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Witchvox Chapter: Local Poetry
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VxPoem ID: 26019
Posted: December 16th. 2006 1:36:15 AM
PART TWO SEMPER FIDO CONTINUES...
Age Group: Adult
PAGE TWO...SEMPER FIDO
"Not Worth the Ammo"
Born in Pittsburgh and a graduate of the University of Miami, I'd been a Marine since 1992, when I transferred from the Navy. Now, in my second deployment to Iraq, I was looking at a starving five-week-old outlaw. Members of the First Battalion, Third Marines -- called the Lava Dogs for the jagged pumice they'd trained on back in Hawaii -- said they'd found the pup at the compound when they stormed it about a week ago. He was still with them because they didn't know what else to do with him. Their choices were to put the little guy out on the street, execute him or ignore him as he slowly died in the corner. The excuses they gave me were as follows: "Not me, man, no way." "Not worth the ammo." "I ain't some kind of sicko, man."
Courtesy Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman
Marine and pup, 2004, "Lava was like
everyone's kid, " says Kopelman.
In other words: Warriors, yes. Puppy killers, no.
They named him Lava. The newest grunt was treated for fleas with kerosene, dewormed with chewing tobacco, and pumped full of MREs. Officially called Meals Ready to Eat but unofficially called Meals Rejected by Everyone, MREs were tri-laminate pouches containing exactly 1, 200 calories of food. Lava quickly learned how to tear open pouches that were designed to have a shelf life of three years and to withstand parachute drops of 1, 250 feet or more.
The best part was how these Marines, these elite, well-oiled machines of war who in theory could kill another human being in a hundred unique ways, became mere mortals in the presence of a tiny mammal. I was shocked to hear a weird, misty tone in my fellow soldiers' voices, a weird, misty look in their eyes, and weird, misty words that ended with ee. "You're a brave little toughee. Are you our brave little toughee? You're a brave little toughee, yesssirree."
The Marines bragged about how he attacked their boots, slept in their helmets and gnawed on all the wires from journalists' satellite phones up on the roof. "Did anyone feed Lava this morning?" someone yelled out, as "I did" came back from every guy in the room.
He was always chasing something, chewing something, spinning head-on into something. He stalked shadows, dust balls and balled-up pieces of paper. He could drag a flak jacket all the way across the floor. But you couldn't yell at him. Even though you were an elite, well-oiled machine of war, you'd be considered a freak if you yelled at a puppy. So he was completely pampered and kept warm.
By the time I came around, he already knew the two most important rules of boot camp: You don't chew on bullets and you only pee outside. Lava gave the Marines something to be responsible for above and beyond protecting their country, and getting their brains blown out -- or worse -- in the process. He gave them a routine. And somehow, I became part of it.
Every morning we fed Lava and then piled out of the house to various posts across the city. Some Marines patrolled the streets; some cleared buildings looking for weapons; some got killed. Me, I supervised three wide-eyed Iraqi soldiers who, in their new, U.S.-issued, chocolate-chip cammies, waved their rifles around as if clearing away spider webs. They were untrained, out of shape and terrified, these members of the Iraqi Armed Forces, coaxed by the United States to help root out insurgents.
At night we all gathered back at the compound, where we covered the windows with blankets and sandbags, cleaned our weapons, and made sure Lava had dinner. After that, we would bed down and review the day's events.
"We found a weapons cache ..."
"Yeah, well, we got caught in the alley ..."
"Yeah, well, we had to transport wounded and then we got hit ..."
As we talked, Lava would paw through our blankets. Then he would sit between my crossed legs and stare out at everyone.
Next Page: Scary, Uncertain Fate
Author's Notes: SATURDAY DECEMBER 16TH, 2006
Author's Location: Washington, Washington DC
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