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The WWrite Blog

Benjamin Busch, Take Two! Busch Returns to Iraq in "Today is Better than Tomorrow:" A British WWI Cemetery Revisited Ten Years After Serving in the Iraq War

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Benjamin Busch Kut Iraq 23 2013 Harpers

"Today is Better than Tomorrow": A British Cemetery Revisited Ten Years After Serving in the Iraq War


Actor, writer, filmmaker, and photographer Benjamin Busch follows up on last week's post about discovering a WWI Cemetery in Iraq. Here, Busch speaks about his return to Iraq in 2013 as a journalist. He discovers the British WWI cemetery he visited and cared for ten years earlier has been destroyed. Busch was a Marine who led a Light Armored Reconnaissance unit during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and operated around the city of Kut.This excerpt, from his essay "Today is Better Than Tomorrow," that appeared in Harper's Magazine October 2014It is reprinted here by permission. All photographs by the author.

My photographs have been kept in an order absent of chronolo­gy: a blindfolded skull, a pile of boots, an English gravestone, a child waving. I never labeled them, just ex­pected I would remember like every­one does. Seven months of circum­stantial evidence. Military mobile exchanges only sold 400-speed film, meant to shoot subjects in lower light, so the reduced resolution is no­ticeable when the pictures are en­larged, their definition becoming in­creasingly granular, as if composed of pressed dust. The imperfection of vi­sion is at work, the flickering of lines, the involuntary squint to identify, exactly, what you're seeing, the desert going from vast and static to pulsing and immediate, like memory does.

Read more: Benjamin Busch, Take Two! Busch Returns to Iraq in "Today is Better than Tomorrow:" A British WWI...

Benjamin Busch, a U.S. Marine, Discovers British WWI Cemetery During Iraq War. Excerpt from his memoir, Dust to Dust

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Benjamin Busch, a U.S. Marine, Discovers British WWI Cemetery During Iraq War. Excerpt from his memoir, Dust to Dust. 

Actor, writer, filmmaker, and photographer Benjamin Busch was a Marine who led a Light Armored Reconnaissance unit during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and operated around the city of Kut.This excerpt is from his memoir, Dust to Dust, in which he notes the last surviving evidence of WWI in the region—a British war cemetery.

By the end of May 2003, we had been told that the war had transitioned into security and stabilization operations. This was a post-hostilities phase and we were to focus on hearts-and-minds projects. General Mattis had ordered our focus to be on school rehabilitation and that required me to go to the city of Kut, capital of the Wasit Province, for which my unit had become largely responsible. It was the only place that I could purchase electrical wire, paint, concrete, pipe, and plaster.

In a back street, my patrol came across the Kut war cemetery.It had been found covered in several feet of garbage by Marines in Task Force Tarawa during the invasion, and they had cleaned and rededicated it to the British.

Read more: Benjamin Busch, a U.S. Marine, Discovers British WWI Cemetery During Iraq War. Excerpt from his...

Award-Winning Veteran Poet Brian Turner Writes and Plays WWI Musical Composition, "Sleeping in the Trenches."

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"Sleeping in the Trenches."  Brian Turner Performs WWI Musical Composition


With jazz bassist and recording engineer Ben Kramer, and writer/musician Roel Vertov, I helped compose "Sleeping in the Trenches"  as part of Love Songs to the Bombers Flying Overhead, an upcoming album inspired by the experience of war from Roel Vertov and the Retro Legion, an international group of musicians and artists. Flugelhorn, cello, accordion, euphonium, electric and acoustic guitars, glass jars, taiko drums, pedal steel guitar, concertina, mandolin, tuba, trombone, percussion and drums, drone, tenor sax, flutes, serpent, piano, tank drum, djembe, vocals, and, yes, typewriters are among the instruments the group uses to create unique, dynamic blends of sound and voice. "Sleeping in the Trenches" calls upon the flugelhorn, upright bass, baritone, string arrangements, and vocals to create a soundscape/landscape for enriching the conversations on the WWrite Blog. Roel Vertov is also an avid ambient sound recordist, and so he recorded and layered in several versions of rain to help create the soundscape to this piece. I sang the vocals, along with Skip Buhler and Major Jackson. I recommend listening to it before, during, and after reading posts as its significance may amplify an understanding of not only WWI, but of all wars. Even I,  a veteran of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq, hear war resonate in new ways each time I listen and perform it.



Read more: Award-Winning Veteran Poet Brian Turner Writes and Plays WWI Musical Composition, "Sleeping in the...

Allan Howerton, WWI Father, WWII Son: A Generational Perspective

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Left, Seaman Bonnie Roy Howerton, U.S. Navy 1917-1918, the author's father. Right, the author, Sgt. Allan Howerton in November 1945

WWI Father, WWII Son: A Generational Perspective

Allan Howerton, WW2 veteran, retired federal civil servant, and author, traces post-war politics and the evolution of his own memories beginning with his father's experience as a seaman in WWI:

My father was a fireman on a destroyer protecting Atlantic convoys during WW I. His stories, when I was six or seven years old, were about tensions -- even fights -- of life aboard a crowded warship; nothing else about the war.

As the Great Depression came on he lost his factory job. We moved to a country village in Kentucky where he grew up. On Memorial Day and Armistice Day "old" WW I veterans marched in their uniforms. They were old, really old; over thirty, dour expressions, leathery faces, bowed backs. 

Read more: Allan Howerton, WWI Father, WWII Son: A Generational Perspective

Introducing the WWrite Blog

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Introducing the WWrite Blog on WW1 Centennial News

This is an excerpt from the 1/18/17 WW1 Centennial News show featuring an interview with WWrite Curator Jennifer Orth-Veillon.

 

 

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