Once upon a time, I almost became a U.S. Marine. It was 1967 and I was standing in a line at the Milwaukee induction center, about to become an involuntary member of the U.S. Army, in other words, a draftee.
Two officers in plain dress uniforms came into the room. They immediately picked five or six guys to my left and marched them out. I later realized they were being drafted into the Marine Corps and yes, in the middle of a hot, if undeclared war in Vietnam, the Marines were drafting personnel.
Matt Young took a different course. After drunkenly wrapping his car around a fire hydrant, his 18-year-old brain told him, ‘What the hell, let’s join the Corps.’ Or as the old saying goes “Eat the apple, [expletive-deleted] the Corps. His book is not exactly a Marine hymn or does it offer encouragement to enlist.
Young went on to serve more or less honorably, though he would advise his younger self to do a lot of things differently. He survived three tours in Iraq, the death of a friend in an improvised explosive device attack on his tank and the innumerable hangovers and the loneliness that is part of combat duty.
Not too many if any combat memoirs include a full chapter on masturbation.
Of his Marine training, Young says the objective was to create a “person thing. It looks like us and sounds like us, but is not us.”
“They said, When I count the cadence you will respond with the repetition kill in a loud bloodthirsty manner. 1 KILL, 2 KILL, 3 KILL.
Hajis, they said. Muj, they said. Targets they said.
Do it again, they said. You hesitated, now you’re dead. Do it again. And again. And again. Now do it right.”
And they did, though Young’s over 30-year-old self is left wondering what the point was.
“In the future we think. We are the winners of this war, not whoever the [expletive] we were fighting. We ask one another who we fought. The answers resound: Muslims, Terrorists, al Qaeda, Ragheads, Taliban, Islam, Majahideen, bin Laden, Hajjis, Farmers, Ourselves. It doesn’t matter, we won. If piling their dead like cordwood or sending them to bottomless-pit detention facilities to be forgotten is winning, we won. We came home, they didn’t.”
And after years immersed in this culture, coming home is tough.
“In the future, we try to tell the story to our friends and our families. We go to college and try to tell the story. We try to tell the story to our wives. We attend grad school and try to tell the story. The conclusion is always, He made it home twice. No matter how hard we try to rewrite or retell or erase or revise or edit or scrub the bloodstains.”
The culture of the Marine Corps is getting attention from a popular comic strip.