Alex Beld Journal
Upon receiving the name of the veteran I was supposed to interview I was worried about how it would go. Nick Brewer had not yet responded to an email that asked him the basic information about himself. I thought he may have no longer been interested in doing the story. When I first emailed Nick for War: Through Their Eyes I became even more worried after three days of Nick not responding. I sent a second email as Nick was emailing me back from the first one. We decided to meet at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Feb, 8 in the Veterans Resource Center. Before meeting him I was nervous that he wouldn’t want to talk very much. I got to the center 20 minutes early and was sitting waiting for Nick to get there until someone behind the desk asked what I was waiting for. I told him I was waiting for Nick and it turned out the guy behind the desk was Nick. We talked for about an hour and during that time I realized that Nick was not uninterested. He had just forgotten to email me back right away. He turned out to be incredibly friendly and willing to talk. We found out that we both grew up in Madison, Wis, and have a fair amount in common. We talked for just over an hour until Nick had to go back to work.
The interview process with Nick has been delayed. Nick had some issues with his back the day that we were supposed to meet. He injured his back several times during his service. The injury that left him with permanent damage was received during combatives training from the instructor. Somedays his back is so bad that he cannot get out of bed by himself. We were going to take photos and record the interview in the podcast bay. The earliest we could reschedule was Thursday at 4:30 p.m. In the meantime I hope to get into contact with some people who are close to him. Hopefully that will work in my favor and help me make some better questions for Nick.
I had my first podcast bay interview with Nick this week and it went well. There was only one question he would not answer. I asked if there was anything he had never told anyone about his tour. He said that there was but he would not share it. I have set up another time to do photos with him and do another interview. So far his story is turning out to be interesting. He was a bad kid that proved he could be more. My main concern now is that he has only found two people for me to interview about him. He has said he is not on speaking terms with his parents and most of his friends from the military are too busy. He has two people and is waiting to hear from a third but says he is not the best with communication. Nick is also sending me around 10 photographs from his tour.
I recently tried to go bother Nick at work because of the lack of interview time with him but he was not there. I did, however, get contact information for people to interview about Nick this week and am going to start coming up with questions for them. I am going to see if there is anything they know that Nick may not be telling me. My hope is that if they can’t tell me, they may at least be able to help me get him to talk. Unfortunately Nick could only find two people, his wife and someone he deployed with. I also finished my first attempt at a podcast this week. It was OK overall but has to be redone because of sound quality.
Nick Brewer interviewing in one of his favorite shirts that says, "Some people are alive simply because it's illegal to kill them
I had my second interview with Nick and we also had our pictures taken together. Nick and I were supposed to wear nicer clothes for the photos, but neither of us managed to. Both of us were rushed that day and had forgotten to change before showing up. Nick was wearing a shirt that said “Some people are alive simply because it’s illegal to kill them” and I was wearing a sweatshirt. Grace wanted absolutely nothing to do with Nick’s shirt and just shook her head at me. We did do some photos together, but we will have to do more photos in the near future. I also got Nick to talk a little bit more about what he did while he was deployed. There are a few things, I’m not sure exactly what, that he said he absolutely will not talk about. I, of course, want to know these things, but at the same time, feel as though I can’t pry too much.
After reading the stories from the New York Times that Grace sent to the class I have started to understand Nick and his reluctance to tell certain stories. It is similar to why I no longer go too into detail about the time I gave CPR to a woman whose name I can no longer remember. At first you want to tell people every single detail, to get it out somehow. Eventually when people ask it starts to feel tiresome and heavy, in a way that isn’t necessarily emotionally taxing but it almost becomes hard to remember. These days when people ask me “You gave CPR to someone?!” I usually just respond with “Yeah, they died. It really sucked.” I think what it is, is that when you are finally done telling a story, it takes someone special to get you to open up that door again. When Nick told me he wouldn’t tell me his stories like this I was, at first, disappointed. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to have an interesting story but I’ve realized that the mixture of what Nick has told me and his unwillingness to tell his other stories has told me more than enough.
After looking through Nick’s photos it is interesting to see how quickly he changed after his service ended. His head and face were incredibly well kept in comparison to the mop on his head and the beard that gives him the appearance of a bear. He still looked about just as big and you can tell that he kept his good sense of humor throughout most of his service. In most of the photographs Nick is either smiling or appears to be having a good time. From the looks of it, being in the military really is what Nick loved to do. My hope is that he can find a job at the DOD like he was talking about. It would appear that his only way back into the military or some kind of government work is a college education. Since I’m close to having to go and find a job myself, I understand the desire to have one that is really enjoyable.
This last Friday Me and Nick finally got some good pictures of the two of us together in shirts that were definitely more acceptable for Grace’s requirements. He also managed to gather his scattered photos from his tour and get them to me. The ones he sent are fortunately all of him, he said that he has some other photos, but he noted that it would be better if people didn’t see them. This, of course, makes me want to see them. After taking photos Nick and Shawn, the photographer, were talking and stayed there just to listen to them. I knew Nick would not think I was necessarily listening in an attempt to remember everything he said. He spoke more candidly than he ever had with me and I was actually fairly jealous that Shawn managed to get this stuff out of him. I listened to his endless supply of stories about getting in trouble as a teen, from digging holes with M80’s to joyriding in stolen cars. I also learned about a time he was stabbed in a High School bathroom by another student who wanted his wallet. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t prepared with pen and paper or a recording device.
I met with Nick today to go over the story with him and get a photo release form signed. There were a few factual errors that had to be corrected and I still hadn’t found all the “Nicks” that had to be changed to Brewer. There were also some quotes that had to be cleared up with Nick. He had said some things that I interpreted differently than he meant so we had to reword some parts of the story to keep in line with what was actually meant. After fixing the factual errors with Nick I went through the story a couple more times and I think I finally have a finished product. I got the story down from 4,000 words to just over 2,000 and managed to get the story to Grace’s liking, at least I hope I have. I am almost done with everything, I only have two podcasts left to make and photo captions to write. I am definitely cutting it close with my deadline, fortunately I’m much better with podcasts than I am with writing.
I have finished the project and feel relieved to say the least. All that is left to do is make sure everything is saved and uploaded to where it should be. This shouldn’t be too big of an issue considering I have all my work saved in several places and Grace is going to help me upload most of the work. This was my last bit of big work for the entire semester and everything I have left to do doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I’m sure Nick is also feeling like a monkey is off of his back, me being that monkey. I probably won’t hear from him until the fall when all of this work is shown. I hope that he likes it after he sees all of it. And now that all of this is done I hope that I can have a summer filled with at least eight hours of sleep every night and a little less coffee.