Tag: U.S. Army

Roll Call: The Girl Who Didn’t Come Home

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image via mauitube.org
image via mauitube.org

University of Baltimore MFA writing student Lisa M. Van Wormer recalls the day her fellow soldier failed to answer the repeat call of her name. Hear Lisa read the piece on WYPR’s “The Signal” this Friday at 7.

You are about halfway through your year deployment to Iraq at this point, just enough time to make routines and gain a sense of security in the day to day. You are at a satellite site away from the majority of your unit when you hear the news. Once granted permission you are on the next convoy to travel the 40 miles down IED alley to the base that it happened at, to be there for your surviving friends—for roll call. The feeling this day at the base is far different from any other you have experienced. For one, everyone is in full battle rattle (flak vest with shields, Kevlar, slung weapon, eight 30-round magazines), even off guard duty, which is not the norm for this secluded base. Secondly, there’s no milling around or open chatting—the whole base is silent and somber.

Baby’s First First-Person Shooter

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As Baltimore writer Christine Grillo weighed whether to indulge her son’s passion for violent video games, she and her husband entered new levels of parental danger.

“But all my friends are playing them,” said my son.

Then he went on to explain, in actual tears, that he was being left behind and left out. In so many words, we, his parents, were depriving him of critical adolescent alliances in this tender developmental age when being part of the herd is much, much more important than, say, orthodontic hygiene or hanging up a towel after a shower. We were ruining his friendships and, therefore, his life.

The object of his desire? First-person-shooter games. For the uninitiated, first-person-shooter, or FPS, games are video games that allow the player — my 12-year-old son — to engage in close-range combat through the eyes of a buff protagonist, usually an American military squad leader. These games have names like “Call of Duty” (think there are any jokes about that one?) and “Gears of War,” and they feature firefights, sniper weapons, melee weapons, garroting, blood, and sometimes logic puzzles. The graphics can be stunning.

He begged for permission to play them.

And for the usual kumbaya reasons, we weren’t keen on this. We had notions: (1) The military industrial complex uses FPS games to train its soldiers. (2) FPS games minimize the lives lost in combat in real life (IRL). (3) FPS games will desensitize my son to violence IRL. (4) FPS games are a recruiting tool for the military. (5) Our son’s friends’ parents will hate us if we allow him to play FPS games — we’ll be ruining it for everybody.

But we entered into negotiations. Due diligence compelled us to canvass the parents of these friends, all boys, who played garden-variety video games and who, according to my son, were allowed to play FPS games, too. The parents’ comments were nearly unanimous: (1) The boy becomes a bona fide dope when he’s on the screen, regardless of whether that screen is a computer, a television, a handheld device, or something else. (2) The boy is bothering us about playing FPS games, too, and we don’t like them. (3) We want to pile up all the screens in the house and smash them with a sledgehammer. (4) We should take him camping more often. One of them said, “I feel like showing him the WikiLeaks video of the guy in the helicopter slaying innocent Iraqi citizens.” More on that later.