Keep up with a soldier’s life in Iraq

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“All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavor to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called ‘guessing what was at the other side of the hill’.”

– Duke of Wellington, 1885





I remember as a young girl, it became almost more than we could bear to listen to the nightly news.

Body counts and reports of deadly friendly fire from a place called Vietnam were reported right along with the Dow Jones Stock Exchange figures.

It reached a point that it all seemed slightly unreal, and because it was so hard to hear, we probably stopped hearing it.

There were too many boys we knew so well who were likely going to be drafted and sent to fight a war in the country none of us really understood.

Happening again. Now, we are listening to ongoing reports of mortar attacks and soldiers sent home in flag-draped coffins.

The sorrow of battle, of lives cut short, is so incredibly painful to contemplate that I find myself not wanting to think of it.

There is no way any of us can begin to imagine what life must be like for the soldiers fighting the war on terrorism. I have tried to grasp what it must be like for the young men and women on the other side of the world, far from family, friends, the comfort of the familiar.

One young man’s account has brought it in to a realm of reality for all the world to share, through a web log he started.

Drop out and join. Levi Lohnes was an art student at Kentucky’s Murray State University when something prompted him to drop out during his sophomore year and join the Army in August 2000.

The now 25-year-old Illinois soldier began to write about his experience which can be read online by anyone who is interested.

When he was first deployed on March 15, he writes of being on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, in the midst of a very long, emotional day.

The nightmare. He speaks of the nightmare of dealing with sand every single day.

“SAND. Nothing but. The first few days feel like one long mess. The jet lag has us sleeping sporadically through lunch and playing cards or watching movies on our portable DVD players at 2 a.m.

“We’ve been issued another duffel bag full of urban combat gear, to include our body armor. I should clean my weapon again. The sand gets everywhere. I miss grass.”

I remember hearing of the nightmare soldiers faced in dealing with snakes in Vietnam.

These days. For the Americans and their comrades fighting in Iraq, the sand and incredible heat has been a fearsome foe, taking its toll on everything from rifles to computerized tracking equipment.

The other component that soldiers face is the mixed reactions of adults in the cities the soldiers are trying to protect.

On April 2, in Baghdad, the soldier writes of his first mission on to the streets in a large truck, describing it as the most interesting experience of his life.

“Some waved while others glared. We turned off into a residential area, streets covered in raw sewage. The smell punched me in the face….

“Kids, women and men start waving and screaming ‘Thank you!’ and ‘Hello!'”

This young soldier from a Midwest family of five children has captured the daily horror of war in a way that brings it to an almost painful reality. He speaks of music as being “like a mother’s hug over here,” and finds a sense of humor essential toward survival.

Reading his postings is a grueling, heartwrenching trip in to battle – both the boredom and the adrenaline rush of experiences no one would ever expect to survive.

The blog can be read at http://leviraq.blogspot.com

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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