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Iraq Vet: 'Iraq Took Away Our Innocence!'

'Iraq Took Away Our Innocence!'

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Interview with Spc. Douglas Barber - OIF Vet suffering from PTSD
Interview conducted by Jay Shaft, Editor and Lead Investigative Reporter for Coalition For Free Thought In Media

“When we left America we were so much, uh, we were innocent, you know? I would say Iraq took away our innocence as far as what we seen, what we went through. What we had to do and the things that we were prepared to have to do in order to maintain our security and our level of protection, uh, force protection with our unit.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a transcript of an hour-long interview and two 25-minute follow up interviews. The audio will be available in the next few days on several web sites. This interview is very long, but the reality and starkness of it could not be edited just to fit in to a smaller, more easily read article. I felt the entire interview must be available, even if it takes two or three reads to get all the way through.

If you read this interview to the end you will understand the enormity of the issues covered. Many of the upcoming interviews will not as long, but this one had to be given its full range and length for complete understanding of the overall issues.

JS-What is your name and rank, what was your unit or company, and when did you deploy or get to Iraq?

DB-My name is Specialist Douglas Barber. I was with the 1485th Transportation Company, National Guard, out of Dover, Ohio. We were called to active duty on 11 February 2003. When we actually got boots on ground in Iraq it was around the 1st of June. We spent close to two months down in Kuwait.

This is his unit that was deployed to Iraq: OHIO Army National Guard Units:

Dover -1485th Transportation Co (-) (LtMdmTr)

Interviewer-So you were not in the initial invasion, but you did get there when the field services and bases were still real basic and being organized? Correct?

DB-Correct. We were originally scheduled to go up with the 4th Infantry Division. Because the 4th ID did not get routed through Turkey we had to go down through Kuwait and wait for them to make a decision as to what they wanted to do with us.

Interviewer -What were you actually trained for? What was your MOS?

DB-My MOS was 88 Mike, which is a transportation specialist. How I got that was in my civilian career I was a truck driver. I had been out of the military for almost ten years. I had re-enlisted in May of 2002, and then in August of 2002 I was awarded the 88 Mike slot because of my experience as a truck driver. So that’s what my initial position was.

Interviewer -While you were in Iraq did they put you in a different job that would have been apart from, or different than your MOS?

DB-No, we were operating as 88 Mikes: Transportation Specialists.

JS-How long did you train for Iraq and have actual combat training before deployment?

DB-We trained for two months down in Fort Lee, Virginia, where we primarily trained, that’s where we did our mobilization process. While we were going through our mobilization process we did what they call our hip pocket training. It’s basically going over tactics and skills, things of that nature.

There is nothing that can ever prepare you for going into a war or into a combat position. No training is like what we went through when finally we hit boots on ground in Iraq. There’s just nothing to compare to that in training.

Interviewer -Were you prepared for what you experienced when you got to Iraq? You said there was no way to be ready. Did you even have any idea what it was going to be like?

DB-No, and that’s the thing nobody understands. While we were sitting at Ft. Lee we seen pictures on TV of the Jessica Lynch situation when she was POW, and things of that nature. I mean we seen that but there is nothing that sunk in.

When we left America we were so much, uh, we were innocent, you know? I would say Iraq took away our innocence as far as what we seen, what we went through, what we had to do and the things that we were prepared to have to do in order to maintain our security and our level of protection, uh, force protection with our unit.

Interviewer -When you actually saw combat were you able to adapt to it as time went by? Or did it take you by surprise every time it happened?

DB-You know, it was kinda funny, because when we actually got into combat, into the thick of it, we were NOT ready! See we were stationed at LSA Anaconda, which is, if you know anything about Iraq it is smack dab in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. It’s right in the hottest combat zones in the whole country.

What we had to do, our main job was to run missions between Anaconda and BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) picking up supplies from BIAP and hauling them back to Anaconda. You know we never got prepared, you can never get prepared for what’s gonna happen. When there’s an IED (a roadside bomb, AKA: improvised explosive device) that goes off you can never be prepared for that. There’s absolutely no way to be prepared to get ambushed.

Everyday you go through your morning briefings before you depart for convoy, and they tell you about the convoys that got hit the day before. You hear about the soldiers that got killed and wounded, and most of the time you know them, or might have met them before.

As time went on it just wore at your psyche. It was very hard, uh, it was a very hard thing to say that you could actually be prepared for what you would see or what you would hear.

Interviewer -How many civilians did you see get killed or injured? How many did you hear about from other soldiers or Iraqis? How did that affect you when you saw that or heard about it?

DB-You know, I didn’t see any get killed, but we heard about it on a daily basis. I knew some guys in our unit had gone through it. They had experienced a situation where they were ambushed and had to open up, uh, open fire, on these people. The guys in the unit that had to open fire, well it really messed them up. It really messed them up bad, it really got to them.

We would hear about our own friendly fire from the helicopters and some other combat units would hurt or kill civilians, things like that we knew were going on all the time. I never did have much exposure to it, other than what we heard in our daily Intel briefings. I saw a lot of other guys who were really messed up or haunted by civilians being killed. I never did see much myself so I can’t really be any good on that for direct experiences.

Interviewer -This is in regards to the soldiers you did see who had either killed civilians or had exchanged fire and had a good idea they might have killed civilians. How did that really affect their general morale and attitude on a day-to-day basis, and over time? Did it really affect their job performance or ability to do their duty?

DB-Oh yeah! It shook them up pretty good. You know, even for myself, I was hit with an IED (improvised explosive device while on convoy down to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport). Form that point on I had a really bad attitude towards the Iraqis.

Actually I would have to say that the nights, those first nights that our company got hit with mortar attacks in the first part of July (2003) did it. It really changed our attitude all the way around. We really did not like those people, we just didn’t like them after that, but we didn’t want to have to kill any of them that were innocent.

You know, we were giving money them money and buying their wares, goods and supplies. They were taking that money and going out and buying mortar rounds and mortar tubes on the black market, and then they would turn around and lob it at us while we were sleeping.

I had a situation where we were stuck in a traffic jam on the way down to BIAP that really shook me up. I had a lady on a bus take and hold her baby out in front of me like okay, I dare you to fire your weapon into this window.

That really messed with my mind, because I knew that if anyone produced any kind of weapon it would be real bad. I was gonna have to open fire upon that bus and take out momma and baby and anybody else.

Ya know, that really messed with me for a while after that. I know it messed up with some of the guys I was around and worked with. Other guys that had been in combat before, it was just part of their job. But for those who had not been in war, well, it was bitter pill to swallow.

Interviewer -How many soldiers did you see get killed or know of from the other units around you?

