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A Soldier's view of Afghanistan

St. Joshua Stevens, 24, from Hardin, is known among members of his 1138th Engineer Company of the Missouri National Guard, as the guy who does not use any swear words - a rarity among his peers. Photo by J.B. Forbes jforbes@post-dispatch.com

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FRONTENAC, Afghanistan • During a particularly tense mission briefing several hours from here, a stout U.S. Special Forces soldier warned a room full of leaders of many dangers ahead.

He said there were insurgents camping out in tunnels along dry creek beds who can jump out and plant an improvised explosive devise in the rural dirt roadway ahead of them in only 10 minutes.

The intense soldier, who sported a full beard and fierce eyes, frequently spoke of another bomb – the f-bomb, which is as common in the war zone as gallows humor and energy drinks.

In a way, curse words are a coping mechanism, a relief valve from the constant balance of stress, monotony and uncertainty. They are often used to piece multiple thoughts together.

It’s within this culture that makes Sgt. Josh “Moose” Stevens, 24, notable.

Stevens is a gunner with the Missouri Guard’s 1138th Engineer Company. By several accounts, he’s a good soldier. But he’s also made a name for himself for being the soldier who doesn’t cuss.

Asked about it on a recent day, Stevens merely shrugged. That’s just how his parents, Fred and Katherine Stevens, raised him in tiny Hardin, Mo., outside of Kansas City.

Fellow soldiers have picked up on his good habit.

“It started out that I don’t cuss,” he said. “Now it’s not letting them get me to cuss. They have fun with it.”

When Stevens isn’t deployed – he was in Iraq, too – he conducts trains for BNSF railroad. If he gets mad at home, he just goes out on his 63 acres.

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“Use your anger to do something constructive,” he said. “I might as well cut wood, or if it’s hunting season I’ll be in a stand or duck blind.”

But he’s 7,000 miles away from his farm. He admitted there are limits to his discipline. He might let a “gosh darn it” or “son of a gun” slip every now and again.

Not that any of the soldiers drink here – alcohol is forbidden -- but Stevens also prefers soda over beer.

But Stevens does have one vice.

He said he has a crude sense of humor.

“I still joke around and have fun,” he said after deflecting a hit below the belt from another soldier.