20 January 2016

10 Things One Gulf War Memoirist Says Not to Forget

Editor's note: Earlier this week, Minnesotan Joel Turnipseed wrote these 10 aphorisms while musing about the recent 25th anniversary of the start of the Persian Gulf War. As a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's 6th Motor Transport Battalion in 1990-1991, Turnipseed deployed to Saudi Arabia as a tractor-trailer driver—part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

After writing a 1997 article for GQ magazine about the experience, the former philosophy major later expanded the work into the 2003 book "Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir." It is funny and unique—a "modern bohemian war memoir." You can still find it in both hardcover and trade paperback editions.

While he originally shared these thoughts with family and friends via social media, Turnipseed has graciously granted permission to the Red Bull Rising blog to publish it here.


Turnipseed writes:

Today is the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm. I've already written plenty about the subject—and I'm not really looking to editorialize (not comprehensively, anyway) ... but there are few things we somehow always seem to forget that seem worth remembering today:
1. War does not turn boys into men—it turns them into endangered boys. 
2. War does not solve problems—it just creates different problems to solve. 
3. There is no such thing as "protecting our troops" (from injury, from PTSD, from ...) during a war. Go ask the alcoholic and suicidal drone operators, who conduct war from a video game machine, how "well-protected" they feel from war. 
4. Never ask anyone to tell you a war story unless you want to risk feeling like a terribly shitty human being when they're finished. 
5. Never tell a war story unless you, too, want to risk feeling like a terribly shitty human being when you're finished. 
6. Never trust anyone who denies numbers 1 through 5: They are either hurting way more than they're letting on or they're incapable for other reasons (personal or professional) of telling the truth. 
7. Turns out people live effective, interesting lives in surprising and wonderful ways after they've been injured … which in no way erases the fact that they've been hurt. I recently saw a man with both arms blown off at the elbows work the TSA line like a champ. I wanted to cheer him, until I recognized what that meant ... 
8. Any time someone uses war to inspire you, run like hell. 
9. Veterans make terrible sacrifices for their country, in the act of killing the citizens of others'. Nurses, doctors, police officers, EMTs, firefighters, construction workers, fisherman, truck drivers, miners, and any number of other workers make terrible sacrifices for their country, to make life longer and safer. Go thank a truck driver for his sacrifice; buy a nurse a drink. 
10. We've now been (including "No-Fly Zones" & Operation Desert Fox & ...) at war in Iraq for 25 years. Stop and think about that. There are college graduates who have never known a period when we were not at war in the Middle East. Something scarier? Many of them have no reason to believe they are in any danger ...

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