Double Entendres

Jason Arment

Smith lay on his back, on the top bunk of the rack he and I shared in Machine Gun’s squad bay, with both of his feet tied to the wooden support beams that ran to the ground. Smith and Ulrich had been wrestling and Smith’sboots had come unlaced.

“Tie his boots to the rack! Tie his boots to the rack!”

I was screaming, over and over, laughing hysterically. And hysterical we were, but despite the Latin root uterus, there were no women among us—just a squad of Machine Gunners who’d been awake for too long on  BattalionQuick Reaction Force in Habbaniyah, Iraq. Maybe “pack” was more apt than “squad,” since rank no longer mattered. Our

thought processes couldn’t take into account returning stateside, as if home were the end of existence.

It would be the end of Iraq, the desert, and war. Until then we’d accepted that Prockop would remain in charge. As for the rest of us, we were more or less equals in each other’s minds when it came to matters of rank—especially since, besides Prockop, Decker and Lowery were the only other Non-Commissioned Officers. Of course we were still Marines, so occasionally a senior Marine would lose his mind on a junior for making some kind of juvenile error. But basically Machine Guns held true to the Light Assault Vehicle school’s motto we’d run past everyday back in Twentynine Palms: The strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack.


Smith was weak. As a group, we had known this for some time. Larkin had been weak when he first came to the unit, but we’d hardened him with yelling and a few hundred pushups. Larkin stopped whining and hoping tough times would get better and started pushing through those times when he realized he was stuck with us, when he realized the men he would live with for the next thirteen months required him to rise above adverse conditions and succeed. At some unspoken moment, we decided we’d need to find whatever part of Smith the war hadn’t touched—whatever still let him smile his big, lopsided smile—and pound it out as if it were a pea of gold hammered atom thin over a football field.

So the hazing began.

Yuck Mouth was one of his new names because his teeth were as yellow as ears of autumn corn. Faggle also seemed to stick to him as a handle—even though it didn’t make sense, besides being a play on faggot—or Smeagle or Muck Mouth, nothing that isn’t heard on every playground in the world. But our playground was different because we were in charge of it. With Echo Company gone and our Staff NCO in and out of sickbay battling a staph infection, we were Ronin who had to band together every once in a while to leave the wire and assert the dominance of the United States Government over the indigenous people of Iraq. I liked it that way. So did everyone else.

What we didn’t like was Smith’s stupid smile reminding us how much of ourselves we’d had to compromise to get to our places of inner silence. How exactly we’d come to Smith’s boots tied to the rack seemed worth wondering about for an instant, but I knew. Pretending like it was some kind of mystery would have been like acting as if the moon going through its phases to blackness was some kind of magic. Because how we’d gotten there was as simple as physicality. We couldn’t touch Smith’s insides but everything else was ours.

“Pull his dick out, pull his dick out!” someone screamed at Ulrich.

Ulrich had tied Smith’s boots to the posts of the rack; now his arm snaked up the bed and his hand undid Smith’s belt.

“Stahp,”Smith said. Whenever he got really upset his slight speech impediment could be heard.

Ulrich didn’t stop though, and the squad hadn’t given him any reason to.

Getting to this moment had taken months.

At first the squad had just yelled at Smith. Just yelling might seem like a trivial thing in the Marine Corps, but in a combat zone you spend all of your time with your squad. The most Smith could do to escape would be to go to Hob’s gym, and even then someone he knew would be there. Soon yelling wasn’t enough, so a few of us just scrutinized him, patiently waiting for Smith to give away some kind of weakness. Rose noticed that Smith never took off his underwear unless he was in one of the five dingy stalls in our company shower trailer. Rose pounced on the newfound weakness, stripping naked and dancing over Smith in bed until he woke to Rose’s genitals smacking back and forth off of his stomach and asshole inches from Smith’s face.

“Oh you like that little Faggle,”Rose would say. “Do you like that fucking dick?

Is it bigger than yours?”

Rose’s bursts of laughter always punctuated these episodes, but Smith never found them funny, like he didn’t find it funny now that Ulrich was taking his cock out of his pants.

“Play with it!” someone screamed. “Pull it out and play with it!”

Smith’s eyes shot wide open and he sat up in his rack, feet struggling to break the laces tethered to the bed. Smith swung a wild right that Ulrich ducked easily. For a second their bodies seemed still as their four hands fumbled around Smith’s crotch.

