“It’s been the best-worst thing I’ve ever done.”
That’s how Alex, a 22-year-old volunteer infantryman, sums up his past year as an enlisted Marine. He’s currently aboard a ship sailing past islands somewhere far off in the world. “Not supposed to be on my phone right now haha,” Alex (a pseudonym) texts me after apologizing for what he thinks might be rushed responses to my questions about life as a Gen Z soldier deployed in combat. His general view, though: “The people suck in the corps, and sometimes the higher-ups are complete trash,” he says. “But every now and then, you meet a few guys who turn all that around.”
As for why the people suck? “You’re a pent-up, caged dog,” he explains in short text message bursts. “Makes for a more lethal fighter.” It might sound like hyperbole, but as I would later find out, just a few weeks prior to our conversation, Alex had spent 12 hours pointing a 50-caliber machine gun at five boats during a lengthy standoff with the Iranian Navy — clearly, a certain amount of aggressive dedication is required. “I’m back [home] in 27 days,” he tells me via text. “Can’t wait to get off this damn boat lol.”
Read the full article and more in MEL Magazine.