Lori Ligocki Story Behind the Story
Sitting in a vacant UW Oshkosh faculty office that has been turned into a recording studio, I struggle to find the appropriate phrasing of a not-so-casual question: “So where were you when you found out that your friend was killed?” The expression that came across the pondering yet wary war veteran, whom I was interviewing, was the most challenging experience I’ve had to endure so far as a student journalist.
I decided to take Grace Lim’s Long Form Journalism course to do just that--challenge myself, in a project-based course.
On the first day of class, Grace informed us that we would be constructing the third volume to the War: Through Their Eyes project. This volume would be titled, “Warriors and Students.” This intrigued me as I knew little-to-nothing about the military aside from what I’ve learned from films, like Saving Private Ryan to We Were Soldiers, and books, like The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. I’ve also had few family members and friends who were and currently are in the military.
I’ve always viewed it as a touchy subject for those involved, so up until my first interview with veteran Myles Bork, I’ve never asked questions beyond, “So where did you all go when you served?”
Being able hear the story of someone who may have had to pull a trigger in the line of duty that caused harm or death on someone, baffles me. I would never be able to put myself in that situation and still be able to grasp my humanity. Let alone, I would never be able to sign my name on a piece of paper, which signified that I would be risking my life to save others. I have so much respect for those who serve our country because of their astounding bravely.
Overwhelming amounts of people do, though. Just this past month, my younger cousin Amanda, who is a junior in high school, enlisted in the National Guard. When I was a junior in high school, my biggest concern was whom I was taking to prom, not when I was leaving for basic training. I’m so very proud of her.
Being a part of the War, volume 3 project made me think back to a year ago when I was in Grace’s Spring 2012 reporting course. She assigned the class to the Green Medicine Project, which profile’s UWO student Sitha Thor and his family. Because we were able to pull that project together last year, and other classes have been able to pull the first two volumes together, I had faith that this class will be able to pull the third volume together..
After learning more about the project and watching and reading the first two volumes, there are two things for certain that this project does for me; it inspires me to push further and confirms my feelings toward storytelling. Fiction is great and all, but real-life stories of inspiration are much more intriguing and impactful.
Myles Bork's most impactful stories involved those whom he served with. The first couple of stories he shared with me were light-hearted. Some were hilarious, like the time his lieutenant, who’s a Chicago Bears fan, turned Myles’, who’s a Green Bay Packers fan, bunk into a Bears shrine. Others were scary, like the time when the military trunk Myles and his unit were traveling in was hit by road bomb while on a night mission. Luckily no one was seriously injured.
Things began to get heavy during our second meeting. While we were taking photos with the art director, Shawn McAfee, she shared her experiences with the military as she has had a few family members serve. She shared a story of a family member of hers, who was a veteran and had passed away, who had a gun malfunction during the 21-gun salute at his funeral. So instead of a 21-gun salute, it was more like a 50-gun salute, as the gun went off a few too many times.
Myles seemed to enjoy that story, although the initial topic seemed to take him aback. He described the ceremony as one of the saddest things to experience. I wondered if he ever had to participate in a ceremony before.
The thing that sparked my attention as Myles talked about these ceremonies was the tone in his voice. Of course, there was a hint of humbling emotion, but I also sensed a tone of gratitude. That tone could've been there because of his gratitude toward these ceremonies as they show a great amount of respect toward veterans. But it could have also been stemmed from his gratitude of just being alive, that he had survived both of his tours and is able to be here today to talk about this military tradition.
After the photo shoot, during our interview, he shared with me that he had a friend who was killed in action in Afghanistan. He became uncomfortable almost immediately when he was brought up, especially when I asked him how it felt when he saw his friend’s casket. He didn’t make as much eye contact during this segment and kept fidgeting with his nails. I could tell right away that he didn’t want to go into as much detail as he did his other stories. I understood why, so I found it difficult push for more.
The story of his friend passing stuck out to me so much that I decided to include it in one of my three podcasts. For me, the podcasts have been one of the most enjoyable parts of this project. The sound editing can be tedious, but being able to hear the emotion in Myles voice as he described some of his most difficult experiences while serving in the military is an experience all on its own.
The specific words that stuck out to me were, “I couldn’t do it,” which Myles said when describing how he dealt with seeing his friend’s casket being carried out onto a plane. There was so much defeat in his voice; so much struggle. That must have been the most difficult thing for him to tell me; maybe the most difficult thing for him to remember about his tours.
Overall, the bond he had with the guys in his unit was one of the most prevalent aspects of his story. Myles taught me that being a part of the military creates this instant connection, making you not just fellow soldiers but family. The idea of them losing one of their own must be earth shattering.