Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coping Cliques

Coping Cliques

We each find our way of coping with the distance. Being a Corpsman of Marines, it's turned me into a watcher of people and being tapped as the unit photographer, that gives me an unbiased license to see everything.
Humans are social beings, the interaction between people give me hours of enjoyment just observing. Lately my focus has been on the unconscious cliques people form to deal with the stress of deployment.

If you're watching us from the outside, the first people to catch your eyes are the PT Studs in all of their muscled glory. In some past life before they became Marines, they were probably jocks or someone who had dreamed of being a jock. Now they're deployed and are unencumbered by the social niceties of family and network television and have free reign to shape their bodies into an Arnold-like state of physical perfection. Back home, it’s rare to be able to fit a daily three-hour workout into your schedule. But here? Once work is completed, a distraction-free day provides optimal work-out conditions.

Another group is the Halo/Call of Duty/Unreal Tournament Super Virtual Soldiers, they're sort of an upstart group, only appearing in the last decade or so. These guys spend a good percentage of their deployed lives training their brains into becoming one with their warrior avatar till they find that cyber nirvana of being where they are able to last waste to that online countryside that the game produces and bask joyfully in the sound of curses and moans of the Marines whom they have fragged. In decades past, their ancestors were probably D&D players. The hardest task these guys have when returning to the states is remembering that they have responsibilities outside of the game.

No matter where you go or how primitive the environment is, you'll find a group of people who live to play cards. They spend hours each night practicing telepathy on each other, not that it works but watching from the outside, you expect to hear a eureka moment that never happens. They lie in wait with an empty chair at the table waiting for fresh meat to have a seat and when they lose to the outsider, their moans can be heard for weeks. The banter of card players has become the familiar drone that has laid the backdrop for every conflict for centuries and don't think it's going to stop anytime soon.

Myself? I follow more of the nerdy studious crowd. I walk around with a paperback in my cargo pocket and when I'm not reading, I spend a fair amount of time online catching up with email and talking to people around the world.

There are as many categories as there are people, I just named a few that stick out. The folks who end up having the problems out here are the ones who haven't developed a good method of spending their free time.
They spend hours dwelling about being in the middle of the war or feeling lonely, many of a clock ticking in their heads counting off the seconds to that date far off in the future when they get to go home.

These are the people I watch the closest and when I have to, intervene.
I've learned over the years, the more time you hold in your head, the less space you have to use for other things. The old adage of taking things "one day at a time" actually works.

I'm lucky in most respects, to sort of quote one of my SSgt's, "There's too many Frikkin happy people around here!" It's true. This trip I've deployed with a cheery bunch, every morning, I'm forced though a gauntlet of smiling Marines saying "Hi Doc!", "What's up Doc?", "Good morning Doc!" with high fives. You think I'm kidding? Nope. At least they like me and it makes it hard to be down for too long. Most days, it’s difficult to imagine these guys as lean mean fighting machines but I've seen them slip on their battle skins and then it's hard to believe that they were ever soft.

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