Blake is a Co-founder and Staff Writer for RTB. He served in the USMC as an infantryman from 2009-2013, deploying to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. The constant onslaught of new lieutenants forced him to leave active-duty. He presently works in asset protection in Georgia, where he lives with his dog. His views are his own. Follow Blake on Twitter.
slept in late today. The sun was up before me, and made its presence known through the blinds. Eris, my dog, leaped out of bed, and grunted her displeasure in my lack of speed in joining her for our morning ritual of my smoke and her shit. Not having to be at work until later, I looked forward to a day of nothing productive; the most strenuous task being cleaning out the cat’s litter box. It is a day devoid of purpose, same as the day before, and likely the day afterwards. There’s a clear lack of that in my life -- purpose -- and my subconscious constantly reminds me of it. There is no greater goal to achieve, no underlying mission to accomplish. Wake up, do stuff, and go to sleep; Rinse, lather, repeat.
I lack any grand purpose, outside of deciding whether my dog gets fat or not. It’s a simple life; nothing exciting, nothing to get my heart running at a million miles an hour, nothing to kick my brain into overdrive. Instead, my mind wanders; my heart keeps a slow pace, anticipating nothing to change from its current state. It’s a far cry from the day I stepped off the 53, being greeted by my Company Gunny with a shit eating grin and a booming Welcome to Marjah! Being in a combat zone with the goal of kill or be killed trying isn’t that much higher above the nothing bar on the value scale, but it takes on a lot of grandeur completely unbecoming of it. Higher had their erotic fantasies of COIN operations and terrain models, but those things were of little consequence to me; everything I partook in, from the drills to the berating, was done with the intention that I would be better at my job then the enemy would be. To some civilians, it’s a purpose that made me a hero, fighting the good fight and defending their freedoms; for others it made me a war criminal, helping our nation kill foreign nationals in order to access their resources (or whatever the popular anti-war trope is); honestly, they’re just two sides of a coin I could not care less about flipping. They, just like me, give my purpose more importance than it deserves. I sure as hell didn’t join the Marine Corps in an attempt to find some grand purpose; I couldn’t even tell you why I did it in the first place. But while I was in Marjah, war was purpose, and it was a purpose I accepted gleefully in my naivety.
The other day I had to take Eris to the vet. She loves going places, and whenever we do she promptly loses her shit with all the people she gets to meet and play with. I can’t help but feel like I’m doing something right, something worth doing, whenever I see her having the time of her life meeting new people, or watching her soak up the sun and air that comes through the passenger window on our rides together. There’s a sweet irony in all of it, finding more purpose in my care-taking of a creature that doesn’t understand me half the time, while struggling to find the same thing next to my fellow man. Perhaps it’s because I am directly responsible for this creature; her very livelihood is dependent on me being a somewhat responsible and decent human being, but overseas I was much less vital, and there were people who could fill the gap if I couldn’t myself. So much of America is about the individual, but all that changes the second you step into hostile cotton fields. I shot at people. I got shot at. I was responsible for our Comms, and radios were important, but everything else I did was done by numerous others in my platoon. I was not special, but I sure as hell thought I was, and I thought my buddies were too. We were the kings of our little AO, demigods among the locals, fighting a ragtag group of amateurs who were no match. The greatest fighting force in the world, so many Marines said with pride. The thing is, when you watch a team leader pick skull and brain fragments out of a buddy’s Kevlar, or listen to a grown man whimper, none of that seems accurate. I could blame it on Command that couldn’t get us the ForcePro we were promised, or the Officer that decided that a BDA was a good idea after a firefight, but it doesn’t matter at this point. Purpose is limited in Hell; not protecting a people who care nothing for us, or kill a bunch of assholes who hate us because of a book written a thousand years ago, but to just get the fuck out alive, your buddies, too -- if possible. That isn’t grand, or special, or romantic in any certain way, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I didn’t need any recognition, it’s too much work, and while I hope I could’ve done what was necessary had the need arose, I’m not going to bitch because it didn’t.
I’m not a religious man, and despite a few individuals’ honest attempts and that no atheist in a foxhole mumbo jumbo my close friend’s mom told me, war didn’t change that. There was no purpose for it. I don’t feel that an almighty power put me in harm’s way (the number on the tail of the Delta aircraft taking us out of Cherry Point was 666, So I’m pretty sure I’m right on this one), and it sure didn’t give me a purpose over there, because honestly, Deus Vult is some primitive shit. So, a lack of deity based purpose, and a military based purpose that often felt like it was nothing more than a father teaching his child to swim by throwing him in the water with a hearty Good Luck! Is that any better than no purpose at all? I don’t have a clue, but I do know that Eris shows appreciation for taking her outside in the morning, and it keeps her from shitting in the house, so it’s a win-win for both parties involved. To be honest, if all my life is now is taking care of her and making sure I budget enough for an adequate amount of whiskey each month, then so be it. It may not have purpose, but considering all the dumb shit I’ve had to do in the Marine Corps, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable.
Join the Discussion