Military Service is Awesome

August 14, 2006

When I had just graduated from college in the mid 90’s, I received a direct mail piece encouraging me to join the Navy SEALs, and the primary value proposition of the mailer was that I would come out the other side of the program as a total badass.  They even described some of the badassification techniques I would go through, like swimming 2 miles in the ocean with my legs bound together in the middle of the night, etc.  I think they mailed it to all college graduates, but I was delighted, and saved it for a while, cause it was about the closest I ever came to being an actual badass.

Now, I know, you out there reading this probably think I’m a death dealing merchant of asskickery, and while that’s partially true, I’m only really dangerous to people with fragile egos who can’t handle clever putdowns, and even then, there’d need to be some distance between us, as I’m about as bad at running as I am at fighting.  As my (6′ 4″) co-worker once replied, when I was taunting him about kicking his ass at pool, “I’m pretty sure I could still kick your ass at ACTUAL ass kicking”.  It’s a clever comeback, and if you’re much bigger than other people, but not particularly witty, I encourage you to write that one down on a notecard and keep it in your pocket for similar situations.

A few years prior to the misguided Navy direct mail, I was spending a lot of time with a group of girls who were spending a lot of time with a group of marines.  We were all like 19 or so, and the girls knew the marines because the one bar where underage girls never got carded nearby was on the marine base in Tustin.  So one of the marines was this 22 year old kid, just back from Desert Storm (I forget his name, let’s just call him “Idiot”), and one of his cheeks had a huge white circle in the middle of it.  Apparently Idiot had gotten shitfaced at the marine bar, and started a fight with another marine, who bit his cheek so hard that the flesh in the center of the bite just died.  So, for the rest of his life, Idiot will have this huge ping-pong ball sized pigment free zone on his left cheek.

I used to love movies involving military badasses, and a part of me still does, but I realize that in a way, they’re just expensive, highly unrealistic recruiting vehicles for the military, like that mailer I once received.  I feel like before each movie, they should have Idiot come out and explain about his cheek.  Because while you’re not likely to have your cheek bitten off during military service, you’re about as likely to take withering enemy fire and come out of it unscathed, and it would be nice if both potential unlikely eventualities were given equal time.



  1. Wow – I could have been hanging out with marines in Tustin? When I was 19, I used to drive all the way to T.J. for that!

  2. I never got asked to Join the Navy SEALs. I almost got into Easter SEALs, though.

  3. I wanted to be a military photographer. Then I realized what I’d be taking pictures of actually.

  4. It is one thing to comment about the behavior of a few jarheads, but your experiences do not qualify you as an expert on military life or render you fit to pass judgment on the merits of military service. The military attracts a wide range of people; to be sure, a percentage of them join because they want to boss others around, etc. But for many people, military life introduces them to integrity, camaraderie, teamwork, discipline, loyalty and a host of other qualities that are in and of themselves worthwhile. A lot of recruits enter the service as foulmouthed, disrespectful degenerates and complete training imbued with a sense of pride–in themselves, their comrades, and, yes, their country. At a minimum, when you shake hands with a military member you can be sure that he or she has washed it frequently, which is more than you can say for many of the lowlifes one encounters in civilian life.

    I do not claim that the military should be held above reproach, but unless you have actually served, it is thoroughly inappropriate to pass wholesale judgement upon it.

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