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The Marlboro Marine

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posted on Mar, 31 2008 @ 10:07 AM
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The iconic face of the war in Iraq.
The mind behind it will never be the same.


This is a story about the person behind this photo, an image among the most published, and one of the more positive percieved ones of the Iraq war, one that radiates determination, the raw masculine gusto by "doing the job" with a message warmongers and anti war patriots alike can agree on.

Though one can say a photograph (when unmanipulated) doesn't lie, the interpretation is through the eyes of the beholder, and for this particular photo the general interpretation made up couldn't be further from reality.

War is cripling not only to the victims of it, but certainly also to those fighting it. And I can only wonder (and fear) what the true costs will be for society as a whole.

Not to insult any, neither the marines we have here on the board or the large majority of patriots who adhere the platitude "support the troops, not the war," this is a story that should make such a statement void. This is the story about

The Troubled Homecoming Of The Marlboro Marine



These days, Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller spends much of his time sitting on the floor of the run-down trailer he keeps as a residence behind his father's house in the tiny coal-mining town of Jonancy, Kentucky (population 297). This is his favorite spot in the trailer, where he reclines against an easy chair whose upholstery has turned a dingy nicotine brown. From here, Miller can anticipate any possible threat, keep an eye on all avenues of approach an enemy might take. As cigarette butts overflow in the ashtray and empty beer bottles collect around him, he silently cycles through procedures the Marine Corps drilled into his head: defend, reinforce, attack, withdraw, delay.
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Since returning home from Iraq three years ago, Miller rarely sleeps more than once every few days. When he can get some sleep, he makes sure he's got a gun under his pillow. His entire life has been thrown into a strange and purposeless blend of chaos and inertia; though he doesn't do much these days besides smoke, drink beer and ride his Harley, he seems to teeter perpetually on the brink of a meltdown. Occasionally, and without provocation, Miller becomes so overwhelmed by blind rage that he imagines shooting a stranger in the kneecaps or beating a fellow bar patron to a bloody pulp. "I can be drinking a beer and get pissed off and think, 'I'm gonna break this bottle and cut that guy's throat over there,'" he says.
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Miller's nightmares, insomnia, heightened alertness, self-imposed isolation and persistent recollections of his seven months in Iraq are all classic symptoms of PTSD, an anxiety disorder that results from exposure to an event so psychically frightening that the aftershocks continue for months or even years. Studies estimate that as many as 500,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from some form of psychological injury, with PTSD being the most common.


After 5 years ½ million PTSD cases. Add another war --god forbid!-- and multiply it all up to a hundred years and half the US population will be suffering PTSD or worse. How can any society function with that?

Already now they poses a security risk to daily life (and brutalize it) just like the Vietnam vets did and still does, because these diagnoses are for life when not treated, which the VA and the common macho around soldiers takes care they are not.




Like many disabled vets, Miller feels betrayed by the military, neglected by the VA and misunderstood by pretty much everyone else. "People hear 'PTSD' and they think that means you're crazy," he says. "My aunt tells her kids, 'Don't go around Blake. He might flip out and shoot you.'"
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Wherever he finds himself, though, Miller counts his time in days. "I don't worry about tomorrow unless I wake up," he tells me one night in his trailer. "I have no goals, long-term or short-term. I don't worry about paying the bills. I don't worry if I'm gonna have money to eat tomorrow. I don't worry about #in' nothin'. As long as I keep telling myself I wasn't there — if I can believe that for thirty minutes out of the day just by telling myself over and over and over, 'I wasn't there. It didn't happen' — that thirty minutes is worth it."
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Once he decided to enlist, no one could talk him out of it. He was only seventeen, sitting in his doctor's office for his annual athletics physical on September 11, 2001, when he heard that terrorists had crashed a pair of airplanes into the World Trade Center. The next day he insisted his father sign him up — or else he would quit high school.
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"It was the only way I knew to travel and see the world. I just happened to pick a weird time to go. I got to travel, and it was a life-altering experience, that's for sure."

