I want to thank Matt for putting this book together. I know how much work went in to it, as we corresponded several times while he was writing it. He even managed to shoehorn a couple of my blog posts into the finished product.
It would be negligent of me, as one of the original "Live from the Sandbox" milbloggers, not to directly address CPT Kevin O'Meara's assertion that we can't be trusted because we are "under constant censorship by the US Government." While it's true that active duty military members have certain restrictions on the information they can disclose, I am pleased to report that after maintaining a military blog for almost four years I have never - not once - been instructed by anyone to remove or edit a single entry in my blog.
When I first blogged as "L.T. SMASH" in December of 2002, the technology was so new that there were no military regulations specifically addressing weblogs. We are always bound, of course, by military regulations concerning sensitive and classified information, as well as prohibitions against "contemptuous speech" towards our superiors. But I knew, as a milblogging pioneer, that I would be setting the standard for those who would follow in my footsteps.
Without any guidance from above, I did what any good officer would: I came up with my own set of rules, a little bit more stringent than those already in place for other forms of communication. Over time, I distilled these rules down to what I call the Golden Rule of MilBlogging:
*** Write every post as if you expect it to be read by the enemy, your commanding officer, and your mother. ***
Following this simple rule allowed me to convey to the people back home how it felt to be living and working in the Sandbox without endangering my men, running afoul of my command, or embarrassing my family. So to be fair to Kevin, you could say that I WAS censored, by myself.
I was under no obligation, during my 2003 deployment, to report the existence of my weblog to my chain-of-command. Nevertheless, it's impossible to keep such a thing secret for long. Eventually, somebody discovered that I was an anonymous milblogger, and passed the information on to my commanding officer.
The Golden Rule of Milblogging, it turns out, saved my hide. My C.O. reported the existence of my milblog to higher authority, and was directed to read every entry in my blog for possible security violations. He never mentioned it to me until several months after we returned home safely. When he finally told me about it - the day of his change-of-command ceremony - he gave me one of the highest compliments I've ever received.
"You're a very good writer," he told me. "Your concern for your sailors comes through in your blog. You should consider putting it together in a book."
Well, now some of my entries have been compiled as part of "The Blog of War." Not as many as I would have liked, but there are so many compelling stories out there, and I was just another Navy guy "in the rear with the gear."
But all of this misses the larger point. Milblogging isn't about politics. Milblogging is about story-telling, it's about trying to convey, to those who have never experienced it, the feeling of going to war.
So why doesn't Kevin want our stories told?