The War in First Person


Sometimes I feel bad thinking about what could possibly happen to these people (the Iraqis) if this doesn’t pan out.

Specialist Ernesto Haibi, 6/30/05 on Open Source
In the electronic open letters from the troops in Iraq, it’s not a different war exactly, but the details are not what you see on television or in the papers. A medic writes about having to choose which to treat first: a GI or an insurgent. Answer: treat the enemy first, because he’s an Iraqi and we can get information from him. Beth, a Navy corpsman, writes: “Since my last post we had a mass casualty, for those who know what that means. Yet, another image etched in my soul forever. One of the patients had shrapnel go through his eye, another lost legs, and yet another an arm. Pretty scary stuff.” A soldier writes about the constant use of the word “awesome” – part of the numbing effect of war: my wife left me: “awesome.” Somebody dead: “awesome.” Another writes with embarrassment about the bad manners of tracking mud into the Iraqi home he just raided. From the fog of war, these writers in uniform may be the Tim O’Briens and Norman Mailers of this generation. On Open Source: from where we are to Iraq, engaging with blogs of war.

Spc. Jason Hartley

infantryman in the New York National Guard, blogger: Just Another Soldier

[in the studio in Cambridge]

CFO Gordon Cimoli

Helicopter pilot for the 12th Aviation Brigade, blogger:

[by phone from Detroit]

Specialist Ernesto Haibi

medic in the 23rd Infantry Battalion, blogger: A Candle in the Dark

[by phone from Ft. Lewis, Washington]

SFC Kevin Kelly

sergeant in the 150th Combat Engineers Battalion, blogger: Dixie Sappers

[by phone from Forward Operating Base Dogwood, south of Baghdad]

Sgt. Chris Missick

communications specialist for the 319th Signal Battalion,

blogger: War Blog

[featuring audio excerpts from his podcasts]

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  • Cate

    The email address given in Kevin Kelly’s journal keeps bouncing my message.

    Dear Robin,

    I read about your possible radio show in SFC Kevin Kelly’s diary. I live in Virginia and have never met any of the folks involved with the 150th. I read Kevin’s diary every day and have gained a very warm feeling for him and for his group. You have picked a wonderful subject for your story.

    I was very much opposed to our invasion of Iraq and believe the subsequent policy choices have been terribly misguided. The parallels with Vietnam become more apparent as time passes. That being said, I have tried to educate myself about the daily lives of our armed forces and to provide whatever support I can. Kevin speaks so sweetly & with such humor that I have grown to care very much for him and for the soldiers he writes about. His descriptions of daily occurances are vivid – I love his menu reports.

    If you have a mailing list, please add me to it. I will try very hard to listen to your show.

    Cate Fitt

    Richmond, Virginia

  • Sounds like a good show; I wish I could listen in tonight in real-time, but I’ll be covering David Weinberger’s keynote at the NECC conference in Philadelphia. (Tomorrow night they’re doing a podcast-a-thon at one of the conference events to expose thousands of teachers to podcasting for the first time – should be a real hoot.)

    I’ve actually been playing with the idea of creating a blogspot mobcast, similar to the Gates @ Central Park site Brendan and I did in February, that servicemen and women could use to post podcasts from their mobile phones. I’ve enjoyed reading some of the military blogs I’ve seen so far, but I haven’t come across much podcasting or videoblogging from the troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. A mobcast would let them call in without having to worry about the details of setting up a blog. Unfortunately I don’t have any connections with anyone serving overseas at the moment so I’m not sure how to publicize it and conscript some volunteers, as it were…. andy

  • loki

    The lesson of the Viet Nam War is that war is always personal and it always comes home i.e. nightmares,PTDS, loss of limb and life-new immigrants.

    I remember the first gulf war-even the high tech “star wars” imagry and the scant loss of american life-reawakened in my elderly father memories of WWII.

    It is important to hear the voices of the current americans in combat so that finally we will wake up and realize that a real war is happening in our lives,people are getting killled and dismembered, our youth are being sacrificed on the alter of the 2 Goerge Bushes’egos!

  • Thought that someone should excercise the power of Google to provide some background information here: USA Today article from May 11th (2000 words). It cites Mudville Gazette as listing close to 200 blogs, and Iraq Files as listing 50. (Out of 150,000 serving in Iraq, and 16,000 in Afghanistan).

    Many are anonymous, I see, as the military has asked soldiers to submit postings for review (such a concept is not without historical precedent). I would like to see this issue being discussed this evening.

    Also, this is the first I’ve heard of those websites. (My only contact with our armed forces is that my family corresponds with an National Guardsmen my age serving in Iraq). I am a bit surprised that the major media sites I am familiar with– and I include the A-List bloggers in this list– don’t give a prominent link to soldier-blogger. Sure, there are issues to be worked out, but this would seem to be an obvious use of blogging, as well as the power of conferring links.

