He grew up living on a military base. Marine Corps, as "a reader and a loner". Marine Corps at the age of 18, and shortly after he turned 20 he was deployed to Riyadh , Saudi Arabia , awaiting the start of the Persian Gulf War. He was uncomfortable with the notion that he was a hero, and deliberately missed the homecoming parade near his base. Marine Corps following the end of the war in the Gulf, Swofford at first found it difficult to adapt to civilian life, due to extreme combat-related PTSD.
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Melanie McFarland "Jarhead" by Anthony Swofford In this self-lacerating memoir, an ex-Marine sniper who fought in the Gulf yearns to escape from the myths of warfare and the sadism of military life. The secret is that these stories are all more or less the same, once you decide which of two categories they belong to: tales of valor and tales of squalor.
The tales of valor have enjoyed a resurgence of late, particularly those about World War II, but despite "Band of Brothers" and other enterprises of the late Stephen Ambrose, the second, bleaker type of war story is still ascendant. And, more recently, war memoirs verge on disparaging themselves, so dark and roiling is the contempt to be found in them.
His war was short, and it only takes up the last third or so of this slender book. Of necessity, Swofford devotes more pages to his childhood and youth, his training in the U. Initially, "Jarhead" delivers some jolts. Marine barracks are not known for their decorum, but Swofford describes his mates and himself as brutal, petulant, thoughtless, wretched, sadistic, wrathful and sometimes borderline sociopathic. From "Jarhead," you will learn that Marines pump themselves up by watching war movies on video: "We yell Semper fi and we head-butt and beat the crap out of each other and we get off on the various visions of carnage and violence and deceit, the raping and killing and pillaging.
You shitbags disparage the memory of Chesty Puller every day with your lazy carcasses lying around on these cots like desert princesses jerking your rotten clits! They came from the same mama somewhere in the woods of North Carolina. A big old green, wart-covered jarhead-mama. She shits MREs and pisses diesel fuel. When Swofford dwells on the treachery of the environment in "Saudi," what he says about sand could just as easily be said about jungle: "this most unstable material or medium that will make futile all effort or endeavor.
For our average male citizen, military service -- a universal experience for most men throughout human history -- is an alien notion. Swofford had the misfortune of succumbing to that romance, and to his own "intense need for acceptance into the family clan of manhood," when he was still young enough to sign up. The lot of the jarhead, Swofford explains again and again, is wretched, and the jarheads themselves base. They travel miles to escape their own kind.
I hated being a marine because more than all of the things in the world I wanted to be -- smart, famous, oversexed, drunk, fucked, high, alone, famous, smart, known, understood, loved, forgiven, oversexed, drunk, high, smart, sexy -- more than all of those things, I was a marine. A jarhead. A grunt. Even the middle class mostly manages to keep itself out of the fray.
Not surprisingly, his tour of duty makes Swofford feel like a chump, and in the portions of "Jarhead" that describe his life after he gets out of the Marines, he wants nothing more than to shake off his former identity. Hatred of the Corps feeds into self-hatred for being the type of guy who enlisted, like a snake eating its own tail. The feeling that he and his comrades "would always be jarheads" plagues him. I can picture him striving to make a new, better life that transcends the "loneliness and poverty of spirit" of his jarhead adventures, while surrounded by fresh-faced, unscarred young aspirants who envy him his fabulous, fabulous material.
"Jarhead" by Anthony Swofford
Fitch : What the fuck are you even doing here? A man fires a rifle for many years. And all the jarheads killing and dying, they will always be me. We are still in the desert. A pen was an ink stick.
Claiming that he joined the military because he "got lost on the way to college", Swofford finds his time at Camp Pendleton difficult, and struggles to make friends. While Swofford feigns illness to avoid his responsibilities, a "lifer", Staff Sergeant Sykes, takes note of his potential and orders Swofford to attend his Scout Sniper course. Eager for combat, the Marines find themselves bored with remedial training, constant drills, and a routine monotony that feeds their boredom, and prompts them to talk about the unfaithful girlfriends and wives waiting for them at home. They even erect a bulletin board featuring photographs and brief notes telling what perfidies the women had committed. Swofford obtains unauthorized alcohol and organizes an impromptu Christmas party, arranging for Fergus to cover his watch so he can celebrate. Fergus accidentally sets fire to a tent while cooking some sausages and ignites a crate of flares, waking the whole camp and enraging Staff Sergeant Sykes, who demotes Swofford from lance corporal to private and puts him on "shit-burning" detail. Swofford learns from Sykes that Troy concealed his criminal record when enlisting and will be discharged when the unit returns home.
About The Book In his New York Times bestselling chronicle of military life, Anthony Swofford weaves his experiences in war with vivid accounts of boot camp, reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. When the U. He lived in sand for six months; he was punished by boredom and fear; he considered suicide, pulled a gun on a fellow marine, and was targeted by both enemy and friendly fire. As engagement with the Iraqis drew near, he was forced to consider what it means to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man. Plus, receive recommendations for your next Book Club read. Must redeem within 90 days.