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Playing Cards an Essential Rucksack Item

By Pfc. Chris Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Sept. 15, 2003 – Not everyone likes playing cards. Heck, why play a simple game of blackjack when you can cruise the streets in a tank in a popular video game?

"Well, you can't pack a (video game system) in your ruck," answered Spc. Virgina Brickner, Company C, 8th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment. "You can take cards anywhere, anytime. At night, all you need is a flashlight to keep playing," she said, adding that she's not good at video games anyway.

Smaller than an average wallet, a deck of cards is a truly convenient and portable form of entertainment.

"It doesn't take batteries, doesn't take time to set up, (it) fits anywhere, and it's been around for so long that everyone knows at least one game," said Sgt. Steve Magness, an engineer with Company A, 326th Engineers Battalion. "Cards bring people to a common ground."

However, the secret to the success of playing cards may not be their simplicity; it may be in the versatility of a single deck.

"There's no end to how much you can do with cards," said Pfc. Joe Green, an engineer in Magness' squad. "You can do anything with them. You can put them in a hat, plaster them to your head, do magic tricks. Cards are one of the most versatile things ever -- kind of like cheese."

To some players, each card has a life of its own. Spc. Kieran Moore, a Combat Camera photographer with 982nd Signal Company, said if all 52 cards came to life, the joker would be the most popular.

"The king is stuck-up, the queen is scandalous, the jack is irritating," Moore said. "Yeah, the jack would be the power-hungry, stab-you-in-the-back type. But the joker, he's the life of the party -- the one who shows everyone a good time. He starts something on the sidelines, then walks away and leaves everyone laughing."

Moore said the world of playing cards is a treacherous one. "When I see cards, I see chaos, randomness and luck," Moore said. "I see the fake assumption of control and estimation." Nevertheless, this world is one Moore cannot seem to keep out of.

The question remains: After all the technological advancements already surfacing in the early 21st century, can the card industry survive? Spc. Dave Stage, a cameraman in Moore's unit, said he has no doubt about the fortitude of the industry.

"Cards will always be here," Stage said. "We need them for self-survival and sanity."

(Pfc. Chris Jones is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers from 8th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, play a game of cards at night while on a mission in Southwest Iraq. Counter-clockwise from bottom left: Sgt. Jose Cadengo, Spc. Virginia Brickner, Sgt. Austin MacDonald, Pfc. Wesley Bowker. Photo by Spc. Kieran Moore, USA  
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