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.
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)?