Courtney T. Ball

Iraq War Memories

Recently I’ve been reading the journal of a friend of mine who was a Marine medic during the beginning of our second war with Iraq. The journal was a gift from his girlfriend (now wife), and instead of writing to himself, he wrote each entry to her.

I am using this (as well as interviews with him and other soldiers I know) as research for the book I’m working on (titled The Good Report). The book is a retelling of the story of Jesus through a fictional blending of past historical events and current settings, lifting up parallels between the Roman Empire’s involvement and our own nation’s actions in the region we now call the Middle East.

Having interviewed my friend already and heard about what he went through, it’s fascinating to read his journal. He was so young, and it was so personal. Right now I have read up to the point when he is just about to head north from Kuwait into Iraq and combat. He can hear artillery fire in the distance. Everyone thinks the war will last a week, maybe a month at the most. Still, he knows that in that short period of time he and his friends could die. He worries about leaving behind the young woman he loves.

I know how that part of his story ends. I know he makes it back safe, gets married, has children, and that the war everyone thought would be over quickly is now still raging in spite of a decade of U.S. involvement (and withdrawal). In spite of knowing the outcome, I find the journal hard to put down. His writing is honest and detailed and provides enough texture to give me a feel for his very human day-to-day experience of going to war.

It is overwhelming to know that each and every person involved on all sides of that long and bloody conflict (or any such conflict) must also have been full of the same kinds of fear, hope, frustration, and concern for loved ones that my friend demonstrates in his journal. How many pages would those stories fill? What a tragedy that any of them would ever have to be written.

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Courtney Ball

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