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April 4, 2005
We Are the WarBy Greyhawk
Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman returns to Mudville with the fifth installment of his series Warrior to Warrior, letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq. See the intro to the series here).
Dear Warrior . . .
Never let down your guard.
Good advice, to be sure, but like a lot of good advice, it tells you what to do without saying how. How do you keep your guard up? In a combat zone, how do you ever know when you're doing the right thing, the safe thing, the alert thing?
In time, you'd learn the danger signs all on your own. You'd hear of disasters caused by men getting lax. You'd see others injured. You'd have a few close calls yourself. It's called experience. But, hey, this kind of experience is only a good teacher if you survive it.
The military uses in-country experts and old hands to teach you how to recognize dangers peculiar to Iraq. They'll tell you what safe habits to cultivate, what bad habits to avoid.
For instance, if you saw the film, Forrest Gump, you know that in Vietnam, enlisted men were told not to salute officers in the field. This was so enemy snipers could not take out the unit leaders. Enlisted men liked the idea that they did not have to salute, and as a lieutenant, I was even more fond of it. Heck, if it would have helped, I'd have worn a sign in Vietnamese for all snipers to see: Okay, I admit it, I'm a leader, but there's no need to shoot me because I'm not a very good one.
But besides wearing a sign that identifies you as a moron, what can you do to protect yourself?
I borrow here from Gavin De Becker in his book, The Gift of Fear, to tell you about the gift in each of you. You are hard-wired to recognize danger. It's a survival instinct honed by many generations of humans living in competition with other predators and prey in man's wilder state. You don't even have to think about it. Your brain will do the work for you on a kind of auto-pilot when you are at risk. Your instincts to survive will send you signals that you are in danger. Your brain will know you are at risk without even knowing why. It is a gift, this fear. It tells you to be wary, to react, to survive. You'll know it when you feel it. Learn to act on it. Above all, do not deny this feeling.
Denial will tell you to relax: Hey, don't make a fuss, don't embarrass yourself by sounding a false alarm. Denial will try to talk you out of the feelings of danger. Don't wake up the captain. He might get mad, call you stupid.
Hey, don't listen to denial messing with your mind. Act on your instinct instead. If you feel the presence of danger, get ready for a fight. If you're a sentinel, call for an officer or NCO. Sound the alarm. The gift of fear, the instinct and the book, can save your life.
Tell somebody back home to buy the book and send it to you. After you read it, pass it along. Buy a copy for every woman in your family. And one for every man, too. It'll teach them how to survive the predators in our midst back here at home.
Till next week . . .
God bless you and Godspeed.
John is a veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam and a member of the American Legion. These columns are excerpts from an upcoming book of the same title. His current book, Delta Force #1 : Operation Michael's Sword is a fictional account of the 9/11 attacks and the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 4, 2005 8:00 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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