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December 24, 2005
Christmas in BaghdadBy Greyhawk
(Yes - there will be new posts up this weekend, but for now we're continuing our Mudville Christmas reruns. This one was actually first posted last February, but I think it belongs here...)
Looking back at Mrs G's logo collection reminded me of that quote from the Christmas poem here at Mudville. The reference was to the fact that security issues prevent me from writing much about what goes on here at my location. For instance, one day I disciplined some of my troops poorly, and they went out and targeted and killed 12 journalists. That was sure embarrassing! Fortunately my many friends in the blogosphere will make sure no one ever knows.
Or Christmas day itself - so much went on during that one day that I'm sure I could write a book about those 24 hours. For starters, the worst weather of the year. A cold rain, flooded ground, mud everywhere, missions cancelled, you name it. But as miserable as I was I saw something that reminded me that someone always has it worse. I'd just donned my armor and started for the DFAC. As I splashed past the porta potties I noticed the smell. The team of civilian third country nationals was busy cleaning them, even on Christmas day in the rain. Off to the side stood the escort for the workers. His sole purpose in life was to ensure the guys cleaning the porta potties didn't get up to any "funny business" and plant bombs or steal anything during performance of their
As I walked past the escort, I considered saying one of the following things to him:
"Hey, this is a Christmas you'll tell your grandchildren about - the year you helped free Iraq!"
"Son, if you move over to this side (pointing) you'll notice the wind won't blow in your face off the porta potties any more"
In the end I said nothing, just moved on. Sometimes there's nothing you can say.
A funny thing about Christmas in Baghdad. Christian, atheist, or other, most folks who grow up in America consider Christmas a great family holiday, a chance to reunite and share gifts and catch up with the widespread relatives. Missing this aspect of the day turned many folks sour - but not those who saw the day primarily as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. In other words, those who knew the real purpose of Christmas actually enjoyed the holiday, while those for whom it was a secular event were rather morose and withdrawn and distinctly more unhappy on the day. Stated differently, the farther from the " real meaning of Christmas" you stood, the more the holiday depressed you - those for whom it meant the least were hit the worst by the day.
It's been a few years [ed note - it's been a few decades] since the childlike "magic of Christmas" left me behind. By that I mean the wonder of waking up to a pile of toys under the tree after a night of restless sleep. Would Santa come? Would he? And sure enough, the morning came and he'd been to my house. Relief was followed by euphoria, fun was had by all.
Strangely enough, I did have a day like that, a day that recaptured that part of Christmas - but it wasn't Christmas day. It was Sunday the 30th of January, of course. Having gone to bed reasonably sure that my assumptions were right - that we'd knocked the insurgency down to the point they would be ineffective, and that the people of Iraq desired freedom, it was nonetheless a relief to see it happen as expected. Euphoria followed. It was days later that I recognized the feeling for what it was. Christmas in Baghdad.
Here's to many such days to come.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 24, 2005 2:46 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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
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