Week 1 Journals
I first met with Todd on a Thursday when we both had time in between class. He was waiting at a table out of the main pathway at a table with a Pepsi in one hand and a book in the other.
He looked like what I expected a 23+ year veteran to look like. He is bald and has a face that aged just enough to show the world his experience. I have met tons of senior Non-commissioned officers just like him, which made me wonder if there was something that made them look a certain way. They were the men that looked too young to be your father, but not old enough either. On his hat was a logo for the Army Combatives, which is the army’s hand-to-hand fighting program. Maybe it was that hat that made me picture him right at home with his face bloodied and beaten, and his hands raised in an octagon ring.
We started to discuss the project and quickly went through his military career. Even though it was extensive, it only took a few minutes. In my experience this is common. Soldiers have rattled off their rank, unit designations and various duty stations so many times, it requires little thought. But after we got the logistics out of the way, we talked like soldiers. We started to swap stories and share battle scars, inside and out. I have met a lot of people claiming PTSD, but Todd was the first I’ve heard say that part of his was from being away from his children for so many years.
As we discussed the various things we did, he sometimes sat with a half smirk, and other times with a solemn expression that snapped one to attention regardless of the current topic.
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.
This is actually the second time I have taken this class. I took it last year as well, but it was very different. We only met once a week, our assignments weren’t as planned out and there were two projects instead of one. Along with the Warriors and Nurses project was a magazine on UWO’s faculty. Splitting time, attention and students between the projects was pretty taxing.
I helped out with both projects where I could, but I never got to write a feature due to my soldier dropping out of the project and not responding to emails. It was really unfortunate, and I felt like I was missing out on a great opportunity. That is, until this class was announced. I took Grace’s class again because I wanted this second opportunity to contribute and learn.
I don’t know a whole lot about the wars in the Middle East, I’m more interested in history after it’s been history for a while, but I do have some knowledge – basically whatever I picked up on from the first two WAR projects, and reading news stories. I’m looking forward to learning more through interviewing my soldier and hearing his stories.
I met Warren at a Starbucks at 4 p.m. on a Thursday, Feb. 7. He said he was pretty flexible and, although I try to seem like I am to the people I have to meet with, I know that I’m not. So I was glad that he was pretty relaxed about when and where we met. I walked in a few minutes early and looked around, hoping he wasn’t there yet so I could set up my things and get a chai before he got there. I saw one man sitting by himself by the window and I looked at his cup to see if I could read the name written on it. I couldn’t, but I didn’t see a “W” so I didn’t think it was him; I was wrong. I sat down behind him and took out my notebook to the page I had written my questions on when he turned and asked, “Are you Molly?” I said yes and invited him to sit down. I handed him the second War: Through Their Eyes volume and he flipped through it while I explained what the class was doing.
I thought it would take him a while to open up and give full answers to questions. I think it would be a tough topic to talk about and because that’s what I’ve experienced in the past when asking people about their life or career. But he jumped right in: When I asked when he enlisted, he not only told me the exact date, but also about the first time he tried to enlist (he was 16 and too young). For every question, he elaborated on his answers and welcomed follow-up questions. After an hour, I was starting to feel tired, but he seemed all right and I still had some unanswered questions, so I kept going. I’m glad I did because with my last question (Is there anything else you think people should know?) he expressed his sentiments about seeking help when help is needed – too many veterans take their own lives because of bottled up thoughts and feelings. He felt really strongly about this.
I’d say it was a good first meeting. We didn’t decide on a second one, but he reminded me of his flexible schedule, so I’m sure we’ll figure it out soon.
I’m done with the second week of this class, and I still haven’t heard back from my soldier. I can’t help but worry and think that I am going to be really far behind if I don’t hear back from her soon. I feel like most of the other students in my class have already gotten together with their soldiers, but I still have no idea about mine. I hope she gets back to me soon because I don’t want to fall behind on this project that already intimidates me. I have 12 more weeks to go. By the end of this semester, I am expected to have written, edited and finalized a 2,000 word article about my veteran as well as a series of podcasts, journal entries and an essay about myself. That is a lot to complete considering I am a full time student. I’m taking three other courses on top of this one. I’m also a reporter for the school newspaper, and I get assigned one or two articles a week for that. Outside of campus life, I am a customer service representative at a call center where I spend anywhere between 15 to 30 hours a week. After writing down all of my obligations for the semester, it makes me want to go crazy.
I am a third-year student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) studying journalism and economics. I have been a part of a few of Grace Lim’s projects before, including Endeavors Magazine in Spring of 2012, and the second volume of War: Through Their Eyes, which was published in the Fall of 2012. Mark Maurer, the soldier I will be profiling for this project, is also a third-year student at UWO. He is majoring in criminal justice and minoring in military science, but his true career passion is in finance. Mark enlisted in the National Guard when he was 17 and a junior in high school. He served in Iraq from Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2010, and began his college career in Sept. 2010.
It is two weeks after our assignment War Through Their Eyes: Volume 3 was assigned. After writing my veteran an email about a week and a half ago, I still haven’t heard back from him. When I arrived to class today the door wasn’t opened so I was standing in the hall waiting for our teacher Grace Lim to arrive and open the door. A guy came down the hall and asked if I was there for the event. I told him, “I didn’t know about any event and that I was there for class at 3 p.m., and he said he was there for some war thing. I told him, “yeah.” Our class is doing a war project and that he was in the right spot. No more than a few seconds later Grace came down the hall and introduced me to Adam, the guy I had just met, and said. “This is your new vet.” You guys will be doing an interview today during class. That was a shock to me. I didn’t have questions prepared because I had no idea I would be interviewing anyone that day. I felt somewhat nervous because I had to come up with some quick questions. I feel this was a good thing that it happened to me this way because sometimes in journalism things do just get sprung up on you. You have to know how to handle these type of situations. The interview didn’t go very long because when I asked him the questions, he wouldn’t really open up too much. I got some basic background information on. He grew up in Markesan, Wi. Before doing this interview I never even heard of this city in Wisconsin. It’s a pretty small city with a population of 1,479 in 2011. Adam enlisted in the military in March 2005 at age 17 and was deployed to Iraq in February 2007. He was there until May 2008. His job in Iraq was a lead vehicle gunner for the commander security squad which consisted of driving around the city and keeping the commander safe while he checked on police stations throughout the city of Kirkuk. Kirkuk has a population of about 850,000. Has a little more population than a city like Milwaukee, which has a population of about 600,000.
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.
"Here we go again"
Grace has our class doing another one of her crazy projects; crazy in a good way, of course. I was a part of her Green Medicine project last year, so I know how much she expects from her students. I’m excited but also intimidated because this project is going to be bigger and hopefully better.
I first contacted my assigned veteran, on Thursday, Jan. 31, via email, and sent her a follow up email on Monday, Feb. 4. I’m hoping she will get back to me soon because I am very eager to start this project. I think what I’m most eager about is learning about and understanding what it’s like to be a female soldier, serving in a war, and also what it’s like for women in the military, in general. I find them to be inspiring and helping our society move toward gender, social and human equality.
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.