DB-Uh, to start out with, in the month of July we had, um, I think it was eighteen 88 Mikes that got killed. That was the hottest month, as far as deaths for the 88 Mikes. On our base we got mortared every night, about three, four, five mortar attacks a night. Each attack had at least three mortar rounds per attack.

There were at least seven deaths attributed directly to the mortar attacks, just in July. That’s not including the amount of wounded we would hear about on a daily basis. There must have been literally dozens and dozens of wounded, just in July alone. I really couldn’t even begin to count all the wounded I heard about.

Not only that, but when we would run our BIAP trips, we would here about lots of attacks on other convoys runs out of BIAP or on other bases close to ours. I can remember on one occasion that within ten minutes of us hitting the south gate, there had been an attack on another National Guard Trans unit. A soldier had been hit by sniper fire from 1800 meters out. These soldiers on guard duty were asking us if wee could see any snipers or any of that stuff.

So it was a constant thing for us. The mortar attacks were a daily and nightly situation, and then any time you leave the base you were always charged up and waiting, because of the IEDs. They would plant them on the side of the road, in animal carcasses and trash, abandoned vehicles, wherever they could hide them. They would make daisy chains out of bombs, 155mm howitzer rounds and leftover ordinance; it was bad to get hit with them.

It was really bad; death was all around you, all the time. You couldn’t escape it!

Interviewer -When you saw your fellow soldiers get wounded and killed, how did that affect you on a short term and a long-term basis? Did that in itself affect your ability to perform your duty?

DB-I believe that it did eventually. I mean it was hard to hear when it was someone in the unit or on base. It was always hard to hear about another soldier being killed or seriously wounded. After a while you take a nonchalant attitude to it: because you can’t be to caring or tied up thinking about it. Because if you are if you are thinking about it, you’ll make a mistake, you’ll be distracted at the wrong time.

I have to say that yes, it was very hard, especially towards the last few months I was in country.

You just grew numb to it. You grew numb to the shelling and things of that nature. It was like, you know, you can’t do anything more, you can’t do a thing to stop it. You heard about the deaths and there’s nothing more you can do about it.

You just feel helpless and unable to do anything useful. It’s just an empty and horrible feeling that eats at you. It saps your morale on a daily basis, all the time you are there. That’s what you get burned into your brain, that you are helpless to stop your fellow soldier from dying and the Army can’t stop it either!

Interviewer –Just in the general nature of the continuing combat, attacks and stress do you think you were performing at a diminished capacity? What type of danger do you think that presented to your units ability to perform their security and convoy operations? Do you think it was affecting your actual day-to-day duty?

DB-Yeah, I know for myself personally speaking that it greatly affected me. Everything about the outward part of what it was we were dealing with suffered. Like, especially everything about our overall humanitarian mission and relations with the Iraqis.

We felt like POWs (Prisoners of War) of our own country, you know, because we weren’t allowed to leave the compound. You know, you’re sitting on a compound that is obviously, even to this day, a sitting duck. It’s a sitting duck for these hard liners and insurgents that don’t want to give up Iraq. We were sitting ducks and they still are all sitting ducks, and they can’t get way from the attacks and stuff.

It greatly affected my mental status and how I performed. I got to the point where I could care less about the Iraqis. They don’t care about us being there, we tried to help them and they attacked us. My general good attitude after that was greatly diminished. Even to this day I could really care less what happens to them. That’s just how I feel after all the attacks and stuff.

So yes, my day-to-day routine was dramatically changed after they attacked us time and time again. No, I was nowhere near 100% after even a few weeks under those conditions. After several moths there was no way I was anywhere near full ability to perform, it just wasn’t possible with my morale being brutally sapped every day.

Interviewer-Okay, explain your statement about being a POW of your own country. We talked about this already and I want to really get a clear explanation of that.

DB-Well, we’re fixing to go into a heated area of politics that’s gonna be pretty intense. When I say I felt like a POW of my own country it’s how I felt after months of problems and lack of support from our NCOs and officers.

We had commanders on the filed over there who had their heads so far up their butts that they didn’t ever know what they were doing. I mean us lower people were completely baffled; the Spec 4s and E-5s were just shaking their heads and wondering what the heck they were thinking.

They were trying to turn a combat post into a garrison post. They were making decisions based on their experiences at a stateside garrison and not even thinking about the fact that they were in the middle of combat ops in the desert. It was just a lot of stupidity and bad leadership adding to the stress we were already dealing with.

We were saying, it’ like you guys don’t even understand this isn’t a garrison post, we’re in the desert under combat conditions and you’re getting men killed or injured. You known the commanders don’t to see or hear that, no way did they even listen.

They kept on telling us that it would change when Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) came in to takeover the base. They were saying initially that KBR was coming in October to take over day-to-day operations and base support and food services, things like that. For a description of what KBR is and what it does see:

You know, October, that’s October 2003, we were scheduled to start coming home, once KBR came in they said. Well the commander kept saying , that’s schedule to change, that’s schedule to change, whenever they come in we’re going home.

When the date came for us to go home, well, it never happened. We got extended out for one year, that was one year total, and we had to sit around and do nothing. We had so many transportation units that had come up from Kuwait, then there were just so many guys activated that were just sitting around doing nothing. At least, nothing in regards to pulling convoy duty or transportation duties.

I mean we were pulling MP duty because there was nothing else for us to do. We were not ever trained to be MPs or security forces; we were truck drivers and supply guys.

This is why I’m saying we were POWs of our country. We were running MP missions and security ops, and we were 88 Mikes. We’re supposed to go out and run up and down the MSRs (military supply routes) protecting the KBR convoys and doing MP jobs and we’re not even MPs or trained for that.

That’s what I’m talking about; they just didn’t give us a choice about it.

Interviewer-So you guys were force protection for the KBR convoys after KBR came in? So you were escorting the KBR contractors? That’s technically not even your military job from what you’ve said, correct?

DB-Yeah, yeah, and the KBR guys are not even allowed to carry firearms. You would have a 30-40 contingent of KBR vehicles and you would have maybe five or six military vehicles to guard it all.

There was only an average of two to three people per military vehicle, so you can see where we wouldn’t even be able to properly defend the convoy if we got attacked. How can 20 guys defend or secure a convoy of that size?

Put very simply, you can’t, no way can you do a real good job with that many assets to defend.

So you don’t have a very good military support group with that going on. You had quartermasters planning military operations or put in MP positions, cooks out manning guns and going on up and down the MSRs doing guard duty or pulling security and checkpoint details.

