Thursday, November 03, 2005
unforgiving creature in God's cruel kingdom

From Jarhead... very interesting reading.

This was the real Marine Corps, and to be sure, I had not yet experienced the real Marine Corps. Marines ran all around the place, saluting and shouting and spitting and cussing. I was assigned to the Second Battalion. The battalion had just returned from predeployment leave, and they'd be departing in three weeks on a West-Pac, a six-month training tour of Okinawa, the Philippines, and Korea. The duty staff sergeant who checked me in was a short, harsh man. Most of his ribbons were for individual valor in Vietnam. As he looked over the battalion roster, deciding which grunt platoon to send me to, he spoke through his cigar.

"Swofford. What kind of f*cking name is that?"

"It's English, Staff Sergeant."

"You sound like a goddamn choirboy. Do you play any instruments?"

"I played the trumpet in third grade, Staff Sergeant."

"The trumpet? Can you still play?"

"Maybe, Staff Sergeant."

"Maybe my ass. I need a bugler to blow taps and reveille and the battle march. It'll get you out of the grunts. Headquarters and Support Company. you wont' have to carry a rifle. We'll give you a sidearm and a bugle. Your pack will be light. If you're interested, I'll try you out."

"Yes, Staff Sergeant, I'd like to try..."

I met the staff sergeant at the flagpole. He seemed giddy, oddly excited for a man who'd fought in one of the more senseless wars of the century.

"Swofford, do you wonder why I look old enough to be your grandpop but I'm still a goddamn staff sergeant?"

"No, Staff Sergeant."

"Because in Vietnam I beat a lieutenant over the head with my E-tool. He wanted to send my platoon into a gook valley, and I told him to f*ck himself, to which he told me he'd send me to the brig, to which I pulled out my E-tool and split open his f*cking head before calling in a medevac for his dumb ass. I didn't go to the brig but I lost my stripes. An hour later another platoon went up that valley and got carved to f*ck. Poof, the sorry f*ckers were dead and gone. My platoon mates still send me birthday cards, did you know that?"

"I didn't know that, Staff Sergeant."

"Well, now you do. And stop calling me staff sergeant. Was your old man in the war?"

"He was in the air force. He built hot runways."

"The f*cking air farce. He ever tell you about it? Did he live?"

"Yes, he lived. He spoke once about Vietnam."

"If he only spoke once, he wasn't lying."

The battalion poured onto the parade deck in a U formation. After the company commanders reported to the major, "All present and accounted for," the staff sergeant left me at the flagpole and joined the colonel and the major and the other staff officers.

The sergeant major used a bullhorn to address the men, welcoming them home from leave, reminding them he had granted an extra seventy-two hours of liberty, a bonus three days of freedom, and he expected recompense for his charity, in the form of gallant behavior overseas.

He said, "No rapes of village girls, marines. No beating up old Okinawan women for a free plate of yakisoba or a bowl of jungle juice. If you're gonna screw working girls, make sure they're clean. And if you're married, don't let me hear about it, don't let the docs tell me you're on treatment, because I'll give you office hours, minimum of one stripe and two months' pay. Goddamnit, check their Clean-Crotch cards. Last West-Pac we had over two hundred cases of the clap, seven herpes, one syphilis, and possibly one AIDS. Don't bring dirty members home to America. Right now on Kadena Air Base there's a flyboy who's got some disease they've never seen before. His little pecker is falling off in pieces. He's quarantined. The horny bastard's going to die."

The sergeant major ordered the battalion to return to the barracks and commence with field day. The staff sergeant joined me at the flagpole and said, "You still want that bugle job? There isn't a bugle job, you f*cking monkey! I could've humilated you in front of the battalion, called you out there to make bugle noises with your mouth. But I didn't because for some reason I like you. Swofford, you are a goddamn Marine Corps grunt. You are the most savage, the meanest, the crudest, the most unforgiving creature in God's cruel kingdom. You are a killer, not a goddamn bugle player. That bugle sh*t is from the movies. You ain't Frank F*cking Sinatra."

"Aye, aye, Staff Sergeant."

"You're in Third Platoon, G Company. Third is full of drunks and half-wits. Maybe you can bring some respectability to the sons of bitches."

"Thanks, Staff Sergeant."

"Don't thank me. Just don't f*cking die."

Anybody else besides me interested in watching the movie? The director also directed American Beauty and Road to Perdition.


i've actually met tony swofford when i was working at the recording studio and he came in to record the audio version of the book, anyways, all to say he was really nice and funny too.

I won't tell you what I thought of American Beauty, but Jarhead sounds like a great book. BTW, if you haven't seen it, check out The Thin Red Line.
i wanna watch it.
i wanna see it.
i'd like to see it as well. looks pretty good.
hey everyone - go see it. and read the book. ;)
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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

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