“Yeah! Get his little dick hard!”

I turned and followed the voice back to Prockop. I wasn’t surprised. It was obvious he meant it, for two reasons. First, whatever was going on in our little community permeated all of us, and second, I’d witnessed Prockop indulge in homoerotic activity in the past.


Back when we first got to Hob, Weapons Platoon shared the building with another platoon that lived upstairs. At the time, Smith’s hazing was pretty much kept to the hours before sleep. During the day we went through drill after drill: house clearing, target shooting, machine gun training, and pistol qualifications. This was before Echo’s line (rifle) platoons pushed north to patrol Lake Thar Thar, after their success in finding the bomb maker. Echo wondered what the punishment would’ve been since the reward was permanent duty in hell, far away from the nearest amenity. In those days, time to mold Smith had been short, and most people participated out of boredom. Ulrich found a padded baton for self-defense training and we’d all taken turns hitting Smith with it for hours, especially when he was trying to relax in bed. When that stopped being effective we bought a Taser that shot sparks and electricity between its two exposed metal knobs. Smith would start awake, gasping and panting from the shocks as we raked it up and down his ribs. The days of Rose dancing naked above Smith in bed had yet to come.

One day, Prockop muttered something about, “Going upstairs to do some lines with First Platoon.” Whether he was serious or not, I couldn’t really tell. Drug use was rampant, and the Iraqis who shared the base with us had no qualms about selling dope to Marines.

I gritted my teeth as he walked out of the squad bay. At the time we were on a rolling QRF that hadn’t settled into the slower rhythms we adopted when we became permanently assigned. Prockop was QRF squad leader for the next twelve hours to change over. When Prockop had said things like this before, he’d come back hours later to toss and turn in bed, then get up and ask us for smokes between muttering, “I’m fucked up,” over and over like fucked up people do. Half an hour went by. I was getting up to make sure Prockop didn’t get completely fucked out of his head on whatever dirty drugs, when Fleming walked over to me.

“Have you seen Prockop?” Fleming asked. “He borrowed my camera before he went upstairs and I think I’ve decided I don’t want him to use it anymore.”

Fleming, although technically junior to me in rank, was twenty-seven to my twenty-one. If he’d changed his mind about letting Prockop borrow the camera, he’d probably actually thought about it and not just done it on a whim.

“You know what, I’ll go get it for you. OK?” I answered.

“It’s all right,” Fleming said. “You don’t need to get up or anything, I’ll just take care of it.”

“No really,” I said. “I’ll go. I think they might be doing naughty things up there so I’ll go grab it.”

“Uhhh. Okay?” Fleming said slowly.

I headed up the stairs and into Second Platoon’s main squad bay, which kept the first two squads while the third slept in an auxiliary storage room down the hall. Second Platoon’s racks were supposed to be arranged in a semicircle that obscured the back part of the room from sight. But the semicircle was not in military order and racks staggered haphazardly. I moved on through, noticing how many Marines were lounging in bed with earphones, while the ones who weren’t wouldn’t meet my gaze.

Surely they aren’t just blowing rails out in the open, I thought. The idea just was too ludicrous. A few Marines getting coked out of their brains could be kept a secret, but if everyone here knew then it was public knowledge.

A group of six to eight Marines came into view, standing at the back of the room around the squad leader and team leader racks. They all had their shirts off. The Marines with their backs to me were wearing the Marine Corps authorized Physical Training short shorts that barely covered their butts; I couldn’t yet see the men facing me on the other side. I slowed my walk as I approached the back of the room. The Marines in the racks around me looked neither at me nor where the men stood.

I was known for breaking the balls of Marines in the other platoons whenever it suited me. Oftentimes they were guarded in conversation when they saw me watching. What I saw in their eyes now unsettled me. Some of them looked like I was about to walk in on their parents fucking. No, something dirtier, so dirty they’d wish I dropped dead before I walked any further. Like their sister was taking turns with the guys. The tension in the room suddenly took hold of my mind and I wished I’d brought my pistol.

I balled up my fists and set my jaw as I walked up to the circle of men. Billy, a squad leader in Second Platoon, stood in the circle looking down through a digitalcamera. His shirt was off and his right hand was down at his cock, pumping back and forth. I looked in blank astonishment from man to man, each one with his dick out, throbbing. I knew some of the men in the circle; I would have trusted my life with them in a combat situation. Marines I’d known for over three years now stood with vacant eyes, their junk hanging over the elastic of their green PT silky shorts.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” I asked.

