Zones of Exclusion

I just finished reading Ryan Flavelle's "The Patrol". Over the years I've read any number of military memoirs, as I'm sure Ryan has. Also over the years, they start to meld together (though that might be mostly due to my aging sieve of a  brain). As much as I enjoyed Siegfried Sassoon's "Memoir of an Infantry Officer", the only passage that still stands out is where Sassoon is given a concoction by the MD that solidifies his diarrhea, making his bowels stable enough for open warfare.

But what I wanted to say is this, "The Patrol' stands out for me due to its emphasis on the stratification within military culture. Specifically, how Flavelle fits into the world of the grunt even though he's a lowly signaler (at least he wasn't in the navy).

For a visual artist, author, journalist, poet or any other cultural producer, without some level of acceptance, any military project will have a barrier in its way. And while the same can be said for any socially centred project, the military, the army, the combat arms and the infantry (in that order) are some of the hardest sub-cultures to break into. Like not being born in Prince Edward County or Cape Cod, if you weren't born there, haven't shared suffering, you'll always be an outsider. But then, even if you're a grunt and from a different reg. (Chicken Fucker, Picklie etc.) or come from the reserves (as Flavelle did) there's another barrier that has to be worked away at.

Flavelle's openness with the reader about his desire to be accepted by the "Hard as fuck" guys from 2VP, and more importantly "meet himself" is what gives the book its agency. And for myself, that acceptance hangs around my neck when I'm back with the Battalion as well as in the studio. "Once a Patricia, Always a Patricia" may be true, but it don't mean you can just walk back in the door.

Meeting your true self, the one that only surfaces under the extremes of duress, is a need that asserts itself only in some people. And, amongst many qualities both good and bad, it's one you'll find in soldiers who have chosen combat.

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