i am often asked, 'what do you guys do for fun over there?' a completely understandable inquiry, but one that really exemplifies the mystique of the military. speaking from my own personal misconceptions before enlisting, i figured that when you werent getting cursed at Full Metal Jacket-style, you were most likely singing to pretty girls in bars a la Top Gun. everyone in the military is good-looking, and usually scowling. i feel that i shared these assumed truths with many other civilians.
the military does its best to perpetuate these views. i will always remember a recruiting poster i saw at my armory in new jersey: four young people standing close together, smiling like they had all just popped 5 pills of ecstacy. they are of both genders, mixed ethnicities, religions, and presumably all favor different professional sports teams. now if you step to the side, they magically appear in the same poses, but this time they are in uniform. the most notable change isnt the j crew-to-surplus store wardrobe switch, but their facial expressions. when in uniform, you apparently have to always look as if your commander just ordered you to bayonet your way through a cave filled with 9-11 masterminds. these soulless stares haunt me daily, and make me wonder if sometimes i take this whole experience too lightly.
please dont misunderstand, there have been times in my accolade-drenched time in the army where i have had my game face on. 70% of those times have been in the bathroom, 20% during actual combat, and the other 10% were most likely an accident. truth be told, i have spent most of my military time bored out of my mind. this could be due to the fact that we spend so much time doing run-throughs of drills and talking about things before we do them that when it comes time to actually do 'cool' stuff like kicking in doors and securing insurgent strongholds, i am so desensitized to the operation from all of the training that it doesn't feel that cool at all.
i am digressing from the whole 'fun' issue, i know. we are forced to make our own fun, because if it were left up to the army, there would be Field Manual 11-670 Enjoyable Passtimes and Recreational Safety. no one needs guidelines on free time. that said, the fun that i have had in iraq has changed with the tour.
in 2003, i spent most of my free time throwing rocks at things. this is not a joke, but a very serious passtime that most army personnel engage in regularly. rocks are bountiful here, and so are things at which to throw them. if nothing is around, simply dig the heel of your boot into the ground until you have a target. up to 5 people can simultaneously enjoy your boot divet with rocks of their own. optimal targets included:
- metal objects . their satisfying 'clang' denotes a critical hit, and acts as a starter's gun for high-fives and trash talk.
- open containers. sinking a rock into an empty coffee can or upturned helmet gives you the rush of hitting a game-winning three-pointer.
- living things. people are the best, as you can put over-under odds on how many times you can hit an individual before you get punched in the face.
in 2005, fun was abundant. i had my laptop, ipod, psp, and gameboy to keep me company. more spend-happy people purchased TVs and playstations, so there was usually a madden or halo tournament going on. these activities do not make for good writing.
this tour is by far the most enjoyable. i have the internet on my bunk, and right next door my best friends wait eagerly to play rock band with me. electronics aside, we entertain ourselves with our wonderful fitness facility, which is open 24 hours to help people like me feel inferior to some of the muscled-up freaks who obviously inject themselves with liquefied beef to obtain their impressive stature.
but sadly, that is pretty much the end of the 'fun.' the army doesnt waste its resources on miniature golf courses, arcades, petting zoos, roller coasters, midget-tossing, or knitting clubs. although at the rate we're pumping funds into the area, soldiers deployed here in 2013 have a good shot at a bouncy castle.