You name it and it happened. You had the logistical support personnel whose jobs were to take care of personnel and get people from here to there safely. Well instead they were being sent out on convoys to defend these KBR elements going up to Tikrit and some other places in the Sunni Triangle. You had them NEVER trained for. Like I said we were 88 Mikes logistical personnel being used as MPs combat troops.

Interviewer-Now I have heard from other transport and supply people that your support and supply mission was not the main concern to the commanders. Is that true from your experiences? Or is that not true on an overall basis?

DB-No, you were right on the truth when you heard that. We saw it with our own unit everyday. Let me explain that a little bit. My unit was a 931-light/medium combat support unit pulling 33-foot flatbeds full of Air Force pallets from BIAP up to LSA Anaconda and points north. We were running these missions and let me tell you about the real facts that were going on.

This is something that really troubles me and I have to let everyone know about it. As a transportation specialist, one of the things that President Bush said we would be doing was providing humanitarian support for the Iraqis.

That’s a bunch of B.S. The entire time I was over there I did not see one load of humanitarian aid being trucked in. Not one time!

Interviewer-You’re telling me that you guys were not doing what the overall mission profile was supposed to be I regards to humanitarian relief and support? What about all the food, water, clothes, blankets and construction supplies for rebuilding that were supposed to be taken into areas of Iraq?

DB-Well, see that was the joke, because we sat there in briefings and asked, “What is our mission? What specifically is our mission?” Our unit was meant to be an actual desert unit, to be able to go out into the desert and run on sand. That’s how we were set up for our missions.

Now, not one load did we pull, or any other load that I saw coming up from BIAP or Kuwait that was actually humanitarian or relief supplies. Not one load the entire time I was there.

The US government itself is not doing that, because if you look at the stated mission, that they keep claiming they are carrying out, it’s not getting done. You have a lot of individual units and companies going out and providing relief and building schools and clinics, but the government itself is not doing that mission.

I never saw a coherent plan or even an overall idea of a plan put into effect. We did a lot of that kind of thing at our base, but it was on a company level or on a individual unit basis

Let me give you an example of that with our unit. We had Iraqis that would come in and work for us in our company AO (area of operations). They would build sidewalks, pick up trash, clean up the AO, stuff that we didn’t have time to do.

We would pay them $5 a day, a bag of MREs and a bottle of water and they would feel like they made a million bucks. That’s the idea of humanitarian relief and giving them jobs, to build local Iraqi support and good will towards us.

We do that; give them OUR supplies and the other things to help them out. We do that and then the insurgents would find out and kill them for working for us. The Iraqi that would go to work for us would end up dead because they were helping us out with work.

The Iraqis were not getting the humanitarian supplies and we could not take care of the general population with the supplies we had. There was no humanitarian support coming in on our trucks, that for sure. All we saw was parts, uniforms, our food and our water coming in. That is the supplies that we needed to run operations and survive for ourselves.

They were using their own supplies locally to rebuild, but we did not se the US doing anything to help them or providing any plans or program to do it.

Interviewer-How did you feel after you had given them supplies and then they attacked you or helped the insurgent get information on when your convoys went out? I have heard from a lot of soldiers that something would happen like a bombing or a civilian being killed and all the recent efforts would not help when they decided to attack you.

Did that happen a lot? Did you see stuff like that?

DB-Yeah, yeah, we did, for sure it happened all the time. The majority of the Iraqi people wanted us there but it was hard to know who to trust.

We had these local areas, what we called Hajji marts, which would sell us all kinds of stuff like ice and cokes, cigarettes, clothes, things we couldn’t get through our supply chain. We would go out and buy stuff to help out the locals. Then they would take the money and buy mortar rounds and tubes, ammo, and stuff to attack us with.

At night we would wind up getting mortared left and right. The guy you bought cigarettes from that morning might be the one mortaring your base at night. So you didn’t know who to trust and who not to trust. You were trying to help these people out, but you didn’t know you were actually helping out. Was it a man with a family to support or an insurgent who would try to kill you? Was it your friend or the Fedayeen?

We had the Fedayeen working in our laundry stealing the female’s clothes, bras and underwear. They would use our own stuff to kill and hurt us all the time. We had Iraqis making IEDs right there on our own base. They would put them on the front steps of our PX, out them on the main thoroughfare through base, and all kinds of place where it would kill us.

You’re trying to help these people out and they’re taking your stuff and killing you with it. So is like, who do you trust? You can’t trust anybody because your friend today is your enemy tomorrow. You just can’t trust these people.

Interviewer-That leads to even greater incidences of combat stress when you have the idea that you can never, ever relax over there? Correct?

DB-Yes, exactly, absolutely, it really made it much worse.

Interviewer-Did that really impact on your mental well being?

DB-Oh yeah, it really did. I will have to say that I am more aware of my surroundings now than I ever have ever been before. I have learned to listen more than watch, but ‘m always looking around me for movement.

You know, we faced a constant bombardment of mortar attacks, Chinese rocker attacks, IEDs and sniper attacks while we were in Iraq. That’s just when we were sitting on the base, that doesn’t even include the attacks when we were on convoy going south or coming back up north.

It was very hard to have to deal with. I mean you literally felt like you were a sitting duck. We would sit around at night and watch the Blackhawks and gunships go up in complete darkness. We would watch them patrol the outer perimeter but it still wasn’t enough.

We were in tents that had sandbags that were only a foot high and yet we would have these mortar attacks all the time. You could literally hear the mortars coming in while you were lying in your cot. You could just about ell where they were landing, whether it was up by the CSH (command support hospital), by the PX, or if they were landing right by your tent. It was scary and it happened almost every night for a while there.

You never felt like you could actually get any sleep. There was many a night when you didn’t go to sleep. Or if you did go to sleep you wondered if you were gonna wake up the next morning. It was a very difficult to experience that.

Interviewer-Now you had said you were had your tour of duty extended longer than what you had expected or been told?

DB-Yes, we were extended at least twice.

Interviewer-Do you think that affected your morale and the morale of the guys around you knowing that you didn’t have a set return date?

DB-Oh, definitely. We’re a National Guard unit, so we didn’t expect that stuff to happen. Now granted, we knew that when we signed up, if war comes, your gonna go. We had no idea it would be for as long or as hard as it turned out to be. We had a common joke as a Guard unit while we were over there. It was “Two weeks a year my ass!” or another was “On weekend a month my ass!”

Interviewer-I saw a picture of a transport truck with that sign in the front window. Was that your unit? I know the picture was of a company out of LSA Anaconda. That just kind of summed up the feeling of the Guard and Reserve units that were over there at the time didn’t it?

(You can see the picture here)

DB-Yeah, it was one of us, for sure. I know we had it taped to the door of our AO up there.

