This is a two-part interview between Dean and his brother Binyomin on events that took place during the Iraq War. We'll discuss the impact these events have on Binyomin's life. Binyomin is a U.S. Marine who was stationed in Japan, Iraq, and several U.S. locations. He has a wife and five children.

How war affects its soldiers

This is the first interview between Dean and his brother Ben—today others call him Binyomin—on events that took place during the Iraq War in 2006. We'll discuss the impact these events have on Binyomin's life. Binyomin is a U.S. Marine who was stationed in Okinawa Japan, Habbaniyah Iraq, Fallujah Iraq, and several U.S. locations. He has a wife and five children. He is active in helping veterans advocate for themselves and their mental needs. He is involved in the Fort Lauderdale area Jewish community.

Inspiration for war

Dean: Why did you join the Marines at 18?

Binyomin: My parents got divorced and that had a big impact on me. When my Grandmom Ettie suggested that me joining was due to them getting a divorce, I was speechless. And I felt—for some reason—the need to prove to myself that I was a man. I wanted to join the hardest branch of the military, but I didn’t want the infantry. I wanted hard, but not too hard. I did a lot of research. I wanted to be in Iraq, so I chose to be a U.S. Marine. They called us POGs — person other than grunts. Those in the front lines were called infantry, or O3s. I decided to become a generator mechanic.

Dean: Why a generator mechanic?

Binyomin: I could have joined as anything—my scores allowed it. I received a 110GT score — not great, but this allowed me to do most things. I knew the recruiter from the area. He said: "find something in this book that you can figure out and make money with after you’re done with the Marines." I didn’t want to shoot people or be on the front lines. There were people in my high school class who signed up for front-line infantry, but that didn't appeal to me. Ideally, I wanted some type of manual labor like at the farm—outdoors and working with my hands. Diesel generator mechanic electrician sounded perfect for me.

Dean: How many others in the high school class joined the military?

Binyomin: Out of 350 kids, maybe 10 joined the military (all 5 branches); 4 others and I joined the Marines.

Dean: And what did you think you’d do after the Marines?

Binyomin: I worked at a farm at the time, and Gary (the farm owner) knew electrical stuff but there were things he didn’t know how to do. He was paying several hundreds of dollars for someone to do this work. I figured I could do something like that. The book the recruiter handed me had many ambiguous jobs like data/server work. Electrical work was something I could relate to because of the farm.

Dean: What was being repaired at the farm that gave you the inspiration to be a generator mechanic?

Binyomin: A panel box, a certain light, a basement renovation. Gary was a jack of all trades but with the more complex work, he would ask for help. I read books about the military, watched movies like Full Metal Jacket, and talked to every Marine veteran I could.

Dean: How did your relationship with Gary and the farm impact your interest in going to Iraq? Binyomin: The farm was a small operation. I wanted something bigger. I wanted to go into Iraq at the time — not Afghanistan — mainly because Iraq was in the news. I wanted to go to combat — I thought ‘I didn’t want to miss this war — there might not be another opportunity.’ I didn’t know any other way besides being a reporter. This was the only way I wanted to get to the war zone. I was also influenced by working with Gary's older brother Terry the summer before I went to Parris Island for boot camp. Terry was an infantryman in Vietnam and we spent hours speaking about his time in the Marines. Terry spoke about killing the first "gook"—a derogatory term for people of Asian descent. He spoke about how sad he felt after killing the man and uncovering his wallet, with photos of the man's family.

This reinforced my decision to join as a mechanic.

Once I enlisted, we were asked by drill instructors why we joined—and I always said patriotism and that I wanted to go to Iraq.

I really wanted to go to Iraq. Once, a Colonel (high ranking officer) gave a speech, and I went over to him after to ask him 'sir, when will I be able to go to Iraq? I want to go right away.' The other Marines were laughing at me, but I wanted to go immediately.

Dean: And do you consider yourself a patriot?

Binyomin: No, I felt patriotic maybe at that point, but once I was in Iraq, I no longer felt the same patriotism — none of us did. We evolved at varying levels. Today, I don’t feel like a patriot. I love the country and all of that, but no I don't look at it that way anymore. When I was a virgin with the whole thing, I was a patriot. But once we got to Iraq, I didn't see it the same way again. I don't think I ever will.