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December 11, 2009
The Extreme (Part two)By Greyhawk
"It is not the meaning nor within the compass of this Address, to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our Service, or to discribe the distresses which in several instances have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigors of an inclement season. Nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs. Every American Officer and Soldier must now console himself for any unpleasant circumstances which may have occurred, by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to act, no inglorious part; and the astonishing Events of which he has been a witness."
"CJ at A Soldier's Perspective had made a comment regarding the troops but I just could not write fast enough and have a poor memory," wrote Mrs Greyhawk of their September, 2007 visit with the President of the United States. "Seems CJ could not remember his question either, but for good reason."
CJ explains: "I can't remember exactly what I asked the President because I was choking up having just mentioned my good friend SSG Stevon Booker who died in front of me in Iraq. I just started babbling after that. It was pathetic, you should have seen it. I thanked him for finally taking the fight to the enemy and having the nerves of steel to see it through to the end - whatever that means. Those guys did not die in vain."
"I'm Nothing Special," writes CJ. "I just happen to be a blogger."
I started They Have Names because of a specific person, CPT James "Alex" Funkhouser, but he was just the catalyst that brought together the various reactants of losing friends and feeling like no one else cared about it. The hardest one to accept has been the loss of SSG Stevon Booker, a friend and fellow Tusker who was killed during the first Thunder Run into Baghdad on 5 April 2003. He was a combat proven veteran of Operation Desert Storm in the early nineties and knew his stuff. He cared deeply for his Soldiers and died trying to protect them. But, you won't find Booker's story on THN yet. I still can't write it, but one day I will. Earlier this year a building at Aberdeen Test Center was renamed after his memory. I write so that people don't forget people like Booker.
And when you read a quote like this one, you know it's from someone who knows what he's talking about, and means what he says: "I know [CJ] loves what he's doing," said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, the Army's point man for social media issues, who has known Grisham's name for years. And "any time we lose someone of that caliber, there's a certain amount of loss for the Army." A different sort of loss - CJ is alive, if not fine - lose in that statement just means the bastards have ground him down - at least enough. For now.
"Blogging is no longer worth the trouble," Grisham recently wrote on his blog, A Soldier's Perspective, under the headline "ASP Closed for Business."
Wired magazine's Danger Room: "Not surprisingly, Grisham has finally decided to stop posting on his site. But be sure to read this story of how this soldier went from highly-praised veteran to pariah, because he spoke up on his blog."
WorldNet Daily: "Grisham's photo is overlaid with the headline: 'The Rise and Fall of a Military Blogger - Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham didn't mince words. His readers loved it. His command hated it.' Grisham is in a new kind of fight after taking down a squad of Iraqis when his counterintelligence detachment was pinned down in an ambush and earning a Bronze Star with 'V' after rushing through the gunfire by himself with just a 9mm pistol and a hand grenade."
"Even as the type of dominant news stories changed in 2008, 'durability,' a measure of the staying power for particular news stories, did not... For the military, this phenomenon is a challenge and an opportunity. Although coverage of ongoing conflicts may not persist, bad news stories seem to display less than traditional staying power... at least for the present, it seems less likely that a particular event of a less than positive nature will trigger a lasting scandal or backlash against the military, particularly in the fast-changing new media world."
"During the invasion of Iraq, Grisham took down a squad of Iraqis when his counterintelligence detachment got pinned down in an ambush. He earned the Bronze Star with "V" after rushing through the gunfire by himself with just a 9mm pistol and a hand grenade."
Here's another story from the man who did that - and who saw his good friend SSG Stevon Booker die in front of him in Iraq:
Only their ghosts: "I see that woman often in my dreams and sometimes while I'm just sitting, minding my own business. I see her lifeless body fall to the ground in super-slow motion and the look of shock in the fighter's eyes as he probably realizes how exposed he now is without his flesh shield. His AK is still resting on her shoulder as she falls and before he can lift it, he is propelled backward as he himself falls victim to my aim."
CJ Grisham is a Soldier with PTSD. Not the imaginary sort of soldier CNN spent days explaining to America Nidal Hasan was after he slaughtered 14 people at Ft Hood (before they found out he had never deployed - then it became the imaginary sort of PTSD you catch from actual combat veterans). And he's not the sort of hypothetical Iraq veteran Fox News' Shepard Smith said the DHS had warned us about when a 90 year old WWII vet/Nazi killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum. Those are just some of the stereotypes that really need to be put to rest.
CJ is the sort of Soldier who writes a post called "The Power of Seeking Help" that explains why he did just that:
Well, they were busy, of course:
Last summer Grisham got into hot water when someone complained to officials that he encouraged readers to vote against gun control measures, called for a wholesale changing of the guard in Congress and questioned Obama's truthfulness.
He had appeared on local TV, too. "The stigma is hereby dead," Grisham had written in his first post on the topic of his PTSD months earlier. "I challenge all leaders to understand this and apply it where they can. Our troops need to understand that there is nothing weak about seeking help. I know because it has been much harder to acknowledge these issues than to hide them."
"Not long after, Grisham was fired from his job" - maybe because he was wrong about the stigma of PTSD, maybe because he made the wrong people uncomfortable, or maybe both. Not knowing the truth of it could really set some people off, I suppose. But not CJ - he took his lumps and moved on.
To where something worse was waiting.
(More to follow. Meanwhile, see Milblogger and dear friend needs your help at Bouhammer's.)
Posted by Greyhawk / December 11, 2009 4:16 PM | Permalink
Link Free speech from those who help make it possible - since 2003, the motto of the MilBlogs Ring. Comments are disabled here, too. You aren't allowed to speak today. ***** Previously: The Extreme (part one) The Extreme (part two) Zero Tolerance... Read More
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...)
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