The town of Jonancy, nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, is the kind of place that inspires thoughts of escape. Unemployment in the area is thirty-five percent higher than the national average, the median household income is less than $24,000 and only ten percent of county residents earn college diplomas.


Here is the story of the picture itself, how it came about, told by the photographer who took it.



The fighting began in the dark of night and continued over the next twenty-four brutal hours, during which Miller's squad endured nonstop bombardment by rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire. Sinco, the photojournalist embedded with Miller's company, was shocked by the ferocity of the battle. "I was scared sh#less," he recalls. "We came under heavy fire, and I remember running across the street with bullets flying everywhere. We encountered three insurgents who were horribly, horribly dead. One had half his head blown off, and another guy was half-alive, speaking in Arabic. You could tell he was saying 'Help me, help me, help me.' The brutality was so extreme and so relentless."

The unit sought shelter in a house and made the roof its command post. "I was standing near Miller, and an RPG came flying right at us," Sinco says. Miller radioed for tanks to bring support fire. Soon a massive explosion shook the structure so hard it seemed it would collapse. Sinco saw a building nearby, smoldering. "I thought it was over. I slumped down against a wall with my camera, and for some reason Miller slumped down across from me and lit a cigarette. He told me later that he thought he'd never see another sunrise." Sinco snapped the photo of Miller that was soon reproduced all over the world.
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It wasn't until Miller returned home to Jonancy in February 2005 that he realized how big a deal Sinco's photo had become — and how much pressure there would be for him to live up to its symbolism. "I get home, and there's news vans and motherf#kers all over here," he recalls, the anger putting gravel in his voice. "There were people offering me all kinds of deals, like, 'Hey, this guy wants to make pillowcases and T-shirts with your picture on it,' and 'This guy wants to make a rifle after you.' " The Marine Corps attempted to license the photo and asked Miller to become a recruiter — an offer he declined.


On preparations for his second deployment following happened.



Miller was in the galley of the USS Iwo Jima when a petty officer made a whistling noise that sounded exactly like a rocket-propelled grenade. Something in Miller snapped, and he blacked out. When he came to a few hours later, he was lying in the ship's clinic, surrounded by a doctor and a shrink. Though Miller has no recollection of the incident, he was told that he slammed the petty officer from one wall to the other, threw him down and started beating him.

"I flipped out because I done this and I don't remember," Miller says. "I was like, 'What the hell is wrong with me?' It's been like that ever since."
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Dr. Laurie Harkness, who worked with Miller at a VA-affiliated center in Connecticut, says that most PTSD cases are treatable with intensive counseling and the right combination of meds. But there is a heavy institutional stigma about mental-health issues in the armed forces, and since the military doesn't conduct mandatory post-deployment psych evaluations in person, vets like Miller are left to make their own health-care decisions.
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With the number of suicides among returning veterans climbing, it's hard not to worry about Miller. Though he believes that taking one's own life is morally wrong, his thoughts often take a dark turn. One night, sitting in his trailer, he says something that makes me fear he will end up another war casualty, dead and buried long after leaving Iraq. "I have a blatant disregard for life," he says. "Every day that I wake up, it's like, 'Why do you keep giving me more?' The Bible says the big man don't put no more on you than what you can stand. . . ."


I remember about 1½ year ago we had a long discussion here on the board about the educational background of US soldiers (if anybody remember and can link it, please do), and if I remember correct, a fairly high number (majority?) are in fact academics.

Still I have a feeling and strong suspicion that those poor fellas who takes the heat --and pays the price-- are rednecks, white trash, if you will, like Blake, who just doesn't have anyother ways "to see the world." They are expendable, university student are not to the same degree.

But to me --a draft resister who've never touched a gun-- it is hard to see how one can support the troops without supporting the war. Further more, it is support of a moral decline of the society.

