Postcards from Tradocia

the collective voice

A former NCO of mine was home on leave this week from Iraq, so in typical fashion, there was a Bacchanalian gathering to celebrate his temporary return. Many B Company alumni were in attendance, including Bear and The Pontiff, and many of my new coworkers and comrades-in-arms (comrades-in-phones? comrades-in-routers?).

It was, as always with that group, a loud and festive occasion – but of most interest was SFC B’s comments about my blog. Stationed as he is at CSC Cedar – a place readers might remember from the Superbowl of PMCS – he doesn’t have a lot to do, and one of his favorite pastimes (or so he says) is reading about my adventures in Iraq. He commented that while many soldiers have blogs (now that it’s so fashionable, you know), few are interesting; he attributed this difference to the fact that I actually know how to write.

While I appreciate the compliment (and agree with the sentiment – all conceit aside), after thinking about his comment, I decided that people find my writing interesting not just because of my mechanical skill with words, but rather because of my perspective. In most of my writing about my time in the Army, I’ve tried to remove myself from the narrative to the degree possible, except of course when I’m the direct topic of the story. In that sense, I tried to render myself a cipher, a third-person observer; other writers are often mired in the first person, caught in narcissitic ramblings. A solid first-person view is gripping when the story warrants it, but all too often it devolves into self-centered whining and pointless minutae.

SFC B also commented on how my writing echoed many of his own thoughts, and how my “Guilt of a REMF” post was particularly resonant with him – so much so that he sent a link to that post to various other soldiers as an example of his own feelings. I found that particuarly touching, because it validated my own feelings somewhat, and also validated my role as unofficial unit spokesman. In my attempts to maintain my third-person perspective in my narratives, I often wrote in terms of “we” and “us” rather than “I” and “me,” but I always worried that I might overstep my bounds, that I might claim something as collective that was really only my own experience. I wanted my stories to be larger than just myself, but I didn’t want to wrap myself in the unit’s collective experience illegitmately. Many have come to me, however, both during and after the deployment, and commented on how much they appreciated my writing and pictures and how I expressed the truth, in essence if not in literal words.

That feeling – of telling the story of those who can’t or won’t – is a main reason I wrote, and why I still write. It elevates this from a mere narcissistic exercise (only two self-referencing links in this post!) to something at least a little bit more worthwhile.

3 Comments

  1. Jason Schneider

    I’m just here for some good old fashioned rants like the COLED days, oh, and if you’d ever finish your story.

  2. G&G

    you are an excellent writer. love g and g

  3. SGT Dock

    Delobi, you were my inspiration to start my blog. I get so frustrated trying to write anything about my tour in the sandbox because I can’t seem to put a good spin on it. In the end it is just a frustrated rabble that looks a lot like crayon scribble. Kind of like this comment.

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