Hannah Opacich Journal
Yesterday I met with Aaron Jackson for the first time in the Dempsey VRC. He was with his friend, who is also a war veteran being interviewed for the project. The first reaction that I got from Aaron was that he was pretty approachable and had a friendly face. This project is quite daunting for me, as I have minimal knowledge on the war overall and what occurs overseas. I’ve also never known anyone who’s been in the military or who has been involved in any wars. But Aaron put me at ease asking him about his life and his experiences, since he has a very laid-back, friendly and goofy personality.
The only concern I have regarding Aaron is getting substantial and serious stories from him. He seems to have the attitude where he jokes around a lot, but I’m thinking if I keep being persistent I can get more out of him. Only time will tell, I guess, but it may take effort and a number of interviews.
I’m planning on having the first interview sometime later this week. Right now I’m in the process of brainstorming and jotting questions that I feel will help my veteran to open up and tell me his story. It’s hard because I feel like it may be tough at first, but I have to make him feel at ease and able to answers the questions. I need to convey that his story will be told in a respectable and truthful way. I’m still feeling intimidated overall by this project, but hopefully I can get more comfortable as the semester goes on and my veteran and I get to know each other better. Doing the research, I’m trying to understand more about the things veterans go through, such as ptsd. I also didn’t realize how long ago the Iraq war began. It was in 2003, I was 13 at the time!
Getting the questions for the first official interview wasn’t easy. I had many things that I wanted to know, such as but it was hard to find the questions that would lead me in the right place. I’m just nervous about asking touchy questions. I researched my veteran and found this article. It details a bit about how he overcame an illness in order to continue fighting in the All-Army combatives championship, a tournament established in 2005, that teaches members of the Army hand-to-hand combat as well as other skills. I’ll be sure to ask Jackson about his experiences with that.
The first interview with Aaron went really well. He talked more about his life leading up to the decision to join the army, as opposed to what occurred overseas, but it was still very intriguing learning how he ended up enlisting. I was also excited to learn more about the All-Army Combatives, which is He won twice in the heavyweight division in the world tournament, which is the championship that I described in my previous entry. It was neat to hear the passion in his voice when he was talking about the tournament. I could tell it was a big part of his life. He didn’t go deep into detail about the occurrences when he was in Iraq. He seemed to gloss over it. When I asked directly if he has any days that stick out in his memory, he said he’d rather not talk about them, that they weren’t his story to tell.
I had my second interview with Aaron and also he got his pictures taken by Shawn McAfee. I learned something really interesting from Aaron’s second interview. He was talking about how the Iraqi people eat. When they have a meal, they have all the food in a large vat and grab from it with their hands, and if they are done with a piece of food, they throw it back in. Safe to say that the Army members had their own section where they would eat the food. It made me realize how hard it must have been for him to be thrust into such a different culture. I never really thought about that part of being in the Army, but I bet that’s one of the main struggles.
As of right now, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with the project but I don’t think that it’s unachievable.
Grace assigned us to read two New York Times blog posts, written by war veterans. The first entry, Still Bleeding, 10 Years Later, by Jason Davis, is written in blurbs, which resemble a journal. I was impressed by the author’s ability to write in such a poetic yet sporadic and vague way. The way he writes is a bit like flashes of his experience, and I had to reread them to figure out what he was describing. The most intriguing part for me was the beginning. I was intrigued how he made the small daily regimen of shaving into a reflection of his memories from the war.
The days and blades drag on, digging and scraping and tugging as though a single day has not passed; 10 years have not passed.
But still I’m bleeding. - Jason Davis
The next entry, The End of War Stories by Brandon Friedman, reads more like a news story. He describes how when he first left the war, he had an intense need to share the stories and write about his experiences. Now, after a decade, he realizes that he doesn’t remember every detail as distinctly as he once did. It doesn’t upset him, because he doesn’t want to rehash the experiences. He is a new man compared to the one he was back then, and he believes that those memories belong in the past.
Writing about the war was cathartic and served its purpose. I don’t really go there anymore. I don’t have to. The memories are trapped on the pages, like wasps in a jar. They have been stripped of their intensity, of the associated sounds, smells and feel.
I added up all of the interviews that I transcribed and it totals 10154 words. Phew. Safe to say that transcribing is not my favorite thing to do. After several hours of chipping away at the keyboard, I’m thankful that I have the restraint to not pick up the computer and throw it across the room. (Just kidding, that’s my inner drama queen talking.) I know some of my classmates have had to transcribe more than me, so I really shouldn’t be complaining.
Anyway, now the hard part arises: finding the information that I want to put into my story. I want to make Aaron proud of the story as well as making an interesting feature. I’ll see where my brain leads me. I’ll probably end up with draft after draft... I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve finally finished the first draft of my story. It was challenging, to say the least, to trim and cut at the info that I have from all of Aaron’s interviews. But I am happy with the draft. I know it can be improved, but just having a draft typed out has made it feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders! I also finished the first podcast, complete with music and everything. This project is finally coming together! I’m so ecstatic.
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.