Shock And Awe

Last week I was in Kansas on my birthday, which is a rarity, and I got to go out for a drink with my brother and sister, and some friends who I don’t see nearly often enough. My brother always has 1,001 stories, some I’ve heard multiple times, sometimes new ones surface that amuse me greatly. I’m sure I have work stories that are equally funny, but for some reason his are always funnier.

He’s in the Air Force, and has tales of being the only sober person in a car of his drunk cadet friends trying to casually get past the gate check at the USAF Academy, or Lew the civilian contractor who frequented the base where he was stationed as a communications officer in South Carolina and would pontificate for hours on the merits of Czechoslovakian beer or where he buys Hawaiian shirts of a certain thread count, or his friend Randy, who spent an evening at an English pub introducing himself to women by saying, “Hi, I’m Randy,” not realizing that in British slang, that was basically the equivalent of saying, “Hi, I’m horny!”

So when the topic of conversation Saturday night turned to scary movies that had scarred us for life, of course we heard the story of his traumatic watching of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a nine-year-old. That’s a whole blog post in itself. We all had our own variations. Neither my siblings nor I am fond of the horror movie genre, particularly gratuitous gore. That goes way back. But suspenseful scary movies aren’t so bad, if well done.

My brother was deployed to the Middle East during the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. As a navigator he flew many missions during the course of that campaign. You may recall that the opening salvo of the assault on Baghdad was labeled “shock and awe.” He said that he and his crew watched all of this unfold live from their jet as targets were hammered. After landing, they quietly walked back to their quarters, sort of stunned by what they’d seen, thinking of the hundreds or thousands of people who had likely been killed or wounded.

When they returned, they noticed the TV that they had much difficulty procuring (they stole it from some Army guys) was sitting out in the hallway. My brother and one of his crewmates walked into their room, where their third roommate, who was on the other crew who rotated sorties with them, and was therefore not on the flight, was having trouble sleeping. Not because he was in the middle of a war and thinking about servicemen, civilians and fliers who might have been killed or wounded, and would be spending the next few weeks flying combat sorties, but because he’d just watched The Ring, and was completely terrified. And put the TV out into the hallway because “that little girl freaked me out.”

There are some long-running jokes about the comparative toughness of the Marines versus the Air Force and other branches of the service. I hate to say it, but think this might be the definitive case proving that point.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

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