Peacenik gift for future soldiers
October 23, 2006 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me to find a good going away gift for my cousin who's joining the army.

Okay, just so you know, I'm anti-war and my first instinct is to call him up and ask him if he has lost his pea-pickin' mind joining up at a time like this. There's a couple things preventing me from doing this though:
1) He's generally a smart, charming kid who just happens to have a chip on his shoulder the size of a Xerox machine. If I say what I instinctually want to say ("SNAP OUT OF THIS! RUN TO MONTREAL! FOR CHRIST"S SAKE SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT!") he'll just take pleasure in having gotten a strong reaction
2) I genuinely love the kid, and know that as a young man with a huge chip on his shoulder he's going to have a terrible time in the miltary (he doesn't like being edited, much less ordered around). I want him to know that he can come home, no judgement, unconditionally.

So what I'm looking for here are books that I could give him, perhaps a reference for survival, memoirs of people who've gotten through the military or war with their humour and selves intact. I'm also looking for songs for a mixtape perhaps, with songs along the Lines of Mirah's "Person Person":

"Oh person, person
we're really missing you.
It breaks all of our heart to know
that you just want to come on home
So come on home."
posted by Sara Anne to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bullet proof vest. Barring that, shoot him in the knee*.

* Just kidding. But it *would* stop him from deploying.
posted by The Michael The at 7:53 AM on October 23, 2006

It's not along the lines of a mixtape, but really, he'd probably appreciate some porn. And it would instantly make him popular - which is a plus when someone may have to rescue him from bullet fire.
posted by meerkatty at 7:56 AM on October 23, 2006

I think that some sort of phone card, so that he can call back home when he is lonely and depressed when overseas would end up being a very popular choice as well... both by him, as well as the family and friends who will be left behind.
posted by Jade Dragon at 8:06 AM on October 23, 2006

Just know that anything that you send with him to boot camp will be taken away until he is finished...So if you can, make it a boot camp graduation gift. Any books that I could recommend (Catch 22, Blackhawk Down) wouldn't exactly be motivational. After that, when he is deployed just send em foodstuffs and current shit that he might be missing (books, music, mags).

Oh, and the porn is actually a good idea, barracks and ships are like prison, with their own forms of currency!
posted by sneakyalien at 8:12 AM on October 23, 2006

Best answer: Speaking as someone who enlisted under similar circumstances:

1. The best gift you can give him is regular correspondence, especially while he's in training. If basic training is anything like it was when I went through it, he won't be allowed anything besides a Bible and a few pictures anyhow, but he'll be expected to write and receive letters. If he doesn't get some spontaneously, the drills will get him a correspondent and that just sucks.

2. Use that correspondence as a foundation for him to talk to you about the changes he's going through.

There's a good chance he's enlisting because he's hoping for some sort of change, so telling him not to would put you in the "just doesn't get it" category right off the bat. He's going to change because the training process will put him in touch with things he's probably never considered in earnest, and he's going to have to navigate that change. The best thing someone on the outside can do is let him know he's loved and cared for as he undergoes that change.

When he gets out, whenever that is, he's going to have a lot of shit to work through, even if he never fires a shot in anger. If you were one of the people who was there for him, you'll be able to help him. If he makes it to the point where he's offered reenlistment, knowing he's got some sort of connection with the outside might help him decide he'd rather go home.

One other thing you'll be giving him if you do all that: A real counterbalance to the steady message he's going to get throughout basic training, which is that everyone "back on the block" despises him and thinks he's stupid.
posted by mph at 8:13 AM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

At least during the first few months, while he is in Basic Training, he wont really have an opportunity (and probably not the inclination) to spend a lot of time reading, etc. The thing that I liked the most in basic training was getting letters from family, etc. News summaries were great, because trainees generally dont get much in the way of news.

Also, while I understand your feelings about the the war in iraq, you wont be doing him any favors by sending him material trying to dissuade him from joining up. People of good will can disagree on the issue, and there is enough stress during basic without arguing politics all the time.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 8:15 AM on October 23, 2006

We got my cousin a film camera, a small point-and-shoot one with one button and a flash. It's simple, easy to use, and won't get him worn down with instructions.

We also got him a sleeping sack, which is a cotton sleeping bag liner for his bivuoac. He uses this and stops him from sweating out hot nights in the field.
posted by parmanparman at 8:32 AM on October 23, 2006

As a kind of add-on to what the others have said, ask him if there are any comics, columns, or news sites he reads regularly. For example, does he like News of the Weird? Garfield? Always read Savage Love? Whatever it is, send some in with his letters. You know, something completely and utterly distracting. It won't remind him of how much he misses his family, it won't remind him how tired and lonely he is, it will just be a few seconds he can read a column or what have you. The key, however, is send it *with* your letters. I can't count how many times I have been bitched at because I didn't write enough while my boys were away in Iraq. Apparently e-mails don't count.
posted by starbaby at 1:48 PM on October 23, 2006

My dad would save up and send comics from the paper. We were completely cut off from news in training, and although I did some push-ups when the DSs figured out what was in the envelopes, they let me have em on Sundays.

That is just one of the many reasons I miss that man so freaking much.
posted by Chickenjack at 2:51 PM on October 23, 2006

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