“Fluffing ourselves,” Blaker said. “Come on, join the party.”

In the circle, Billy snapped a picture of his dick next to another Marine’s.

What in the name of fuck is going on here, screamed through my head, the echo blurring.

I looked at Prockop. He had his erection out.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Seeing whose dick is bigger,” Prockop said. His expression was relaxed, his face flushed. I couldn’t tell if he was high or not and didn’t know if it mattered anymore.

Hendricks stood across from me. I’d known him for a few years, but I hadn’t seen him naked before. Nor had I seen him red faced, eyes glazed, stroking his rock-hard erection in a circle of other Marines doing likewise while his squadleader took pictures.

My alarm wasn’t from morals. This wasn’t my first time coming in contact with Marines doing drugs and acting out homoerotic behavior most of them would have reviled in public. Back at FOB Riviera, Marines I’d gone to high school with asked me if I wanted to do lines of Xanax with them, and it had recently come out that two old vets, salty dogs on their second tours, spent time on post starring into each other’s eyes while they masturbated. But there was no manual written on how to handle this, no codes of conduct regarding a circle jerk. I reasoned, while Marines stood around me fondling themselves, that at the very least the rules concerning fraternization were being infringed. If these Marines had mixed up drugs somewhere along the way to standing in a circle with Fleming’s camera, that would be even more trouble.

Prockop must have seen some flicker in my facial expression because his hand stroking slowed down, leaving his dick to wobble back and forth in the air in front of him. Blaker stood beside him stroking like a maniac.

“Oh yeah, baby. Look at my dick,”Blaker said. He thrust his hips so his engorged cock bounced up and down, hitting his stomach with loud smacking sounds.

Some of the other Marines’ erections weren’t faring so well—the tension in the room was making them lag. Hendricks looked confused, like he wondered how he’d come to have his half-flaccid member in his hand. Instead of waking up in bed, he’d woken up to a nightmare where he was playing with himself in front of a bunch of men whose respect he needed, whose mettle he had to count on outside the wire.

My own feelings shook through me like rolling thunder. I didn’t know what to think. Homophobia had nothing to do with my alarm. I remember feeling the loneliness of the deserted and betrayed. These men had left me behind while they made some kind of escape. They were supposed to be my leaders, some of them Marine Corps Sergeants and Corporals, Non-Commissioned Officers that made up the backbone of Marine command structure. But they had left duty behind, abandoned their oaths. Or was it that simple? Couldn’t the pressures of war have bent their minds? Maybe parts of their sexuality were being expressed in some strange group setting that would have been seen in tribes of hunters long ago. I didn’t know and couldn’t tell from their flushed expressions and bloodshot eyes. I turned away from the circle of Marines without saying anything.

Walking back through the racks, I could see a few of the Marines in Second Platoon hide their faces behind books and laptops. Just when I thought none of them would say anything to me, someone pulled their headphones out of their ears. “There isn’t anything we can do about it,” he said. “If we say anything our world

turns to shit.”

I tried to open my mouth to say something but nothing came out. My jaw seemed stuck, and as much as I tried it wouldn’t budge. I walked by him mutely, my mouth still open, as if frozen in the act of speech.

The Marine who spoke was right. The lower ranking men in Second Platoon had to rely on the good graces of their immediate squad superiors outside of the wire. Marines who caused trouble for their NCOs were safe enough inside the wire, but outside things were different. Our squad leaders reigned supreme in the streets and fields of the countryside.

I ran into Corporal Lowery as he walked out the front door of the building in shower flip?flops, towel in hand. Lowery was the one of the three NCOs in the Machine Gun Section of Weapons Platoon and that gave him quite a bit of clout around the company. The Machine Gun section had over twenty people in total, compared to a rifle squad of twelve men or less.

“Guess what Prockop is doing upstairs,” I said.

“Is he getting all fucked up again?” Lowery asked, his voice deadpan. Lowery didn’t have a problem with people drinking off duty, but doing drugs on duty was a different thing altogether—the general consensus in Machine Guns.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” I said. “Because when I went up there a bunch of Second Platoon’s leadership was standing around with their dicks out, getting them hard and taking pictures.”

“And Prockop was doing this?” Lowery asked. “He was actively participating, not just watching?”

