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215 CHAPTER TEN Falling Out of Performance: Pragmatic Breakdown in Veterans’Storytelling —KristianaWillsey Former army medic Curtis Feld was a soft-spoken,1 introspective man, using his G.I. Bill benefits to study philosophy. Hearing of my research on narrative among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, he volunteered to be interviewed out of, he said,“thesis karma”—one scholar to another.When I asked him about the most dangerous thing he had done in his time as a medic, he began sorting through a handful of narrative abstracts, which he offered to me incredulously before finally settling on the time he received his combat medical badge:2 Being twenty meters from someone and we’re shootin at each other? I mean that’s— (3 sec) Having a mortar land like six—like where that gray trash can is, and go off, but between you and that is what we call a T-wall? Um.Yeah, that can be scary. I felt the blast through the concrete wall. (1 sec) Umm. Must’ve been like a sixty mi—like a sixty millimeter mortar? (3 sec) Ahhhm, (3 sec) Glass shattering over a patient, me covering the patient? Y’know? (hits table) Gurney, uh, I remember taking these guys out to the helo? This is what (hits table) (2 sec) it’s kinda petty, but (4 sec, indrawn breath, tapping table) They’re all award friendly. I mean you have to earn it, I mean yeah, but it’s just like (2 sec) I was taking patients out to a Black Hawk helicopter? We’d been receiving so many patients? And there were mortar rounds just falling.A-hahah-nd I (laughing) remember, pushing patients out on these gurneys, right a—what we call rickshaws. Not as a pejorative term to Asians, that used them but yeah so we’re just (1 sec) Two-wheeled carriers and we’re takin them out (hits table) KristianaWillsey 216 mortars are falling and the helicopters, they shouldn’t be flying—I-it was adust storm. See, the enemy . . . takes advantage of that. It-we can’t see. Or we, they think we can’t see them. (1 sec) And so uh (1 sec) bombs are falling and uh (1 sec) Yeah. I mean (2 sec) Uh (1 sec) Got knocked down a couple times, I mean, So.You said dangerous, not scared this time right? Okay yeah (apparent digression, I make a move to ask a new question, he cuts in) So they gave some stupid award for that. (emphases added) It isn’t clear until the final line of the transcript that Curtis was trying to correct my question (“What’s the most dangerous thing you ever did?”) with a narrative about how he was distinguished for performing a difficult task under dangerous conditions. Since I didn’t realize this, I thought he had abandoned the initial question and made a move to redirect the conversation . Curtis recognizes that he’s about to lose the opportunity to talk about his receiving his combat medical badge and makes a final stab at narrative completion:“so they gave me some stupid award for that.” Curtis’s story is a collection of sentence fragments, uncertain pauses, and descriptive passages with no clear plot or purpose. Yet as Bruce Jackson observes, “Sometimes what we think is a bungled story may seem bungled only because we don’t understand the real story that is told . . . digressions and misdirections may not be errors so much as the enactment of another story entirely, one that is being told but one that we’re not quite able to hear” (2007:32–33; see also Butler 1992, Mould 2012). Throughout this fragmented narrative, Curtis is actually still speaking to the subject of my question, talking around the time he loaded wounded soldiers into helicopters under fire, but he is responding to my word dangerous,as a judgment.Curtis is conflicted about his military career, proud of his awards yet embarrassed by them and not sure what they should mean to him as a civilian. The false starts, hesitations , frame-breaking, and other retreats from performance reflect his awareness of the simplified roles available to veterans—the hero, the victim, or the villain—that an uninformed audience like myself might bring to his narrative . Would telling this story be representing himself (perhaps misleadingly) as a“hero,” or (per my question) as a“dangerous” man? Curtis’s story demonstrates...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781496804297
Related ISBN
9781496804259
MARC Record
OCLC
919202352
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-11
Language
English
Open Access
No
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