We all served with one or, if nothing else, have heard the endless stories. That one soldier or sailor or airman or Marine of such surpassing dumbness that, even in the face of certain annihilation, just doesn't get it. I'm talking about Carl. Or, in some cases, Carla.
He may never be mentioned in formal reports but, rest assured, he's there. Carl's name, regardless of what it actually is, is more likely to come up among battles over a beer or splitting a surreptitious smoke out back of the guard shack. He's memorialized during reminiscences that often begin with, “You hear what fucking Carl did?”
Carl's exploits aren't the stuff of military legends. No, Carl is remembered for his screw ups, his almost supernatural ineptitude. Carl is, to put it bluntly, an idiot, a moron, a window-licker par excellence the like of which not even the Marine Corps produces with any regularity.
A mediocre soldier, at best, Carl's “talents” only shine in the face of adversity. When things go wrong, Carl can be counted on to not only not grasp the gravity of the situation, but to almost revel in it. He recognizes the existence of the situation but lacks any ability to appreciate the misfortune about to befall he and his mates. Indeed, he seems to take an almost childlike delight in making matters worse or simply stating the obvious. I have no doubt that in among his legions in 9 A.D. Varus had a legionnaire of this caliber, perhaps called Carlus. And, as he and his force penetrated the Teutoburg Forest. Legionnaire Carlus sang the Latin equivalent of:
"If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise."
to which his Centurion snarled nervously, “Shut the fuck up, Carlus!” just before the Germanic Barbarians fell upon them.
Centuries later, that sentiment may have been echoed by General Custer as his force arrived at Little Big Horn and the combined Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes began to materialize before them. In the sudden silence there might have come a sing song voice softly chanting:
"One little, two little, three little Indians. Four little, five little, six little Indians."
And, it it wasn't the General himself, one can easily envision one of his subordinates hoarsely issue a variation of the now famous order.
There's a certain universality about Carl, not only in the American armed forces but those of the world. It's not difficult to believe he was present that cold winter at Stalingrad when Hitler denied them permission to retreat. And, as the steel Soviet ring tightened, there could be heard the voice of a young German, known this time as Karl, darkly muttering (because even he recognized an untenable position):
"Zhukov! Zhukov! He's their man. If we can't beat him, no one can!"
to which came the well-known refrain “Karl, shut the hell up, dummkopf!” Perhaps followed by a pistol shot.
I had my own encounter, when along with my Navy section, I found myself stranded, in the duty van, in a ditch, in Newfoundland during a white out; the van having lost an argument with one of the bull moose that shared that little slice of heaven with us. While the circumstances weren't as dire as others, they were certainly uncomfortable and, if the storm did not let up soon, likely to become more so.
As we sat silently taking stock of the situation, from the seat in front of me, our own dear Carla began a monotonous drone;
"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
It came from all of us, I believe; “Shut the FUCK up, Carla!” It may be that someone cuffed her upside the head but surely that wouldn't happen among responsible members of the United States Navy.
I don't mean to simply regale you with the exploits of the eternal Carl, however, I've come to a startling realization. Far from being an imbecile, Carl may be an absolute genius. Consider if you will that, while he may do physical work he isn't expected or pushed to be responsible for anything other than himself. And, though he won't achieve high rank, so long as he survives he will probably do his twenty and retire without ever having to make any major decisions or suffer the common worries most people have.
But his real gift is for the one thing virtually all of us share; an inveterate, supremely dark sense of somewhat bitter humor. His utterances aren't necessarily the involuntary burblings of a halfwit or lieutenant but an appreciation and acceptance of our separation from the rest of our kind, civilians, and the usually hidden but nonetheless real disdain in which many of them hold us.
So, the next time a Carl or Carla says or does something seemingly moronic, smile to yourself and accept him or her as a true brother or sister.
Article written by: DV VetChick; She might be a hippie but she kicks ass and gets mushy with doggies!
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