We really didn’t like not knowing how long we were going to be in Iraq, it just wasted our morale. We’re not expecting to be gone for a year at a time. In all actuality that unit as a whole was gone for longer than that. They were activated in 2/03 and they didn’t deactivate until April or May of 2004. So they were literally on the ground for a year overseas, not including all the time they had for training and all this other stuff.

So we were sitting there thinking, well hey, we’re being extended out, but when KBR comes in we’re on the way home. Then they turn around and say, on, you’re not gonna go home. We don’t really have a purpose, because when KBR did come in and get running. Things started slowing down for us.

It was like, well hey, what is our job here? What are we doing? Why are we even here when have so many transportation units sitting around doing nothing? Why are we even doing it?

So yeah, it really hurt the morale of the whole unit.

I’m gonna tell you this because I’m really hot and heavy on this, it just pisses me off.

These commanders that come on TV piss me off. You see them on the news all the time, and they say the morale’s great over here, or these guys say it’s great, we’re all happy and we’re doing fine, we’re all gung-ho. Look at the rank on their shoulders and you’ll see they’re all Majors and Colonels, maybe a Captain here and there, or they’re all Seniors NCOs or whatever else.

Get down to the lower ranks and you’ll never see a genuine interview with a lower ranked enlisted soldier with a bad attitude. It’s because they don’t want that to get out. They don’t want the bad publicity of the low morale getting into the news media.

It’s because the American population thinks, oh well, things are going good, the soldiers are happy, they love doing their job in Iraq, and all the stuff they are being spoon fed.

I can tell you that’s just not true! It’s not true of your average low-ranking soldier, and especially the Guard and Reserve soldiers. They really don’t like it over in Iraq, for the most part anyway.

I know how the guys over there right now feel. Most of them did not want to be in Iraq and the ones going back don’t want to go again.

How do I know this? Well it’s real simple, I ask the other soldiers for myself. Just go out and ask a soldier who just came back or is going back over and see what they tell you when the brass isn’t around.

I know because I see a lot of the guys who are just coming back. I try to ask every one of them how it really is right now. If you want to know the truth just ask the soldiers for their experiences and thoughts.

If you want to know the truth ask the soldiers in Iraq for letters. Ask the soldier’s families to see the letters that are coming back home. Ask for letters about what they’re doing and how they fell about it. Look at what’s being said by them online, look at some of these blogs and soldier’s chat rooms.

Go to a chat room and ask the soldiers what is really happening, and what the feelings and morale are like. Ask these soldiers and you’re gonna find out that morale’s not that great in Iraq.

It’s not like what President Bush says it is. It’s not like what his boot licking groupies are saying, that things are going good. That’s BS, because it’s not good, I can tell you from what I saw and what I keep hearing.

Interviewer-Okay, I’m going to get to a different issue now.

When you were in Iraq did you report symptoms of combat stress or PTSD?

DB-Oh yeah I tried to take it to my Chain of Command. We had combat lifesavers that were trained in the combat stress stuff. Our unit wasn’t prepared for any of the combat stress, they had no real plan or help available.

Our unit would not take steps to identify and deal with combat stress. They would leave it like it was. If a particular soldier or group of soldiers were hit with an IED or had went through some kind of direct attack, they would take them off the road for a few days. They’d let them get their bearing and stick them right back out there again.

They wouldn’t even deal with it, not at all, not there at our unit. They wouldn’t even try to work it out by giving them any help or asking them if they needed it.

I had to go to a combat stress clinic, and that was the only way I was able to get any help at all, you know anger management and whatever I needed like that. That’s what I got when I went over was a little bit of counseling, that’s about it.

Interviewer-That’s the three days of treatment they offer right? Three days at the clinic?

DB-Yeah that was it. That’s all there really was.

Interviewer-When you reported the combat stress what was the attitude? Was it pretty negative? How were you treated afterwards?

DB-Oh, it was negative, for sure, yeah I’d say so. If you rocked the boat in any kind of way you were immediately branded for the most part. You were gonna be in trouble whatever the case was, I mean as far as being marked and singled out, it was really common.

A lot of guys would say they didn’t want to report, because they were afraid of the retaliation that would come back off of it. So they just basically went on about their day-to-day business. Hey just stuffed everything inside and said the heck with it.

Interviewer-I’ve heard a saying used in the military for that. It is F..k it and drive on! A lo of guys tell me about that in regards to shoving all the feelings down and just getting on with the mission.

Was that the prevalent attitude you saw with guys who had PTSD or stress issues?

DB-Yeah, yeah, that was exactly it. That was our platoon motto. That’s what we had to deal with, f..k it and go on. As a matter of fact we had it painted on a blast wall outside our AO. I even have a picture of it, it’s a bulldog with F.I.D.O. written underneath it and the names of all the guys in the company.

Yeah, I would say that was the overall attitude in Iraq amongst the troops. You couldn’t take time to really deal with it so you just stuffed it and kept on going. Yeah that was it, f..k it and drive on. That’s all you could do most of the time, it was just that way.

Interviewer-How many soldiers did you see or serve with who were suffering from combat stress or exhibiting some type of psychological problem? Were they willing to admit it or was there a general state of denial? Did you see a lot of guys having problems?

DB-Oh, I’ve seen a lot of soldiers with combat stress. We had a situation where two E-5s locked and loaded their weapons and faced off on each other right before we had to go out on convoy one day. !7 soldiers in Iraq killed themselves with their own weapons, including officers. We had to go through suicide prevention counseling with our battalion chaplain after that started up with the guys killing themselves.

Everybody in Iraq was going through suicide counseling because the stress was so high. It was at such a magnitude, such a high level, that it was unthinkable for anyone to imagine. You cannot even imagine it.

A person in the general population cannot imagine exactly what the toll is like over therefore the soldiers that are there now, or have been there. I mean it’s phenomenal, it’s beyond an average civilian’s comprehension.

It’s completely out of their reach, even when I try to explain it to them. They need to hear about all this, so that they can know just how far this problem goes. It beyond even me to describe it properly. I wish they could just step in our minds for one day, it would change their whole lives, I can tell you that.

I know of another situation where a guy was locked and loaded with a squad automatic weapon (S.A.W. M249- the Army’s standard issue squad/platoon support light machine gun. It is fully automatic, fires 5.56mm rounds and holds a standard 200 round drum magazine). See

This guy had locked and loaded and was sitting there on the steps of the battalion AO. He was ready to shoot everybody from the battalion commander on down the line. That was the type of attitude I saw. There were so many of those things going on: it was a real major issue.

Those are the types of stories you don’t hear about in the news. You don’t ever hear about it at all; the reporters do just not know it, or else it’s known and not reported. People need to know about that!

