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December 23, 2009
The Far Side of VictoryBy Greyhawk
(The Mudville '09 Christmas Spectacular, continued from here.)
In 2004 the USO tour rolled in to Baghdad a couple weeks before Christmas, and the weather was fine.
But I'd already decided I wasn't going. I was going to work, so that one of my guys could go instead of working. The plan was for a bunch to pile into one of our vehicles and drive over to the far side of Victory, see the show, and trek back.
But that morning, outside of the tent where we work I crossed paths with one of the neighbours. I spell it that way because he was a Brit - part of a helo unit that had moved in just a few weeks before, and set up office in a tent we'd occupied until moving into our new tent next door. We'd left them some furnishings, a few folding chairs and tables - nothing fancy, and found them some more. They appreciated that, and we were all one big, happy family downrange.
"Are you going to the USO show?" He asked me.
"I'm working, but my guys are going over," I replied.
"Would they fancy a ride?"
"Oh, they've got the use of the truck, but thanks for asking. Any of you all need a ride over?"
"No, but we've got space to take them," he said, and gestured to one of the helos.
"Ahh..." said I, "a ride. Say no more. Let me check." At this point, of course, I'm grinning ear to ear. So into the tent I go, to tell the guys (all E4s and 5s) the bad news/good news story - they weren't taking the truck after all.
I missed out, but they came back that night with great stories about the show, and even better ones about the ride over and back (for some their first helo trip, short as it was), and the strange looks they got from all the VIPs coming and going from the VIP landing pad that day. So I missed out - in the same way parents "miss out" on Christmas for their kids.
But I remembered all that three years later when I saw the poster for the 2007 USO show that was scheduled for just a couple days after I was scheduled to leave. I would miss it again, but being home for Christmas meant I wouldn't miss it that much.
The tent where we worked, somewhere on Victory Base Complex, 2004. Three different "offices" sharing this space. Legend had it the big couch came from one of Saddam's palaces. I was stationed somewhere else in 2007, but made a visit back to this site. The tent was history, folks were working in tiny individual offices in trailers; the big comfy couch was long gone. All in all a downgrade, sez I.
(The story continues here...)
Posted by Greyhawk / December 23, 2009 2:17 PM | Permalink
(Continuing the Mudville '09 Christmas Spectacular begun here.) Okay, I missed the USO show in '04 - so did you, probably. But now through the magic of the internet we can watch it together. It's been a while since Bob Hope's Christmas shows with the t... 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...)
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.
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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.
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