September 25, 2008


I never wrote a wrap-up of the Milblogging Conference this weekend, and I lazily thought I might let it pass by. Until I saw this line on Lileks today:

Heaven is full of neon, at least the American Sector.

So, I like Vegas. It seemed I was the odd man out. I understand that Vegas is not the ideal spot for Milblogs and I support returning the conference to DC next year, but I still enjoy any reason to head to Vegas. I'd rather go there than to most cities in the world.

And I got to arrive at night, which is the best. When I go back, I want to make it a point to arrive at night again and take the shuttle from the airport, stopping at all the hotels along the strip. I stared at the lights and the ads and the glitter, and all I could think of is excess.

But in a good way.

Vegas reminds me of what makes my country great. That we have enough resources to power every square inch of an entire city all night long. That we have enough money to respond to ads for celebrity salons and shows that cost a hundred bucks a pop. That we have enough leisure to while away our hours in casinos and bars.

Vegas is the closest thing we have to Galt's Gulch in this country.
It is capitalism run rampant.
I find it exhilarating.

But in the light of day on Saturday, we were all business at the convention center.

The topic of the first panel was whether milblogs are still relevant. I know bigwigs read Blackfive. They read SpouseBUZZ too. High-level decision makers are peeking in on us. (Not here, for pete's sake. Unless someone at the Pentagon wants to knit a chinook.) In my book, that still makes them relevant. But more important are the non-bigwigs who read the blogs. It's the civilians who begin to understand our lives and can pass on the accurate stories of how we live who are the disseminators of the milblogs' wisdom.

A friend called me a few weeks ago and said that he had seen Generation Kill and was horrified at how the marines were portrayed. I haven't seen the show, but she thought it was very biased and was worried that if this is the only exposure people have to the military... I trust the Pajamas Media review that said that it got better after the first episode, but I recommended watching Gunner Palace or Bad Voodoo's War instead.

And that's how milblogs stay relevant.

The war is different from when Colby Buzzell started writing. It's different from when my husband was there last. I wish he could share stories of the things he's doing these days, because those are the things that are preparing Iraq for her future. But Civil Affairs teams can't talk about any of the good stuff, and the occasional press release can't even name names.

But they're out there and they're working. It's a shame that some of the best stuff out of Iraq can't be blogged. But that's a tradeoff we gladly make.

I spoke on the community panel, which is in many ways the heart of what keeps milblogs relevant. (Not me, for pete's sake. I have done nothing of importance.) When you look at who the attendees are for the conference, it's all community types. It's Soldiers' Angels and wives and our friends like Barb and Code Monkey. The community has grown far beyond the front lines.

I'm a REMF in the milblogging world. Heh.

There was one attendee, and I hate to pick on him, but he kept standing up and asking why there wasn't any top-down organization of veterans' issues. We milbloggers were just kinda bamboozled; who wants top-down structure when you can organize it yourself? When Chuck can say he needs voice-activated software and a charity is born? When Ginger starts sewing for soldiers like she used to sew for her son? That's how it works. Top-down is for suckers.

This community grew because one man wanted to make a tribute to his fallen friend. Another man wanted us to band together. One girl rode a train in Germany to go meet an imaginary friend. Another girl emailed her and said they were soulmates. One of our beloved milbloggers passed away, and three years later this girl cried on the shoulder of another of his biggest fans.

That's how this milblog community grew. It grew up big and bright and strong out of an empty corner of the internet.

Just like Vegas.

Posted by Sarah at September 25, 2008 08:50 PM | TrackBack


I really wish we'd had more time to talk. It's one thing I do regret about the weekend.

Personally, I thought Vegas was a blast. But I can't wait to get back to DC next year either. To me they each have their good qualities.

If you get another chance to go to Vegas and want another friend to come along, let me know. I'm not far away.

Don't underestimate your contribution. You're a great example of maintaining grace and sanity though rough times. You help me with keeping perspective more than you know.


Posted by: Code Monkey at September 25, 2008 10:05 PM

You know all my mushy stuff and I'm glad I had the chance to meet you as well as some of the others. I wasn't able, obviously, to make Vegas, but I would loved to have met some of the other bloggers I frequent and I'm hoping to make it to DC. I don't consider myself a milblogger but I am humbled by so many others and draw from their grace and strength, yours included.

Your post is spot on and you did a great job of putting it real perspective.

Posted by: Susan at September 26, 2008 08:59 AM

That is lovely. And true.

And, yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus and we ARE still relevant. No matter how many times and in how many forms that question was asked.

Posted by: Guard Wife at September 26, 2008 10:54 AM

I just read this out loud to DH , he really loved it as much as I did...

Posted by: awtm at September 26, 2008 07:50 PM

Great perspective, nicely done. We really are all about the community - that's why we don't need some structure, the community works just as it is :-)

Posted by: Barb at September 26, 2008 11:31 PM

milblogs and milbloggers are relevant so long as we continue to do relevant things. but I can't shake the feeling that we aren't focused enough... the difference between a shotgun/birdshot and rifle/bullet.

it doesn't matter where the conference is held -- it's the agenda -- how about open suggestions for panel topics?

and how about we move it around to other places in America -- Chicago, New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas... maybe near military installations? or ON installations?

Posted by: Some Soldier's Mom at October 1, 2008 12:54 PM

Code Monkey, Get back in your cage. The only reason you enjoyed Vegas so much was the penny slots and the transvestite cabarets.

Vegas is the city of all that is right (and wrong) about our country. Mostly, I like the fact that the wrongness is tolerated so much, right down to the little porno card flickas, that it epitomizes the freedom we hold so dear.

Live and let live, man.

I definitely see the need to marry up with BWE, and their host does love us so much, but I too would like to go to balmier climes and new horizons. it's something about the Army and wanderlust. once I've been to a new place enough times that I can navigate side streets and such and know generally where I am most of the time, it gets boring.

Posted by: Chuck at October 1, 2008 02:25 PM

You are right, we do not need top down support; we need bottom out support. If the DoD and VA are providing all the support for our troops and veterans then we will continue to be a nation where only 1% fight our wars. Filling out a 1040 does not win wars. Sending a blanket to Soldiers angels gets the homemaker standing next to the soldier. Helping your vet neighbor raise the flag in his front yard or standing with the Patriot Guard would be much more personal that the VA could ever imagine. In fact, as a veteran myself, I would love to see the VA abolished and replaced by private volunteer organizations like Soldiers Angels.

Posted by: Francis Marion at October 1, 2008 07:55 PM

You know Sarah. After writing are going to have to write a lot more, its good - very good.

Posted by: David M at October 3, 2008 09:11 AM