Swofford takes us along through the highlights and lowlights and boredom and mistakes and fuck-ups of his life associated with the military; life as a son of a military man, choosing to enlist as a grunt, making his way to Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) as a sniper/scout, sexual exploits, burying friends and finding ways to stay sane.
The language is brutally straight forward "jarheadese" slang full of classic profanities and the odd new combination of fuck and stick. Very engaging and confronting.
"It would be silly to speak, but I'd like to. I want to ask the dead men their names and identification numbers and tell them this will soon end. They must have questions for me. But the distance between living and the dead is too immense to breach. I could bend at the waist, close my eyes, and try to join these men in their tight dead circle, but I am not yet one of them. I must not close my eyes."
What is seriously brought to the forefront of the military lifestyle is the desire to fight, the alcoholism and fucked up roulette sex (sometimes resulting in STI's or divorce), societies opinion and treatment of service personnel, the family created in your platoon and the insanity that creeps into the mind as you ponder those thousands of body bags ready to be used, among other thoughts.
I could wax poetry about Swofford's philosophy, congratulate him on serving his country, confess an envy of his story telling technique. However, I'm not sure if any of that should be said. Only this; read Jarhead and decide for yourself if any of it was worth it?
"Sorry, we must say to the mothers whose sons will die horribly. This will never end. Sorry." Anthony Swofford, Jarhead.