I thought that I might post my dispatches that I wrote when I was serving in Iraq in 2004. Back then, they went out to a readership of about 400. Now, hopefully they will be of interest to some others. My writings made it to the long short list of the Vogel Award, which is the richest and most prestigious award for an unpublished manuscript in Australia. To access them, you need to either click on one of the links below or go to the table of contents for pages (which is on the right hand side of this page). Following that experience, I did the same when I served in Afghanistan, taking on some of the suggestions from the award judges, and I hope to publish both at some time … perhaps comparing my life in war zones to that as a startup entrepreneur.
The bits that are italicised are more private musings that I did not include in original letters home. Certainly the writing style is slightly disjointed, particularly in terms of the differences between the public and then private diary entries – but then, I wasn’t in Iraq to write my memoirs! There is an edited version that I will post when I can find it (so please forgive me in advance for any grammatical/ spelling errors).
It is strange to look back to a series of letters that I wrote home from Iraq and vividly recall events and experiences that will eventually fade from memory, but which will forever colour my life. In writing such letters, it was always important to try and convey a positive image. Although often flippant, focusing on the last package of Australian confectionary became a good way to deflect discussion or questioning about serving in a US military organisation conducting combat operations throughout Iraq. Having a way to emotionally escape in a war zone is absolutely critical. The human trait of hatred and its ensuing destruction can become all too encompassing if one is not too careful and does not have an outlet or two.
A determined degree of schizophrenia was used in my writing however. While fulfilling my mandatory reporting requirements to those back home, it was also beneficial to capture some of those thoughts that did not need to be shared at that point with my ‘audience.’ For those who have had challenging experiences in such circumstances, they will understand some events in a war zone should never leave there and be conveyed to loved ones.
One of the saving graces of a war zone is that the bonds of friendship that are forged endure and forever remain precious. While work focused on a dedication to supporting the establishment of a post-Saddam Iraq and defeating a brutal enemy, I was surrounded by a close group of compatriots predominantly comprised of planning staff from the US Army Third Corps. The experiences shared, both good and bad, created an environment that will forever be cherished.