(To read the entire "War Memoirs" series, please click here.)
So apparently Marines love the the phrase “get some”. On page two of Generation Kill, Evan Wright explains:
"’Get some!’ is the unofficial Marine Corps cheer. It's shouted when a brother Marine is struggling to beat his personal best in a fitness run. It punctuates stories told at night about getting laid in whorehouses in Thailand and Australia. It's the cry of exhilaration after firing a burst from a .50-caliber machine gun. Get some! expresses in two simple words the excitement, fear, feelings of power and the erotic-tinged thrill that come from confronting the extreme physical and emotional challenges posed by death, which is, of course, what war is all about. Nearly every Marine I've met is hoping this war with Iraq will be his chance to get some.”
There’s a problem, though. I’ve read a lot of memoirs by Marines, and Marines don’t say “Get some!”--this includes dialogue heavy memoirs.
The most telling example comes from One Bullet Away. Nathaniel Fick and his platoon hosted Evan Wright--their memoirs essentially cover the same events--but Fick only uses the phrase once in One Bullet Away, as something someone from another platoon says over the radio. “Get some!” fails to make an appearance in either Donovan Campbell’s Joker One or Clint Van Winkle’s Soft Spots. Even Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead only uses it once, as something, again, said over the radio.
There is a disconnect here. One book claims that “Get some!” is the unofficial Marine Corp motto while four Marine Corps memoirs barely even use the phrase, and certainly none ascribe the world beating importance to it that Wright does.
We’re left with three options. The first is that the other memoirists are crappy writers without an ear for dialogue. This isn’t the case; I loved Generation Kill. At least two of the mentioned writers are very good if not great writers. I mean, Wright doesn’t even really use the phrase much himself in Generation Kill.
So we’re left with two more options, both of which are probably true and both of which indicate common problems in memoirs.
The first is that Wright makes an overly ambitious generalization. This is a problem endemic to the modern, reporting-based memoir, where an authors want to take the reader on a journey through a hidden, mysterious inner-world the reader doesn’t know anything about, and it leads to generalizations, usually overly hyperbolic ones. Authors make grand pronouncements about groups and people. “X group always does Y thing,” because one person they were with did that thing.
The problem is even more pronounced in war memoirs. Soft Spots describes how “In war, no one asks you if you killed anyone.” One Bullet Away describes how, in war, “Every fight is refought afterwards”. Mullaney’s The Unforgiving Minute describes, “the first rule of Afghanistan: The closer you look, the less you understand.” Sebastian Junger’s War, from the title on down, is one big generalization about the nature of war and combat.
If the problem is pronounced in memoirs, so is the literary fault. According to the narrator of The Things They Carry, “True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can’t believe it with my stomach.” I agree.
So we come to the second option: “get some!” is kind of embarrassing. It’s too macho, too butch. Most of all, it asks for people to be killed. We can probably blame this scene from Full Metal Jacket. After all, it is the first thing that comes up when you google “get some”.
The catch is that memoir writers don’t want to embarrass the Corps. “Get some!” does. Marines, especially Officers, don’t want to write about, in public, their “get some!” mentality.