with it.
OK, enough. Snuffle will be up soon, so I have to get back to my hole. Covering my tracks in the snow takes a lot of practice, but I’m good at it.
Please, I tell you and my fellow Americans to turn off the TV sets and move on with your lives. The story line you are getting from CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and other liberal news agencies is utter bullshit and designed not to deliver truth but rather to keep you glued to the screen so you will watch the next commercial. We’ve got this one under control. The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around analyzing what we’re doing over here. You have no idea what we’re doing, and you really don’t want to know. We are your military, and we are only doing what you sent us here to do.
From a Jack Recon Marine in Afghanistan, Semper Fi.
“Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps is paying most of your share”.
Send this to others so people will really know what is going on over here.
SOS-Different era. It’s good to know that myopic leadership and shortsightedness are still alive and well in the hierarchy of the military. Anything less would be uncivilized. The most telling quote was equally true fifty years ago- “You have no idea what we’re doing, and you really don’t want to know”. Now I know why my father rarely, if ever, spoke of what he did during his war. I can only add the hierarchy right now has no idea what they are doing and they really don’t want you to know that either.
Great read, thanks for sharing.
I doubt that war is ever what we back home think it is, unless it is happening to us. My dad was a POW of the NAZIs and I rarely heard a word. It wasn’t until after he died and I found a box of his papers that included his application for a US security clearance and his notes, that I realized the depth of his experiences.
Great descriptive writing from a realist. I know just the person to email this post to.