Saturday, September 15, 2012

Embrace the Suck

It's Friday night.  I finished work a little while ago and then set things up for a quiet, mellow, even peaceful night.  I poured a sturdy tumbler of smooth Chianti, then performed the typical solo dude stuff....turned the History Channel on (vol. off), flipped on my music of choice, recently The xx - Intro, then collapsed deep into the comfort of my man-chair with the suppleness, velocity and style of a high jumper flopping backwards into a canoe.  Perfect.  I was just about to dive headfirst into my righteous tumbler of maroon when out of almost nowhere I was jolted by the distinct rattling bursts of M-16 gun fire, cave buster mortar rounds and the overhead rhythmic chop of rotor blades chased by the swift rumbling of a large, low flying, fixed wing aircraft.

I live in Harvard MA.  Harvard is known for many things, most of these things are good because Harvard is 'that town' you see on seasonal Halmark cards during Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's beautiful here...all the time.  The fields, rivers and lakes are all amazing.  The Town Center, anchored by The General Store, with it's blended Pottery Barn-Anthropology design, and the lillie white facades of the Unitarian Church and Town Hall could not possibly look more perfectly New England.

Every nook & corner in Harvard is quaint, serine and peaceful and you feel safe here....ninety seven percent of the time.  But three percent of the time Harvard doesn't feel that way.  It doesn't feel safe, peaceful, serine or quaint at all.  And the reason for this is Fort Devens, Harvard's unique and necessary neighbor.  Fort Devens is an active US Army base providing training and facilities for all military and Dept of Defense branches.  As an active training base, Fort Devens conducts live maneuvers and exercises (war simulation/games) which I'd say take place about three percent of the time, roughly.  And it's during the 'war games' that Harvard residents are reminded, in a very physical and tactile way, that there is a great big world out there and that in many of it's places it is hostile and nasty.  To really realize this is pretty sobering, as it should be.  

And it's good, actually, to be reminded, often enough, of the worlds meanest and most lethal places because these are a meaningful reality of our planet, perhaps even the most meaningful reality.  And as much as many of us would prefer not to think about it, places like Fort Devens train and prepare our warrior boys and girls to go out into those lethal hotspots and kill bad guys and hopefully come back alive.  

I've never been in a military war so I can't speak to it from personal experience but I can tell you that every time I feel and hear the calamitous sound of war coming from Fort Devens it rattles the hell out of me for a second or two.  It's like a street fight when the first punch wakes you up to the reality of what you're facing.   I can only imagine what that experience must be like on a daily basis.  It's life and death on line 24-7 and I am blown away by the commitment, resolve and courage of the people that volunteered to face it every day.  It's amazing and humbling.

Chris Hedges, is an American Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist and war correspondent specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.  Here's what Chris said about war.

‘The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug’.  

I'm not exactly sure how to face that but I saw the movie 'The Hurt locker' and that movie felt pretty authentic to me.  I think what Chris is saying was shown in that movie.  It's really complex and there is a lot of suffering and a lot of courage and there are many other things to it as well.  All I know for sure is that Harvard is a long way from bum fuck Afghanistan but sometimes it feels really, really close.  It's uncomfortable but it's good to be mindful and to remember.  Strength and honor.  Bless our boys and girls.  

Peace and roll strong.


  1. My father was in the US army for 21 years - a long and sordid tale I won't bore you with other than to say he did three tours of vietnam, and living the realization that he might not have made it home several times between that and other hostile deployments isn't really anything you can describe. He (we) spent the last seven years of his career stationed on fort devens, then when he retired they bought a house in Ayer. I lived there for another three years until I moved out - to Shirley. All told I lived withing easy-listening distance of the devens training range for 12 years, and was never far away from live-fire exercises for my entire life until I moved from the nashoba valley area in 1986. In the early 90's my second wife and I spent the night at my parents house, her first overnight visit there. She asked if the street they lived on was noisy, and I said the only noise she might here is if the fire department gets a call, which wasn't likely. Little did I know the national guard was conducting night maneuvers, complete with artillery and air cavalry (helicopters). It was like trying to sleep through a war. I was used to it, having grown up with it, but she didn't sleep a wink.....good times.....

  2. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah it's pretty eye opening.