“Wow, I remember when all these trees were a pirking lot” The future can. be taller. Quieter. And filled with green places. Invest in tomorrow today. Domini ` 2_9 SOCIAL INVESTMENTS’ Investing For Good 1-800-530-5321 WWW.domini.com You should consider the Domini Funds’ investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. Please obtain a copy of the Funds’ current prospectus for more complete information on these and other topics by calling 1-800-530-5321 or online at www.domini.com . Please read it carefully before investing or sending money. DSIL Investment Services [LC, Distributor. 04/05 before becoming the kind of man who would risk his own life to protect those of his charges. The upstate New York bar where he and his buddies knocked back peppermint schnapps, the biological mother who wanted less and less to do with her boy over time, the loyal father, how he threw up after trying Copenhagen for the first time, the night he stained his hair blue with food coloring for a big football game, his girlfriend Melissa and, when he tired of Melissa, his girlfriend Saraall of these details, conveyed without a hint of nostalgia, highlight the tenderness of Jason’s youth, a time when he never left home without saying “I love you.” These details are hard to forget when, later, we find him with his eyes swollen shut and “the skin on his forehead folded crudely back, blood oozing into the dirt. From there, Phillips draws on his intensive experience with Marines in Iraq to situate Dunham in the odd crux of Marine culture, a place where he thrived as a natural leader. Dunham’s fellow Marines saw him as “the poster child for the crops.” Whereas many squad leaders hazed and tormented the grunts to keep their attention, Dunham didn’t tolerate “fuck-fuck games,” as they were called, allowing his charisma to earn the loyalty of his nine men. On one occasion, after witnessing a senior Marine play a “fuck-fuck game” on an especially fragile grunt \(telling him to pick something up, put it down, pick it up, put it down, over and over “to knock that shit off.” The man, much to everyone’s surprise, stopped. Many superiors thought Jason was “just too nice of a guy” to be a superior Marine. His squad, however, idolized him for what Phillips calls his “humane leadership.” The emotional core of this superbly balanced book comes at the end, as Phillips takes us on the excruciating journey of possible recovery following Jason’s injury. Triage dictated that men more likely to live were attended to first by the overburdened medical staff. Jason, still in the Iraq countryside, was given last rites. The medical practitioners on hand were “deeply uneasy” about Jason. They were “neither trauma surgeons nor critical care nurses, but it chafed that they were supposed to sit idle and wait for a badly injured young Marine to expire.” When Jason surprised a nurse by squeezing her hand in response to questions, she begged a senior doctor to reconsider leaving him in Al Asad. The doctor re-examined Jason and agreed that he should go to Baghdad, where two neurosurgeons who had “already opened 110 craniums during the first five months they were there” could operate to relieve the pressure building in Jason’s brain. After removing a chunk of his skull, the doctors sent him to Germany where, despite moments of hope, his condition deteriorated. Once it was determined that his chances were slim to none of ever leading anything but a vegetative life, Corporal Jason Dunham was flown to the United States in order for his parents and siblings to say goodbye to their son and brother. It would be impossible to convey the pain that ensues, and I won’t try it here. I will say this: In a book that does not once comment upon the rightness or wrongness of the war, it goes further than the dozens of other books currently out there making reasoned arguments for the folly of America’s occupation of Iraq. What Phillips does is something more valuable, more emotionally poignant, more real. It reminds us of an obvious point, one that’s inevitably lost watching CNN or reading the papers: The cogs in the military machine are not cogsthey’re kids. Corporal Jason Dunham was just one kid among tens of thousands stuck in Iraq fighting a violent war for dubious reasons. Just one kid, just one life, just one act of heroism. Somehow, though, Phillips makes us realize that, in a way, it represents so much more. James E. McWilliams lives in Austin. JULY 22, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31
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