Week 6 Journals
Grace emailed us links to two blog posts to write about. One was called Still Bleeding, 10 Years Later, by Jason Davis and the other one was The End of War Stories by Brandon Friedman. Obviously, there were ties to the War Volume 3 to be found in both of these blogs; they were written by men who were, at one point, in the same situation as many of the people my classmates and I have been talking to all semester.
In Still Bleeding, it seems like Davis was in the same battle that Warren was in. But instead of coming by land, like Warren did, Davis was in one of the Black Hawk helicopters. It was interesting to read about a different perspective of the battle.
Although Still Bleeding seems more directly related to Warren’s experiences, The End of War Stories made me reflect a lot on the War: Through Their Eyes project. Friedman talks about how, slowly, the memories of war began to fade. Gradually, he stopped telling people his stories. He says in his post that he has forgotten things that he told himself he would never forget. The day they invaded, their first man killed in action, names of people he once knew. These are slowly fading into the recesses of his mind.
Before they began to fade, he took the time and initiative to pour all of his thoughts and memories into writing. On a shelf in his home sits a closed book filled with memories, collecting dust. “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.”
Friedman said it was cathartic to write about the war -- to get all of it out onto paper. He says he will never open the book. But I think he probably will, when he’s ready. I wonder if this will serve a similar purpose for the men and women who will have or have had their stories told through the War series. I think most of the people involved with the War series have been out of any war for some time now. Many of them probably have had time to cope with it in their own way. But maybe what we write will preserve their feelings and memories, and maybe (I hope) it’s something they will look at to remember their feelings and motives.
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.
War veterans all go through a myriad of different experiences. But in the end, they all have very similar stories.
Reading through The End of War and Still Bleeding, 10 Years Later gave me the feeling that I was interviewing Dustin, or reading through past stories in the WAR: Through Their Eyes project.
The biggest thing to learn from these things is that war changes you. A lot of times there is some negative change, and it stays with you for a long time -- sometimes, possibly often, forever.
But if there is one thing I have learned from the WAR project, it’s that there is also good with the bad. The military takes people who are often lost and gives them direction. I’ve read many stories where the people come out better than going in, even with the emotional scars.
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.
The week before spring break is here and it is time to show something has been happening for the last month and a half. I am closing in on the first and second podcast. I have cut them all together and had Grace listened to the first one after I recorded a few lines I still needed. She said I need to speak with more confidence and become part of the story. I am not sure how to do that. I guess I don’t know what to sound like. I have always had an easy time manipulating my voice, but why is this difficult. I am not sunk yet, just short on time. I need to re-record my lines in my podcasts.
I also need to start this story. It almost writes itself because Todd has given me so much material. He really has had an adventurous life. But if you hadn’t met him, his life would sound like a war hero from a book or a movie. Without seeing the scars he wears when he discusses these things, he would almost become a romantic character of war rather than real person with kids and a mortgage. I am thinking this story is going to be made or broken on if I can give Todd a face to go with his stories.
My second interview with Mark had to be postponed, so I spent part of my free hour listening to Grace play Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
This week in class we were asked to dress nicely for pictures and to video record ourselves. We walked around in the classroom playing around with our phones as Grace stood still getting her picture taken by Shawn McAfee. I didn’t really understand what the purpose of that was for. Actually the whole class was kind of confused. She also took photos of us working at our computer on the project. Then we took a few class photos. On Wednesday this week we met at Wayne’s studio to record ourselves talking about how we felt about the war project. We worked on our questions in class on Monday so we were prepared when asked the question. I was nervous to be recorded because we were under the bright lights and the class was all sitting around. I did wait to be one of the last students to go. That made me feel less stressed. I also laugh a lot when i’m nervous so I was afraid that I was going to bust out laughing and not be able to control it. I ended up not laughing and doing just fine. I was proud of myself. I think it was neat that we were able to discuss how we felt about the project as individuals. We also were able to talk about what we learned from our individual veteran.
"Finding similarities in veterans"
Grace had us read two New York Times news articles to reflect on as we wrote our journals this week. After getting over the fact that this was yet another task she is having us do on top of all of the other stuff, I read the articles, and I sincerely enjoyed them.
Brandon Friedman reminded me the most of Myles. Particularly because he’s a talker. I could just tell by his writing style. He said in his article that he couldn’t shut up about her experiences overseas. Myles is the same way. At least with the stories that didn’t have as much emotional impact.
Reading these stories about these two veterans helped me understand the bigger picture of this project. Myles hasn’t been as fortunate to publish his stories like Jason and Brandon. I feel very honored to be able to do that for him.
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.
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.