Interviewer-Were there a lot of incidences of that nature? Where they were upset with their officers or NCOs, and were at the point of violence or killing someone?

DB-Hell, yeah! Oh, yeah, all the time. That was a regular occurrence, it was by no means an isolated circumstance. I know on our base alone it was a regular occurrence. There was a lot of that stuff going on while we were up there.

It’s not stuff you are not gonna hear about until these guys start coming home and talking about it. Myself I was basically in that first ground to come back home. It’s almost two years later and you’re not gonna be hearing a not of that stuff till probably the next couple years.

It will start coming out as more guys go through treatment and are dealing with their problems by talking about it and getting it off their chests. You’ll hear about through guys doing public speaking, going on the talk shows and TV, writing about it and stuff like that.

Interviewer-What types of problems are you experiencing now that you have returned home? How is it affecting you in regards to your daily life?

DB-Uh, the problems I’m facing now are pretty bad. Shortly after I returned home, my 11 year marriage with my wife disintegrated to the point where we’re currently in divorce.

I suffer from a lot of flashbacks, a lot of anger, bitterness, severe deep depression, nightmares, lack of sleep and extreme difficulty sleeping. I’m taking about eight different medications for pain in my body, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the PTSD.

Of course the PTSD is the biggest thing right now. Learning how to cope, how to cope with what’s going on. That’s the biggest thing on a daily basis, and it affects every part of my life, or adds to already bad situations.

My financial situation, uh, well, it’s just terrible right now. I’ve pretty much lost everything. To be honest, that’s really how it is. I’ve lost my whole life since I came back.

Financially I’m so far in debt that I can’t even begin to start trying to climb out of it. Right now, all I can do is avoid the bill collectors. I have to avoid them , because I don’t know what to tell them.

Right now I’m living on $363 a month. I’ve had six jobs since I came back from Iraq. I can’t deal with people right now, it’s too hard. My interpersonal skills with people, I can’t, uh, I just can’t see other people, I can’t be around other people.

My financial situation is so bad I don’t know how I’m going to live. I’m about to lose my house and all the stuff I do have left. I don’t know where I’m going to live or if I will be able to make it. I can’t get any help from the government or any one else. I feel like no one cares if I make it or have a place to lie. No one cares if I have a job or if I can pay my bills.

I just feel so alone and abandoned, they were supposed to take care of me when I got back home. Bush even said we would not fail a single service member when they came home form the war. That’s the biggest lie I ever heard, no one is taking care of us when we come back.

Bush said we would be fully supported and have access to every benefit, just like the active duty soldiers. That is pure crap and everyone needs to know it! We are falling our vets as a country, and every citizen should be ashamed that they are letting it happen. Do they really care about me and the rest of us who served?

(At this point Doug was extremely upset and angry. I felt that this needed to come across as strongly as he said it originally.)

They refuse to look at how bad it is for the people who just went and fought for them! Do they even want to know what it’s like? I don’t think the really want to know about it. Do they care about us and really support the troops?

(At this point he was almost screaming, he was so upset.)



Okay, I had to get that off my chest. It made me so mad to hold it in.

Interviewer-Okay, no problem, I feel your anger and it’s your time to talk it out. Let’s get into your PTSD a little more.

You still react like you are in combat situations? Correct?

DB-Oh yeah! I still believe I am in danger all the time. I still maintain the level of battle awareness, it’s very high stress situation. I always am watching what’s going on around m. I always maintain that level of security; I kinda keep my mind on it at all times.

I don’t back off of that, I don’t ever let my guard down; I wouldn’t be able to if I tried. Anybody that’s around me that I know, well, I’m always watching out for them. Even if it’s someone I don’t know I’m always watching out for their well being also.

I get out into the public and I feel real nervous. I can’t stand being closed up while I’m around other people. I don’t even like being outside with a lot of people either. I’m always watching the crowd, watching for people to make sudden movements or people that move suspiciously. I don’t like it when people walk behind things and I can’t see where they went.

If I see someone in the crowd that looks Arabic or Iraqi I’m automatically on guard, uh, I get real nervous. I got so used to reacting to threats in crowds in Iraq that I can’t ever relax.

It’s just been really, really tough to maintain, and to keep myself up and going. It’s just been really tough and stressful, that doesn’t go away now that I know I have it and what’s going on. I know, but I can’t stop it from ruining my life and draining my energy.

Interviewer-What type of counseling or treatment are you getting right now?

DB-Well, I’m in a PTSD group that meets every two weeks down here in Columbus, GA. Then I get one doctors appointment, uh, I get to go about once every five months. I see a psychiatrist that deals with my medications and things like that.

Out side of that, well, that’s about it. I don’t get to talk to anybody, and I don’t get any one-on-one counseling or any of that stuff.

Interviewer-Did you have any difficulty or problems getting counseling or treatment you are receiving now? Have there been any problems with that?

DB-Yeah, oh yeah! I had to specifically go get myself checked in with the help of the Disabled American Veterans back in April, just to get some kind of help. Then trying to get appointments is like pulling teeth. You get an appointment set up way ahead of time, sometimes 1½ to 2 months out.

That doesn’t help you right then, it doesn’t do any good right now. You get theses murderous ideas or whatever else right then. It doesn’t help you at the time to have to wait months just to get seen. That doesn’t so anything but make the problems worse, it just greatly increases my inability to get it off my chest or take care of the bad thoughts.

(This issue made Doug extremely angry, and he was very vehement that I truly portray his next words in the way they were angrily delivered.)

We don’t need the red ticker tape parade, we need to get in right then for treatment. America has thrown us way, you throw us away like garbage when we come home!

(Doug is now yelling)


I think its treason the way they are treating the vets! Is treason to harsh a word? NO, I think not! I absolutely think it’s the most treasonous thing they can do. I’d say it was outright treason against our soldiers and vets! I don’t have any problem calling it treason because that’s the definition that fits!

Look it up, because it will shock you to see that treason and it’s definitions fits this whole war in Iraq, and the VA cuts and appalling lack of service. America needs to know that a lot of other vets at the VA feel like this after they come back home. It is a growing thing, with more and more angry and pissed off vets not getting the right treatment and suffering because of it.

These are American soldiers who stood up and put their life on the line for their country. Even if wee weren’t happy about the war we went and did our jobs and our duty. Honor us now when we come home.

Don’t give us a parade or a cake; treat us like we have earned the right to be treated! We fought and bleed for this country, and they don’t seem to care one bit. Where are all the ones that waved a flag when I left, or when I came back home? Where are they now when I really need them to support me?

