Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Afghanistan Blogs

Deployment blogs are worldviews into what only a few know, feel, and experience (according to the United States Census, only 7% of all Americans are veterans; the number collapsed to only 1.2% who are under 35 and maybe 2% when you consider all active duty).  Even when not done by a solider but by a civilian augmentee or journalist who focuses on soldiers' lives, these blogs give a voice to a life unimaginable by many.  The surreal war stories, the sights and sounds, and even daily life can be transmitted to the reader in beautiful ways by those who are "over there".

The first blog I want to direct your intention to is Kandahar Journal by Richard Johnson, an internet acquaintance of mine, of the National Post (Canada).  Richard is deployed out to Afghanistan again writing about the 1,000 or so Canadian soldiers who are still deployed in Afghanistan.  While he has just recently arrived, he also has been interacting with soldiers and press relations officials.  I greatly appreciated his post on writing "the letter".  The pain and drain of everyone who has deployed can be felt in his words.  I have had the luxury of shredding mine.

His main claim to uniqueness is his artistic skills.  Just looking at his drawing of the Apache helicopter in the repair bay brought back to me the feelings of heat even in the shade of the tent and the sounds and smells of the mechanics bay.

Illustration by Richard Johnson
The pure boredom of the flight line waiting room is captured as well.

I waited a good deal of my life at flight lines.  Illustration by Richard Johnson
The other blog brings out a part of me which some have accused as being over cynical.  Just because one deploys out to Afghanistan or Iraq does not mean one was in the war.  For every soldier who has seen the true horrors of war there are several fobbits (those who never leave the base, mostly Forward Operating Bases).  These soldiers and civilians take long coffee breaks at the Green Bean, a Starbucks-style coffee house, have movie nights at the theater, and complain when the omelet station runs out of egg whites.  Yet when they come back home they get the same praise as combat soldiers and even more than combat civilians (who are not allowed to join groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion unlike their fobbit kin). 

There was a blog on xoJane that captured the spirit of these fobbitts.  The blog post was entitled Deployment Beauty: Make-Do Tips From the Green Zone.  The blog was infuriating as the civilian woman complained about how smelly the bathrooms were and how she was too busy to take showers for days-on-end.  She goes on to complain about "the worst" chow hall in all of Afghanistan and how YouTube is blocked on her wifi.  Reading this tested my patience as a person who was on a camp which frequently ran out of water due to Taliban and even allied forces interfering with supply routes  (one starts to eye water bottles a whole new way when deliveries stop), had to join groups that would provide cover each other when we needed to relieve ourselves outside in Taliban territory, and was shot and shelled at.  And there are many out there who had it a lot worse than me.

(Rebuttal from a respected reader:  at least she was offering solutions to overcome some personal difficulty of her's rather than just a blog posts of complaints)

The blog focused primarily on the woman's beauty tips for her being deployed.  A fellow blogger contacted xoJane and they stated the blog post was taken down because of the outcry the writer received.  However, the magic of the internet allows one to read and download the post below.

Deployments can be hell, surreal, fascinating, troublesome, rewarding, or shamefully spoiled with the good life and vain complaints.

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