Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Had A Gun Once

Some artillery training exercise in the distance tenses everyone up for a second, that flash moment where the brain demands to know what this trickery is, when it remembers Iraq but it sees Fort Fuckin' Lewis. Then it gets everyone throwing around Iraq stories. Hot potato. One story overlapping another. Arguing. Corrections. Laughter. New guys' ears perking up like dogs.

I look at them, then I look at myself. We're all wearing those weird uniforms that the All American Boys wear in the magazine ads, GoArmy this and that. I got my hair cut just right and my boots bloused, I have my pen and paper on me at all times, my beret tucked away in my cargo pocket and I am fully programmed to routine.

Except I don't give a shit. Iraq is over.

We aren't hitting the training all hard again or anything. Busy work. For whatever reason. Counting down days or weeks or months. But you don't want to make that known. You don't stop being a soldier once you come back from deployment. I got it.

So why don't I FEEL like a soldier? I got this uniform, but I don't really know what it means. I live in this building, but it isn't mine. I don't care to remember it these days. Ready to wash all that dirt off my face and change clothes. Flush my brain out too, full-service, the works.

Just ready to put it all behind me. Disappear like Kaiser Soze. The Great Escape complete with Men In Black memory wipe. "Put that stuff away in a shoe box." Never even mention any of it, never explaining the four year lapse of existence to anyone but potential employers.

And one day when you see me on the street and you won't even realize it. It won't even dawn on you that I was one of those one percenters. Or the one percent of one percent, whatever it is they call us. That was a different lifetime buddy!


Anonymous said...

"Put that stuff away in a shoe box."

colby buzzell?


Francisco Enriquez said...

The war is over now....
time to do drugs.

bigD said...

Hey Suspect,
Would you take a picture of you in the "weird" All-American Boy uniform, with the hair cut just right on the head that is sportin' the beret? That way when I see you on the street in your new duds I will recognize you and I can have a "that was then this is now" moment.

I guess you are done wanting to feel like a soldier and who could blame you! It is like you are in a time warp waiting for your new life to begin. Yes, you "had a gun once", but, as you said, Iraq is over. You won't need that M4 strapped to your chest anymore. Your new motto..."have pen, will travel." And remember, the pen is mightier than the sword!!!

I hope you have some nice shoe boxes picked out. Fill them up and put 'em away. Someday if you ever choose to pull them out, you will see that your "four year lapse of existence" was so much more than that.

Suspect, you are the number one hall of fame "one percenter" of all time! How could we not recognize you?

Anonymous said...

Oh great. Another haircut. I can't wait until you can grow that shit all the way to your KNEES. Ok, that might be excessive...

Either way, its getting closer.

(and haha to your new reader... Francisco Enriquez... what a dumb name ;) )

membrain said...

Suspect. It sure has been a long time huh. I'm really glad to hear you're getting squared away.

"So why don't I FEEL like a soldier? I got this uniform, but I don't really know what it means."

I can relate to that. It won't be long now.

Take care.

red said...

You know what it meant, you just have to figure out what it means in this new context.

Someone will always be able to tell: you. You'll move past this part of your life and maybe there will be no obvious outward signs of these past few years; but they'll still be with you. Maybe that's a good thing and maybe not, but that's the way it usually works.

Army Sergeant said...

When are you out, Suspect?

Also, how long are you going to be hanging around Lewis?

Anonymous said...

For good or ill, your four years will ALWAYS be there no matter what you do to shut it out. My two tours in 'Nam are there still, 40 years on, some of the memories as fresh (to me) as the day they happened, some hazy like a dream you know you had but you can't recall in much detail.

There is a part of the St. Crispin's Day speech (the "bad of brothers" soliloquoy)in Henry V that is not often quoted but which speaks to this:

This day is called the feats of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this abnd see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleave and show his scar.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advanatges
What feats he did that day: then shall our names Familiar in his mouth as household words . . .
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

The point of this is that no matter how hard you may try and how horrendous your experience was, you cannot excise it from your memory. At some level, "the feats [I] did that day" cannot be put "in a shoe box" and I have chosen to remember them, now, in a way that, as Henry said further along in the St. Crispian's day speech, "This day shall gentle his condition."

TheUsualSuspect said...

I dig that a lot, Anon. Noted, copied, saved. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Suspect - The full text of the St. Crispian's day speech in Henry V is in Act IV, Scene III (The English Camp). It is the night before the Battle of Agincourt in northern France (October 25, 1415 in the 100 Years War), not too far from where the Brits lost 20,000 KIA in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme in WWI. Henry is unnerved by what he thinks may be certain defeat at the hands of the French in the morning and finds himself moving about his camp in disguise talking to his men.

Taken in total, not just the "band of brothers" lines, it remains among my favorite passages from Shakespeare and the perhaps the one most meaningful in the context of my own life.

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