In all the furor over John Kerry's so-called "botched joke" (that repeated an assertion he's made his whole political career) about how those who don't study in school will get "stuck in Iraq," something was lost in the shuffle.
While conservatives rightly jumped on the chance to point out that this generally accepted liberal cliché shows how little the Left understands the American fighting force—and, indeed the contempt they not only hold for the military, but for the very idea of serving—another point was left unmade: Namely, that for a certain kind of troubled youth, the United States Armed Forces are just the thing. It was once common for a judge to direct someone to join the Marines to avoid jail, a bit of creative sentencing that would make leftists in this day and age reel in horror.
Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero, a new memoir by Marco Martinez, the first Latino to be awarded the Navy Cross since World War II, proudly reminds us of one basic fact: The Marine Corps will make a man out of you.
Martinez is himself the case in point. A gang member heading for an early grave—despite solid parents, including a father who was a retired Army Ranger—Marco turned his life around, not with the help of a gang intervention social worker, but under the guidance of that worst of all left-wing boogeymen: a Marine recruiting officer.
Hard Corps is more than another fine combat memoir whose narrator's story has a unique twist. Martinez mounts a full-throated defense of the United States Marines and its culture. He takes on the media portrayal of America's fighting forces as victims in general, and the picture painted in the book and movie Jarhead in particular, and he pulls no punches.
He also includes fair warning on the flylef of what's ahead for delicate sensibilities: "A Marine memoir without profanity is like a rifle without ammo. This book is locked and loaded."
Here's a sample to give you a good idea of what to expect—and because this passage really makes me smile.
The Marines I know don't have a lot of patience for bullshit. In fact, a healthy hatred for bullshit is hardwired into us; it's part of our training. Come to think of it, we Marines hate a lot of things: We hate whiny "boots" (new Marines), we hate antimilitary liberals, we hate those patchouli-smelling hippies who denied our Vietnam brothers the honor they were and are due (damn we hate those sons of bitches!), we hate pricks like Senator John "I married rich" Kerry who think their Ivy League diplomas somehow make them better than all us military dum-dums who didn't study hard enough and got "stuck in Iraq" (what an arrogant ass that guy is), we hate those people you always see on TV ranting against the very military that protects their First Amendment rights with guns and guts, and we hate that f---head Anthony Swofford who wrote that stupid-ass book [Jarhead] that got turned into a stupid-ass movie…
You might think that is a lot of hatred to lug around.
Maybe so, but you have to understand Marine Infantry psychology. Grunts are, at base, masochists. We love the crap that no one in his right mind would enjoy....
And Martinez not only goes into more detail about the kid of "crap" (figurative and literal) that Marines go through to prepare for combat than any other account I've read, he revels in it—probably in direct contrast to the "whiny boot" Swofford's constant complaints.
Nearly half the book is taken up with ways in which the Corps prepared Martinez for combat. It is graphic and at times nauseating. This is a book that loves the Corps, however, and its unflinching honesty makes it a good read for any youngster leaning in that direction. He will know what he's getting into.
Martinez was already enlisted on 9/11, and recounts the horror—and bloodlust—his platoon felt and their extreme disappointment when their deployment to Afghanistan was diverted. In his Imperial Grunts series about the U.S. military, Robert Kagan recounts that every Marine and Special Forces soldier he met was pulling every string he could to get to Iraq or Afghanistan. Martinez gives a more intimate view of a group of Marines itching to get into the fight; and their long wait culminating in a unit-wide celebration when word comes that they are heading for Iraq.
Martinez's account of combat is as unflinching as the rest of the book, though he is pleasingly modest about his own heroism. In short, with his unit under intense fire and comrades down, Martinez single-handedly charged a dug-in enemy position, and running low on ammo, appropriated the weapons of dead Fedayeen against them. While his feat was amazing, Martinez paints his actions as merely those of a pissed-off Marine stuck in a situation where he had no other choice.
He provides provocative details about a truck his unit captures that sounds suspiciously like the mobile bio-weapons labs that were talked about before the war. Martinez also does a much better job than DoD or the administration has done in describing the evidence of Saddam's atrocities.
Martinez and his platoon searched a building where they found horrifying photo albums of medical experiments that were performed on children. While one can make the case that the media overplayed Abu Ghraib, there is little evidence that U.S. officials made much of an effort to get these stories out.
Hard Corps is a quick and bracing read, utterly captivating, and a necessary rebuttal to the wimpy whining of liberals and the mainstream media that we have all been bombarded with the past few years.
Marco Martinez is one of "the few;" and he is definitely proud—but despite receiving the second highest award to the Medal of Honor, he is prouder of the Corps than of himself. America should be proud of him.