I spent last Saturday night hanging out at a local hostel in Munich, drinking a few beers with random people. I talked a bit a group of three American guys who, as it happened, were soldiers on leave from the American army base in Schweinfurt. Though they were on leave, they had violated the rules by having travelled to Munich – more than 2 hours away from their base just days before deployment.
As they explained to me, they were off to Kuwait in one week and then off to Iraq a week later, so these were the last few days in Europe, and definitely their last chance to drink beer and travel around more or less freely. So they were making the most of it before they would be spending a year patrolling the streets of Baghdad.
The three were a motley crew: A jew, an arab and a roman-catholic. They were quite conscious about this and made a point of it: “What other army in the world would you find people with such different backgrounds?”
The jew was 23, and had bounced from job to job and ended up signing up last year. The arab was also 23, and had a university degree in Political Science which, he as he put it, “was all about bullshitting people”. He didn’t want to discuss the reasons for going to Iraq, but had signed up a few years earlier. The roman-catholic was 19, and had duct tape on his glasses and wore a strangely misshapen hat much like some sort of streetwise gangster. He enjoyed being out on the town and seemed quite cheerful whereas the other two were more tense.
While making the most of the 2-euro-draught-beer happy hour, they showed me pictures of what they’d seen around Germany and explained how joining the army probably was their best chance of ever seeing Europe. So I asked them why they’d joined and the jew answered: “Fuck if I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” But he still smiled.
Soon, they disappeared off into the Bavarian night for their last night out.