A photo of John Ackerman, who is featured in the War: Through Their Eyes, Warriors & Nurses student multimedia project
I’ll Be There For You
Two mugs filled, froth dangerously close to the rim. He slides the two beers down the bar. “I’ll have another, on the rocks,” a customer says. He prepares another drink, cheerfully chatting with one of the regulars. The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You,” is playing in the background. It doesn’t matter that John Ackerman used to know all the words. He’s not thinking about singing. The song takes him away from the bar, away from the city of Oshkosh, Wis., and takes him back four years to the Middle East. To a Humvee on a dirt road. Ackerman was deployed in Iraq from February 2007 to April 2008. He is currently a nursing student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, but it’s simple reminders like this that take him back to a time of triumph and tragedy.
Hearing this song now makes him miss those times. Miss the rush rolling out the gate into a day full of raids, gunfire and the unexpected. It’s difficult to fathom why Ackerman would miss such things. The date was Feb. 14, 2007 when Ackerman took his first step onto Iraqi soil. As he unloaded his gear on the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport, a rocket slammed into a FOB (forward operating base) nearby. Ackerman watched the trail of smoke, exhaust, or whatever, seep into the sky. Boom. Five minutes later, half a mile away, 50-caliber trace rounds skipped off the ground, into the air. Deep, sustained fire. Clink, clink, clink, clink. Ackerman’s battalion was mortared four, maybe five times that night. Welcome to Iraq. Only 14 months, two days left, not that Ackerman was counting.
To read the entire story, please download this PDF.
In this video, John Ackerman talks about the role 9/11 played in his decision to join the military, seeing war up close and the difficulty of heading back to war after a short leave.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman discusses how he was able to block out the sounds of mortar attacks.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman explains the technology used to identify victims of war.
In this audio podcast, John Ackerman talks about his role as an American soldier during a time of war.
Podcasts produced by student reporter Morgan Counts and multimedia news intern Noell Dickmann.
War: Through Their Eyes, Vol. 2, Warriors & Nurses, a student/faculty multimedia project that focuses on the veterans in the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Warriors & Nurses are the stories of the students and alumni who have seen war in the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts in the Middle East, and yet have found their way into a field of healing.
To read the entire 80-page book, please download this PDF. Warning, it is a large file.