A Soldier's Blog
Wednesday, March 15, 2006; 3:00 PM
Spec. Colby Buzzell was online Wednesday, March 15, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss his blog, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, and his recently released book of the same name.
The transcript follows.
Driven to "Be All That You Can Be" and make something with his life, Buzzell enlisted in the Army and spent 2003 doing a year-long tour in Iraq. Like an increasing number of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, he wrote about his experiences in his blog, "My War."
With its firsthand descriptions of daily life in Iraq, the anonymously authored "My War" received as many as 5,000 hits a day until some of his entries came under fire from the Army. Citing some of the entries as security risks, the Army took the postings down.
Buzzell stopped posting soon after, but he is still writing. His book, which shares the same name as his blog, was released last fall and contains some of the stories that were removed from his blog. He has also written for Esquire magazine.
Jacksonville, Fla.: Congratulations on the book, great job!
Do you think your book has set you free? Would the Army ever call you back up after the honest reporting in the blog and the book?
2: Do you think you're going to be able to make a living as a writer/journalist? I can see you doing travel/action reporting very well.
Colby Buzzell: 1.) I still have I think five more years in the inactive ready reserves (IRR: The fine print on all enlistment contracts that states that they can call you up to active duty at any time). About once a month I'll get a harassing phone call from the Army, trying to get me to come back in, but I always tell them thanks, but no thanks.
2.) I hope so.
Boise, Idaho: If you were recalled to active duty would you go? And if you were sent back to Iraq, would you start another blog?
Colby Buzzell: The answer to the first question is: no. The answer to the second question is: yes. (It'd be a cool sequel, maybe name the blog: MY WAR, AGAIN: Killing Time In Iraq, Again.)
Miami, Fla.: Any tips for bloggers who want to attract the attention of publishers?
Colby Buzzell: The best way to steal money is to have people give it to you. In other words, the best way to attract attention from publishers is have them come to you, not you to them.
Battle Ground, Wash.: Any advice for writers starting out?
Colby Buzzell: Read the poem "So you want to be a writer" by Charles Bukowski. I think you can find the poem if you Google it, it's all you need to know about writing.
Lawrence, Kan.: Welcome home, Colby! Have you found since your return you are dealing with some level of PTSD, and is it something you are considering writing about?
Colby Buzzell: I wrote about coming back and dealing with being back, what that's been like in last months issue of Esquire. Basically I do a lot of drinking.
Detroit, Mich.: You haven't written on your blog for a long time. Are you going to continue writing on your blog or are you moving on?
Colby Buzzell: Moving on. I don't really have anything interesting to blog about, like my days are pretty dull, and it would be depressing blogging about that.
Pasadena, Calif.: Dear Sir, Thank you for your service; my son was there 2003 to 2004. You are both so brave. God bless our troops, Patti Bader.
Colby Buzzell: Thank you.
Houston, Tex.: When can we expect your next book and will you write about the war again?
Colby Buzzell: No more war. Workin' on the next book now, and the next book is going to be a little bit "different"
Harrisburg, Pa.: One soldier I know described the war as hours upon hours of extreme boredom interrupted by occasional moments filled with extreme intensity. It is hard to imagine the confusion of so many life and death decisions happening all around you simultaneously. How would you describe war?
Colby Buzzell: War is mostly boring.
White Plains, N.Y.: What practical things can Americans be doing to help the soldiers deployed overseas? Thanks for your time.
Colby Buzzell: There's a cool Web site called booksforsoldiers.com; they send books and DVD's to troops over there in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the best care packages I got when I was over there was from the people at booksforsoldiers.com. They do a really good job of supporting the troops.
Denver, Colo.: I'm curious about your experience after returning from war.
Col. David Hackworth, an Army veteran has written about the "postwar hangover."
"I've seen countless veterans, including myself, stumble home after the high-noon excitement of the killing fields, missing their battle buddies and the unique dangers and sense of purpose," writes Hackworth. "Many lose themselves forever."
Did you return to the states with a renewed sense of purpose? Can you talk about your transition period after returning home?
Colby Buzzell: "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter. You will meet them doing various things with resolve, but their interest rarely holds because after the other thing ordinary life is as flat as the taste of wine when the taste buds have been burned off your tongue."