(Treason: 1: the betrayal of a trust: SEE TREACHERY (violation of allegiance or of faith and confidence) SOURCE: MIRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY

Definition of treason: 2. A betrayal of trust or confidence SOURCE: ANSWERS.COM)

Interviewer-When you were ready to go home, or at anytime during your tour, or upon returning, was PTSD and treatment or counseling options discussed? Do you think enough effort was made to inform soldiers about PTSD, its long term effects and the treatment and counseling options available?

DB-No, there wasn’t enough effort. I didn’t even know what PTSD was when I came back home from Iraq. It was probably three to four months after I’d come back that I even heard the term discussed.

It wasn’t until probably November of last year that I really started to find out what PTSD was all about. Actually to tell you the truth, I believe it wasn’t until April of this year to where I really started learning what PTSD was all about and started to deal with it. I don’t think it was really until this year that I really started dealing with it and trying to get some real help.

So, no, it wasn’t something g that was brought up.

Interviewer-What do you think needs to be done or changed with the program? What needs to be done to tell soldiers about PTSD when they come back from Iraq even while they are still over there? What would you see changed? What kind of counseling do you think they need to put in over there or when you are coming back?

DB-There needs to be a decompression time, where they keep track of you and how you are doing.

I’ve talked to a lot of individuals who were over there and have PTSD now. A lot of folks don’t even know that they have it. I know like for myself, I didn’t really realize I had anything. I just knew that the longer I was home the worse that I got.

I just saw myself slipping further down the slope until I finally got to the point here something had to give. Either that or I was gonna give, one of the two. They were saying that PTSD is one of those things that can come out of the clear blue and you not know what’s going on till it actually hits you.

You don’t know what the signs are when it happens. So I think that more awareness needs to given to us. I think that the military needs put more emphasis on the PTSD and to make us more aware of the problems when the soldiers come home.

I know that when I came home there was no awareness at all other than the decompression time.

Interviewer-Now when an active unit comes home they have a few weeks where they are monitored and evaluated. When the typical National Guard or Reservist comes home they usually go right back to their daily life, and often they are not real close to their Amory or Reserve Center. So they just go back into civilian life without all the support and referrals that an active duty unit would get.

DB-Yeah, I know like for myself, and so many Reservists and National Guard, we were put in such a bad financial situation that we had to go back to work. A lot of the guys are in so much financial straights that you don’t have a choice but to go right back to work.

I know that when I came home I realized I was in such financial straights that I went back to work as a truck driver. I’m telling you that I fought it. I was not ready to get back in the truck, not at all. I had to, I had to get back in the truck, so I had to stuff my feelings away 9in order to do that.

So it’s very hard for a National Guardsmen or a Reservist to deal with their issues when they’ve got to get back to their everyday life and their everyday routine. Hey, they’re families are waiting on them to come back home. Their communities are waiting on them to come back home and do what needs to be done.

Interviewer-Are you still on call up orders? Can they still call you back to duty for another tour in Iraq?

DB-No, I’m totally out. I was discharged last year, and I was basically black balled out of the military. So I’m totally done. I can’t be brought back in.

Interviewer-Lets get into that. You did put a eight page letter in and that was what kind of got you in some trouble. You told me you think that was the main reason they got rid of you and discharged you in the way they did.

Can you go into some of the details of that?

DB-I had volunteered to be transferred over from my unit to the unit that I went to Iraq with. During the course of that time there has been some very serious run-ins with my chain of command.

Two of the biggest issues in Iraq was about breaking theater policy. You’re not supposed to have any pornography and our not supposed to have any alcohol while you’re in Iraq, because of the Muslim beliefs.

Well, I had filed an eight page sworn statement talking about the conduct that was going on amongst the senior enlisted and the lower enlisted. Females and males that were married to other people were breaking the fraternization rules that are basically the honor code.

As a result I had gone and filed an eight page sworn statement against my unit about stuff that they were stealing for their own personal use. There were plenty of witnesses that knew what was going on in the unit. My female 1st Sgt. Had taken the underage females and got them slammed drunk, even though they were under the drinking age. She turned around and got busted for a DUI and basically got it swept under the carpet.

We would have had the book thrown at us and had to suffer through the entire legal process if we had got busted DUI. She got slapped on the hand and walked away from it. So that was all part of everything that was going on.

Now you talk about the morale, we had our unit climate profile, two of them that were so bad it was ridiculous, yet they came up missing, we don’t know where they went. We don’t have any clue where they went.

These were all things that I had put in this eight page statement. After I had put it in the sworn statement there was an Article 15-6 investigation that was conducted by 3rd CosCom. and the commanding Brigadier General had ordered it.

I was told by the chaplain of the 413th Quarter Master battalion out of New York that if any of the allegations that popped up were untrue, that it was gonna look bad on me and the unit. He said they were going to bring me up on charges and reduce me in rank and pay.

Well guess what? It come back in my favor and they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t call any of the witnesses that I had listed on the piece of pare to be called. They didn’t verify the facts of a lot of the stuff that had happened and things of this nature.

When we were going through this investigation, I shouldn’t have been put back into the unit, according to the Inspector General’s office for the 3rd CosCom. I should have never been put back in the unit because of the scope of the investigation.

There was another female in my unit that was done the exact same way. She was blackballed out because she reported the sexual misbehavior, the pornography, the whole nine yards. There was another male in a company under the command of the same battalion that had filed charges against our women having sex over there for money.

They told him that he was crazy and that he was nuts and basically had brushed that under the carpet as well. So there was a lot of dirtiness going on at Battalion and below. A lot of hiding facts and covering up gross misconduct and illegal activities was going on.

A few months before I had filed that statement I had sent a letter home to my wife. I told her about the chain of command and what was going on over here, and told her some of the details of what was going on with the misconduct. I put in that I could see why 18 soldiers had killed themselves in Iraq because the chain of command was so bad.

Well, that ultimately got me put into the Combat Stress clinic for the second time. At that point they had put me out (started discharge proceedings) and it was on a personality disorder. They left me in a tactical operations center for 30 days after that.

I was supposed to be suicidal and homicidal but they left me in the ops center with unsecured weapons and ammo, and explosive ordnance and grenades. If I’d wanted to use it I could have blown up the whole base or killed a lot of people.

Here I am supposed to be a threat and to myself and other and they locked me up in the TAC Ops center, unsupervised, and had me there for 30 days. What if I had really been ready to snap? What would they have said afterwards if I exploded and tried to take out my chain-of-command?

What if I had taken out one of my fellow soldiers? And I was getting put out because I was mentally unstable and had serious personality conflict issues with my commander? Does that sound like I was really having that type of problem? No, they just used the metal thing to boot me out for opening up my mouth.

