For the missing

Two soldiers are missing after an incident Friday night.

Learning of a death or series of deaths of soldiers is hard enough, but at least the matter of their end state is known. Missing troops is another matter entirely.

The notion that they could be in a house just miles away, tucked in some basement with masked men holding knives to their throats, it’s just debilitating.

The story was making its way through the news channels yesterday and my office was in rapt attention to the TV when I walked in.

“What’s going on?” I asked, just back from a picture-taking outing.

“Two soldiers are missing,” someone said, eyes still fixed on the screen.

Wow. That hadn’t happened in a while. Not taken alive.

“They were at a checkpoint? How’d they get taken alive?” our admin Lt. asked.

“They wouldn’t get me. I’d fight to the end. They’d have to shoot me,” another of the gathered crowd bragged. Fobbits all, never left the base before. I found the discussion in poor taste.

“You say that, but it’s another thing when you’re living through it,” I offered, but was run over by the continued discussion. I hardly am out as much as some, but more than others.

“Yeah, f*** that! I’d go out two guns blazing! You’d never get me.”

“How’d they sneak up on a checkpoint?”

“They must have been sleeping. That’s the only way you could do it. That’s it; see what happens when soldiers get complacent?”

“Sir, we weren’t there. We have no idea what happened,” I tried again, but realized I sounded like some stereotyped journalist ideologue. Besides, no one was listening.

“Ya, that must have been it. Not paying attention. They probably had one guy out checking vehicles and the other sleeping.”

I let the rest of the macho “were it me” discussion play out. At first I was really bothered by all the judging and “blame the victim” talk, but there were multiple dimensions to all of this.

It emasculates soldiers to keep them locked away on a base, shuffling paperwork, attending briefings and stressing over issues like whether or not we can wear PTs to the dining facility. Those sorts of things aren’t what are depicted in our legends — movies of troops storming beaches, saving the day, pulling dozens of men from withering enemy fire.

You see, we all secretly want to be Tom Hanks in “Saving Private Ryan,” or at least that bad ass sniper guy. We all want to be the paragon of courage, strength and honor that we grow up watching. That’s why you’ll see Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Braveheart and Band of Brothers on almost every GIs hard drive. We live in the shadows of these made up characters.

So when we parade off to war — after kissing goodbye our girlfriends, families and loved ones; and find out that our lot is to pull dining facility guard, escort the Iraqi cleaning crew through the bathrooms everyday, or even to just drive a truck, it tosses a big ol’ bucket of water on our dreams of glory.

“Grandpa, why do you walk with a cane?”

“I was wounded at war.”

“Wow, tell me the story!”

“Well, I had just finished watching the Iraqis mop the floor for the 46th week, I got off work and went to play basketball. I fell and tore some ligaments in my leg. That’s why I limp.”

That’s part of the reason for all the talk about “would of” and “what I’d do.” These poor bastards are nine months into their deployment with naught to show for it but the dreamt up stories gleaned from news and other troops who go “outside the wire.” Like it’s some huge honor, and I suppose it is, on a strange level.

Another dimension to the macho talk is to reassure ourselves that our military might could never fail.

It’s downright scary to think that these missing Joes could be snatched from a heavily armed and adequately manned checkpoint. So, we say they were sleeping — that they weren’t paying attention, and were caught. We sort of blame them.

You see the same thing in rape cases. Well, what was she wearing? Did she say anything? Instead of recognizing the fact that people blatantly commit evil acts on innocents, the system is defended by blaming the victim.

Yes it’s in poor taste, but I chalk it up to guys being afraid, and let them have their bit of talk.

After a few minutes, there was a lull in the conversation. “Hey, what are they talking about now?” asked one of the onlookers. “That’s it? On to Brittany Spears? That’s all for the soldiers? What the f***?”

I did have to laugh, “Yes, sergeant, welcome to the 27-minute news cycle.”

“That’s f***** up!”

“That’s the way it is, sergeant — the world in a half hour.”

“F***’in media. Why do they have to be like that?”

Twenty minutes later, the topic in the office was “The Omen” and “X-Men 3”. We forget too.

Pray for the missing.

###

About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

19 responses to “For the missing”

  1. finch says :

    indeed Josh…well said

  2. salmons says :

    Hey finch, do me a favor and stop being so badass, seriously, it makes me look like a doof! 😉

  3. Radio Free Babylon says :

    Good reporting, Josh. Keep it up. We don’t get this kind of “news” from the mainstream media regarding life in Iraq.

  4. beka says :

    i think finch, very much like myself, may be in fear of saying too much starting another 29 comment post.

    good point, and finely stated.

  5. finch says :

    what does that even mean? 😉

  6. Radio Free Babylon says :

    I think it means – let’s hope the questions from a Healthy Alternative Dude don’t start up. Sgt. Salmons could have a full time job just answering them.

  7. brogonzo says :

    Hey, don’t blame that on me. Link love is supposed to be a good thing. Actually, so is activity in comments sections.

  8. beka says :

    yes, it is, but mother of pearl!!! the salmons must sleep!

  9. Radio Free Babylon says :

    Wasn’t talking about you, Gonzo – must be more than one Healthy Alternative dude who checks in here.

    And it is understandable that this blog gets tons of traffic. It is one of the more reliable, true news sources for those of us concerned about the gang in Iraq. You can’t get this stuff from Fox News or the Stars and Stripes.

  10. beka says :

    man!! had i known i was in the presence of such greatness back in the c-ville days i would have at least gotten an autograph if not schmoozed more. dang it!!!

  11. brogonzo says :

    Radio Free Babylon — The Salmons does not sleep. He waits. And the chief export of the Salmons is pain.

    Anyhow, “A Healthy Alternative to Work” is my blog. I think WW found this place after I put up a link.

  12. WW says :

    I have 31 questions about this. I swear I’m not trying to pin you down. For starters, I see that one of the missing soliders is from Oregon. Did he pronounce is ORAH-gun or OREY-gun? It could unlock this mystery.

  13. salmons says :

    Hey all, thanks for the blog props! I do this thing for you guys, so it’s awesome that you like the blog 😉

    Yes, pain. Get in line, maggots!!!!! It’s time for our 12-miler!

    WW, either is acceptable, as long as it’s not orey-GONE. That one gets on peoples’ nerves.

    My family lives near Corvallis, Oregon. So I’m familiar with the town.

    The governor of Oregon has been to every single funeral of Oregon native military members killed in OIF and OEF to date. Whenever there is a casualty, the governor orders all flags to be flown at half staff.

    That’s all, I just thought it was an honorable thing to do.

    Wish me luck, I’m wrestling with a big honkin’ paper for one of my graduate classes. Oey! I’ll post it so you can get some love.

  14. WW says :

    Yeah I know about the one that gets on everyone’s nerves. I live in Seattle and have relatives in and from ORY-gun. Jesus, Iraq must be a real shock. Maybe there should be a policy whereby you have to be from some hot southern shithole of a place to be deployed there.

  15. finch says :

    wow…just wow…

  16. beka says :

    come live in wyoming for a while…it won’t be that much of a transition.

  17. Sarah says :

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we definitly don’t see that side of it here.

  18. WW says :

    Well I have read they won’t be come back alive. Sorry to hear it.

  19. Freeman says :

    I know how you feel, Sgt. I haven’t even been to Iraq yet (I go this fall), but I’ve already seen a dozen guys get in line to a medboard from sports injuries. Keep it up, and stay safe.

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