Trevor Uitenbroek Journal
This was the class this semester I was really looking forward to because of the War Through Their Eyes series. I am not a huge fan of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I have many friends who have gone to serve in both regions. When This project started and I started to get to know Michael Dierich, I noticed right away he was a great storyteller. When I had my in-depth interview with him, he told me more about his assignment in Buedigen, Germany as well as the two years he spent in Virginia. Michael also talked more about his background before going into the military. His family had moved to Freedom when he was young and he attended Freedom High School. He was a good student. He had a number of different part time jobs during high school. He said his inspiration to go into the military was his sister, who had been in the military before him.
Michael told me some of the best stories yet. I was surprised to learn that the Navy wasn’t his first choice of service branch. The Army was. The only reason he ended up in the Navy was 1) he had an attraction to it as a child because there was a naval base in the area and 2) the Army turned him down because of some speeding tickets he had in his past. The other story was the one that stuck in my head for days. In his first semester back, he had an English class that read the book Hiroshima and that just brought back a lot of memories for him. As he was telling the story, I was just visualizing sitting in that class fresh out of the military. I would probably have the same reaction if I was in his shoes. I would see that worst that war has to offer: casualties, death, and loss. Just when I think I am free to go back to my own life, I am forced to deal with these memories because of a class. I don’t think I could do something like that.
One thing that I didn’t have so far was pictures that were more professional, so that’s what Shawn did today with Michael and me. I thought we were just doing the pictures today, but I ended up asking him for clarification on a few things after getting my transcript back from our second recorded interview. I would’ve liked to include a picture from the ones we took today, but I haven’t seen them yet. So, I’m just including one from Michael’s collection for now. This is a picture of Michael with an Iraqi soldier that represents the continuing relations between the U.S. and Iraqi forces.
There was one section of my conversations with Michael that deserved a little digging yet. He told me the story of his English 318 class, or Writing for the Sciences, which included reading the book Hiroshima. Michael told me that brought back many memories from his military experiences. After hearing that, I knew I had to talk to the professor. Today, I met with Dr. Vivian Foss along with Michael to talk further about the class. Dr. Foss said she admired how well Michael hid his issues, and how he brought it out in his papers instead. “My favorite student in the class.” She said she “did not realize the depth of Michael’s stress until a few weeks ago.” Dr. Foss mentioned that her experience with Michael was comparable to another student who went through Desert Storm. She was happy to talk to Michael again and was happy to help him whenever he needed.
I had planned to meet with Michael after one of my classes to fill out some paperwork. I was surprised when I found he wasn’t alone. For the first time, I got to meet his wife. I knew he had a family, but he hadn’t talked much about them. I got the chance to explain to his wife about the project and what it involves. It was a short meeting, as planned, but I’m glad I got to talk to someone else about Michael to see what she could tell me.
I realize that soldiers often have different opinions and memories about their service. Some may not want to talk about it. Some are more willing to share their experience. I’ve known people in my life who can fit into both categories. Ten years after the Iraqi invasion, Brandon Friedman and Jason Davis, veterans, shared their experience with the New York Times. The thing that struck me about Brandon’s story is how much he reminds me of Michael. He would stay up and recount stories in his head so he would never forget them. Jason reminds me of Michael because of the way he tells his stories. He put a lot of detail into storytelling, including dates and very unique images. I admire soldiers who are willing to talk about their war experiences because there are just as many who are keeping them locked inside because they’re too painful. On the tenth anniversary of the invasion, I believe that no matter the soldier, they should be thanked for their service to our country during the last ten years.
This project is about to take a turn for the worse. With other projects in other classes demanding my time, I feel there are going to be some sleepless nights ahead. This is going to be a long weekend. The first draft of the paper is due next week, and the best case scenario is I’ll get my proofreading done for another class tonight, leaving me to concentrate on the first draft over the weekend. This is the part of the class that I was worried about. The podcasting wasn’t so bad because of my experience with radio. The interview transcripts weren’t that terrible. Now I have to cut a lot of my material down to size and it’s going to take a long time. I get the feeling I’m going to spend a lot of tomorrow on this and much of the weekend. I guess the best way to express my thoughts right now is I’m hoping for the best and completely prepared for the worst. Although I have had a lot of fun with this project, getting to know Michael, and also more about the wars in the Middle East, now is the time to concentrate and get things done.
It’s coming down to crunch time. I’m going through a draft a week, which means I am in regular contact with Michael to go through the drafts and correct everything and make sure everything my professor wants included is in. I’m pretty sure Michael is starting to get annoyed with me calling him every day. One challenge that I have run into and I foresee it happening again in future drafts is that it’s becoming very hard to “get into Michael’s head.” This has been a problem since I started this endeavor. He seems to only want to give me enough information to answer the question presented to him. Hopefully, I can find a creative way to unlock the information I need to make this story live up to its potential.
Just when I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out it was only a hallucination. I can’t get anything right. Apparently, I’m supposed to add so much more information to everything I already have and it’s starting to drive me nuts. I’m ready to start pulling my hair out. What more do you want from me, Grace? I know you’re a perfectionist and I know you’re only trying to help, but come on! I thought I got all the “inside his head” information you wanted and now you’re saying you want more? It was hard enough just getting the little bit he wanted to give me. I’m pretty sure Michael’s starting to get sick of me and all my questions. Now I’m supposed to get a hold of him again and ask him more questions? I will be glad when this is all over!
I thought today would never come. After class today, I can turn in my final draft and take a huge sigh of relief. This class has been physically and mentally draining. I am so glad I can finish a few tweaks to the story in class today and put this thing to bed. Working on this project over the semester has been a great experience. I got to work with some great classmates and a great professor. I felt that working with Michael over the course of the semester opened my eyes to the soldier’s perspective on war, even having read the previous editions. There’s a big difference between reading the previous versions and actually going through the process. I knew that, out of all my classes this semester, this was going to be the most demanding, so I jumped right into it. I feel that, because I approached it in this manner, I got the most out of this experience. Despite all the challenges and work involved, I would definitely take this class again because I had a lot of fun with it and I learned a lot from working with Michael over the course of the semester.