A slacker goes to war and returns no more fit for the workaday world than before, but with tales to tell.
The recruiter didn’t have to sell him hard: Buzzell, a young punk skateboarder, clearly bright but clearly unmotivated, was still living with his parents and doing data-entry temp work at the age of 26. The promise of a signing bonus and whatever job he wanted was enough for Buzzell, who wasn’t alone in seeing the military as an escape from the doldrums; as he writes, “I was sick of living my life in oblivion where every fucking day was the same fucking thing as the day before, and the same fucking routine day in and day out.” There’s no end of routine in the Army, of course, but Buzzell’s days were made interesting when he was put to work fighting the Iraqi insurgency. Buzzell is fond of quoting Full Metal Jacket, evidently the coin of the realm among his fellow soldiers, and if his narrative doesn’t come close to matching the work of Michael Herr and Gustav Hasford, on which that movie was based, he does a good job of capturing the daily absurdities and occasional terrors of life on the front, where even a trip to the mess hall is likely to result in a wound. Some of the sharpest writing comes from the author’s blog, which earned him celebrity beyond Iraq (and the chance to write this book) and got him in plenty of trouble with the brass. Without blog and book, his options would have been narrow: Toting a machine gun for a year didn’t prepare him for much in the postwar world, and as for “having a boss yell at me for showing up to work five minutes late or tell me that I’m not smiling enough at the customers”—well, impossible.
If military recruitment is down now, wait till the kids read this book.