Saturday, March 11, 2006

Maupin labs not what they're cracked up to be

Just as my head was deflating to normal size after having my opinion article printed in Army Times, another bit of my handiwork was picked up by the same magazine. This time the piece is a news article about the “openings” of two computer labs dedicated to Matt Maupin, the only soldier in Iraq who the Pentagon still has listed as “captured.” Though I am always happy when my articles receive national attention, I am beginning to think that this is a story that gives everyone warm, fuzzy feelings without carrying much weight.

The crux is that Matt Maupin’s parents, Keith and Carolyn Maupin, of Union Township, Ohio, remembered how their son had complained that internet provisions in Iraq were inadequate. They wanted to help troops stationed in Iraq communicate with loved ones, so they donated 90 computers for three new internet cafes at LSA Anaconda. On Feb. 14 I was present to report on the dedications of the second and third labs for the military newspaper Anaconda Times.

It sounds rosy, but I soon discovered a catch: instead of opening three new computer centers, the Army simply used the Maupins’ computers to replace the old computers in existing labs. Hence, the “new” computer labs are nothing but old ones with newer computers and pictures of Matt Maupin on the wall. This is not to say that the Maupins’ charity was a complete waste; it helps a little to have newer computer models. Even still, the Maupin’s intentions were clearly to allow troops greater access to the internet than before. That was not done.

My frustration at this was compounded by the steam of airy but meaningless statements issued from the command during the dedications. What irritated me the most was when a certain military leader claimed to have dedicated the deployment of a support unit to finding Matt Maupin. That was a nice gesture, but really, a hollow one. The most they could do is tell troops leaving on convoys “if you happen to see anybody who looks like Matt Maupin, let us know.”

To put it bluntly and perhaps a little rudely, being present at the dedications felt to me a little like be dragged to a church service of another religion. There was a sense that I was expected to be reverent combined with the suspicion that every one in the room was being fed a bunch of bologna. Despite the uniformed audience, beautiful a cappella rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the presence of two generals, the entire affair was just too intellectually empty to be touching.

Image: here I am dressed in full battle rattle--complete with my George-of-the-Jungle crotch protector--before going outside the wire, March 5.


Blogger Marshall Thompson said...

Personally, I think it would have been a much more beautiful gesture if the "certain military leader" had dedicated our REdeployment to Matt Maupin. But that's just me.

10:18 PM  
Blogger salemonz said...

Yeah, sucked that good intentions were just spun up into a photo op...sort of like the Coretta King funeral.

8:26 AM  

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