I still remember being awakened by the phone the evening of January 16, 1991 and hearing my father’s voice say, “Jerry, they’re bombing Baghdad.” When you’re five years into a six-year enlistment in the Marine Corps, finding out that you’re suddenly at war is not the greatest news. Despite my non-deployable status as a member of the Landing Force Training Command Atlantic (LFTCLant), a Marine can never be sure what his next set of orders will contain. My initial apprehension about being sent to an active combat zone was soon replaced with feelings of helplessness, and later uselessness, as I watched my friends in the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (with whom I shared a barracks) leave for Operation Desert Storm. So in some small way I can completely relate to Anthony Swofford’s feelings of frustration and futility.
This is a fantastic film with a number of different, but important, messages all competing for screen time. From the absurd morality of arguing over who should get to kill an officer of the Republican Guard, to the complex ethos of a bus-load of Marines welcomed home by a Vietnam vet who received no homecoming parade of his own.
It brought back a number of memories for me, although I never regretted my decision to join, so there were a number of negative aspects of Swofford’s perspective that I could not share. But whether you love or hate the Corps, it is a great source of comedy and drama, and it was great to see “the Suck” as a co-star of this war movie for my generation.