Over the course of my three years in the military, I’ve met men and women with stories that have shocked, humbled and enlightened me.
In a world where less than 1 percent of the American population serve in the military, people like Lone Survivor’s Marcus Luttrell and American Sniper’s late Chris Kyle are one step away from being fictional to most. It’s hard to imagine that stories of such heroism exist, but they do.
I remember reading books in high school like The Iliad and other classic stories about warriors that defied human limitations and the frailty of mortality. I always found myself wondering why we only read about warriors dead and gone when there were two wars raging and plenty of current stories about the same heroism. After blindly joining the military based on youthful romantic notions, I came to realize exactly who some of these heroes were. I’ve had men fresh off deployments yell at me and tell me I’m worthless, I’ve shared beers with men that have told me stories no fiction author could ever concoct and after all this time, I’m still just as confused as that high school kid reading The Iliad.
With the recent release of Lone Survivor and the upcoming film adaptation of American Sniper, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about my own memoirish take on my military experience. I do not do it because my military experience or personal struggles have been anything special or inspiring, but because of my original motivations for putting pen to paper.
I hate writing memoirs or personal accounts (even writing this now makes me yearn for a hard drink), but I forced myself last year to write a few stories about my military experience because I wanted in some small way to normalize the telling of military stories.
Over the course of my running around the states, I’ve met people that I would define as nothing less than heroes, and I’ve met others that have dealt with personal odds most people could only dream of handling. However, as a writer, these stories have inspired me and confused me. How is it more military stories are not being told and how is it that more military veterans are not being encouraged to share their amazing and eye opening stories.
I can tell you right now with certainty that for every Marcus Luttrell, there are one hundred others and for every Chris Kyle, there are one hundred more. I don’t say this to detract from these men or their accomplishments. I say it to elevate them; to say that they are not alone and belong to an elite class of human beings that should all be sharing their stories and celebrated around fireplaces in the same way that warriors of history once were.
I decided to write Basically because I wanted to show my brothers in arms how simple and easy it was. I collected a series of stories from my Basic Training experience and compiled them into a short and humorous collection of events in a young man’s life. These stories are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what brave men like Kyle and Luttrell go through, but I felt obligated to tell a piece of my simple story to inspire friends I’ve made and drinking buddies I’ve come across to feel inspired to tell their stories or to inspire people and fiction writers to realize the endless potential contained in military stories.
In other words, if my dopey tales of Basic Training can humor anybody in any way, imagine the other stories out there that should be told. I hope films like Lone Survivor mean people will be more inclined to become interested in the stories of the defenders of this country. There are some amazing tales out there. And I hope in some small way, my little book inspires other people to share their own amazing stories with words, writing, whatever.
This country is defended day in and day out by warriors that defy expectations and human limitations and belong to an elite class of fighter. No matter what your opinion on any war is, the people that partake in the name of country are nothing short of brilliantly brave and unique and each and every one of their stories (tragic or inspiring) is worth telling.