Dipsy Dumpster Story
by James Glaser
May 14, 2009

Everybody who has been in the armed forces has a few stories they always remember. This week, an American soldier in Iraq killed five other soldiers. I don't know why that guy killed his fellow troops, but it has been reported that he had already spent over three years in Iraq, and three years in any combat zone is going to really stress you out. After reading about that guy, I remembered about the dipsy dumpster.

I had just finished Marine Corps Boot Camp and was in the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at Camp Pendleton, California. It was kind of strange after Boot Camp to think that all the guys in my platoon were now real Marines, and we could talk to other Marines. In Boot Camp you couldn't talk at all, and for sure you couldn't talk to "real" Marines. Remember, Marine Corps Boot Camp is a time of brainwashing, and after twelve weeks of indoctrination, your brain wasn't working just right, and it would take weeks to adjust.

Like I said, we could now talk to other Marines, and some of those other Marines had already done a tour in Vietnam. You could tell who they were as they were kind of strange. Well, here we were learning how to throw grenades, fire the M-60 machine gun and other infantry type stuff, and the teachers were the experienced Marines back from Vietnam.

One night about three in the morning we all awoke to the most awful scream. A Marine who had already done one tour in the Nam had put his hand over the top edge of the metal dipsy dumpster, where all the trash was dumped. He put his hand up there, and then slammed the heavy metal lid down on his hand. Just thinking about it today makes me wince.

That Marine had received orders to return for another tour in Vietnam, and I guess he decided a Bad Discharge and a mangled hand were better than another trip across the ocean. He was stressed out, but back then they really didn't think much of combat stress.

While I was in Vietnam, we had a guy shoot himself in the foot, a guy commit suicide, a few guys who said they were crazy, and several who decided to stay drugged all the time. Combat is stressful. Marines were killing Marines. Usually it was low ranking guys killing officers or higher ranking enlisted.

I remember we told the "higher ups" that they had better not come over to our area at night to check on us, because they might get shot. They listened and left us alone. After a while in combat, the rules of behavior change, and a guy can do about anything.

I don't know why that soldier in Iraq killed his fellow troops, but I can understand how it could happen. The guy flipped out, and instead of taking his own life he took those other guys out.

Stress! Three plus years in combat, and even if those three years are broken up with time at home, they will still make you crazy. In fact, maybe the time at home, and the repeated trips back to combat are harder than staying there. I don't know. I do know that right now there are many guys with three or four tours and some with five in this war.

That dipsy dumpster? Well, it didn't work. The guy broke his hand and lost a finger, but not the right finger. He had to stay in the Marines, and after he healed, he went back to Vietnam. He said he would have tried it again, but it hurt so bad he couldn't.

You stress out a person enough, and they will do almost anything to stay away from that stress. They will slam a heavy metal lid on their hand, shoot themselves, become a drug addict, or start shooting others. You can only ask so much of a person. Some more and some less, but everybody has a breaking point, and we are now seeing that some of our troops have reached theirs.

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