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Terminal Lance Creator Says He’s Just Getting Started With ‘White Donkey’
“White Donkey,” a 284-page graphic novel that chronicles one Marine’s journey to Iraq and back, has taken the Marine Corps and military communities by storm. The work was widely anticipated, due largely to the celebrity of its author, former Marine infantryman Maximilian Uriarte, and is currently sixth on Amazon’s best books list after its first day for sale on the site.
A recent interview between Uriarte and Task & Purpose probed a central theme in the book: the main character Abe’s search for purpose.
“I wanted to get at the idea of what does this mean. What do you get from all of this?” Uriarte told Task & Purpose on the experience of joining the Marine Corps and deploying to a place like Iraq. Indeed, Abe is regularly confronted by a question of what he is searching for through his experience in the Marine Corps.
In an all-volunteer service that prides itself on promising young men and women a torturously tough experience, that’s a question that resonates with many young Marines and Marine veterans, including Uriarte himself.
“I always found myself searching for something and I could never peg what it was,” Uriarte said. “What I wanted to highlight [in ‘White Donkey’] is that it is really arrogant to use [a war like Iraq] as a platform for your own enlightenment.”
Using his own experiences as a Marine infantryman in Iraq perfectly captures the best and worst of life at the bottom of the Marine Corps’ pecking order. That reality is rife with nuance. It can be funny and self-depreciating, but terribly trying when forced through the gauntlets of youth, personal ambition, and — perhaps most critically — war.
Uriarte said he wanted to tell a war story that was less appreciative of war. “Even the most somber war stories glorify it to an extent,” Uriarte said.
“I wanted to do something different. I wanted to tell a war story that was more real, something where people would draw a greater understanding of what people go through when they enlist, what people would go through when they went to war,” Uriarte said.
Beyond that, however, Uriarte said he hopes the book’s story of resilience resonates with a new generation of combat veterans. In an email, Uriarte said he has lost four fellow Marines to suicide and described mental health issues as “an ongoing issue at the heart of this book.”
“It’s an exploration of the existential crisis of going to war, but also, I feel like if any one Marine reads this book and is able to identify with the characters and is able to reach for help, it would all be worth it,” he said.
In many ways, Uriarte is the perfect person to write this type of war story. Since launching his insanely popular comic strip Terminal Lance six years ago, Uriarte has become a sort of cultural icon for the junior enlisted Marine. Uriarte’s comics offer snippets of the nuances in Marine Corps culture easily shared by anyone who has ever earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. And they’re insanely funny.
“White Donkey,” however, is something more than that. The nuance from the comic strip is there, to be sure, if not magnified. The humor is undoubtedly there. But the experience of the book is something new from Uriarte.
It is not, however, something new for Uriarte, who told Task & Purpose in a recent interview that the genesis of the project actually predates his comic strip.
“I had always wanted to write a story about Iraq,” he said, adding that the story has been in his head since 2010, the same year he started Terminal Lance.
Uriarte funded the project through Kickstarter in 2013. With an original goal of $20,000, he wound up raising a whopping $162,681 among roughly 2,800 backers.
“It was insane,” Uriarte said of the support the project received online. “It was really humbling and flattering that these people had faith in my idea.”
Now that the project is finished, Uriarte said the feeling of being done with something he dreamed of doing for so long, and worked actively toward since launching the Kickstarter in 2013, is surreal.
“Finishing it was just like ‘what the fuck do I do now?’” he said.
For one of the most iconic and creative voices in his generation of military veteran, it’s a pressing question.
Uriarte told Task & Purpose he is preparing to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where he is going to launch his own animation studio.
“My goal has always been screenwriting and filmmaking,” Uriarte said, adding that he originally conceived “White Donkey” as a film, and he would still like to make an animated film from the book.
“I would love for this to be my first movie, but I have a lot of work to do to make that happen,” he said.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.
How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.
Following a string of news reports on private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.
In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.
Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.
This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.