Our unknown soldiers, revealed

by Beacon Staff • March 26, 2008

When the U.S. death toll in Iraq passed 4,000, I started considering the human cost of war. How horrific and utterly unfortunate, I thought. Then I remembered those people I know who are part of the current effort over there. Their stories speak volumes about the conflict in Iraq, and poignantly highlight the humanity of the war. Names have been changed, but the stories are true.

Joe-I never could imagine him going to Iraq. Joe is a funny guy, the class clown, not at all a John Wayne type. I recall him being a class favorite during the weekly Theater Sports Friday performances held in drama class. For some reason, he couldn't get anything going after graduation, and so he enlisted, eventually landing in Iraq.

Mike-Unlike Joe, I could always imagine him entering the armed services. He had a Marines sticker on his backpack, read books on war and incessantly quoted Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. In a few months, Mike will earn his degree and then join the Marine Corps Reserve. The job description for that vocation? "Killing terrorists." Or at least that's what it says on his Facebook profile.

Jimmy-In June, after high school graduation, Jimmy worked as a firefighter, a substitute teacher and a soldier. The latter role stuck. He is currently in Iraq, which he jokingly refers to as an "extended spring break." He plans to marry his longtime girlfriend upon coming home, and hopes to become a cop. During high school, I worked with him on short film in which he played, of all things, a uniformed soldier.

Ted-Ted lives across the street from a buddy of mine. Before he was deployed, he would frequently nurse a six pack of beer in his driveway. He recently returned from Iraq, taking back his post in the driveway. Iraq, he says, wasn't very fun at all.

Rob-Rob and I used to jam to Blink 182 and Metallica songs in my basement. He is a talented tennis player and lettered his freshman year. Caught smoking pot in the school bathroom, he was expelled. He went to the Army and was just shipped to Iraq.

Brian-Dissatisfied with the routine of college life, he opted to go Army, a decision that was completely shocking. Similar to Jimmy, Brian also worked with me on a short movie in high school called Deadly Skies in which he played a zealous Communist named Boris.

Jessie-A mom who lived in my cul-de-sac, second house on the right. She felt a sense of wartime patriotism and volunteered her way into a medical unit stationed in Iraq. To send her off, a large, well-attended block party was held. Jessie left behind a one-year-old daughter who will be three by the time she returns.

Chris-Chris is a 24-year-old art school student who recently got back from the war. After returning, he turned to crafting enormous, abstract murals that always amaze me.

Each one of these stories says something both subtle and overt about the people who fight, and I have found that keeping them in mind both deepens and challenges my thoughts and judgements on this war. As another significant death toll mark passes, let's keep our soldiers in the forefront of our minds.