So, the other night I went out to see kickass Irish rockstars Flogging Molly, and as always, they rocked; but what was really interesting were the two Marines I met, who were up in Los Angeles from Camp Pendleton to see the show.
They were brothers, and from a military family. Their father had been a Marine in the Vietnam era, though he had never been sent to fight there. The boys were both in their early twenties - the younger was sweet-natured and beardless, with clear blue eyes, and the skin of a 12 year old boy, and the older one was really just as youthful, but with a harder edge - more tangled, and not quite as simple as his younger brother.
I have a cousin who served in the Marines at Camp Pendleton, so I started talking to them, and learned that both of them had been in Iraq at the start of the war, and had been forced to kill innocents in a faraway land. They told us their stories, but were strangely numb about it - used to the telling. They told us of orders to fire on anything that moved - men, women, children, dogs - anything; and they told us that they'd done that. They knew they had killed children.
The younger one, his uncreased, boyish forehead only slightly knit, told me he'd felt like he'd had to do the things he'd done there - that he'd had no choice, and that if he hadn't protected himself, he'd be dead. I'm sure that's true, but he was just a boy, and has done ugly, irrevocable things. He told me that the worst part of it was having to fear and mistrust every person you see, and having to shoot first, and find gruesome answers when you ask questions later.
He told me that he was to be sent back to Iraq within the next two months, and that his duty would take him to the part of Baghdad that sees the greatest concentration of mortar fire. He wishes his superior officers hadn't told them that, not because he's scared, but because he was worried about the guys who hadn't been over yet; guys who hadn't already seen what he's seen. It brought to my mind the final moments of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, when Joker gives up the last part of himself and executes the sniper, and then says he is alive, and unafraid; but you feel gutted by the insanity of his having been so depersonalized by violence of every description, that he doesn't even have the fear of self-presevation.
I couldn't tell what was more disgusting: the thought that we've sent our sweet, beardless boys over to Iraq to be made into killers of children, the sickening thought of children being shot by American soldiers on my dime, or the image of this freckled young man's smooth, youthful body blown apart by mortar fire. But, these soldiers were here at the rockshow to have some fun. As we raised our plastic cups of Miller Lite, he told me that the war was all about money, and that they were over there so everyone back here could keep drinking beer at Irish Pubs and moshing at the rockshow without a care in the world. They both hated the war and their part in it, but they were there too, unable to deny enjoying being young, rich and American.
Before long, he kissed me, tenatively at first, like highschool; but then with a kind of aimless voraciousness, and I don't know what my Mrs. Robinson ass was up to, but I kissed him back.
He was delicious.