Writing about Life:
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Dante's Inferno in Iraq: A Podcast
This post is just a link to a podcast on Sectarian Review. The podcast is about the Dead Poets Society Book Group I led on Camp Adder, Iraq. Also on the podcast is a professor who teaches Dante every year.
That group started almost eight years ago in July 2009. Here's the link.
On the train to Philadelphia recently, the toilets had water, but the sinks did not in the last two cars. I walked three cars away from my seat to wash my hands. On the way back, I let the conductor know about the lack of water. He said there are different water systems for the sinks and the toilets. Then smiled and said the water is blue in the toilets.
I told the conductor about a morning at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, in April 2009. We were there for training before we went to Camp Adder, Iraq. During our two-week stay, we slept in 77-man tents. Outside the tent were several sinks and mirrors just standing in the open on the sand. I wish I had a picture.
About twenty yards away were Porta-Johns or Shit Ovens, which everyone called the plastic enclosures when the temperature approached 120 degrees. One morning just after down I went out to the sinks, brushed my teeth, then walked toward the Porta-Johns. One of the soldiers just stepped out of one and was walking toward me.
The Night Before Basic, Killing Brain and Lung Cells
On January 31, 1972, I flew to Texas to begin basic training. On April 2, 2007, ten years ago today, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, recruiting sergeant for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and began the process of re-enlisting after 23+ years as a civilian. I was 53 years old at the time, about to turn 54.
In the Spring of 2007, The Surge in Iraq was in full swing and recruitment for the Army was down a lot. The economy was good, Congress would not even consider re-starting the Draft, so in late 2006 Congress raised the maximum first-enlistment age for the Army from 35 to 42 years old.
The program was a failure and was rescinded three years later. But that failed program allowed me to re-enlist. The maximum enlistment age for soldiers with prior service is the enlistment age plus the years of prior service plus a one-year waiver. I needed all of that.
I called three recruiters before I called Kevin. He was the first one…
Donald Sutherland as Oddball, a tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes" I got my last tanker nickname more than a decade after I
earned the nickname Sgt. Bambi Killer.I
got that nickname on a business trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000.The company I worked for just bought a
company in Brazil and I was part of a team that went to Brazil to introduce
ourselves to the people who ran the business.
Sao Paulo has traffic that makes Los Angeles look like
Omaha, so the local managers sent a limo for the four of us. This meant we
could be more comfortable on the three-hour 20-mile trip from the airport to
At the time I had a beard and still had a lot of brown
hair. Among the local staff people who
were waiting to meet us was my now long-time friend Ivan Porccino. Ivan speaks
five languages and was assigned as our interpreter. When we got in the car, Ivan introduced us to
the driver and said we would be in Sao Paulo for a few days. The driver said, “I