The KISS Grammar Workbooks Code and Color Key
 
From "The Fighter's Badge,"
an editorial column by David H. Hackworth
(July 25, 2004)
Analysis Key

     The CIB means [ [#1] the wearer served {in ground combat} {as an infantryman}

tasked to take out enemy grunts [#3] {with exactly the same agenda}.] | It also means

[ [#1] he probably: lived {like an animal} {in an underground hole or bunker} {for long 

periods} [Adv. to "lived" while mortar and artillery shells thumped down all {around 

him}]; [#2] slogged {through the horrors} {of knee-high mud}, [Adj. to "mud" which can

reduce unopposed movement (DO) {to a mile a day} and make digging a

foxhole [#4] an exhausting, slo-mo exercise [#4] {in futility}]; and endured the blazing

sun (DO), the freezing cold (DO), the ubiquitous dust (DO) [Adj. to "dust" that

clogs every pore (DO)], the miserable rains (DO) [Adj. to "rains" that soak and

chill {to the bone} and turn living [#5] {on the ground} {into the ultimate nightmare}]]. |

And, {of course}, there's the unrelenting, ever-present second-by-second promise (PN)

 {of sudden, violent death}. |


Notes
1. Although most grammars would probably simply consider this clause as a direct object, note that an argument can be made that it functions as a predicate noun. The thrust of Hackworth's argument is that the medal symbolizes, or equals the fact, that the wearer served in this way.
2. Hackworth keeps this long and complex sentence clear and easy to read by using a combination of tactics. The colon after "probably" is unusual, but it is not confusing because it is immediately followed by the verb ("lived") that goes with "he." The colon also prepares the reader for this semicolon which is likewise followed by a verb "slogged" that readers will automatically chunk back to "he." This combination of colon (followed by a finite verb) plus semicolon  (followed by a finite verb) prepares the reader for the next semicolon, which is followed by "and endured." Note that had Hackworth put a prepositional phrase, a subordinate clause, or any other construction after the semicolon but before "slogged," many, probably most, readers would have been confused.

Notes for KISS Levels Four and Five

3. "Grunts" is the direct object of the infinitive "to take" (or, if you prefer, "to take out"). The relationship of the infinitive to "tasked" will be a matter of debate among grammarians, but the easiest (KISS) explanation would be to consider it as an adverb, explaining "tasked how?" "Tasked" itself is a gerundive to "infantryman." At KISS Level Five, some students may prefer to explain "infantryman tasked" as a noun absolute that functions as the object of the preposition "as."
4. "Exercise" is a predicate noun in an ellipsed infinitive construction -- "digging ... *to be* an ... exercise...." Thus the gerund "digging" is the subject of the infinitive phrase, and "foxhole" is the direct object of the gerund "digging." The infinitive phrase is the direct object of "make." [For the traditional explanation of this construction, see objective and subjective complements.]
5. "Living" is a gerund that functions as the direct object of "turn."

Additional Comments on Style

     The role of compounding in this passage is interesting, especially since I am beginning to sense that simple compounding is an as yet largely unrecognized component of mature style. The three compounded finite verbs discussed in Note #2 ("lived," "slogged," and "endured") are each, directly or indirectly, modified by subordinate clauses. The clause that indirectly modifies "slogged" contains compounded verbs ("can reduce ... and make"). The last verb, "endured," has four (compounded) direct objects -- "sun," "cold," "dust," and "rains." And the clause that modifies "rains" has three compounded verbs -- "soak," "chill," and "turn." This simple compounding creates parallel constructions that help keep this 91-word main clause easy to read. (Remember that the average length of main clauses in the writing of professionals is approximately 20 words, so this sentence is more than four times the average length.)
     Finally, note how the 91-word main clause contrasts with, and thus puts focus on the following thirteen word main clause. Hackworth could have included the last sentence within the preceding one:
It also means he probably: lived like an animal in an underground hole or bunker for long periods while mortar and artillery shells thumped down all around him; slogged through the horrors of  knee-high mud, which can reduce unopposed movement to a mile a day and make digging a foxhole an exhausting, slo-mo exercise in futility; and endured the blazing sun, the freezing cold, the ubiquitous dust that clogs every pore, the miserable rains that soak and chill to the bone and turn living on the ground into the ultimate nightmare, and, of course, the unrelenting, ever-present second-by-second promise of sudden, violent death. [my emphasis]
Technically, this version is perfectly correct, but it would have sent most readers rushing past those last words in a desperate attempt to finish the sentence and clear short-term memory. [See the KISS psycholinguistic model.]
     He could, of course, also have cut the 91-word main clause into shorter ones:
It also means he probably lived like an animal in an underground hole or bunker for long periods while mortar and artillery shells thumped down all around him. He slogged through the horrors of  knee-high mud, which can reduce unopposed movement to a mile a day and make digging a foxhole an exhausting, slo-mo exercise in futility; and he endured the blazing sun, the freezing cold, the ubiquitous dust that clogs every pore, the miserable rains that soak and chill to the bone and turn living on the ground into the ultimate nightmare. And, of course, there's the unrelenting, ever-present second-by-second promise of sudden, violent death. 
I would suggest, however, that Hackworth's version is better. The shorter version weakens the syntactic, and thus the meaningful, connection between "slogged" and "It means." It also loses the implications of massiveness implicit in Hackworth's 91-word main clause. A 91-word main clause, not matter how well written, will frustrate a reader's patience, but a second thought should make the reader realize that his or her frustration is nothing compared to what the sentence says that the infantrymen do. Finally, the shorter main clauses make the "promise of sudden, violent death" grammatically equal to, rather than more emphatic than, the content of the preceding sentences.