My fitness studio faces onto East Mission Road, in Fallbrook, California. At one end of Fallbrook, lies the back gate of Camp Pendleton; a Marine Base where Marines train to, among other things, blow things up and to kill. I’m actually ok with that – the training of how to properly blow up and kill, we need that – just in case. The actual acts of blowing up and killing, I have mixed feelings on, but I’m not so naïve as to deny the utility of force.
About 90 minutes from Fallbrook is Twentynine Palms, California where there is another base, and another area where Marines train to blow things up and to kill. From the vantage point of my studio windows, all day long I see Marines transporting their artillery, mobile weapons, vehicles and tanks of all sizes, from Fallbrook to Twentynine Palms and back for training exercises. Like good Marines, they do it convoy style.
With essentially one road in and out of Fallbrook, getting caught in or behind a convoy might make for some grumpy commuters, though nobody complains too much about it – there is great deal of respect for our Marines here. I’ll suggest these days that folks caught in one of these convoys are probably more humbled than frustrated. There is always a good bit of honking, waving, and offering of the thumbs-up sign to show support for our troops.
A New Toy For Uncle Hulka
One type of vehicle which I have seen going back and forth a lot lately is the LAV25 (Light Assault Vehicle). The LAV25 is piloted by an exposed driver behind a small windshield at the lower front of the vehicle. Several other crewmen also ride exposed, stationed at the top of the vehicle, with several more inside. The new Chevy Camaro be damned, the LAV25 looks to me to be “the most powerful convertible on the road”.
It must be a great relief to the crewmen to ride on one of these through the gorgeous aesthetic of the Fallbrook hills, and be in a place of peace. A far cry I reckon, from the stress of turning a corner in Iraq or Afghanistan, and not knowing what apocalyptic mayhem might be waiting on the other side. Though I enjoy watching these vehicles and these men travel back and forth, it forces me daily to take a moment and contemplate the sacrifices they and their families have made – regardless of my feelings on imperial war.
I often marvel at these vehicles as well as the larger, scarier killing machines for their size, their power, their rugged off road capabilities, and of course, their ability to destroy. But in a moment this morning that “marvel” turned to fright as I remembered that these aren’t just training vehicles and weapons. These vehicles have been beyond Fallbrook and Twentynine Palms – far beyond. That at some point, most of these vehicles I see from day to day have probably been used in war – to kill and to blow things up, and that men might have died on or in the very vehicles that I marvel at as they drive by my gym.
I wondered as I watched several pass by this morning, was there once human blood and guts and body parts strewn across the camouflage surface, and subsequently squeegeed away with some soap and water from the very deck I was looking at…? Where there shots fired by those very men stationed at the top of that vehicle, into a crowd of combatants, or worse yet – into a crowd of civilians…? These vehicles began to cast a shadow on me and my gym door – the shadow of a war reaching 8,000 miles away.
Something’s In The Air, And Over The Hill Too
It happens when I look up too; the instruments of war appear. In addition to the convoys rumbling through town, Fallbrook locals see attack, survey, and supply helicopters flying overhead all day long. We hear explosions from the heavy artillery firing range on the other side of the hills concuss to the point of rattling the windows and even shaking pictures on the walls – sometimes for hours at a time, and into the night. It’s like living in a war zone but we locals all wear the immunity necklace.
Tanks on the roads. Choppers in the air. Explosions heard into the night. I’m lucky, I live in a beautiful area, surrounded by good people, and I have plenty of anything – including freedom, and with no fear for my safety when I see the machines of war. These machines though, they have seen other streets and other airspace, where the people who have seen them have feared them, and for good reason. The people who have seen these machines on their streets and over their air 8,000 miles away just hoped for the best – or dropped to their knees and prayed. And at the end of the day, I know these machines have closed their ears to those hopes and to those prayers, and just done their job.
It’s hard to live in Fallbrook without seeing – without feeling the shadow of war cast over our town – it’s everywhere we look. I wonder on this day, what machines out there will ever cast a shadow of peace…? Be well. rc
Oh, and there is this from John Doe and Exene Cervenka — two of my favorite songwriters, and two of the most complimentary voices in all of music.. Enjoy…