Sep 10th, 2010, 10:10 PM
Every Soldier Has a Story to Tell
The American poet Master P. once said, “Every soldier’s got a story to tell.” I agree with him.
Here is one of mine. First, background I was attending my basic and AIT OSUT (One Station Unit Training) at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri to become a combat engineer and earn the right to call myself a soldier and wear a gold castle on my lapel when wearing my class A (dress uniform). We did all of our land mine training at one location TA 250 Bottom. Training Area 250 Bottom was a muddy horrid mess of a place with mops that had at most 11 strings clinging for life and concrete everywhere. We would have to mop these floors with buckets of water with no cleaners and those awful mops. I think the instructors and 250 Bottom did it on purpose because they were sadistic men who hated young recruits. The meat of the story strengthens my belief, but I will leave the judgment to you.
To begin with the story proper, there WAS a TA 250 Top, but I never saw it. It was for Bridge Crewmembers (21C) who trained alongside us 21Bs much of the time and shared our barracks. Female soldiers can be MOS 21C but not 21B so that is the only MOS where female soldiers can use explosives for those keeping score at home (I may be wrong…too lazy to google it.). This day we watched a slide show of land mine victims. I will let that sink in. A group of young men, aged 17 to 32 (I called him Pappy), learning how to use explosives and mines as well as how to avoid those things being used against them, must watch this slide show to complete training at Ft. Leonard Wood. The instructors therefore, must watch this slide show a dozen times a year if not more. So, I was 19 years old, considering myself a tough guy, studied martial arts and swordplay, been in a few fistfights, watched a ton of gory movies, even saw the video footage from the liberation of Auschwitz, and I was shaken to the core.
The slides were delivered with all the emotional content of old vacation slides from say four years ago. Human beings, having been torn asunder from sheer concussive FORCE and flame, and bits of sharp metal, commented on with no emotion. I did not look away once. I credited myself for this at the time, but now, I wish I wasn’t such a “tough guy”. There were children and women among the slides. There were civilians and soldiers, enemy and U.S. To say I am haunted would be melodramatic, but I will never forget that afternoon, and that is the truth.
There are people called “De-miners”. In Afghanistan most notably, these people find mines and detonate them. They get paid by the government per mine. If they get wounded or disabled by a blast, they get paid more. There was an Afghan man being carried into an emergency room, his leg carried behind him, doped up on painkillers giving the camera a grin and thumbs-up. The instructor, whose name escapes me, said “He is smiling because he knows he can now get paid more.” This photograph stands from the others. A point was reached where we stopped gasping and were not shocked anymore. We had become harder. We were one vital step closer to becoming men with no fear of landmines and explosions.
Two days later we had to return there…and they had us move rocks from a mudfield out in the back to the front of the building so that the rocks could be arranged in artful piles outside each door. We spent hours there moving rocks. We ate lunch there, and still we moved rocks. The instructors mocked us saying things like “Don’t be a hero now privates, one rock per hand so you don’t strain yourselves.” They made no attempt to hide the fact that this was “make-work” designed specifically to waste our time because our Drill Sergeants had nothing for us to do. The fact that they had so little regard for us wounded my soul and robbed me of some of the pride I once felt when putting on my BDU (Battle Dress uniform). This is one of my stories. Some are humorous; some reflect the slow death of my youth and pride. Some are filled with rage that I feel to this day. Every soldier has a story to tell.
One more thing. I never said Master P was a GOOD poet.