“…the smell of a battlefield’ yeah it smells like shit. Like blood, like guts…” An Intimate Interview With A U.S. Marine

“God With us”

 

Photographer Frankie Mills is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this interview.  From her portrait series ‘Enrique‘.  To see Frankie’s body of work click on any photograph.

 

I met Enrique in Mexico City. He’d often cycle pass me wearing cargo pants with his two Alsatians pulling on chain leads. The more I saw him the more I wanted to know about him. The following is a discussion about his personal experience of living in Mexico and of day-by-day life in the U.S marines, which took place during a tour of his home.

 

 

What do you like about living in Mexico?

 

“I like living here because of the freedom, the real freedom. Here in Mexico we got a saying, it’s Viva Mexico, Cabroanes. We do what we want. And it’s true. Here you got celebrations, people shooting in the air, its a land of do what you want. That’s what I like about this country. The only other place I’d go would be Iceland. Because it’s so orderly, so beautiful, you can have a gun, you can do what you want. The climate is nothing, but I like the place, the people, warm people, order, good economy, guns. Most of them over there are right minded, not leftists. I like that. I’m a patriot, right wing, militant.”

 

 

How come you joined the marines in the first place?

 

“Because they have a good, good way of talking you into it. They come up to you in high school, dressed in those fabulous uniforms. They got the swords, and they go ‘Woh, you gotta join us cause we are the field of the proud’, and they are. They got the best tanks, the best planes, the best helicopters – you name it.”

 

 

How old were you?

 

“17.”

 

 

What else did you like at the time?

 

“Guns. Girls. Booze.”

 

 

Did you have any hobbies?

 

“Yeah plants. I like plants.”

 

 

Where you interested in the marines before?

 

“Before? No. I didn’t even know they existed. I knew the United States had an army and stuff, but I didn’t know the difference between marines, army and air force.”

 

 

How did you feel being in a foreign country? Did you feel like you had a right to be there?

 

“Yeah I was so badass. I was backed up by the greatest army.  I felt like I had a right to be there.”

 

 

Did you feel like you could do whatever you wanted?

 

“I was just taking orders. It’s not my fault. I did what I had to do.”

 

 

Did you ever have any sense of individual incentive during deployment?

 

“No, no, no you cannot. When you’re in Boot camp you get your individuality taken away. As a sergeant once told me he said, “you know what guys? I don’t like Rambo. Rambo’s not real. But if he were real, I’d beat him up, and shoot him in the head. Why? Cause Rambo puts all of us in danger. We don’t like Rambo, were a machine, a finely tuned machine. You count as the guy in front, and the guy behind, you are the eyes of the guy to the right, and to the left. All you guys, you’re a group, you’re a machine, your not an individual, your a machine, you’re a part of something bigger. That’s why we wear the vest, cause were not individuals, were a fighting force.

There was a rule; you must not see the enemy in the eyes. You look at them in the forehead. If you look a guy in the eyes, you shoot him in the eyes. I mean, can you shoot somebody with them watching? Somebody whose gonna be like, ‘Hey don’t do that’ I mean, your not a sadist, your just taking orders, your just doing your job. Your job is to kill people? Well tough. That’s your job. You’re not proud of killing anybody. You’re just ‘saving the world’. Ha. That’s what they told you. Save the world. And you do it. But yeah… You shoot people. Wars happen.

Most people think wars are like Hollywood, that you get in, and you get really close and you shoot them. No. 99% of the time you don’t even see the enemy. You know they’re there because they’re shooting at you. You hear the bullets passing, but you don’t see them really. You shoot that way, you get covering fire, they shoot you, then you call for an air strike, they blow up, next town, that’s all. You just go for it. Don’t look at them in the eyes. Don’t think about it. Do what your trained to do. All there is too it. And when you go off in your first deployment, you think its not happening, you think Uhhh.. I didn’t sign up for this, and then after a while 4 years later, I was like hey, I want 4 more.”

 

 

You’re proud that you were in the marines?

 

“Always will be. But I had to leave, cause it wasn’t what I thought. You get an honorable discharge, and you get out, and you look back on what it did to you. The good and the bad. It’s a life experience. You meet such wonderful people. You meet real assholes too though. Can you imagine what it is to be deployed? Hollywood says one thing, in reality, no. Imagine being in an office, there’s people you hate, and people you like. You have 8 hours a day in an office. You don’t like the guy next to you? Fine. You have to stand him for 8 hours.  Now imagine, you got the same asshole beside you, for 2 months straight, all the time. 247. Ha. Talking about the same shit he talks about everyday. And you don’t have good food, you don’t have all the water you want, you don’t feel comfortable, you’re smelly, and its’ not like the movies. It’s a tough job. Somebody has to do it. Some of us crack under pressure. Some of us don’t. You got cowards. You got people who, when the shit starts happening, when the bullets start flying, they pee in their pants. They do. Others, they look forward to it. They go to where the fighting is.”

 

 

You’re most memorable experience?

 

I found this little dog. It was a little puppy. It was, I don’t know, 4 weeks old. He was covered in flies and he had a little open wound on his right hind leg. We cleaned it up, patched it up, and I was carrying him around all the time. It was against regulations, but I carried my little dog around. He grew up, his name was Bimbo, because there was this guy who has lots of posters of naked girls, and with one of them he would say ‘this is my special bimbo’ and she had a husky dog. This dog looked like a husky, so he became Bimbo, little Bimbo. When you thought of Bimbo you thought of good girl, and your fighting, and you see the little dog and girl and everything would totally keep you going. That was one of the most memorable experiences I had because Bimbo got saved. He didn’t get killed. And eventually he found his way back to the states. He grew up to be an adult dog. He was saved. I saved a dog. So that was something really, really big, because in the middle of hell, because war is hell, whatever people tell you ‘oh its so glorious, the smell of a battlefield’ yeah it smells like shit. Like blood, like guts, it doesn’t smell good. Raw sewage. And when you see a little dog moving a long the rubble, you go wow, you take it, you fix it, and in the end, you save it.

 

 

See also

Old & Wondering

 By Frankie Mills

 

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