While serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, former Army Captain Joseph Kearns Goodwin wrote many letters home about the death surrounding him, his feelings on being redeployed and what it means to go home after war.
10/2003 - Watching -- and worrying -- about the Red Sox from overseas
Well even vast distances, inhospitable land and murderous natives do not alter the way in which a man can be affected by the triumphs and travails of our boys of summer. One would think that extended time in a war zone would inure an individual to the anxiety, heartache and joy that all accompany about 15 minutes in the company of the Boston Red Sox. One would think that hardened warriors would be numb to such seemingly trivial occurrences. One would think such things, and one would be wrong.
As I said on the phone, game 5 of the ALDS was the most intense state of fear I have felt since I arrived. To include the time an RPG flew about 2 feet from my head. But that was nothing compared to the progress of the ALCS thus far. What an epic series it has been! Alas I have had to wake up at 0300 most mornings to partake in the pleasure/pain of Red Sox viewings. But even in an environment where sleep is a precious commodity, these have been far from wasted hours. And, as I told Mikey, there is something to be said for knowing that the vast majority of my friends and family are partaking the in the self-same pastime a world away.
3/27/2004 - Discussing a mortar killing a soldier next to him while he was on patrol...
In some ways it, such actions only heighten the anticipation for homecoming. But in another they fill you with such an keen sense of purpose and the idea of leaving a job half-done seems almost a cowards exit. While it can be easily said that the eventual coalition purpose of this occupation is an amorphous one, with security and stability inexact goals, it can also be said that the purpose of the enemy is simple and clear. They hope to continue to inflict sufficient casualties so that our resolve weakens and we depart this country prematurely, leaving it and all its resources for the terrorists, warlords, and strongmen anxious to fill the void left by the capture of Saddam. When viewed through this lens it is sometimes hard to think about handing over the responsibility of defeating the enemy to someone else when it has been our daily bread for the last year.
11/3/2008 - Comparing what he felt during his first deployment vs. what he felt having to go back. Joseph thought he was done with his commitment to the Army but was redeployed to Afghanistan.
It is not just that it is involuntary, nor that I have a much keener sense of what likely awaits me at war, but also a sense that professionally my life has been rewound while the march of time has moved inexorably forward. Returning to Ft. Benning, the site of many of my early triumphs in the army at both OCS and Airborne school only enhances this sense that I have been plucked from my the world I knew and returned to a moment in my own past that I had thought gone forever.
6/23/2009 - After he was given the option of staying in Afghanistan or returning home...
[W]hen I first joined the army I thought I was doing it for selfless reasons … In the aftermath of 9/11 it was pretty clear that young men and women were going to be needed somewhere to do something. … Looking at my life, I realized that I had been afforded basically every advantage that a free and prosperous society such as ours can yield. It seemed only fair, right and just that I spend some time giving something back to the great country that had given me so much.
But, what might have began as a selfless pursuit, quickly became a selfish one. For during my time in the service I have seen more, done more and learned more than I would have ever thought possible. I have formed friendships that were forged in the fires of hardship and trial, I have borne witness to acts of absolute bravery and true heroism, and it has been my honor to serve with a group of men and women whose dedication to duty, honor and country is without question.
So, when you lay out in balance - the value of my service to the country against the value of that same service to me; it quickly becomes clear that it is I who have been granted the greater gift. And while I have certainly questioned some of the circumstances that have tossed me around the world, and while I certainly feel remorse, if not regret, for some of the actions that I have been forced to take and some of the situations that I have had to witness – I wouldn't have done anything differently if I was somehow thrust back to September 12th 2001.