Our resident vet's take on Tom Cruise’s latest (if wildly out of context) gaffe.
Photo: Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
It was recently reported that Tom Cruise - thespian, Scientologist, and anti-psychiatry advocate - compared working as an actor to the experience of a soldier fighting in Afghanistan. Now, obviously, Tom has caught a lot of flak for this - especially since it was taken so far out of its original context - and has certainly stoked the ire of many of my fellow veterans who feel that comparing the hardships we endured overseas to the hardships of working on a Hollywood movie set diminishes the significance of our service. But of course it's as hard to be away from your family when you're making hundreds of millions of dollars a year as it is to be thousands of miles from your family while being shot at by insurgent snipers! So when I caught wind of Tom’s remarks, my reaction was not one of dismay, but of relief. Finally, I thought, someone understands. And it’s not just “someone,” it’s Tom Cruise! The very man whose life inspired the strength and courage I needed to make it through a 12-month tour with the infantry in Afghanistan! You see, during my tour, one thought allowed me to keep my head up through it all: “At least I’m not Tom Cruise right now.” It was like my mantra – something I repeated over and over to myself when times got tough, and something I continue to repeat to myself as I struggle to cope with the memories I brought home from that awful place. Please, allow me to explain.
One of the crappiest things about being a combat soldier in Afghanistan is spending long stretches of time in the field. For my platoon, being in the field involved spending days and nights patrolling, eating, sleeping, shitting, and farting in the rural farmlands of southern Afghanistan, which festered with insects that liked to chew holes in our faces and hands when we slept. The food we ate gave us diarrhea. We made our bathrooms in sheep pens, and did our business before their curious little eyes. During the summer, heat exhaustion was a regular occurrence. During the winter, I wouldn’t be able to find my penis for days. It was like camping, but with more Taliban and less marshmallows. Anyways, most nights, as I lay in my sleeping bag, feeling the mice scamper over my legs, I would look at the stars and think, “Man, this really, really, really sucks. But you know what would suck even more? Sleeping in a giant trailer on the set of a blockbuster movie in Hollywood, California, like Tom Cruise is probably doing right now.” And with that my heart would swell with a deep appreciation for my life and I would fall asleep like a little baby, waking in the morning as fresh and lively as a spring lamb.
When you’re a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, one of the things you don’t get to do a lot of is have sex. In fact, you don’t get to do it at all. That said, a lot of soldiers in my platoon – myself included – resorted to habitual masturbation. The thing that sucks most about masturbation is that instead of having sex with an actual woman, you are having sex with your own hand (which, after spending days or weeks in the field, becomes filthy and gross). For those of you unfamiliar with the ritual of masturbation, pictures of women and/or thoughts of women are used in place of the physical presence of a woman, which is what the person masturbating actually desires. This was the ritual that my fellow soldiers and I frequently engaged in. After a few months of this, I became restless, wishing that I could be back in the States having sex with virtually any woman alive…except for Katie Holmes. Because the year was 2010, and Tom’s marriage to Katie was still going strong, so it’s safe to assume that they were probably having sex on a daily or bi-daily basis. As I masturbated, I would think about Tom making sweet, beautiful love to Katie, and out of respect, I would stop touching myself. This was Tom Cruise’s woman, damn it, and what the hell was I fighting for if not the right for Tom Cruise’s wife to not be thought about by complete strangers while masturbating? Then, suddenly, I would find myself so enthused by the fact that I was defending his rights that I would literally explode with patriotic glee.
Now, as I’m sure you know, being a soldier at war entails having to witness horrible things like death and suffering. It also entails having to endure terrifying situations like being shot at, or dodging shrapnel from exploding bombs (which there are a lot of in Afghanistan). I remember after one particularly terrifying and tragic incident, our platoon’s morale hit rock bottom. One night, not long after that incident, I heard a fellow soldier crying into the fabric of his sleeping bag. “How dare he?” I thought. “How dare he cry at a moment like this, when there are people out there – like Tom Cruise – who are going through much worse?” The image of Tom practicing his lines for Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol while a makeup artist powdered his cheeks surfaced before my eyes. I became angry. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and over to the weeping soldier. He looked surprised when I tapped him on the shoulder and illuminated his face with my flashlight. Before he could say anything, I grabbed him by the collar and yelled, “Get your shit together man! Don’t you know that there is a guy named Tom Cruise who, as we speak, is working 15 hours a day to make a movie that’s going to change the fucking world?!” I’m not sure why, but at that point, the soldier got to his feet, reared back and punched me in my face. Then, after the others were informed of what I said, they too joined in on the beating until I was pretty thoroughly beat up. After it was over, I made my way to the latrine and spent the rest of the night masturbating to not having sex with Katie Holmes. It was incredible.
Check out Dakota Meyer and Hiring Our Heroes and Running and Gunning With Maximum Warrior 4.