It’s a bold move for Hollywood to resurrect GI Joe in a time of war–not that the archetypal warrior figure ever really disappeared from the national psyche. Many of our warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan are men. Those men were once boys and those boys, no doubt, spent hours belly down on the floor pitting one tiny GI Joe action figure against another.
When writer Leah Larson’s brother came home from nine months in Iraq she wrote about the “unspeakable damage” to her brother and their relationship. And she wrote about GI Joe. We printed her piece two years ago and offer up this excerpt as a sort of footnote to Hollywood’s fantastical treatment of the famous toy warrior:
Two days after he came home from a nine-month tour of duty in Iraq, my older brother showed me some pictures. ‘I just bombed that building,’ he said. In the photo, children in Fallujah are clustered beside their broken school.
During his first two weeks back, my brother, the demolitions expert, plied me with photos of the carnage and mayhem wreaked by his platoon. Fifteen memory cards worth of bizarre and disturbing photos–half-naked soldiers dancing in the desert, a severed goat’s head in a noose, Marines dressed in traditional women’s clothing found following a house raid.
I wanted to hit him, banish him, to create a giant dent in his soul. But he wouldn’t care, wouldn’t budge. This is what the Marines have trained him to do–warp, destroy, and believe it is for good.
When recruiters came to take him, I howled, groped, twisted, and shivered at the horrible separation from him. At a young age, long before I recognized politics, my spirit understood many things. I knew that if he joined the military, our kinship would be severed, and it has been. It saddens me when I am unable to hug him because he cannot tolerate affection. Our mother recalls that my brother could only be comforted by his GI Joe toys. Lying in the top bunk, while I slept on the bottom, he would watch a sky of little green men dangle from the ropes he tied to the ceiling.
Now, instead of green men, my brother keeps metal, wood, and crystal beaded crosses in his room. Some hang over pictures of friends killed in the war.