Read the whole thing, this is merely a summary, it's a 6-page article, so the whole social side in the description of Blake I've had to leave out. I don't believe a guy like him to be the norm, but I do think it tells about the social side of those who do the fighting. I would have to see statistics of the social status of combat casualties compared to the army in general to prove such a point.

But they are probably secret.




posted on Mar, 31 2008 @ 12:51 PM
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My son had a round of it,(PTSD) but he's all right now, took a little counseling.

BTW, my son was in the same place as Blake at the same time I believe, Fallujah.

Roper

[edit on 31-3-2008 by Roper]

[edit on 31-3-2008 by Roper]



posted on Mar, 31 2008 @ 01:00 PM
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Originally posted by Roper
My son had a round of it,(PTSD) but he's all right now, took a little counseling.

BTW, my son was in the same place as Blake at the same time I believe, Fallujah.

Roper

[edit on 31-3-2008 by Roper]

[edit on 31-3-2008 by Roper]


My condolences Roper. Fallujah sounds like a nightmare according to the winter soldier testimony coming out.



posted on Mar, 31 2008 @ 05:35 PM
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Thanks stikkinikki but he thinks the price is worth it.

You know he is not showing any signs of trauma now. Some that come back are still swerving to avoid anything laying of the side of a road even in their home towns. My kid said " over there is over there, here is here." He had the side of the road go up on him several times. He say that he saw or someone in his unit saw every IED, then he laughs and said even the ones that blew up on them.

Roper



posted on Apr, 7 2008 @ 12:21 PM
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I happen to live, oh, maybe 10-15 minutes from Mr. Miller, and I am a former Marine as well. I thought I would add this to the mix.


This young man, as well as myself...hails from a town of NOTHING, full of uneducated , hypocritic, christian extremists, who have a stranglehold on any and all forms of control that you could imagine. It is effectively a world contained within itself. You should visit...spend a few days here, maybe you would understand a bit better.


I will say this...he is a good soul. He is a plagued mind...part because of his experience in the MC....part because of the fact that he, like myself, grabbed himself by the arse at a young age, and decided "I'm either going to be stuck in this Mayberry-esque town for the rest of my days, or I am going to accomplish something..." See, around here, u have, the coal mines, or you go off to college (as if our education system actually teaches anything worthwhile or applicable.), or you are born with a silver spoon, or you scrape, paycheck to paycheck, just to get by..and hope the addicts don't steal everything of value from you while you are at work.

You know, there are different kinds of ghettos. There are ghettos full of gold rims/chains/crack/minorities....etc... and there are ghettos full of mustangs on cinder blocks/faded american flags/perscription addiction/white people who lack the same hope unfound in any forgotten part of this country, and it seems to me there are more of those areas every day.

Now, mind you, I'm just a 27 yr old man in Ky, grad H.S., went straight to the USMC, I have a few years of college, a lot of IT certifications, etc...I am no scientist, but I have educated myself my whole life, to break out of the mold I was born in.

This area has turned me against religion in general, against stereotyping everyone, and at the same time, against the big city life....against the corporate shams.

This young man in the picture....has simply been overloaded with truth, realization, emotions, anger, heck, you name it....he is just overloaded.

Not a lot of people will understand that...and I'm sure there are folks lined up to call me "redneck/hillbilly" etc, but I understand where that manifests from, and had to say something in defense of this HUMAN, who's life has been turned into a circus...in the midst of the most trying self-learning exercise he has experienced so far in his life..
I know how that feels, sorta...just not to the extent of what he has saw.

Semper Fi, Blake, a country boy will survive.



Oh, and one more thing, since it came from a mod..... I bet my ol' doublewide that you wouldn't call Mr. Miller, nor myself, "white trash" to either of our faces.



[edit on 7-4-2008 by siFtInG]



posted on Apr, 7 2008 @ 05:47 PM
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siFTInG, you and Blake Miller are far, far above the title of white trash.

Thank you for your service.

Roper

ps My son and his Army brat girl friend just bought a double wide.




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