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April 19, 2008
Home AgainBy Greyhawk
I spent the past week away, some may have noticed. Not just away from this site, but away from home; off somewhere else at a conference with full days and late dinners and a slooow (but wireless) internet connection in billeting. (Yes, slower than Baghdad.) Such is life.
But I spent some of my spare time this past week reading and rereading Mike Yon's book, and writing and rewriting a review thereof. Hopefully you'll see that in finished form somewhere soon. In the meantime, here's a brief bit that was excised somewhere along the way. The "graveyards" I mention are near Baqubah, the city in which Mike's book begins. I'm struck by the difference between Mike's Baqubah of a few months ago and the one described here.
"If you're not there now, you're not current" was a statement I heard regarding Iraq at the conference. In a room full of people who had been there, no argument was offered.
I'd guess Mike was still writing his book up until the day before it went to press a few weeks ago. It's current. I spoke with him earlier this week. "Congratulations on the book. I saw you made the top 50 at Amazon." I told him. My news was old news. "We were in the top ten before they sold out." Mike replied. That's certainly good news and bad news - but if you're a reader here and hadn't already ordered your copy then you have no one to blame but yourself. There are more on the way.
And there may be an upside to that shortfall - the Amazon price is quite low now, perhaps reflecting the brief delay you'll experience in getting a copy. A good time to order one for a friend or Congressman, says I.
You might still be able to get an autographed copy. But he's only in the States for a couple weeks, and then he's back to Iraq. I'd recommend ordering quickly.
What tales we'll tell, I wrote from Baghdad on Christmas, 2004) when that time comes when tales can be told. Coincidentally, that month Mike Yon was stepping off a plane there for the first time to do just that.
It was good to spend time this past week sitting around dinner tables, well fed and downing a few beers and swapping some of those tales with the handful of people in the world who'd done what I'd done in Iraq, at different times but often in the same places as far back as March 2003. Such opportunities are rare, for me perhaps never to be repeated. But between us all we could compile a comprehensive first hand account. Perhaps some day I will.
And it was good to see old friends, folks I'd known from as long ago and far away as Korea in 1989. Guys I'd been to schools with who now actually looked like the fathers of those guys I'd been to school with. I'm kidding, of course, no one had changed a bit.
"What's new?" They'd ask. "Where are you now? Where are you going next?" That sort of thing. "I'll retire by the end of summer" I'd reply. After all, in certain lighting conditions my hair appears grey - so I might look like the father of the guy they knew all those years ago, too. And they were new then, and I was not quite as...
I could stay. I remain dangerous - I am fully capable both mentally and physically and haven't exceeded the federal expiration date, but I choose to go on my own terms. I actually have served with the sons of men I'd served with two decades ago.
Families. Military service is a family bond, and those who serve have families of their own, of the same sort most people do. Over at MilBlogs you will find lines written by soldiers on the front lines, and veterans of those lines. But you'll also find entries authored by mothers, fathers, and wives.
We write things in full knowledge that what we write will be read by members of the family. Sometimes that is revealed:
My daughter read this and was unable to respond and asked me to. Paul was her uncle, she was very small when he met her, so her only insight to him is me. Thank you from both of us in reference to this site.
Thank you thank you for the tribute to my husband.
I am Jonathan's brother and I'd like to thank the ones who left their inputs on this page. To the people who knew Jon always remember how down to earth he was. He was never scared, he always kept it real. He was hard and always lived his life to the fullest. Respect and family values was his way of life. God bless and see when I get there brother. I love you man. Uso pride remains in the blood always. You're my hero aka Bolrok. Your memory will always be kept alive. Peace my brother!Mike Yon told me he sometimes considers leaving Iraq but then hears from a reader who appreciates his efforts, and that little bit keeps him going.
I know just what he means. I won't be retiring from this effort any time soon.
Mike's book is more than a collection of his dispatches from Iraq, but it opens with one:
Thoughts flow on the eve of a great battle. By the time you read these words, we will be in combat. Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now - for the battle has already begun for some - little news of it reaches home. I have known of the plans for a month, but have remained silent.I remember it well. I was elsewhere in Iraq at the time, and following his stories quite closely.
Some of the 1920s were about 300 meters down the road by now, and walking into the ambush that had apparently been set for us. BOOOOOMMMM! The detonation looked like it must have killed five or ten of them. What comes next is often shooting and more bombs, so I dove for cover while turning on the video camera, and since I have been practicing shooting both cameras at the same time, got some still shots.In an interesting moment of synchronicity, on my way home from the conference yesterday I found that report from a milblogger in Baqubah now via the Dawn Patrol:
I'm not the only one feeling the boredom, on one of our patrols we paid 4 donkey cart drivers to race, the stipulation, one soldier on the back of each donkey cart. My donkey lost, it tried to kick its driver.I can't be there now, but it's good to stay current.
"If you're not there now, you're not current".
I think that's a fair assessment. It's hard keeping current from back here, even with classified reports -- and if you're depending on the open sources (including military ones, for that matter), you're just not getting the real picture.Grim just got back from Iraq a few days ago. He and I were able to meet in person a few times in Baghdad. I'm glad he's home with his family now.
Knowing he's a man just reunited with his wife, I suspect that something in that experience might have led him to writing this post on chivalry. I think it makes a fine companion piece to Cassandra's, and I think both will give you some insight to the "military family".
I also find this review of Grim's post interesting: "This is the kind of bullshit that keeps me from reading most of the mainstream milblogs." (Seems he touched a feminist nerve, he did.) I find other people commenting on milblogs posts who are eager to assure anyone on that same point - "this item I read is the reason I never read this" - a wonderful argument, and one I won't join.
My other favorite complaint: "You're a Republican". (Or substitute Bushbot, Wingnut, or whatever phrase is the designated sophisticated witticism of the day.) No, I might reply, I'm a guy who's been to Iraq, who knows many other people who have - some of whom have been killed or wounded - and communicates routinely with them, and their friends and relatives.
Usually I'm then accused of claiming that only people who've been to Iraq have the right to talk about it. Nope. As a wise man recently said' "Senator, we fight for the right of people to have other opinions".
So we're driving home from the conference, eventually losing the signal from a fine radio station. My traveling companion begins scanning through the channels, as is often the case in the middle of nowhere, USA, the only signal is from an AM talk station. Tony Snow is on for Bill O'Reilly. I'm a bad Republican so I'm not paying much attention and instead reading a blog post from Baqubah on my handheld.
"At the bottom of the hour" Tony says, "we'll talk to Mike Yon about Iraq."
And he did. And we continued southward, then lost the signal just as Mike's segment ended. Hopefully somewhere someone was tuned in who learned something he (or she) hadn't known before. As static noise drowned out the signal we pulled off the freeway to fill the tank.
At the gas station, I saw the cover of USA Today. There, above the fold, was what millions of Americans learned about Iraq that day.
"Iraq Violence taking toll"
"50 Iraqis dead in Suicide bombing, 9a"
"Study: mental strain in US troops, 8a"
The tank was full, we returned to the freeway, and a few hours later I was home.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 19, 2008 1:00 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.
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.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com