One thing you should know about me is that, even when I’m kidding, I'm being serious. All my so-called humor springs from my darker side. The frustration and desire to commit carnage are really there, although I haven’t actually been on any Random Killing Sprees™ (as far as you know). I really am strongly attracted to my dentist, but I don’t plan on staging any suicide scenes a la 7:35 in the Morning (as far as you know). You see, as a published writer I’m allowed to exaggerate for humorous intent. When I do that, it’s a literary device called hyperbole. When you do it, it’s an outright fecking lie.
I once wrote an essay in the eighth grade about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a mafia hitman. It was written humorously enough that I was not sent to the principal’s office (or juvie hall), but I meant what I said. I really wanted to be paid to kill people. I think John Cusack said it best in Grosse Pointe Blank when he was practicing for his high school reunion in front of the mirror:
That almost sums it up for me. The missing part is that I wouldn’t blow your head off as long as there was a chance of going to jail over the matter. I like money and the brief pleasure of killing appeals to me, but you (where you = any random entity that don’t know nothin’ about nothin’) are not worth going to prison over and spending the rest of my life in a cell getting penile-kancho’d by my state-assigned roommate. You see? The system does work.
“I’m Martin Blank, you remember me? I’m not married, I don’t have any kids, and I’d blow your head off if someone paid me enough."
When it came time to seriously decide on a career, I took stock of matters and looked for a match between society’s needs and my predilections. I knew I wanted to have access to deadly weaponry, to blow stuff up, to kill and maim, and maybe do a little traveling on the side, but I didn’t have any mafia contacts so the hitman angle was out. Besides, those guys kept getting busted and hauled before Congress to testify, which had little appeal for me. So, what’s a healthy growing boy to do? I looked deep within myself for other skills I had to offer and I realized I look good in green (also purple, fyi). Besides, it wasn’t long after the summer of Rambo and Sly made it all look fun so I signed up for the Army infantry. I really wanted the airborne infantry, but I fell prey to one of the classic recruiter lies and thought I could volunteer for that once I was in. Actually, I really wanted the Special forces, but that was way out of my reach.
Note - this post isn’t really about my army days, so I won’t include any anecdotes at this time. Sample tales of what I did are here and here. I’ll get back to the original question, which is about how I feel about my military service.
And how do I feel about it? I don’t. I’m not proud of it, nor am I ashamed. It’s like having brown hair – it’s just there. I never did anything I regret, except a few times involving bazooka barfing and passing out, and even those memories are good for laughs. Likewise, I never did anything that makes me feel proud, except for gluing my boots to the platoon sergeant’s desk and tying the battalion’s record for best marksman with the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).
I have to admit, I liked hearing people point me out and say “There goes our best man with the SAW.” Naturally, I pretended they were talking about my skills with a chainsaw and hockey mask, but whatever is cool.
I left after my four year stint because the military is not a job or an adventure, it’s a completely different society, and not a free one at that. Justice is often handed down by your leaders instead of a jury of your peers, and those leaders are appointed rather than elected. As for being paid to kill and blow stuff up, I got to fire a lot of rounds but I spent a lot more time waiting for orders. The one firefight I got into (not counting coming under friendly fire) was one-sided because, by the time our leaders decided it was okay to return fire, the enemy had already run away. Just as I wouldn’t fancy going to jail for blowing your head off, I didn’t care to go to the stockade for killing the enemy without permission. And before you start leaving comments saying “I would have had to fire back – that’s just how I am,” entertain the notion that maybe you don’t fully understand because you weren’t there. You might have a point if it was just me, but I was with a group of about eighty guys, none of whom fired a single shot.
I don’t know if that actually clarified anything, but there it is. Yes, I’m kidding. Yes, I meant everything I said.