JS-So you think it was the letter that gave them the reason to finally put you out? I mean do you think it was the last straw for them and then they did whatever it took to put you out?

DB-Yeah, I do. I had initially written the first letter home to my wife while we were still in Kuwait. That’s where I was listing off what was happening with my 1st Sgt. Having sex with a lower enlisted, an E-5 who was married to someone else.

I wasn’t the only one who was writing home about what was going on. I just did it more than once and the last time was after they already had a vengeance against me. They couldn’t wait to get me on anything that they could find and put me out for.

And they did put me out cause of that whole thing, not just the letters but the sworn statement as well. That and all the other stuff I just wouldn’t shut up about. I know it was the last thing before they put me in the stress clinic and then started processing me out. That was the final straw. That was the one that they used.

Interviewer-When you were over there did you see anyone being punished for telling the truth? Did they reprimand or follow up on soldiers that wrote letters home saying how it really was?

DB-I personally know of cases and I have heard reports of a lot more cases than just the ones I saw myself.

Yeah, oh yeah it was happening all over Iraq. We had the chain of command from very high up, all the way down from Five Corps on down to the company units would say it. They would all be like, “Hey, look, you can’t talk about this stuff. You can’t tell people at home what’s going on over here. We’re gonna put a stop to all this communication if you don’t stop it.”

That was what they were saying almost word for word. I had an NCO threaten to take way my laptop if I didn’t stop it. I said no, no way, that’s personal property, you are not going to take my personal property. Oh, no, no, no!

Interviewer-So there really was a general state of “Don’t tell people what’s going on here?” There really was that big a deal made about it? I’ve heard it from hundreds of other soldiers, but you saw that as well?

DB-Oh yeah! Yeah that’s exactly what it was, that’s it! You got it right, no mistake. It was such a big deal and they made such an issue out of it. They were searching through mail and monitoring e-mails and phone calls.

They made no efforts to hide that they were checking mail for pictures and taking things out and confiscating a lot of things after they found them. Tings were being taken and confiscated out of the mail, and then they were talking to guys about what they put online all the time.

So yeah, there was a big push on that the whole time I was there. Just cause we’re in the military, now we don’t have any of our constitutional right? Where are our constitutional rights? Did they go away when we went into the military?

What’s wrong with this picture? We are supposed to be defending people’s freedom by being over in Iraq. That’s just a big bunch of BS.

Interviewer-Yeah I hear that all the time about you guys fighting for my freedom. So you are fighting to defend our freedom here at home. You are fighting for it by going abroad and serving overseas. How do you feel when you hear that?

DB-Pretty angry! What a bunch of bull crap! I think that is such crap when you think about it.

Let me tell you something, I volunteered above and beyond any call of duty. I had signed up after 10 years of being out. I come back in and volunteered above and beyond to go overseas.

I don’t believe we’re fighting for anyone’s freedom, not now, not after what I went through.

Interviewer-We already talked about this last night but I want to get into it again.

How do you feel about the war now? How do you feel about Bush and the continued drive to “Stay the Course” in Iraq?

Bush keeps talking about we must stay the course in Iraq to honor the memory of the soldiers that have been killed. He said the other day that to pull out now would disgrace the deaths of the soldiers who had already given their lives in the fight.

How do you feel about that?

DB-Well, here’s my attitude about it now. When my old battalion commander at the 1st Battalion, 147th Armored Division came down and asked for volunteers, I raised my hand immediately. I was ready to go over and do something for my country.

I still remember when 9/11 took place. I was driving a truck and making a delivery with my wife up in South Carolina. I can remember the feelings of dread, fear, threat and the whole nine yards. I watched all the up till the time when they bombed Afghanistan and took out the Taliban. I watched Colin Powell go in front of the UN and talk about the WMDs and the other stuff Saddam was doing.

I watched all that take place and at that point I was very pro-war. I was ready to go and fight and believed it was right and justified. I was ready for it!

I was a big fan of Sean Hannity; I was a huge Michael Savage fan, Rush Limbaugh, all the talk show hosts who were supporting Bush and putting out his message. They were telling us all this stuff that looked and sounded real at the time.

Everything looked like it was good. Everything looked good because Saddam was doing things that just weren’t right and we needed to go in there and get him. I believed it 100%, all the way leading up to our deployment and a while afterwards.

I can remember when Saddam was captured. I was walking out of the Tac Ops center where they had been holding me. Remember, that was with all the weapons and ammo being unsecured? Well I heard about them capturing Saddam and I was like big deal. Big deal, when do we get to go home? Now are they gonna send us home?

I was a virtual prisoner at that point and I think it was from that time on that my attitude changed. I really had my whole viewpoint and ideology change right around that vicinity; I just lost all faith in my government and in Bush.

I believe now that Bush has undoubtedly and unequivocally lied to the American people. I believe he lied and led us into war under false pretenses. I believe it was all based on lies. I believe that Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of those guys are just pushing his agenda.

We’ve lost over 2000 soldiers in combat and we’re not seeing any way out of it. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there needs to be an immediate pullout of Iraq. Bush has said time and time again that after certain things happen we’ll pull out. This has never happened and it looks like they don’t have any kind of plan to do it without killing a whole lot more soldiers and getting a whole lot more injured.

People need to know what the facts are. Dig around and see what this war is really about. They need to care about what is going on. It doesn’t seem like this war is only affecting the families of the soldiers and the troops who are serving or have served.

It’s time to bring our boys and girls home. You know, we need to stop the bloodshed, stop the dying, before we lose another 2000. It’s time to give Iraq back to the Iraqis and get out without any further loss of life.

It’s time to tell our President and our leaders that there has been enough blood shed over there. Let them have it and all our soldiers can come home.

It’s time that we bring our men and women home. Stop putting them in body bags and burying them in Arlington. Stop leaving kids without their mom and dads. Stop leaving parents without their kids. Just stop it! It’s time!

Interviewer-How do you feel about the anti-war protesters and the people who are questioning the war including Congressmen like Rep. Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and some of the other congressional leaders? A lot of people say they are disgracing the troops and dishonoring their death by protesting the war. How do you feel?

DB-I think American soldiers have spilt enough blood for them to have the right to get out and protest. I believe there is a way to honor the American soldier but to disagree with the war and the policies behind what the soldiers are doing.

There has got to be a way for everyone to stand up and say stop this without people saying the soldiers are being dishonored. I believe that the American people should get out there and protest, it’s their right and soldiers are still dying for that.

I believe we must find a way for people to understand that there is a way to protest the politics of it and still honor the soldier putting his life on the line. It’s a matter of finding out the way and then to go out and do it. We must do it to bring the troops home.

