Monday, January 15, 2007

"Walking on History"

I don’t often paste and copy whole posts.

But this young man, who calls himself Teflon Don (may his nic prove to be true) is unusually gifted with words - especially for a soldier. As he admits, he is an idealist and a “shameless romantic.” I’ll say!

Don combines the best qualities of the soldier-poet-historian. And I’ll bet there will be a book someday, perhaps in his maturity, that focuses on his experiences in Iraq and puts these times up against the rest of the paths he will take from here. It will be a fine, fine book.

He’s good enough that even at this early stage of blogging - he only has a few posts - people are paying attention. There are other bloggers out there who write as well, but they are not in Iraq.

He is. And that makes all the difference.

Walking on History

I am a shameless romantic, a slightly better than average student of history, and there is a current of idealism under my skin that has not yet been dulled by reality. Sometimes, these qualities come together and leave me thinking to myself of times long gone and stories all but forgotten. Lately, I’ve been thinking of the paradoxical enormity and insignificance of my presence here.

Here I stand, in modern-day Iraq. I have come further to fight here than any soldier of any nation before me, and I fight with weapons and equipment that lay pale the panoply of earlier armies. I represent the pinnacle of force projection and decisive battle, and yet I fight here, where unnumbered young warriors have fought and died through time stretching out of memory. It was on this land that the Babylonian empire first arose out of those first Sumerian agrarians, only to be conquered by the Assyrians, and still later throw off the foreign chains. It was here that Alexander’s phalanxes swept by, trailing Hellenism in their wake. Rome, and later the Byzantines, drew their border with Persia at the Euphrates River. At that river was where the Sassanids made their stand against the spread of Arabian Islam. The Khans of the Mongols laid this land waste, sometimes killing only to build their towers of bones higher.

- - - - - - - - - -
This region is steeped in history. We walk on it; we breathe it in. Eons of history surround us, infiltrate us, and turn to dust beneath our feet. The ashes of countless cultures, civilizations, and rulers dreams lie under the earth. With each breath, I inhale a few molecules of the dying gasp of Cyrus II, the Persian “Constantine of the East”. In the howling wind I can almost hear the cries of a countless multitude dying on killing grounds that bridge across the ages. The same wind carries the red dust that might yet hold a few drops of blood from the battle at Carrhae- the first, crushing defeat for Rome’s red blooded legions. Under my heel, a speck grinds into dust: the last grain of sand that remains of the Hanging Gardens at Babylon that are now known only in legend. Some of the world’s oldest religions tell us that somewhere in this ancient Cradle of life, God himself breathed on this dust, and it became man, the father of us all. Whatever path we take here, we walk on history.

I walk softly, for I tread on the ghosts of years.

Fortunately for us, he walks softly and carries a big stick. We are fortunate to have this generation.

Cross-posted at Infidel Bloggers Alliance


mommysaurus said...

Wow! What a beautiful, lyrical post.

Don Miguel said...

While there is nothing unusual about a soldier with historical awareness, this kid definitely has a gift for writing. Contrary to the leftist canard that the average soldier is poor and uneducated, Teflon Don demonstrates to us how reflective and intelligent one can be – and from personal experience there are a lot more out there like him.

Oliver Stern said...

...especially as my leftist friends here (in the UK) love to assert that the average american soldier serving in iraq has an IQ less than that of a child with 'learning difficulties'

Dymphna said...

oliver stern:

I recommend you send them to Acute Politics. Many of our regular soldiers have a good background in military's what draws them into the service.

Acute Politics

Ask them how many American soldiers they've met and on what basis ---besides what they read in the biased press -- they have come to their conclusions.

Might help to remind them that an uninformed conclusion is also called "ignorance."

Dymphna said...

BTW, the standards for the voluntary military are much higher than for the old universal draft which it replaced. They must have finished high school, cannot have been in trouble with the law, and must have no record of drug use -- and test clean upon admission.

Many of these guys have at least some college or post-high school training. Like this guy, Don, who has three years of mechanical engineering.

The technology of warfare has progressed to the point that warm bodies -- "cannon fodder" -- are not welcome. You have to be able to think on your feet and make good decisions.

Don Miguel said...

"BTW, the standards for the voluntary military are much higher than for the old universal draft which it replaced. They must have finished high school, cannot have been in trouble with the law, and must have no record of drug use -- and test clean upon admission."

Dymphna, that's not quite true anymore. You can't enlist at high school age without a diploma, but a GED and a couple more years in age will meet the minimal education requirement. You can also get a waiver for certain legal problems, depending on the seriousness of the issue. Regardless, there is a minimum score required on the ASVAB (sort of a military SAT) and most jobs have higher minimums than that of your basic infantryman.

In any case it doesn't change the fact that the average educational level of military enlistees is higher than that of their non-military peers and that most military jobs require additional and/or continuing education.

M. Simon said...

All the services have required reading of general military history and knowledge for advancement.

B.H.L. Hart's "Strategy" is on all the lists for instance. A book I highly reccomment to all civilians as well.

"Starship Troopers" by Heinlein is also on the lists of some of the services.

The Dorsai novels by Dickson used to be on the lists.

This is nothing like the 'Nam military.