“He had his dick out,” I said.

Lowery’s face turned red and he shook his head. Without saying anything else he turned and walked out the front door of the barracks toward the shower trailer. Back in the squad bay I told Flemming what his camera was being used for and he shook his head the same way Lowery had and left to find out what was going on for himself. When he came back he tried to scamper by my rack without saying anything, but I called him over. Flemming was my junior in rank by about a year and a half; it didn’t give me much authority over him, but enough that when I called, he answered.

“So what did you find?” I asked.

“Uhhh, well, I went up there and there they all were in a circle,” Flemming’s voice was more high-pitched than normal. “But their dicks were all put away. It did look like lots of them still had boners. Prockop got all embarrassed when I got my camera back from him. He started to say somethi—”

“Have you looked at the pictures?” I interrupted.

“No-o,” Flemming said. “Why?”

“Get it out and let’s look,” I said.

“I don’t want to,” he said. “Not now. Some other time.”

“That’s an order,” I said, sitting up in my rack. “Get the camera out. Now.”

Flemming reluctantly pulled the camera out of his pants cargo pocket and turned it on. He kept looking up at me to see me crack a smile, let him know I would relent.

“Now go through the pictures,” I said.

Flemming flipped through some of the pictures of naked Marines comparing genitalia. In some of the pictures we could clearly see Marines we knew standing side by side with throbbing members, while in others the pictures were close up on the privates. There were no pictures of drug use or of Marines touching each other. I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to know how the pictures could be used, but some interesting possibilities presented themselves. Prockop might start seeing things my way, and maybe I wouldn’t have to stand any more midnight posts. I could get everything I wanted from him and still shoot the images to Battalion in an anonymous email, or just print them for a drop off. They could be mailed home to media outlets, a few of which would have loved to run a story about drug-laden homoeroticism in the Marine Corps. Flemming stopped going through the photos.

“What do I do with them?” Flemming asked.

“Erase them,” I said. “And keep your mouth shut about this.”

“Uh, yeah. This wasn’t something I planned on bringing up to anyone,” Flemming said.

He stared at the black screen on the back of his digital camera. “Why did you let me go up there?” Flemming asked.

I bared teeth at him.

“Why shouldn’t you know?” I said. “It was happening, wasn’t it? Our squad leader keeps getting fucked up while being the QRF Sergeant on duty and you are part of that QRF squad, so you tell me why you shouldn’t know.”


That memory was distant now, as I watched Ulrich trying to fish Smith’s dick out of his pants. The shouting and hollering in the squad bay made it difficultto think, much less understand exactly what was going on. If Ulrich had pulled Smith’s dick out and started playing with it, I’d have let it happen, sat and watched while Smith, my brother-in-arms, was sexually assaulted because he hadn’t lost what we had, the little pieces of ourselves we couldn’t put back together. He could still smile like he meant it, like there was someplace inside of him the war hadn’t corrupted. It made me furious. I wanted to break his stupid smile with its yellow teeth and stuttered words so he could feel the loss and know how things really were. If degradation is what it took, I would bear witness.

“Stop it!” Smith cried out again, his words slurred.

Smith sat up in the bed suddenly and whipped his hand up above his head. There was a sharp clicking sound. Smith had a knife in his hand and he’d just opened it, the blade flashing in the squad bay’s lights.

“Watch out, Ulrich!” Larkin yelled from his rack.

Smith’s arm came down quickly, twice in succession, cutting each of his bootlaces free. Ulrich hopped away quickly as Smith jumped down from the bed holding the knife out in front of him in a fighting stance.

“You motherfucker!” Smith screamed. “I’ll kill you!”

Ulrich’s face went pale. He moved backwards, his arms raised in front of him, as if to ward off an animal’s attack.

“You’ll what, Smith?” Ulrich said. “I couldn’t quite understand you.”

Urlich might have backed up but he wasn’t backing down, not by joking about Smith’s stutter. Smith whipped the knife back and forth in front of him a few times as he walked toward Ulrich. From the look in Smith’s eyes I knew he was serious. Tears streamed down his face, his breathing was unsteady as he reached down to hold up his undone pants with his left hand.

“I can see your dick, Smith!” Ulrich cried. “Hey look everyone! It’s Smith’s little wiener!”

Smith was bawling as he advanced on the backpedaling Ulrich. The squad bay’s length allowed them to move about fifteen feet before Ulrich ran out of room.

