When You Find Out You've Been Waterboarded

The writer, blogger, teacher, and, we're proud to say, World's Fair guest contributor Oronte Churm has a remarkable small essay over at The Education of Oronte Churm, called The Calculus of Military Service. He writes of his own past military experience and his own dawning awareness of the effects of military training on the subsequent lives of soldiers. That subject is vast, but in this well-researched small piece Churm brings it together with grace and clarity. When reading it I thought, this is either an example of (a) why and how blogging can actually be a legitimate literary and journalistic activity (perhaps evoking the new stage of the public intellectual) or (b) why some bloggers should be moving past this haphazard Web 2.0 level and onto the printed page or at least the on-line serial, because their work is too solid for mere blogging forums. It should be an op-ed in The Times.

After an excerpt from a Donald Barthelme story ("The Sergeant") "in which a middle-aged man wakes to find himself a soldier again after 20 years away," here is Churm's lead:

Has there ever been anyone who's served that hasn't had bad dreams about being forced to return? My own are infrequent now but recur when I'm stressed. In them I'm ill-equipped (having lost my pack, uniforms, fins, etc.) or physically unprepared (too old, too fat, too weak) to go on patrol with the others or do an underwater compass swim. They're mild nightmares but on waking seem comic, like dreams of lecturing naked or taking tests we've forgotten to study for.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 23,532,000 living American veterans (war and peacetime). That's a lot of bad dreams, and think of how many more new vets are being produced today than when I was a soldier [in the early 1980s].

And here is the rest of the story, including a brief on how "waterboarding" works: The Calculus of Military Service.

More like this

Friend of the Fair Oronte Churm has a note on engineers over at The Education of Oronte Churm, "The Engineers Think On It." Eating at a diner with a book of poetry in hand, he posits the engineer's quest for utility--and for order and rationality, it seems--over poetry and spirit (or so my own…
Philip Graham is a writer and professor at the University of Illinois. Friend of the World's Fair Oronte Churm recently interviewed him. (Mr. Churm, aka John Griswold, also teaches at Illinois and is also a writer -- check out his beautiful new novel Democracy of Ghosts.) It's a good interview,…
I just finished reading Erica Goode's Times story on the suicides of four soldiers who served together in a small North Carolina-based Guard unit in Iraq from 2006 to spring 2007. This is a witheringly painful story. Goode, who has done quite a bit of science writing as well as substantial…
Preston Gannaway, The Virginian-Pilot When I did my story on the overextension of the PTSD diagnosis in vets (and elsewhere), I found Grossman's take on the psychic toll of killing (and almost being killed) among the most compelling. His "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in…

Has there ever been anyone who's served that hasn't had bad dreams about being forced to return?

That by itself doesn't sounds like a huge deal to me.

Is there anybody who's been to college who hasn't had bad dreams about being back in college? And, yet, I would rate my college experience as hugely positive (at least on the educational side).

I hope not to misjudge, Rob, but your comment strikes me as borderline offensive. Are you equating the life-risking experience of military service (you know, bullets, bombs, death, mutilation) with attending college (beer, noon-time wake-ups, treacherous nights of studying)?