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Trevor Uitenbroek Story Behind the Story

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This is Trevor Uitenbroek's "Story Behind the Story" in which he tells his story about working on the War: Through Their Eyes, Vol. 3, Warriors and Students multimedia project.

I was in 6th grade. Looking back, I find it slightly ironic, but I was in religion class at what was then Holy Angels School outside of Appleton. I remember one of the other teachers bursting into our class shouting about New York and planes and I don’t even remember what else. We all got a television out and watched as the day’s events unfolded.

War and politics have always been fascinating topics for me and I never really understood why.

Coming into this class, I had a feeling this was going to be an exciting experience because I had had Grace before and I had seen previous editions of the War project. 

My name is Trevor Uitenbroek. Even though I tried not to show it, the War: Through Their Eyes project was probably one of the tougher classes I’ve ever taken.

When we were all shown everything we had to do for this project, I remember spending a long time looking through that list, and thinking, “This won’t be so bad.”

I soon found out I was sorely mistaken.

Even though Michael Dierich has left Iraq far behind, he still carries the memories with him to this day. I noticed that the first time I met him and I saw the tattoo of the flaming sword with the letters O.I.F underneath it. When Shawn came in to take pictures, I really wanted to get a picture of that.

I was able to meet with my veteran, Michael Dierich, within the first couple weeks of the semester. The first time I met with him, I found out he wanted to skip the formalities and get right to business. So, my introduction to Michael was filling out his timeline.

Once we had that established, we could get Michael in for interviews, which went smoothly enough. It’s the part after that kicked my butt. 

Every word of those interviews had to be transcribed, which, just so you know takes hours. I spent approximately seven hours in the Halsey computer lab one Sunday playing the recorded interview over and over and transcribing everything. You would think I would be able to memorize every word after seven hours, but I guess not.

Since that first meeting, I got to know what a great storyteller Michael is. He told me so many good stories about his military experience that I wasn’t able to include them all. Between the podcasts and the story, I did my best to incorporate as many as I could because, with the storyteller that Michael is, I didn’t want those stories to go to waste.

One of the stories he told me was when he got turned down by the Navy because he had too many speeding tickets on his record. He didn’t take no for an answer and marched across the hall at the recruitment center and the Army approved him. One of his other great, edge-of-your-seat kind of stories was the one I included in the podcasts about the time his training center caught on fire.

I remember when I was sitting in one of those recorded interview sessions and he started talking about an English class he took after returning from military service. He talked about how they read Hiroshima during that class and his reaction to it because he had military experience. I remember I was frozen in my seat during that entire story. After that, I knew I had to get another view from the professor, Vivian Foss. Personally, I thought the professor was going to be some cranky lady who didn’t want to be interviewed, especially about a topic like this. However, I was pleasantly surprised how well that part of my story went.  She was very cooperative and that just added to Michael’s story.

Once I got the interviews all transcribed, the next part was fairly easy. Being a radio/television/film major, I’m used to working around recording equipment, so I just found a recording program that I could work with and the podcasts were no sweat. Well, they would have been if Grace wasn’t being her normal, nit-picky self.

As good of a storyteller that Michael is, when you try to get inside his head he doesn’t let you. Once I started to write the story, I realized that there were personal details that he was withholding from me. How am I supposed to get inside his head? Every time I would ask him to elaborate on sometime in order to get those details, he wouldn’t have anything else to say, and that, above anything else with this project, really got me frustrated because it meant that I couldn’t get anywhere without that information he was keeping from me.  At least he was really understanding every time I called him back, which I can’t thank him for enough.

Since Michael and I were in regular contact throughout the semester, but especially when writing the story, I got to know a little more about his family as well. During one memorable, but particularly short, meeting, in the Arts and Communications Center, I had arranged to meet Michael after class to fill out some paperwork, and to my surprise, he had brought his wife, Corina, along. I was very pleased for the chance to get to know her and to ask her about Michael.

Before the War project, I felt like I knew enough about the war in the Middle East because I try to watch the news and stay informed. However, once I got to know Michael, it became very clear to me that there’s more to it. The stories that you hear on the news and from your family don’t describe what is actually happening. Hearing it from someone like Michael made me stop and wonder how much the mainstream media isn’t telling us. Combine Michael’s experience as a medic with his great storytelling ability and you’ve got the recipe for graphic detail.

I tried to incorporate all those details in my story to the best of my ability without going too long. That was the challenging part: Getting all my information in without going on forever. As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead.” Even when I wrote long, it was surprisingly hard to cut. I managed to make some of the story into podcasts, but even then, I had to find a way to cut down.

I have had a love-hate relationship with this class from the start. I loved it because of all the media that was involved with this project. I hated it because, once I got to the story, I kept hitting dead ends, and I started to become very frustrated because of a picky professor.

I think I can honestly say to Michael, to the rest of the veterans in this edition, to all my friends in the military, and to all other military personnel who have served our country both currently and in the past, that it’s truly been an honor working on this project over the semester.

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