Posted by: nieophyte | March 24, 2008

A very difficult, but important read

Yesterday marked the 4,000th casualty of American soldiers in the Iraq War. Regardless of your political standing on what this war means and why America is at war, we must all mourn the precious lives that have been sacrificed during the past five years.

 I am a firm believer in the power of narrative, not because it is a sexy form of getting information across, but because it is the stuff of life. 4,000, without the stories, is just a number. But 4,000 tales of bravery, suffering, doubt, aspiration, first dates, longing, babies–all of those stories, silenced over the past five years, all of those personal histories cut short, prematurely, all of those children who will grow up without their parent(s)–all of these tales make 4,000 more than a number. It is a god-awful tragedy.

And so, I invite you to listen in with me as they tell their stories through emails and journals collected by the NYTimes.

Hey beautiful well we were on blackout again, we lost yet some more soldiers. I cant wait to get out of this place and return to you where i belong. I dont know how much more of this place i can take. i try to be hard and brave for my guys but i dont know how long i can keep that up you know. its like everytime we go out, any little bump or sounds freaks me out. maybe im jus stressin is all. hopefully ill get over it….

you know, you never think that anything is or can happen to you, at first you feel invincible, but then little by little things start to wear on you…

you never know whats gonna happen and thats the worst part. do me a favor though, when you go to my sisters or moms or wherever you see my family let them know that i love them very much..ok? well i better get going, i have a lot of stuff to do.but hopefully ill get to hear from you pretty soon.*muah* and hugs. tell mijo im proud of him too!

Staff Sgt. Juan Campos, 27, in e-mail messages to his wife. Campos was riding in a Humvee on May 14, 2007, when it hit an IED. Severely burned over 80 percent of his body, he died June 1.

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Responses

  1. You’re absolutely right – these kinds of personal accounts, in letters like these, help to humanize what would otherwise remain an ever-progressing statistic. One soldier. Ten soldiers. A hundred soldiers. Who are they? How can entire lives be diminished this way?

    Here’s a few paragraphs from a personal essay in the April 2008 issue of GQ, written by a Newsweek reporter based in Iraq, Michael Hastings, who lost his aid-worker girlfriend to an ambush in Baghdad. He has just found out about his girlfriend’s death and is trying to understand. He is calling people all over:

    ‘I can’t believe it is my mother because I have never heard my mother’s voice like this. She is strong, she does not cry, yet she is crying now.

    ‘I am pacing in the bureau, back and forth. I kick something, a file cabinet, a wall. I stare at the ceiling. I keep saying, “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck they killed her, they killed my baby, how could this fucking happen, how the fuck could they hvae killed my baby?

    ‘I call her family. It is her sister, Marci. She is crying. “I’m so sorry” is all I can say, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” I can’t even stop crying now. “I am so sorry.”

    ‘Her mom is on the phone. “Vicki, I am so sorry, I am so sorry.”

    ‘”Why are you sorry?” she says.

    ‘I am smoking in the bureau, sitting at the desk. CNN is on the television set. The news crawl reads, every five minutes or so: “American aid worker and three security guards killed in Baghdad ambush.” It’s terrible news.’


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