“Shud uh!” Smith screamed.

Ulrich was looking around for something to defend himself with.

“Ulrich, grab an M-16!” I yelled at him. I didn’t know whether Ulrich would swing it like a club or shoot Smith, but it was the best idea I had at the time.

“Stop!” Prockop yelled. “Smith, stop right now!”

Smith kept advancing on Ulrich, who had fallen back into defense posture and no longer fled. They were going to kill each other. Smith had a knife and his first blow could be a fatal one to Ulrich, but if Smith’s knife thrust wasn’t true, Ulrich would snap his arm like a toothpick and after that, his neck. Urlich was 5’5” and 220 pounds of bulging muscle to Smith’s gawky, lanky body of fat rolls. Smith crouched down, gathering himself to make a final lunge at Ulrich.

“Smith! Drop the knife now!” Prockop bellowed.

Smith’s body froze for a second, then he threw the knife away from him, sending it spinning under someone’s rack. Smith let loose with another scream like an animal’s then swung around to face us. His first few steps back to us were jerky, as if he were a marionette. The look on my face must have seethed contempt for Smith, and he must have seen the same look in everyone else’s face as well. His face twisted angrily as he sniffled streams of snot out of his nose and onto his shirt.

Lowery sat in front of me, on a bottom rack against the wall. When Smith had turned and given us all the death glare, Lowery had pulled out his pistol and clicked the safety off, pulling the hammer back to half cock. Smith saw it and came to a stop. With an effort he stood upright and hung his head, turned to the wall and buried his face against it in his arm, sobbing.

Lowery looked back at me and I gave him a nod of support. If Smith pulled any of that crazy shit on us, Lowery would put him down and we’d all have told the MPs how Smith had lost his fucking mind due to the stress of being on QRF. “For no fucking reason he just snapped,” I would say. The whole squad would square away our stories. Sure, we’d probably have to sell the Assault section on the fact that Smith needed to be put down, but it wouldn’t be that hard. They hated  Smith as  well, and  didn’t  even  have  to  live  with him like  we  did. We’d all put our heads together and think of some kind of story that established a pattern of loose cannon behavior combined with depression. Maybe we’d say hewas talking to people that weren’t there who had the same names as the Golf Company Marines who had gotten blown up. That would be neat, bringing it back full circle on the war and what it had taken away from us.

We wouldn’t tell the MPs how he’d kept his fucking stupid yellow smile and his dumb laugh. We wouldn’t tell them about the months of hazing, how for days at a time we wouldn’t let Smith sleep, until he broke down in tears and begged us to stop waking him up every fifteen minutes. The time Smith chased me down the squad bay with a rifle and had tried to spear me with it would slip my mind. I’d tell them about his homophobia though, and say I suspected he’d been molested, even though I had no idea if Smith had ever been molested or not.

But Lowery didn’t put Smith down like a rabid dog. He didn’t have to. Smith slowly limped out of the squad bay while he stared at the ground. I’d never seen so much shame before. Ulrich, all of us, had hurt Smith badly, just like the war had broken us. So maybe things had turned out like we wanted. But there was still a voice of reason in my head that told me otherwise; something that had stayed true when I’d first come over to find schools and hospitals shot up and syringes dumped in abandoned lots where children played; something that had held the course when I tried to rationalize how SOPs for escalation of force put Marines’ lives at risk while at the same time putting law abiding Iraqi citizens’ lives in danger as well.

Prockop followed Smith to lecture him about his temper. Lowery holstered his pistol and looked around at the rest of the squad. Most Marines wouldn’t meet his gaze, but I did, and Rose did. Ulrich couldn’t get his eyes off the ground. His shoulders slumped forward, and there was a frown on his face.

“Holy fucking shit,” Lowery said. “I thought Smith was going to kill Ulrich.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Rose said. “Maybe we shouldn’t fuck with Smith anymore.”

Hoarse laughter echoed through the squad bay, then silence. The sound of boots nervously scuffing the ground filled the room.

“Well, I’m gonna go have a cigarette in the smoke pit,” Lowery said. “And if Smith wants to get froggy, by God, he’s gonna get it.”

Lowery moved toward the door, then hesitated.

“It’s bad enough we’ve got to worry about getting killed when we leave the wire, or maybe by an IED the Hajis plant inside the wire, or in some mortar or rocket attack on the base,” Lowery said. “But killing each other over dumb shit? This is too much.”

