“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.” – Tim O’Brien, “How to Tell a True War Story”

I wanted to understand what we were doing, exactly. I wanted to know whether the news was to be believed, whether it was all noise and explosions and senseless life-loss, or whether there was some productivity in it, something sensible—something worth bleeding for. I wanted to know if there was something uglier than war, or if John Stuart Mill had been smoking something strong when he said that. When I volunteered to deploy, it was not a glamorous job that I volunteered for—arranging air travel for an army general—but at least it got me into the AOR. Maybe I could get closer to understanding war, understanding myself.

The same year I deployed to Afghanistan, Restrepo was released. The Korengal was the worst, the deadliest place, hills and villages infected by the oozing abscess of the border with Pakistan. I would not be going to a place like the Korengal on my deployment, would not go on patrols there nor build a fortified OP with my bare hands, all under constant enemy fire. But Restrepo was war and I needed to know about this war, our war.


Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Namedwell: Synonyms for Self by Farzana Marie. In her submission, Ms. Marie described Namedwell as “vignettes and mini-essays…composed of the raw materials of personal story.” Twelve days after submitting her work, Ms. Marie, a U.S. Air Force veteran (2006-12) and a doctoral student in Middle Eastern literature at the University of Arizona, suffered a massive stroke and fell in Afghanistan. She is now being treated in Arizona, but has so far lost the ability to speak or write, and is challenged cognitively. To find out more about this inspiring young writer, please visit the fundraiser page set up in her honor.

Note on the Photo: U.S. Army soldiers assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a patrol during Operation Viper Shake, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, April 21, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Moeller)


From Eight Slices of the War in Afghanistan by Farzana Marie
Introduction by Dan Cafaro, Publisher
I: To Merge, To Erase
II: Restrepo: One Slice of the War
III: Inside with an Itch
IV: Enter to Search
V: To Fight
VI: To Find or Be Found
VII: When Language Fails
VIII: Tea with Terrible Questions
Afterword by Dr. Timothy Kirk, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret)