Remember far enough or imagine ahead and you’ll find war—or it’ll find you…
War and art have reflected one another forever.
—Donald Anderson, “War, Memory, Imagination”
Some countries have made strides in deterring the outbreak of internal wars by fueling professional sports rivalries. Spirited identity groups form around football, baseball, and basketball teams to battle for prestige, position, and territory in the arenas, on TV channels, in sports bars. These are not just games. Such outlets help humans to harness our aggressive tendencies so as to fight less with soldierly skill and more with athletic skill.
America tires of conflicts abroad not so much because people feel the actual sting of them, since those who bear arms and spend time close to conflict are few in number (fewer than 1% of Americans will serve in the armed forces at any time in their lives), but because they perceive it as a zero-sum game: what the country invests in conflict subtracts from the budget that can be spent “at home.”
In May of 2009, the year before I deployed, Roz was killed by an IED that exploded next to her vehicle on the road from Kabul to Bagram Air Base. She was an Air Force Academy classmate, a lacrosse player, a leader.
I did not make it to Roz’s funeral, but on the one-year anniversary of her death, I stood in the courtyard she had passed through each day at Camp Eggers, the courtyard she passed through that last day. They were holding a memorial ceremony for her, and a plaque was mounted, a Connex building named after her: Roz’s house. That day there were fish in the small pool that used to be in someone’s back yard before this plot of earth was a military base, but some time later I went to look for the fish and they were not there.
In July of 2009, Mark, also a friend from the Academy, died when his F-15 Strike Eagle crashed in Afghanistan, killing both pilots. His call sign was Pitbull. His back-seater’s call sign was Lag.
I went to Mark’s funeral at Arlington. He and Katie, who was deployed to Iraq when Mark was killed, had only been married a year. The war was personal. It had caved in the lives of my friends, their families.
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 the life of this inspiring young writer, please visit the fundraiser page set up in her honor.
Note on the Photo: Human Cost of War Exhibition, downtown mall Charlottesville Virginia. Created by the American Friends Service Committee, it is a living memorial to the military personnel and civilians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq-and a stark reminder of the human cost of war. (Photo: Eyes Wide Open by Bob Mical)
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)