A note on recent posts

Somewhere, I saw a recommendation for a book called Never Eat Alone. I haven’t read the book, and perhaps this is unfair, but I felt like I got the gist of it from the title. The book is about relationships, and I think I take the point that it is best to take advantage of opportunities to build and foster human relationships. Meal time is one of those opportunities.

I’m sure it’s a good book. It’s doing well on Amazon.

I just don’t think I needed to read it. Just hearing the title and the book’s purpose imparted the advice. Reading the book and dedicating the time to that endeavor might solidify that advice, but I just wasn’t that interested.

I’ve been taking that approach to some of the posts on this blog. I’ve had things I’ve wanted to write about for years that have been sitting on a list. These ideas sit there until I’m able to will myself to do the work and bang out a 1,000 word missive on it that makes sense.

Instead of having these ideas waste away on a  list, I’ve decided to get them out there as ideas, half-baked and raw. Often that’s all there is to it, anyway. It’s a technique I’ve seen done well at The Best Defense by Tom Ricks.

It’s a departure from what I normally do, so I thought it would be helpful for those who come here expecting longer pieces all the time. I’ll still write longer pieces, but only ones that I really want to.

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Thank you!

The end of the year is a good time to stop and reflect on things, and I want to express my thanks to you who continue to read, share, and comment on this blog. It’s a very small (but dedicated) community of folks who try to think and write critically about the military, the Middle East, and whatever else finds its way here, and it isn’t always very good. It’s much easier (and shareable) to post listicles and hooah pictures of military gear for clicks and ‘likes’ than to unpack whether it is right or wrong for members of the military to openly display “infidel” gear, or if maybe the civil-military divide isn’t really that big of a deal, or to challenge the popular notion that America’s youth are not shouldering their share of the military burden.

So, to those who have been following the blog since its beginning or just recently started reading, thank you very much for being a part of a thoughtful community.

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Three Years of Carrying the Gun

Today marks the third anniversary of this blog. Here are the stats:

Most popular posts:
1. Last night’s Budweiser ad “A Hero’s Welcome” was exploitative and offensive
2. Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop.
3. How to Lead Infantrywomen in Combat

Top Search Terms:
1. troll
2. major league infidel
3. infidel patch

This past year the blog has seen exponential growth in terms of readership. I wrapped up the Iraq: Ten Years Later thing and have been slowing down with my writing since then, although I’ve been able to focus on longer, more thoughtful pieces.

I suspect that the rest of the year will be pretty quiet for the blog. I’ll write when I have time and it won’t interfere with my present duties.

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So, now what?

Lest there be any confusion, I’m not shutting down the blog. Last week I wrapped up ‘Iraq: Ten Years Ago‘ and I heard from a few people that they were sad that I was stopping the blog. That’s not the case, I’m just not recounting that experience anymore.

For the past year, that was the meat of the blog. The readership grew exponentially as a result and it gave people a reason to come back to the blog every couple of days or so.

To be honest, the Iraq posts really didn’t garner a lot of heavy traffic. My longer, reflective and analytic posts are the ones that make the most waves, and they are actually a lot more satisfying to write. With Iraq over (nothing is over!), I can focus more on those pieces. Going forward, I think I’ll average one or two posts a week. But they’ll be good.

Work has me pretty busy for the next few months, and likely the next year, but I will do my best to keep new stuff coming. I’ve been socking away article ideas for the past year that I just haven’t been able to get to.

Now, I will finally be able to get to that crazy article on how Cloud from Final Fantasy VII suffered from PTSD and committed Stolen Valor.

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Well, how was it?

Shock and Awe

I wrote a short piece for the Guardian as part of a “key bloggers look back on Iraq” idea. The prompt was “How did the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq affect you?” How has it changed your life?” I had 200-300 words to do it.

The question reminds me of people asking me “How was it?” upon hearing I had deployed, often in the most casual setting. Instantly, I have to come up with an elevator pitch summing up the totality of my experience. I don’t mind it, actually. I’d be curious to know, too. But what a strange question!

With only 200-300 words, I decided to try writing something a little more poetic for impact. I like that they anglicized it for a UK audience (color becomes colour, center becomes centre, etc.).

Iraq 10 years on – the key bloggers look back on the war

Ten years ago I invaded and occupied Iraq.

Whether I like it or not, it defines who I am. I cannot escape it.

It is the thrill of being on a road heading north as part of the grim machine, looking out at an endless convention of military hardware. Tanks, artillery, helicopters, trucks, gathered together under darkness for the end of the world.

It is the playing and replaying of scenes in my head forever. Things I could have done better and things I cannot believe I did. Glory and shame tangled together, unsolvable for eternity.

It is a row of bright ribbons I wear on my chest. Colours and stars, neatly arranged to tell a sterilized version of an awful story.

It is a heap of benefits for being there. Available and accessible with the right combination of patience, perseverance and connections.

It is the dark looks in the classroom from fellow students who were in grade school when I was in Baghdad. It is today’s lesson in hubris and failure to be dissected and discussed in an hour before grabbing lunch.

It is being called the hero and the villain simultaneously, and wondering.

It is the handshake at a party and a too-sincere ‘thank you’ from a patriotic citizen before moving on to more pressing concerns.

It is the forever-wondering of what could have been and what will be. For me, for my peers, and for Iraq.

It was the centre of the world, my world, until it was no longer interesting.

Above all, it is the terrible knowledge that Iraq is inescapable. Terrible, not because it is inescapable. Terrible because I like that I cannot get away.

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One year of Carrying the Gun

Today is the one year anniversary of the blog. A year ago today, in a stuffy central London dorm room I started this blog with the intent of using it as a clearing house for stuff that I found interesting, but had no place in my graduate thesis.

It didn’t take long for me to gravitate towards military topics, especially when I learned I would be heading back to the Army via OCS.

Writing here has been a good experience for me, and is serving as a kind of methadone for the more intense writing I was doing in graduate school and on veterans issues. Once I started OCS, I didn’t really have the opportunity to write much. I managed to pick up my writing during IBOLC, which allows weekends and nights off (when not in the field). I expect the next year will be exciting, because I’ll soon be out of TRADOC and back in the force. I’ve made a pledge with myself that I’ll mostly sit and observe while in TRADOC. I’ve been out of the Army for five years so lots of things have changed. But once I’m out of here, I’ll push a little harder in my writing – both here and in other places.

I’ve run into some of the people who follow this blog – many who are young infantry lieutenants as well. And I know that some of the things I’ve written have sparked tough discussions on important topics, which is a good thing.

According to the site stats function that WordPress.com provides, my three most popular posts are: The 3 things you can’t talk about with military folk, Enough with the ‘infidel’ stuff. Seriously, stop, and Life in the Army – the ‘I Love Me’ book.

Most popular search terms that bring readers to the site: “i love me,” “fall of saigon,” and “shock and awe.”

The post that I wanted to be more popular than it was: “Black Swan, The Hurt Locker, and the strange intersection of ballerinas and soldiers.”

With nothing to compare this year to, I declare the first year a brilliant success!

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