Reading a Letter From the Front: A Soldier in Iraq

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A soldier currently serving in Iraq, wrote home about the troubles facing troops there, and the mission overall. Time seems to stretch there, he says, and people are hanging their heads.


NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr often comments on the war in Iraq and the politics surrounding it. Today, he's chosen to read from a letter he was recently given. It was written by a soldier serving in the war.

DANIEL SCHORR: He is a first lieutenant stationed in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He has been writing to his family in Northern Virginia in increasingly sparing tones. I have the family's permission to quote him, but not to identify him for fear of reprisals. So here it goes.

He reacts to the order adding three months to his one-year stay in Iraq.

(Reading) Three more months in Iraq is just enough to put people over the top. I don't know why. It could be that 12 months is a threshold in which stress overcomes one's strength and fortitude. Or maybe, we all mentally prepared ourselves for only 365 days and not a day more.

Either way, I'm not the only one that feels like the anxiety this environment produces is beginning to overcome. You can see it in the way some units conduct themselves on patrols. Some senior leaders have recently been relieved due to actions as little as not enforcing the uniform standards. They have also been relieved for actions as great as executing insurgents.

More soldiers around the base walk around with their heads down. Drug use has gone up. Marriages are failing at an astounding rate. And just recently, a soldier who lived a hundred meters from our living area took his life with a shotgun blast to the head.

To many, time is nothing more than time. But here, time comes with a meaning. Three more months to us means much more. It can mean the guaranteed loss of your spouse to another man, missing your child's birthday again, losing another friend to an IED. Without a doubt, encountering a full array of life-threatening situations where your life or the life of a soldier or two weighs in the quality of the leaders in charge.

Being a bomb expert is no admirable trait, much like writing about my adventures here. It was cool at first, but now it's just plain mind-numbing. I don't want to think about, talk about, let alone write about any of the doings here.

That's from a letter of a first lieutenant in northern Iraq to his family in Northern Virginia.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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