Have a drink on me

By Gus Bode

When reading some of the headlines Monday morning at CNN.com, I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, “Stripes, “starring Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and John Candy. The scene in particular conjured from memory is the part in the movie where Murray and his platoon of miscreants go to a club featuring a fairly revealing female mud wrestling competition. That’s not the reason I remember the movie though, I swear.

Anyway the club is raided by civilian police and some military police officers are there to escort the soldiers in training back to the base. So why do I suddenly get this image of a mud-caked John Candy in my head? Because the reverse situation happened at a detention camp in Iraq last October but was only recently reported on by the Associated Press.

It has been reported that a female 19-year-old National Guard member who was on guard duty at Camp Bucca in Iraq was demoted from specialist to private first class after some incriminating photos were turned in to military officials in November. Although the contents of all the photos weren’t explicitly described in the CNN story, it was revealed that in some of the photos, the 19-year-old female was engaged in a mud-wrestling event with some other MPs. While the conduct in and of itself may have been viewed as inappropriate conduct, it was the act of “indecent exposure” that prompted her demotion.


The incident occurred during a celebration held between the 160th and 105th battalions. The 105th was being assigned to the post in order to relieve the 160th. While the 19-year-old, later identified as Deanna Allen, was the only military police guard to receive punishment, others from the 105th were “counseled” in the matter. According to accounts from her mother, Allen is quite devastated by the repercussions of her actions.

Some concern has risen about the conduct of our troops abroad, most specifically in detention camp and prison situations such as what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison where prisoners were paraded around in the nude. But in this case, the only nudity displayed was by one of the soldiers, and no detainees were witnesses to the spectacle.

This demonstrates that although she’s a soldier by profession, there’s little difference between her and another 19-year-old female in college here at Southern Illinois University. Both are prone to the same amount of peer pressure and at times buckle under. That’s what struck me the most about this story.

Sure, I was lured in by the headline that contained the words “female” and “mud-wrestling” but realized after reading it that just because someone’s a soldier that doesn’t dehumanize him or her. Although soldiers are held to a much higher standard than the typical civilian, greater things are expected of them by the government and by the public. So when a soldier displays this level of “humanity” it goes contrary to what we’d like to believe is the reality. In truth they’re open to the same temptations that we are.

But the key difference between Allen and the SIUC 19-year-old female counterpart is that she’s in an environment where a slip-up on her part or anyone else’s could mean death. This is why I consider myself lucky. While there’s another 22-year-old male over in Iraq who can’t be cantankerous and such a thrill-seeker as they’d like to be, I am able to do just about anything I want and have all the freedoms they have willingly put on hold until they can come home, if they ever get the chance. So, the next time you’re out at the bar, think of a person just like you serving in Iraq and have a drink in honor of them.