You know there many a soldier who has spilled his blood for Sean Hannity to say what he has to say. The same soldiers are dying for the protesters right to be out there trying to bring the rest home.

Take a poll of the American soldiers and see how the soldier serving over there thinks about it. Let Americans hear from the soldiers who are dying for this war. Let the soldiers really tell us how it is, and I bet you everyone would want to bring them home.

You know you have experts like Sean Hannity who are telling the people about what is going on in Iraq. People are listening to Hannity because he is supposed to be an expert. What is an expert? It’s someone who has been there and done it, so they know exactly what is going on.

Sean Hannity is not an expert! I am an expert on Iraq because I’ve been there and done it. The soldiers are the real experts on Iraq. Why aren’t we listening to the soldiers and the vets who really know? I know and they know, not Sean Hannity or Limbaugh. We know because we do it.

Hannity and the rest are just Bush’s little boot lickers and they just tell us what the government want to be heard. Anyone who wants to talk to a real expert is welcome to write me and ask me about it. Hannity is an idiot and so are all the rest of the so called experts.

Interviewer-What happens if people call you a coward and a traitor for speaking out like this? It has been very common in the last few weeks to call anyone questioning the war a traitor. How do you feel?

DB-Well I don’t see them going over to Iraq or walking a mile in my boots. They can call me anything they want but until they walk a mile in my boots they are just full of crap. I am a soldier who served his country in a war. I have been there and done that, have they?

I am not a coward or a traitor! I will stand up and defend what I’ve said to anyone. I fought for this country and that gives me the right to question the war and to bring out the truth. Look at how many are dying everyday in Iraq. Am I wrong by saying I want to bring the troops home? I think not!

I used to be right in the middle of the road with politics. I went both ways on the issues and didn’t make a decision based on what party I was in. Since I came back home that has completely changed. I want to say I am a Democrat because I am so sick of the conservative lies and bull crap.

I just want to bring my brothers and sisters home. If that makes me a liberal, so be it! If that makes me a democrat then I am happy about being a Democrat. I was a truck driver and listened to Sean Hannity before the war. I blindly followed what he said and believed in it.

Not any more, no way. I am sick of everything the conservative ideology stands for. It is killing our brave men and women and there is no end in sight. This is killing whole communities and destroying untold number of families. There are over 15,000 soldiers who came home wounded.

Can we afford to sacrifice anymore? No, I think we have to come together as a country and put a stop to this. Is that being a traitor or a coward? I think that it takes more courage to take a stand then to swallow all the les and blindly wave the flag.

If you support the troops do you think killing them really is support? If staying in Iraq means even one more of our soldiers dies, is that support? Ask yourself how killing more soldiers can ever help anything? That’s not support, I know that. If keeping in Iraq means more de, isn’t that supporting murder?

Just think about it! That’s all I’m saying. Don’t just follow the words of Bush or Hannity or anyone else. Follow what is right.

Please let’s stop this now. Too many of our brothers and sisters are dead now. Too many have come home without arms and legs. It’s just time to do it for them. Bring the soldiers home for their families. Bring them home so their kids can have fathers and mothers.

That’s all. Anyone that wants to call me a coward for believing that is welcome to e-mail me. We can discuss it.


Specialist Douglas Barber can be contacted at: He welcomes any comments, requests for interviews, or inquiries from the media. Doug is available to any group that would like him to speak about Iraq and his experiences.



Voices in Wartime DVD Now Available!

Voices in Wartime is a feature-length documentary that delves into the experience of war through powerful images and the words of poets - unknown and world-famous. Poets around the world, from the United States and Colombia to Britain and Nigeria to Iraq and India, share their poetry and experiences of war. Soldiers, journalists, historians and experts on combat interviewed in Voices in Wartime add diverse perspectives on war's effects on soldiers, civilians and society.

The film also brings to life how poetry and war have been intertwined since the beginning of recorded history--from ancient Babylonia and the fields of Troy--to the great conflicts of the 20th century and the current war in Iraq. The stirring words of poets of the past - Homer, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Shoda Shinoe from Hiroshima are combined with more recent voices: a Vietnam vet, poets in war-torn Baghdad, a poet whose family experienced the devastating war in Biafra in the late 1960s. The poetry moves us to the emotion of war explained to us by soldiers, journalists and a doctor who have experienced the effects of combat firsthand. The poetry illuminates the reality. And the documentary reality helps us to understand the poetry. Together they sear the experience, emotions and sacrifices of war into our hearts and minds.

Voices in Wartime uses the words of Wilfred Owen, considered by many to be the greatest poet of World War I, as a guide: “Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity… All a poet can do today is warn. That is why true Poets must be truthful.”

VIW is providing the video for screenings in your local community. If you are interested please click on the link below.

Organize a screening in your community >>>

Opening of the Heart aims to transform how we respond to, engage in, and recover from conflict. Your event may help support us to envision and manifest a world in which individuals, communities and individuals move beyond polarization and destruction, instead welcoming conflict as an opportunity to create understanding, empathy and positive change.

See a Trailer of the Film: Go to

Learn More about the Film: Go to

To Order the DVD, go to



Jay Shaft is a freelance investigative writer, and the Managing Executive Editor/Owner of the independent news group Coalition For Free Thought In Media.

He has conducted many interviews with soldiers who have served in Iraq, in which service members exposed the issues of the military's failure to provide proper equipment and training to USA troops, and he has been on the forefront of investigating the price that soldiers are paying as a result.

He is currently involved in interviewing soldiers who have returned from war with PTSD or traumatic injuries. An ongoing expose and series of troops/vet interviews and articles highlighting the failure of the VA system to adequately take care of the soldiers and vets is in current publication at this time.

He has also published many letters and interviews from parents speaking out against the death or injury of their children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Contact Jay at or

COPYRIGHT 2005- Coalition For Free Thought In Media/ Jay Shaft

This article is freely provided for public and private use, as long as anyone who uses it does not alter any of the content, and leaves all links intact.

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On 1 August Minister of Health Andrew Little announced what he described as the start of a plan for the beleaguered workforce in Aotearoa New Zealand’s health system: Government’s 5 year late health workforce announcement. In October 2017, when Labour became government with its two coalition parties, it inherited a health workforce crisis from the previous National-led government... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Fuss About Monkeypox
The World Health Organization has been one of the easier bodies to abuse. For parochial types, populist moaners and critics of international institutions, the WHO bore the brunt of criticisms from Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro. Being a key institution in identifying public health risks, it took time assessing the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2 and its disease, COVID-19... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Time For MPs To Think For Themselves
One of the more frequently quoted statements of the Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, was his observation that “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”... More>>