Other popular names among reborn child soldiers included “Buck Naked,” “Human Eater,” “Dirty Ways,” and, of course, “Rambo.” They were supposed to make the soldiers forget about their past lives and live up to their tough guy images. After all, a guy named “Rambo” doesn’t wanna be seen laying down arms and hugging things out. But there was another reason for the new names. Dr. Woodward explains: “Child soldiers are given nicknames to protect their true identities … There is always fear of reprisal when the conflict is over, and any action that enables the soldiers to hide their identities and possible war crimes is helpful.”
Many Child Soldiers Willingly Reenlist, Because Fighting Is All They Know
After Taylor took over in Liberia in 1997, it took less than two years for his government’s rampant corruption, torture, murder of dissidents, and other crimes to spark the Second Liberian Civil War, this time with rebels fighting against him. By then, Puck had already been released from military duty, and had no obligation to involve himself in any of the fighting. But that’s precisely what he did, willingly joining Liberia’s Armed Forces, led by the man whose militia kidnapped and abused him a few years prior. Either Liberia has the greatest GI Bill in history, or something else was at play here.
“At first I did hate the NPFL, but gradually, as months, years passed by, I got adjusted and focused on how to survive. My hate started to grow for the enemies. I reenlisted because the rebel groups that were attacking the government were all our former enemies, and there’s this saying: once an enemy, always an enemy … On many occasions, I was attacked by members of other units, and my crew usually came in swiftly to rescue me. And I felt obligated to do the same when called upon.”
But more than that, Puck’s decision to reenlist was simply a matter of not having that many career options, what with a huge CV gap that just read: Trust me, you don’t want to know. “I mainly reenlisted for my own protection. I knew no other skill to survive on. I needed some kind of protection/security, and reenlisting into the service could have provided those needs. I believe if I had a skill, or a kind of payable job to keep me busy, I wouldn’t have reenlisted. But all I knew was fighting, because I was a child when this whole fighting business was introduced to me. And up to the time of election, before the fighting began the second time, I had no other means of livelihood, and fighting was a kind of employment.”
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a retirement plan.