With Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” going into nationwide release Jan. 16, many Iraq vets will be heading to theaters to get a look at the first feature film to give the war an extended “boots-on-the-ground” treatment. The Hollywood blockbuster's adaptation of the late Chris Kyle’s autobiography has received mostly positive reviews, but veterans will be judging Eastwood’s version of the story by an entirely different standard.
President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy 3,000 troops to Liberia in response to the West African Ebola epidemic may have raised a few eyebrows last week, but the move was largely supported by a majority of U.S. government leaders despite predictable gurning from the usual suspects. And though this type of deployment may seem outside the norm for many veterans who became accustomed to multiple, revolving combat deployments in recent years, the fact is, this is a mission set the U.S. military has been called upon to tackle again and again throughout its history, and precisely the type of thing we should expect to see more of in the coming century.
As a former Marine infantry officer, I found it illustrating to pick up this month’s issue of the Marine Corps Gazette and discover that our infantry is a “cult-like brotherhood ... the one place where young men are able to focus solely on being a warrior without the distraction of women or political correctness.” I will admit that I found this to be a rather sweeping assessment, but it’s how at least one Marine officer who has never served in the infantry imagines it to be. In truth, Capt. Lauren Serrano is not entirely wrong. Marines do “fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle,” etc. Although to be fair, the Marine Corps infantry --- or male Marines alone for that matter --- does not have a monopoly on juvenile humor (see here or here for NSFW examples). And while Serrano failed to mention Marines lighting fires (my experience shows that grunts will usually build a fire before they get naked), I doubt many officers would disagree with her general observations about infantry behavior.