Day 2042, phosphorus.

Day's pictures

Film, 1992, Netherlands.

I joined the Marines in 1992; the draft ended that year, so I was one of the last that had to go into military service. If I had stayed at school, I would have gotten an exemption, but I wanted to leave, but I also didn’t want to join the regular army. I had never really thought about joining the military, not because of some special reasons; it just didn’t seem so excited. Until then, most men in Holland had been drafted into the army for 12 months, and I had only heard stories about boredom and that it was a waste of time. Only if you got lucky could you get some kind of education out of it that is useful later in life, like medical training or getting your truck driver’s license. I don’t know how I got the idea to join the Marines, but probably because I still went to school in Rotterdam, and Rotterdam is the Marines’ spiritual home, so I guess that’s how I came in contact with it.

It is not hard to imagine why a young and adventurous guy (or girl these days) would be taken by the long history of the “Korps Mariniers.” The Marines were one of the first specialized forces in the world; established in 1665, they have a long history and are trained to operate in all climates, and these day’s they can be everywhere in the world within 48 hours. I also was drawn to it because they trained a lot in Northern Norway, a country I was already interested in back then.   

As I said above, I started training in 1992 at the end of September. I can write a whole book about it, but in short, it was hard, and we all got tested to the limit. Don’t imagine Hollywood-style military training that is more American; we did not get beatings or were dumbed down to become the stereotypical killing machines. No one would have tolerated that kind of abuse in Holland; they just wanted to see if you could take the stress and stay relatively calm under it. Because the Dutch Marines are considered elite forces, our basic training lasted 6 months, compared to your typical 2 or 3 months. After basic training, you will get more indebt training and specialized training.

In the picture above, you see that we are training with a particular weapon. I took this picture, it was not normal, or even aloud, to bring a camera with you to training, but I have been good at getting exceptions my whole life. We shoot phosphorus grenades in the air, a particularly nasty weapon that sprays burning phosphor over an area, and it will give you bad burns. Back in 1992, I didn’t think much about the effects of the weapons we used. It is different now; now I realize how wars often start and that the persons starting these wars are not joining the soldiers they send to the frontline. In most wars, the soldiers that oppose each other have no specific hatred towards the other soldiers; it’s “just” their job. They might be indoctrinated in all kinds of ways, but if they had met each other a year earlier at holiday somewhere, they might have been friends. Wars are wrong, and in an ideal world, we would not spend a penny on weapons, but we live in a world where so cold leaders of countries like America, England, Australia, and China can’t leave each other alone. Many dumb people in charge still believe that weapons solve problems and that the myth of “country” is still worth fighting for. I don’t think that these people realize what a bullet does to a body; if they did, they would immediately quit their jobs and say they don’t want any part of this lunacy.

In the end, I stayed with the Marines for three years. I learned a lot in those three years, traveled all over the world, and worked with many different people and in different cultures. I could have stayed, but my mind was wandering away. I don’t think I would have gone to a war like the one in Iraq in 2003. It is one thing to work as a soldier for the united nations in countries that need and want peace, but working for a government that believes the lies of warmongers is something else.   

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