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File:Jarhead 7290.jpg
"A story: A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands, love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper; his hands remember the rifle."

Jarhead is the title of the 2003 autobiography of Marine scout sniper Anthony Swofford, adapted into a 2005 film which starred Jake Gyllenhall (as Swofford), as well as Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard.

Set before, during, and after the Gulf War, Swofford's account of his time in the military stands in contrast to more traditional works: being largely an air campaign, Swofford's unit (like many other ground troops) saw little engagement with enemy forces; averting boredom and mental fatigue are more of the day-to-day activities than actual firefights.

Along with documenting the minutiae of military life during basic training and the campaign, Swofford gives background on the types of people that are his fellow Marines.


This work contains examples of:

 SSgt. Sykes: The Bible says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Now hear this... FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

 Troy: You can shoot how far? A hundred yards? To go that far in Vietnam, it'd take a week. In World War I, a year. Here? It'll take about ten fucking seconds! By the time we have our rifles dialed, the war's gonna be a mile down the road! Wake up!

  • Humans Are Bastards: Dettman's wife arguably qualifies, by letting him know his marriage is over by sending him a homemade movie where she's having sex with their neighbor.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: Noted as a legitimate military tactic to quickly gauge distances: use things you know, such as the length of a football field.

 SSgt. Sykes: You take what you know, and then you multiply. Please don't use your dicks. They're too small, and I can't count that high. I don't wanna hear, "400,000 inches."

  "A bed was a rack. A wall was a bulkhead. A shirt was a blouse. A tie was still a tie, and a belt a belt. But many other things would never be the same."

  • Military Moonshiner: One, Corporal Harrigan, supplies the illegal booze for the party in Iraq.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Discussed at length in this Cracked article, which cites Jarhead as a major offender. The trailer tries to make a slow-paced character drama about the boredom and alienation of military life look like a slam-bang war thriller by stringing together footage of the few scenes where there's actually any fighting shown. They even include the scene where Fergus lights the flares on fire, which (taken out of context) makes it look like the marines are under attack.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Fowler commits this. It's defiling a corpse, but that's still a major no-no by the books. There's an allusion to the same soldier having shot a camel just because he could.
  • Pink Mist: Invoked by name, in an almost erotic way...
  • Sanity Slippage: When Swofford calmly defines his choice of firing position that could result in a friendly fire situation (from several inches away, no less), you know things are not going well. To say nothing of pointing his loaded rifle at his squadmate Fergus and threatening to kill him as both because of an accident from earlier that got him demoted and to relieve his boredom.

 Swofford: For most problems the Marine is issued a solution. If ill, go to sickbay. If wounded, call a Corpsman. If dead, report to graves registration. If losing his mind, however, no standard solution exists.

  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Well, it was Christmas...
  • Sergeant Rock: Staff Sergeant Sykes knows his job and knows it well. And he loves it. Oorah.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: While riding a bus during a welcome-home parade, the Marines find themselves face-to-face with a ragged Vietnam War veteran who jumps onto the bus to congratulate them for winning the war, and making it "clean". The Veteran visibly breaks down and sits down, asking if he can ride with them for a while. The squad is visibly uncomfortable when faced with what they could possibly become.
  • Sophisticated As Hell: A lot of the Marines have Hidden Depths; Troy quotes Hemingway, Swofford is obviously well-read and the platoon's Military Moonshiner , Harrigan, studied Classics at Dartmouth.
    • Justified in Swofford's case, since the movie is based on the real Anthony Swofford's memoir. After serving in the Marines, Swofford went on to get an English degree and become a successful writer.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Kruger, played brilliantly by Lucas Black. Subverts it somewhat by being the group skeptic and rather tuned-in to the harsh realities of his situation.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Staff Sergeant Sykes often has his name misspelled by other media, the most common of which being 'Sieks'.
  • Tempting Fate: "Them paintball bullets, they hurt?"
  • Understatement: "It was shortly after meeting Drill Instructor Fitch that I realized that joining the Marine Corps might have been a bad decision."
  • War Is Hell: It is...just not for the usual reasons. In the Gulf War, soldiers often spent more time battling alienation and loneliness than the enemy. Due to the brevity of the war, they often had to deal with pent-up energy when they never actually saw a battle.
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