I have been taking a power boot camp class 3 times a week. I am in my 6th week, and it is killer. We are trained by former Marines who all served in Desert Storm, the Gulf War in Iraq.
The marines are great guys who are in great shape. They were talking about the movie Jarhead and recommended we see it. They said the movie is very true to what actually happened in Desert Storm. So, I went.
I have been thinking about the movie for a few days now. I am really glad that I saw it. I understand why people didn’t love the movie because there is no particular relationship or conflict. Yet, the movie shows exactly what is takes to be a Marine.
The movie begins in basic training. You ask yourself how did I get here? They break you down until you get in the best shape you can possibly be in. Then, a war breaks out and off you go. There is excitement about finally going to war and to be able to represent your country and use your skills. They get out to the desert and wait and wait and wait and wait. You could seriously lose your mind hanging out in the desert doing nothing but training for a moment that might never happen. They do lose their mind. Then, once you finally do get to combat, it is scary yet exhilarating
Although you are with a group of Marines, you are out there alone, solo. You are in your own world.
Some of the characters end up in the Marines because they had no where else to turn. Some thought it was the right thing to do for four years or more and serve their country. Mixed batch. One character ends up that he was actually in jail before so once they found out they had to boot him out. Perhaps these are the type of armed forces people that we should be helping out to fit in. They could benefit instead of just booting them out to wander aimlessly through society or worse yet commit more crimes.
I guess what struck me at the end, after they all came back, is there seemed to be no path for any of the marines to take after their service was over. They served and then it ended. The main character was seen living in a small shack near a railroad track with no vision. He was home but in some ways he was still over in Iraq. Jarhead gave you an interesting psychological perspective into the psyche of the Marine Core.
It would seem to me that the military should spend some money and time helping the people of our Armed Forces that give their time and lives for our country to help them in their next career. Help them become civilians. Help them with their marriages. Help with their futures.
I spoke to the Marines at boot camp about this. They said I was right on the money. There is no guidance from the military once you reenter civilian life. Big mistake on our Governments part. The majority of these men and women have had incredible training. They could be making an impact on our work force. I give these men and women a huge amount of credit for giving a chunk of their time to protecting our country. The least we could do is protect them when they return to the other side.
I had a very similar reaction to the movie, and wanted to learn a bit more. I ended up stumbling onto a great book called One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer. It’s about an Ivy League grad that enlists after college (before 9/11) and ends up as an office in Marine Recon in both Afghanistan and Iraq. A very honest, interesting account that reads much like a novel. Looks at many of the same events as Jarhead but from an officer’s, instead of a enlisted perspective.
Jarhead is the Million Little Pieces of the Marines both as a movie and a book.
Jarhead is a great flick and it was a phenomemal book. Both give vivid portrayals of the boot camp experience as filtered by time. The best decription though, is a one-liner from the late novelist, Leon Uris, who noted that once after passeing through the entrance of Marine Corps Recruit Depot
“the gates of hell closed behind us.” it still is an apt description.
I disagree that the Dept of Defense should do something to prepare about-to-be discharged service men and women for reentry to civilian life. About two million of my aging generation completed our military service and rushed into or back to college. Like many of my brothers in arms, i was so motivated to begin my “life” that I finished college on the GI Bill in 3.5 years and bought my first home using VA financing.
Again, like others, I learned how to lead, how to follow and how to treat others. I also learned how to protect others and how to carry out an assignment (even those that I don’t like). I don’t think the govt owes me a thing. i enlisted without any reservations, served my time and was honorably discharged. I officially goty out of th USMC at 0830 in the morning and was in class in college at 1330 the same day.
While I’m retired now, I look back to the 30 years I spent in Silicon Valley as a reporter and believe my service in the USMC really prepared me for a responsible life as a civilain.
What utterly surprised me about Silicon Valley was the absolute lack of veterans in technology and how rare it was to find anyone else who had been a marine n.c.o. that served with line infantry in Viet Nam.
Today, I’m proud of my service in the USMC and of the fact that I left active duty as a buck sergeant. It prepared me well for civilain life, college and adulthood.
I am still good friends with other men I served with. We got out, finished college, became teachers, journalists, doctors, lawyers and professionals and most of all parents. And at one time we wore marine green, but it’s not the only thing we did with our lives.
(coincidentally retired and ironically living near the back gate of Camp Pendleteon.