Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Readings

Little League, Circa 1965

Afghanistan, Rockpile

Roy, Iraq 2007

Outpost Restrepo

Musing on Afghanistan on the last weekend in August has led me to post a few thoughts that flow from divergent directions. First is this post courtesy of The U.S. Naval Institute Blog is penned Marine officer and graduate of the Naval Academy Alexander Martin, whom I can identify with as a fellow bench warmer in the great game of little league baseball. What does baseball and Afghanistan have in common? Well you have to read the whole thing to get the point about Afghanistan, but the journey back into the author's foray with little league will spark recognition for many.

Alexander begins:
I remember other things from my baseball years. Allergy attacks. Big League Chew. Uncomfortable carpools in wood-paneled station wagons. Chewing barbeque sunflower seeds, swallowing that sweet-salty pulp and nearly suffocating to death in right field. Pretty girls I didn’t know I wanted yet (but one day would) not-watching from the bleachers in short jean shorts. Chasing butterflies in the on-deck circle. Sitting on the bench not flirting with the pretty girls in short jean shorts. Leaving each game as clean as I arrived; and, most encompassing of all, being legendarily bad at the game of baseball and not being all too interested in getting any better.
So Why Play?
I played baseball because, like most all good red-blooded American kids, I innately understood that I had to. Somewhere deep down in that chunky little body of mine, there was a chunky little heart[2] that knew there was something that moved me about the game[3]. I think I was called to action by the legacy of what it all meant, by the sights and sounds of the game’s elegant arena, and other mystifying nuances of baseball magic that is the command of this great American pastime over a young man’s soul. And who among us can deny the intoxication of a cold fountain soda and an authentic ballpark super dog covered in mustard and ketchup on a hot summer day? No, I didn’t play baseball because I wanted to…I played baseball because I had to…
I will give you the money line. It is up to you to read of the relationship of baseball and war. Perhaps, George Will, nationally known commentator and great baseball affectionado, will rethink his view on Afghanistan after reading this post.

If there’s one thing my experiences as La Jolla’s worst youth ballplayer (arguably of all time) taught me it’s that a lack of dedication and focus can really only get you to first base (and then only sometimes, and rarely gets you noticed by the pretty girls in the stands), and that it’s the commitment that counts.
In the case of war in Afghanistan there is no virtue in pursuing policy that amounts to the blind-luck-swingings of my youth. Here the most essential of little league baseball’s life lessons persists: that we don’t do this because we want to, we do this because we have to…
Read more:
Afghanistan: America's Baseball

This next post comes from the guys at Small Wars Journal who rightfully marque the title. Sunday Morning Must Read. I would say that it deserves your full attention to follow the link and read about Roy
I met Roy in early 2007. I was the leader of a reconnaissance platoon of scouts and snipers in Iraq and was just back from a two-week leave in the United States. Roy was our new interpreter.
That night, my platoon was sent out on a raid. Our target was an al-Qaeda suicide-attack coordinator. Scanning the intelligence report, I learned that previous attempts to capture him had ended with his bodyguards detonating suicide vests and killing 16 Iraqi police officers. An image of my lead scout team entering a house in southern Baghdad and vanishing in a ball of fire flashed through my mind.
Roy's head came up to my chest, and baby fat rounded out his face. He had cheeks so smooth that I could tell he had never shaved. I thought about asking him his age, but I didn't want to offend him during our first meeting. So I asked him why he had become an interpreter. I'll never forget his answer.
"One day the Qaeda came to my school. They say, 'You are not students anymore! Put away your books! Now we show you the path of jihad!' My two best friends say to them, 'We are students trying to learn. We don't want to do the jihad.' "
"And then?"
Roy gave me a wan smile. "Then, they gather the school in one place, they kneel them down, and they cut their heads with the knife."
Steel your heart as you read on:
As U.S. troops leave Iraq, an officer honors the memory of a young interpreter

A program note that the movie Restrepo is still making it's way around the nation. This is a movie that almost everyone who see's it will agree should be seen by all Americans.

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