- Ernest Hemingway
Tampa, Fla.: What are the rules for active-duty soldiers publishing, whether blogs, op-eds, letters to the editor, or books? Can the Department of Defense censure them on grounds other than nat'l security?
You were censored. I's sure others have been as well. Have you seen any political concerns driving the decision to censor, or are DOD's concerns legit?
Colby Buzzell: I think the DOD's concerns are mostly bogus.
San Clemente, Calif.: I remember reading some of your blog entries where you would go to Iraqi shops, coffee houses and food stands. Were these within the boundaries of your FOB or just in the general vicinity outside the perimeter? It seems like there was a lot of interaction between the average soldiers the Iraqi people. Do you know if this is still the case in Mosul?
Colby Buzzell: Most of them were within the boundaries of the FOB, and I'm pretty sure it hasn't changes that much, and its the same then as it was now. A lot of the Iraqis that worked on the FOB spoke English, so you can interact with a lot of them.
DeKalb, Ill.: Colby, I enjoyed your blog very much while you were deployed and hope to read your book soon.
What would you say were the best and worst things about your enlistment, and the best and worst aspects of your deployment?
Colby Buzzell: The best thing about my enlistment was that I got to travel. The worst thing about my enlistment was I got to travel. The best thing about deployment was ... ummm ... the chow hall, the food at the FOB was really good, a lot better than the chow hall back at Ft. Lewis. The worst aspects about deployment was that it seemed like the days would go on and on, and it would never end.
Birmingham, Ala.: What's next for you?
Colby Buzzell: I'm speaking at Ithaca College next week on the anniversary of the war. And then after that, a friend and I are thinking about building a half-pipe in his backyard, so hopefully I'll be doing a lot of skating.
San Clemente, Calif.: Besides fighting the war and blogging how do soldiers fill their time?
Colby Buzzell: Lift weights - most FOB's out there have pretty good gyms, and also watching DVD movies and playing video games on Playstations and X-box's. It seemed like half my platoon had an X-box or Playstation in their room.
Munich, Germany: I'm just guessing that most of you guys were sent out to Iraq without knowing much about the people and culture (Muslim culture) in Iraq.
In retrospect, do you think that a bit of training on cultural issues would have helped you to better perform your duties? How could this type of training be made more interesting for young men who've never really thought about other cultures?
Colby Buzzell: I wish they would have spent some time teaching us some Arabic before going over there, it would have helped us a lot if we received some training about the language. I really don't know how training on "cultural issues" would help an Army that's fighting a war. How could they make the training more interesting? I don't know, maybe they can make like a music video or something about it.
Denver, Colo.: Have your political views changed since you served in Iraq?
Colby Buzzell: Yes.
Waterville, Maine: Ten-hut! Where did you get such an interesting name and where is your family from originally? Thanks. At ease.
Colby Buzzell: The last name came from my father's side of the family, they were potato farmers from Maine. And I got my first name from my grandfather, who loved Maine.
San Clemente, Calif.: That's interesting, I saw a comic once where soldiers come back from battles and to relax play war video games like "Badge of Honor."
Colby Buzzell: My roommate when I was in Iraq, whenever we got done with a combat operation, would play SOCOM for hours and hours in his room. He loved it.
Gurnee, Ill.: How's your skating - are you rusty?
Colby Buzzell: Pretty rusty. I'm getting older, but I'm alright. I like pool skating a lot, and of course parking lots. Give me a waxed curb and a pack of smokes and I'm happy.
Fairfax, Va.: No question, just a word of appreciation. My husband returned from Iraq in the fall after a year of service. I know first-hand about the sacrifices you make to serve your country. The entire nation owes you and your fellow soldiers more than we can ever repay. Best of luck with your book and future endeavors. God bless.
Colby Buzzell: Thank you.
Santa Ana, Calif.: Writing a book and for major magazines must have opened doors into a whole new world for you. Have you been able to meet people that you admire but never thought you would get the chance?
Colby Buzzell: Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) sent me a cool care package when I was in Iraq, some cool Dischord records stuff. That was a HUGE moral booster for me when I was over there. That was really cool.
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