“[I]n times of crisis it’s interesting that people don’t turn to the novel or say, ‘We should all go out to a movie,’ or ‘Ballet would help us.’ It’s always poetry. What we want to hear is a human voice speaking directly in our ear.”

Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) speaking to the New York Times, as quoted in The Dead Beat by Marilyn Johnson

this diary is dedicated to all who suffer because of war and other disasters

we honor courage in all its forms

cross-posted at DailyKos, Booman Tribune, European Tribune, and My Left Wing.

april is national poetry month

image and poem below the fold

A US soldier kicks a door as he conducts a search in a building in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, 02 April 2006. US forces have killed eight suspected insurgents in a raid west of Baghdad, while seven Iraqis, including a soldier, were killed in shootings and bombings.
(AFP/File/Hassan Ammar)

A photo of Army Spc. Jacob C. Palmatier is tied to one of several shoes on display to call attention to people killed in the Iraq war during a news conference held by the Christian Peacemaker Teams Thursday, March 23, 2006, in Chicago. The co-director of the Chicago-based peace group said she was grateful that three of the organization’s members have been freed after spending months as hostages in Iraq, but that the group is still grieving for the loss of Tom Fox whose body was found about two weeks ago.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

All the World’s a Stage
by William Shakespeare

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

The Army now spends nearly $2 billion annually on basic training. It employs thousands of people: to invent virtual-reality environments, to calculate the maximum volume of information a recruit can absorb in fourteen weeks, to determine the emotional state in which recruits will most freely shoot at the human form, to discover how much punishment their bodies can take, to build mock urban battlefields that replicate mosque spires and the sound of a muezzin’s call to prayer.

The Army’s infantry schools graduate nearly 20,000 soldiers a year. No institution in history has come close to training so many people to kill so effectively in such a short time. Almost every element of today’s basic training, from the bewildering intake process to the witchy initiation ceremony, contributes to lethality.

from The Killing Factory
by Jeff Tietz
in Rolling Stone Magazine
issue 998, April 20, 2006
pages 54-60, 76

a personal note: I never served in the military. I turned 18 in 1973, and still had to register for the draft, even if by then the Vietnam War was winding down to its foregone and much-delayed conclusion. There I stood being meaninglessly chewed out by the agent of the Selective Service for showing up 10 months late to sign up, graced to have been born a few years after too many of my less-fortunate peers.

My father didn’t serve in WWII. His deferment was based in part on being a widower with an eight-year old son, and on being a skilled worker in the shoe manufacturing industry. “Boots on the ground” assumes the availability of boots.

My oldest brother was in the Air Force when I was born, and I don’t really know what he did or where he served. But it seems mostly to have been a quiet holding time for him between high school and marriage.

My next oldest brother joined the Army in 1962, also right out of high school. He dropped 100 pounds in basic training at Fort Dix, but put it all back on, and then some, while serving the rest of his tour at Fort Baker, across the bay from San Francisco. He didn’t go to Vietnam, but instead processed the blood of soldiers who were sent there.

My oldest sister was the “smart one” in the family, though as a woman that was never recognized or acknowledged. She first enrolled in a secretarial school, but joined the Navy in search of greater challenges and ended up as an air traffic controller serving in Pensacola and Corpus Christi. Her husband, also an ATC, sent B-52’s from the Phillipines to Vietnam, and guided them back again.

I haven’t been able to find it online, but still highly recommend the story by Jeff Tietz referenced in the quote box, because if we are to even begin to fathom the kinds of issues that Ilona covers in her work on PTSD, or how we can support and love our brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors who serve, we must first understand how they’ve been molded, and why.
– – –
put a meaningful magnet on your car or metal filing cabinet

read Ilona’s important new blog – PTSD Combat

view the pbs newshour silent honor roll (with thanks to jimstaro at booman.)

take a private moment to light one candle among many (with thanks to TXSharon)

support Veterans for Peace
support the Iraqi people
support the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)
support CARE
support the victims of torture
remember the fallen
support Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – TAPS
support Gold Star Families for Peace
support the fallen
support the troops
support Iraq Veterans Against the War
support Military families Speak Out
support the troops and the Iraqi people
read This is what John Kerry did today, the diary by lawnorder that prompted this series
read Riverbend’s Bagdhad Burning
read Dahr Jamail’s Iraq Dispatches
read Today in Iraq
witness every day

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