Lowery turned and left before anyone got the chance to point out how easy it was to say that Ulrich forcibly playing with Smith’s penis was “dumb shit” when it wasn’t you tied to the rack. No one brought up how what had just happened was sexual assault. No one brought up how we’d made Smith’s life hell for months on end. I didn’t mention how when we’d moved into this building I’d told Smith he couldn’t put anything under the rack because I would be using that space, leaving Smith only a two by six foot open space on the side of our rack adjacent to the door in which to fit all of his worldly possessions. Smith and I were rack mates, he had the top and I had the bottom. I didn’t go over how there had been some nights, after a day where we’d been especially hard on Smith, when I’d lain in bed wondering, Is tonight the night Smith waits until we are sleeping, slips out of bed, flips his M-16 to burst mode and goes from rack to rack?

None of it was said because it didn’t need to be. Every Marine knew the extent of what we were doing to Smith, how we were breaking him down a little bit more each day and how things kept going further and further. Explaining to another squad would be as simple as saying, “It’s his stupid smile, like the kid who loses the dodge ball game for his team would smile. Smith’s a shit bird who doesn’t get it.”

Smith out there on patrol, what a joke. A Marine on patrol was supposed to be sharp and intelligent, never missing anything like a wire sticking out of a empty pop can that could be an IED, or the carcass of a dog that had stitches where insurgents had sewn a bomb into it, or the sun’s flash off a sniper’s scope. Smith wasn’t out there patrolling though; he was just following the man in front of him around with that stupid fucking smile on his face. Or staring at the fucking ground, refusing to take it all in.

I knew this, with the same certainty as I knew that if I walked out of the wire by myself and into the ville I’d never be seen or heard from again. I knew he wasn’t paying attention or he would have asked himself some of thesame questions that had dimmed the light in so many of his brothers’ eyes. He would have thought about the implications of an occupying force leaving behind war children—all of the implications. Smith had rolled down streets in Humvees past shot-up hospitals and bombed out schools and in his mind that was normal for war and had nothing to do with us. He’d driven the Main Supply Route that ran through the heart of Fallujah so many times he knew its twists and bends, but the gutted buildings, twisted Rebar, burned-out houses, and bullet-riddled walls didn’t consume his thoughts. I wondered if he realized what waited for us, outside the wire; I knew he didn’t realize what it had done to us on the inside, but not Smith, no, not him. Yuckmouth, aloof above the existential chaos of war. Our little redheaded fuck-up, a real “Blue Falcon” or buddy fucker. Smith was the Marine every Drill Instructor screamed at in boot camp while the rest of his platoon did push-ups in the dirt. Smith was what the Marine DIs called “the one,” the one guy in the squad who somehow manages to keep believing enough to have a goofy smile on his face. A smile that reminded us of how we’d lost ours. Would he tell me the truth if I asked? Would he forget all of the terrible things I did and watched others do to him, become suddenly vulnerable and bare his soul to me about how much it had all affected him, how he would never forget our faces because he saw all of us in nightmares that repeated on a continuous loop night after night. Maybe he’d have sought out help at a veteran’s hospital near him and heard enough psychobabble to call them night terrors. I wonder if maybe I don’t call him because I’m afraid he would tell me all this and I’d tell him about my own nightmares and we’d realize how similar we both are to the caricature of a burned?out veteran and lose heart. Now all I can do is hope the parts of Smith I hurt healed long ago, without him even noticing. I want to believe that, but I have a hard time.

“I’ll be back to the squad bay in a second,” I said to Lowery as I walked out of the barracks. “I need to take a leak and have a smoke. Then we gotta talk.”

Lowery grunted an acknowledgment over the sound of his flip-flops quietly padding back to his rack. A feeling of déjà vu came over me as I used a urinal in the shitter trailer and washed my hands in the sink; it seemed like I had run intoLowery on the way out of the barracks after the incident with Prockop and had the same thoughts in my head.

We couldn’t report it; something like this could break the company up. Echo would never be the same if someone walked down to Battalion HQ. I’d heard rumors of Companies disbanded over widespread breaches in conduct. Every single Marine in Weapons Platoon had at one time believed in the war and everything it stood for: America righting wrongs and saving the day. Even guys like Prockop once believed in everything, his first time around, before he was a Sergeant. But that was a long time ago at this point.