In the midst of my series on Iraq and Afghanistan war-related music comes this great New York Times article about Jason Everman, who had short stints in Nirvana and Soundgarden before joining the Army as an infantryman. Both Ranger and Special Forces-qualified, Everman got out in 2006 after combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He then enrolled at Columbia and recently graduated with a BA in philosophy.
So, while I was looking for music performed in theater or upon a veteran’s return, I learn of a veteran-musician who did his serious music-making before he joined and deployed. Everman wasn’t with Nirvana and Soundgarden at their peak, but he certainly contributed to those magnificent bands’ on-stage crunch in their early years and more than brushed shoulders with the creative talents who were his bandmates. Like millions, I was tremendously impressed by the great Seattle grunge groups. They shaped the taste and consciousness of many of us who later went to war, for better or worse, and of many of those who didn’t go to war but now wonder about what it all meant. And so it’s cool that one of them bridged the gap between the music-makers and we who took the music forward with us in life.
The part of the Times story that got me most recounted Everman’s mounting resolution to join the Army while living in San Francisco in 1994. As his bandmates slept, Everman was rising early to work out and get ready. Boy, did that trigger memories of living in the East Bay town of Albany after finishing grad school. I used to knock out pushups and pull-ups by myself in a local park while preparing for my own infantry odyssey. I was 26 when I first started thinking about joining, and actually signed up a year or two later. Everman was 26 when he joined, as was Colby Buzzell, whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and who was also from the Bay Area and who also dreamed of being a grunt.
So what is it about the infantry that entices not-so-young-anymore men into giving it all up in the name of adventure and service to the nation?
And what is it about Northern California? Brian Turner’s from Fresno, not so far away from San Francisco, and he too joined the infantry at a late age. Thinking about it further, Matt Gallagher, not an infantryman but a cav scout, which is close enough, is from Sacramento, just up I-80 from the Bay. Something in the air there just must easily get in the bones of dreamy young men craving challenge and purpose. Maybe it’s as Ishmael in Moby-Dick says: “Here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost.”
And then these dreamy young men who go off to war want to write about their experiences. Or, in the case of Jason Everman, hopefully, will write about them. But if he doesn’t, no problem, because he has already had a chance to say his say and he used it well. Something tells me that soldier-authors such as Turner, Buzzell, and Gallagher probably know just about every song Nirvana and Soundgarden ever recorded. That includes those from the early years when Everman was helping them become, as the Army slogan puts it, “all that they could be.” We are, to a large degree, the music that is important to us, so thanks, Jason Everman, just thanks.
Happy 4th of July everybody.