  • Just to follow-up now that I’ve followed those links. The Mudville Gazette shows nothing on my browser. The IraqFiles has a link of milblogs. But no aggregation, no shorthand to explain the relative quality, the perspective, the home base, when the last post was, how big the community, etc. In theory, it would be easy for us stateside to find a blogger to “adopt.” But in practice, this hasn’t been done, so that might explain why the milblogs are out of the spotlight. Do any big media sites or big A-Listers link to milblogs? I simply don’t know.

  • debi

    Greetings from Lucedale, Mississippi!

    Company B of the 150th Combat Engineer Battalion is located here in my hometown.

    Their website is:

    Kevin Kelly’s Journal is found under the HHC company:

    Kevin’s email address is:

    They are attached to the 1/155th Infantry Battalion. Their website is:

    The Battalion Commander, LTC John C. Rhodes, writes an update when he can, as do the Bravo Company Commander, CPT Bryan Olier, and Charlie Company Commander, CPT Drew Robertson.

    There are some terrific pictures in the Gallery of the 1/155th website, and also some great ones on the 150th Dixie Sappers website. There is also a forum on the Dixie Sappers website where you can post comments. If you do, though, I would make one request. Please keep it positive. Our soldiers visit this forum sometimes when they are able to get online, and it is our duty and our privilege to support them in their efforts.

    Thank you for being interested in our troops and blessing them and us with your many good thoughts and prayers.

    God bless,

    Debi from Lucedale….

  • Robin

    Hi everyone- thanks for posting. A few things.

    Thanks Debi for pointing us towards Kevin Kelly. As you can now see, we’re one step ahead! We saw SFC Kelly’s blog while preparing for our Blogsday show, and thought his exquisite writing warranted him another appearance. He will be joining us by phone, from Iraq, and we feel very lucky to have him. In addition, we are working on a show tentatively scheduled for July 18th that will spotlight the 150th Combat Engineers Battalion. More on that soon.

    Thanks to Jon Garfunkel for pointing to Mudville Gazette, a good aggregator of milblogs. If you want some other suggestions, check out the list of milblog aggregators I’ve posted on the main page.

    Finally, loki, I think your point is very well taken. I would encourage you to call the show with it. Part of our interest in talking to milbloggers is that in some ways they could be the Tim O’Briens or the Norman Mailers of this generation, the people whose writing we read to understand the experience of the individual soldier, to understand our country and this war from the dead center of it.

    thanks for posting guys. keep it coming.

  • I have been reading SFC Kelly’s daily journal since I saw his posting on the web site a few months ago. Although I have never met SFC Kelly or any members of the unit, I feel as if I know them all.

    I am looking forward to his interview, to hear the voice behind the journal, and I hope to be able to talk to him and thank him for all that he and the other soldiers are doing in Iraq.

  • Chris Williams

    Gosh, this may seem obvious but I’d love to ask about the whole “Support Our Troops” thing. I’ve heard a lot from civilians here in the US, but almost nothing from actual soldiers in the field:

    What does the phrase “Support Our Troops” mean to you? Does it mean I shouldn’t criticize our leaders in Washington?

    How does it affect morale to know that folks back home are upset at how the Iraq war is being run? Do you spend much time thinking about that?

    What sorts of things make you feel supported? And what makes you feel like you aren’t getting the support you need?

    Brevity isn’t my forte but I hope there’s time to ask at least one of these!

  • loki

    It is interesting that the National Guard and Reserves are bearing a great burden for the War. It is ironic that George Bush avoided the Viet Nam was by flying the freindly skies of Texas.

    Historically the National Guard has been the true model of the “citizen’s”militia. It is extrodinary that despite the all volunteer army and the permanent military,we still turn to the the guard and reserves to get the job done. The blogs begin to tell the story that we as citizens need to here!

  • For Chris Williams,

    Nothing irritates me more than those damn stickers. How are you supporting us. Instead of giving that money to the bumper sticker company donate it to the USO or a charity helping soldiers families. If people want to support troops then help their families.

  • My son SPC Bryan Fuller is part of the FOB that Kevin Kelly is in. I want to thank you Robin for doing this segment on Kevin Kelly and the 15oth. It is hard having a member of my family, especially my child in Iraq. I am proud for all of the work that the 150th is doing in Iraq. I cannot wait till this war is over, and to have my son back at home! We all are just trying to deal with everyday life till this war is over and they all come home! That is how all of us deal with things! You just live one day at a time, and time will make things easier each day that goes by!

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