Being There
August 9, 2005 2:09 PM   Subscribe

"He is profane, uneducated, impious, lecherous, and unwashed. He doesn’t care much about the war. In most cases, he misses his mother badly. But the American combat infantryman in Iraq is doing just fine." An in-depth (and apolitical) profile of day-to-day life in the 506th Infantry; "the same regiment that immortalized itself as the Band of Brothers in Normandy and Bastogne during World War II."
posted by kirkaracha (19 comments total)
Apparently, the author is "only happy when it rains"
posted by cleverusername at 2:45 PM on August 9, 2005

Besides the fact that this seemed to be the first time the autor had ever talked to poor people, it was a pretty good article. Always nice to hear what the troops are thinking.
posted by afu at 3:02 PM on August 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Here's a link to a piece by a soldier about his life in Iraq from Emerging Writers Network.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 3:13 PM on August 9, 2005

Great article, thanks.
posted by LarryC at 3:43 PM on August 9, 2005

Does the article get any better after page 1? Because its written poorly and in a mildly condescending way that just rubs me wrong.

Is it really anything new that teenagers and 20-somethings put in a war situation are still teenagers and 20-somethings? Yes, they would rather get drunk than shoot people. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I'd be more worried if the author interviewed a bunch of soldiers and they were all pumped up about getting to go out and waste insurgents.

But I did learn a new word, impious - lacking reverence, so that's something.
posted by fenriq at 3:44 PM on August 9, 2005

Speaking of words, I'm pretty sure "psychedelium" isn't one. At least not in the way the author was using it. Psychedelia, maybe?
posted by 517 at 4:06 PM on August 9, 2005

Oh God no. Radar? I got through two paragraphs before I had to give up. First, the author is consciously aping whatever pieces he read in his Library of America War Journalism compendium. Second, he's clearly a real big fan of people who didn't go to school that cost as much as the one he drank himself through.
posted by yerfatma at 4:31 PM on August 9, 2005

These soldiers have nothing on WWII, they were the "Greatest Generation", HEROES larger than life.. these guys (and gals) are "Generation X" -- slackers, animalistic, profane, deviant, dirty. Theres no heroes here, just a steady stream of sexually deviant killers making headlines. History wont remember them. But it may remember their novels as they wander lost in the world, not unlike the Lost Generation after WWI.
posted by stbalbach at 4:48 PM on August 9, 2005

yeesh stalbach. Your history's a little over-dramatic. "People were built tougher back in those days..."

On topic: Thanks for the article kirkaracha. I enjoyed seeing the American infantryman's perspective on the war, even if the article was full of anachronistic adjectives like "lantern-jawed".

By the way, am I the only that found the "Robert Novak might belong to a Catholic secrecy cult" ad awesomely self-parodying?
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:25 PM on August 9, 2005

This article is an interestingly written (to say the least - for instance I found the grammatification playful rather than uninformed) thought provoking (where maybe I least expected it to be) and a welcome dispatch from the front (whatever the form - and this form is relatively rare). It was uncomfortable in parts, but i guess you go to war with writers you have, not necessarily the ones you want.

And if I didn't like it I could have turned it off easy.
posted by 31d1 at 5:38 PM on August 9, 2005

these guys (and gals) are "Generation X" -- slackers, animalistic, profane, deviant, dirty. Theres no heroes here, just a steady stream of sexually deviant killers making headlines

From the article:
Bailey was wounded in November. He was concussed, an eardrum was destroyed, his cheek was scarred permanently, and he was almost blinded by a wound to his right eye socket . . . .

Bailey: "When I was in the hospital and wanted to come back to the platoon, my parents told me I was being foolish. I just didn’t feel right going home with the injuries I had. In the hospital there was only one other infantry guy. Me and him — the only combat guys in the hospital — we were the only fuckers there who wanted to go back to the war."

The 3rd Platoon has been in Iraq since August. Before that it was based in Korea. The average soldier in the unit has spent only two or three weeks in the States over the past two years. Out of nine wounded soldiers in the platoon, one is still an invalid, four chose never to leave the base, three returned home, and four are trying to get back to the unit.

Nash chimes in: "I could have gone home too. I was in Germany recovering from pneumonia, and they said I could go home. I told ‘em, ‘Fuck you, I’m not going home. I ain’t leaving my friends.’"

posted by LarryC at 5:53 PM on August 9, 2005

Gee, war looks like fun.
posted by signal at 6:37 PM on August 9, 2005

But I did learn a new word, impious Make sure you pronounce it correctly (IMPY-us, not imPYus)
posted by QuietDesperation at 7:00 PM on August 9, 2005

"He is profane, uneducated, impious, lecherous, and unwashed.

That is probably an apt description of the WWII version as well. In fact, I would lay odds that today's infantryman is much more educated.
posted by mischief at 7:21 PM on August 9, 2005

The author's name is Bartle Breese Bull. I think that pretty much says it all.

I learned that XBox tunes your reflexes to 'pentium speed,' and that maltodextrin apparently makes you pulse. I didn't get much farther than that before retching.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 5:27 AM on August 10, 2005

Rodriguez is doing his own research. "I’m reading the Koran," he says. "It doesn’t say none of that shit about killing infidels and foreigners and all that. It’s just like back home: You get these ultra-fuckin’ religious fanatics.

Doing your own research and thinking for yourself is obviously a violation of wing nut regulations.

The title for the piece is nothing like Chauncey Gardner.
posted by nofundy at 5:37 AM on August 10, 2005

Ernie Pyle it's not, but I guess this was written for a different audience with different sensibilities. As with a lot of the soldier blogs I read, it's interesting to note that unlike what you read around here, the guys seem to believe in the mission. I guess they have to; the alternative doesn't bear much thinking about when they're stuck there and all they have to rely on is unit cohesion -- each other, basically.

I agree the writing induces some eye-rolling at times, but it's a welcome contrast to the antiwar polemics I usually see on MeFi.
posted by alumshubby at 5:54 AM on August 10, 2005

Thanks stbalbach. I was wondering who polished off the Kool-Aid when we had that party at Tom Brokaw's house.
posted by yerfatma at 6:41 AM on August 10, 2005

People are people, stbalbach. My grandfather was on some well-decorated bombing runs in WW2 but I still think he resembles Archie Bunker more than Superman.

Does anyone know what the penalty for being caught with drugs as a soldier in Iraq would be? Someone I knew in high school recently got sent back much earlier than the rest of his unit and I'm still trying to guess why...
posted by mikeh at 6:51 AM on August 10, 2005

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