It’s Marine Week here in Boston, meaning the USMC has made a beachhead on Copley Square. Every morning coming into work and every evening coming out, I weave through a Howitzer emplacement, a parked HummVee and an amphibious assault vehicle of some sort. Under normal circumstances, wandering up to a HummVee and snapping pictures could get you a cuff on the head and a trip to a military tribunal. Not during Marine Week. Here, they practically insist you climb inside. I hopped into the driver’s seat of the HummVee, which is where 90% of Generation Kill took place, and snapped some photos. “This is so cool,” crowed a guy in the back seat. “Look at all that shit up there!”
Off to one side, overlooking the dry fountain, lay a tarp strewn with weapons. A dozen Marines stood around, reciting trivia about the latest in military hardware. They had two sniper rifles, a Barrett .50 and an M40A3, on display, tempting any n00bs to pick them up and start circle-strafing. A six-year-old picked up an assault rifle, wavering on his feet under its oblong weight. The jarhead on duty steadied him with one hand. With the other he scooped up his own rifle. “Look at your ma,” he said, pointing to the crouching woman on the other end of the tarp. “Look at the camera.”
No one was looking at the .50-cal LMG on the far end of the display, so I got to ask the Marine guarding it a few questions. “It’s pretty friggin’ incredible, friggin,” he said. “You want to try it?” It may be some years before I get that offer again, so I took him up on it. Sitting on the grass and planting my feet in the metal frame, like gynecological stirrups, I grasped the bolt, pulled it toward me, and pressed a button between the two handles. “That’s a half load,” the Marine said. “Now do it again.” I repeated the process. “That’s a full load.” The rate of fire hinges on how long and hard you pull the trigger, not a selector switch. I dipped and arced the gun barrel on its mount, wondering how much strength it took to keep it steady for two minutes of firing. The Marine offered to take a picture with me behind the trigger; I declined.