I’ve so far had two drafts of my final story, and I’m happy because Grace seems to think that I’m going in the right direction. After a draft or two more, I should be done with the final draft! Then I need to go over it with Aaron, to make sure that there are no errors in spelling or facts. I can’t wait to see all of our stories get published and put out for the world to see. I think these soldiers deserve the recognition that they will be receiving, and I can’t wait. I’m also excited to read the finished drafts of everyone else’s. I’ve heard bits and pieces, but it will be wonderful to read from start to finish.
I’m finally done with the final draft. I had Aaron read it and he seemed to like it. I’ve also finished the podcasts and I’m relieved that the class is finally winding to a close. It was a fun, yet stressful whirlwind. I’m very happy that I was assigned Aaron as a veteran, and I’m glad that I got to tell his story. It was an honor getting to know him in the few weeks and I feel like I learned a lot about feature writing and publications. I’m very excited to have the finished product unveiled in November.
I just got back to school after spring break. Kat and I tried to get together twice over break. One day it was snowing, and the next day I was sick. This past Saturday morning, I packed up my recording equipment and set my GPS to get to Kat’s apartment in Appleton. I knew I couldn’t come back to class without an interview, or Grace would not have been happy. After I got lost a few times, I finally made it to Kat’s place. Her children were both in their bedrooms, but they would come out from time to time and stand in the hallway until Kat asked them what they needed. After untangling the cords for the recording equipment and setting up a little studio in her apartment, we ended up getting a lot of good information recorded in a little under two hours. Alexis agreed to take a picture, but she said the cat had to be in it, too. I really like this picture, because it sums up my visit with Kat at her apartment. I’ve never went to someone’s house before to interview them, but for this project, it was appropriate. I’m really getting to know Kat well, and that will help me to write a more accurate article to honor her life and her time as a Navy veteran.
Sunday evening creeped up on me too fast. Grace wants a rough draft of our article by Wednesday, so that means I have a LOT to do. I just read both of the articles from the New York Times: Still Bleeding, 10 Years Later and The End of War Stories. Grace wanted us to read them because it relates to what we’re working on, but they’re written in first person instead of third person.
I think I am going to write my article more in a style of the second article. It was easier to read and had more flow. I like how Friedman’s story has a sense of achievement to it because he takes the readers through his journey of how he acted when he came home to now the man he has become after years of returning.
The first article, Still Bleeding, 10 Years Later, was written by Jason Davis. I really like the style of this lead. It really grabbed my attention with the precise details. The article continues packed full of details by using the exact date that events took place. I like this because it shows how impactful this experience was to Davis because he remembers the exact date for everything.
The second article, The End of War Stories, was written by Brandon Friedman. I liked the overall style of this article a lot more than the first one because its not a typical story of events that took place while Friedman was deployed. Instead, it starts with him saying he never tells war stories anymore. “It’s robotic, sterile, almost as if I’m telling someone else’s tale instead of my own.” I really enjoy the choppy writing style Friedman brings to this article. It gives the reading a vibe like this was my life, and now its over. This is what happened, and now its done.
I’m down to four weeks left of the semester. It’s great and horrible at the same time. I have so much to do I’m beginning to wonder if getting it all done on time is even a possibility. I guess I’m going to start getting a lot less sleep and spending a lot more time in the library. I’m working on my third draft that’s due tomorrow. I have a few blanks I needed to get filled in, so I ran over by Kat’s work to get a picture of her at work and ask her a few questions. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know Kat well. Thinking back to when we first met until now, its been quite the journey. I’ve never taken a class where all we did was focus on one project. I’ve been putting most of my time and efforts into this class, but I also have to remember to set aside time for my other classes as well as being a reporter for the school newspaper. I’m really looking forward to the end of the semester. It will be such a HUGE relief to have everything done and handed in. I just hope I will be happy with the final results.
Today Kat and I got together in the studio to do our final recordings for the podcasts I need to complete. It went really smooth. We only had to record each section twice, and one of the times was because we were laughing in between sentences. After today we only have four more scheduled class periods that we will meet and discuss what to do next. Other than that, I have to really stay on track. I wrote down each and every thing I need to do by the end of the semester so I can check off each assignment as I go. This project is really starting to come together. I never thought I would be able to get all of the requirements done in time. I’m not done yet, but I have a final draft that I need to get signed off. I’ve recorded all of my podcasts, and I only need to complete one more journal entry. I’m so close. The end of this semester is going to be so rewarding. I am going to skip and sing the whole walk home.
