Rebirth of Reason

Favorite EditSanction this itemLove My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams
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Love My Rifle More Than You

Toward the end of her deployment, she discovered Atlas Shrugged, and it resonated with her. Focused and detailed, she often ran into brazen incompetence.


Kayla Williams writes from the gut, the heart, and the mind. She joined the army after college–and after marriage and divorce. Her early life was not easy, but “sons of the sinner, sons of the saint,/who is the child with no complaint?” She always was her own person, taking risks and accepting the consequences, even as she entered her teens. So, it was fitting (though not predictable) that ten years later, she joined the army, pretty much on a dare. She served in Iraq in 2003-2004 as an interpreter.


Of all the vignettes about the incompetent leaders, this is the most telling:

[Herself a specialist (grade E-4, like a corporal) Williams asked for a meeting with her staff sergeant, and also requested that a lieutenant be there as a witness.]  After some preliminaries, the staff sergeant said, "... I want to tell you that I feel that you don't respect me because I don't care about learning anything about the technical side of our job. Or learning anything about our equipment."

This blows my mind.

Well, I want to say. Yeah.

But I can't say this, of course. So just kind of stare at her.

And the lieutenant is staring at her by this point as well. Jaw slightly agape.

Is she honestly saying this to us? As a defense for her not knowing her job?

Then she says it again.

"I really am feeling you don't respect me because I don't care about the knowing the technical aspects of our job."

And I am looking a her. Searching for words.

"It is important for you to be able to identify the equipment that you are signed for."

She has signed for more than a million dollars' worth of equipment...

"Oh," she says huffily, "So I guess this is going to be the time to just rip on me. And bring up all my faults."


It is easy to understand why the portrayal of Dagny Taggart resonated with her. 


In Williams' words: "Rand is all about personal responsibility. In a lot of ways she's an intellectual snob. A tremendous elitist. There's a sentiment expressed by a central character in Atlas Shrugged. She talks about how she has to struggle against other people to get her job done. It's hard enough to do her job, but then she also has to actively fight people who appear to be trying to prevent her work from happening. She talks about how frustrating is can be to deal with imcompetence. How exhausting and draining it can be.

I identified strongly with this.


I found the book attached to her biography on the “Foxhole Atheists” tab (“Meet the MAAF”) of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Williams labels herself a “secular humanist” and she thanks the chaplains who provided emotional support for those in combat.


Her insights into adjusting to war are deep and meaningful. She speaks not just for herself, but from her observations of others. Even those who originally embraced the locals came to distrust and despise them, not for anything they did, but for being the cause of the soldier’s being in an untenable situation.


In addition to Iraqis, Williams met two other groups who were then just footnotes, and who have since been catapulted to the headlines: the Peshmerga militia of the Kurds; and the hapless Yezidi.


Williams maintained a vegetarian diet while in combat for a year. She lost 30 pounds, down from 145, but stabilized with food from the local Kurds. She also was able to get some halal and kosher MREs, but not without hijacking them. (No one was eating them. They were to be destroyed. But she was not Jewish, and “vegetarian” is not a recognized religion.)


Much of the narrative is about the unrelenting sexual harassment. In small words and grotesque actions, the female soldier is barraged every hour of every day.


Returning home, she soon retreated from unknowing (but sympathetic) family, friends, and acquaintances back to Fort Campbell. There, she was among others who had shared her experiences. Eventually, she found her way out, and her new book is Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War.


Added by Michael E. Marotta
on 8/09, 11:09am

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