One of the first men to greet me is Navy Hospitalman Second Class Robert Timothy “Doc” Bryan, the twenty-nine-year-old medical corpsman. A tall redhead with narrow features, he approaches with a tight grin and shakes my hand. “So you came here for a war, huh? You like war?” He continues to squeeze my hand, then puts his face about eight inches from mine and stares with unblinking, electric-blue eyes. His smile begins to twitch. “I hope you have fun in this war, reporter.”
He releases my hand and smacks my shoulder. “I’m just fucking with you, that’s all. No harm.” He walks off, laughing.
Several others break into laughter with him. Doc Bryan, I later find out, is always pissed off at something, if not the presence of a reporter, then incompetent military leaders or the barbarity of war. He’s a self-made man, son of a steamfitter from a small town outside of Philadelphia, the first in his family to attend college. He attended Lock Haven University, then the University of Pennsylvania on a football scholarship while he earned a master’s in education. In his younger days, Doc Bryan had a lot of ambient rage he used to burn off in weekend bar fights. “I’m always angry,” he later tells me. “I was born that way. I’m an asshole.”