The second time I met with him, I decided to meet during class so it would be easier to access the recording equipment. I asked him to meet at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday and, again, he showed up early. I had gone through most of the first interview and picked out a few things that I either wanted him to re-tell me because I liked what he said, or that I wanted to ask more about. We got started right away and I was reminded of how much he can talk! I asked him much less questions than last time, but we recorded for an hour and fifteen minutes. As he was responding to my first question, he reached out and straightened out my pencil that I had laid diagonally on my notebook. I’m not sure if it was because he was thinking of how to continue his answer or because it was bothering him. During our first interview, he had worn long sleeves, so I didn’t see the tattoos on his arms but that day he was wearing a t-shirt. He has the quote “For he today who sheds his blood with me is my brother.” Next to it is the battlefield cross: the rifle in the ground and the helmet hung on top. I am always curious about the tattoos people get and the stories behind them. This is clearly military-related, so I asked him about that too. It turns out, one of his captains would recite the Band of Brothers speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V and at this line, the company would join in unison. He also had the symbol for his company on his forearm. He calls it his inspiration arm. I thought that was interesting and I like that he carries that sense of brotherhood with him.
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.
Warren and I went to the photo studio today to take pictures. The first time I told him about taking pictures, I didn’thave to ask him to bring his own photos: he offered.
I met him in the basement of Polk to meet with Shawn McAfee, the art director for this project. Shawn said some of the veterans have a hard time being serious during photo shoots, but Warren was pretty good about it. I made sure that Shawn took a few pictures.
After taking pictures, Carly and her soldier were next in line. Warren and Carly’s soldier began talking and poking fun at each other’s choice of military branch (she was in the Navy, I think). After a few minutes, though, Warren stopped, looked at me, and asked if we should go to look through his pictures. The reminded me of the first time I met him, when he didn’t waste any time asking if I was the girl he was meeting. We went into the next room and he began with the photos on his flash drive. He explained that some of the pictures were taken by reporters that were implanted within their unit. He explained each one: there were group shots, pictures of the city center he told me about, even picture of him getting sea sick during their third deployment. One picture stood out to me the most: it was he and his friend, Justin Toren. He said it was after they got done clearing the Old City (which I took to mean Najaf); they were both still in full uniform. It was taken from behind. They were walking away from the photographer, each with his arm around the other. When I told him I liked that one, he agreed. Justin has it framed at his house still today.
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.
This photo was taken by Raley during his deployment to Iraq. It shows a tank moving away from a violent explosion.
Over spring break I have done little to advance my story on Todd Raley. I looked through the quotes I have from Todd and decided what is going to make up the story. But something else happened that gave me glimpse of what Todd had gone through when he told me about deploying as a father and deploying as a young man.
I was shooting dart league at a bar this week and saw a very unstable person I was deployed with. He has been crazy as long as I have known him, and I had a firsthand perspective of his insanity while working with him in the year leading up to the second deployment. We tried to tell the commander but he didn’t listen. On deployment, the soldier lost it, ended up being shipped home. Now roams the streets of Oshkosh and he was roaming the bar I was at. He looked at me, and I knew he recognized me. I was afraid he was going to do something, namely come into the bar and shoot me or something.
It was a long night. I kept watching where he was sitting, just to see if he was coming. I even went so far as to ask my friend if he was carrying his gun. I was afraid because I didn’t want to be killed. I am getting married next September and want to be there for that. When I was deployed, I was single and, in crude terms, only had to worry about myself.
This incident gave me an idea of what Todd went through his second deployment as a man with something to lose. I had a glimpse of how difficult that can be. Imagine that uncertainty and fear for an entire year.
I get frustrated most when I think back on the war now because we only discuss us.
This week was the ten year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Our class had to read some blogs from veterans talking about the war. They made me angry.
The biggest thing I deal with now, after spending almost two years in Iraq, is this constant feeling that I wasted my time. I read the news and hear about Shiite and Sunni conflict and realize we left them naked.
I used to think we need to leave and let them figure this out, we couldn’t prop them up forever. The day the last soldier left, there was a massive attack in Baghdad. That didn’t take long. A few weeks later, their vice president was accused of committing acts of terror. Their VP? Come on.
What I am getting to is that we helped people over there. We did something. There are Iraqis that would attest to this. I know it. But reading these stories, if I didn’t know any better, I would swear we went there to messed up a generation of young people through PTSD and amputations. We did something there, but you would never know. You don’t hear the stories about how our unit captured a man who stole a family’s car. You don’t hear about British EOD removing hundreds, maybe thousands, of unexploded mines, mortars and rockets that would have maimed, maybe killed small children. You don’t hear about our medic who patched up Iraqi citizens after a freak bus accident. How many lives have been lost in the Iraq War? How many have been saved?
The story is always the same. I am like this now, fill in the blank. I just want to know we accomplished something.