Journey Through “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan”

Hello, readers.

I am taking a short break from homework to check back in. I cannot recall if I’ve told you all before I love reading for pleasure, and one of the hardest things about working full-time and completing my collegiate classes is losing a substantial amount of free time for personal reading. I grew up reading a lot in my free time; it was a perfect hobby for an introverted child. Although I’ve shed some of my shyness, reading is still one of my favorite hobbies.

While I don’t plan to go into detail about all the war-related books I started to help me determine how to write my own memoir, there is one I want to talk about today.

My local public library has a small section of books covering the history of different wars. Originally, I hoped to find Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front. I looked for Shoot Like a Girl on several trips to Barnes and Noble, but it was never on the shelf. When I couldn’t find the book at my public library either, I decided to look through the other titles. (I don’t like leaving the public library empty-handed.)

There wasn’t much that stuck out to me except for one title, The Mirror Test. It’s the lengthy book I’ve picked up in a while: 585 pages. I haven’t finished it yet. I hope that doesn’t deter anyone from picking it up. This blog entry is not meant to serve as a book review. I could probably give you that perspective later, but I’m only on Chapter 9 at this point. (I slowed down my reading pace with this book in order to not fall behind in my class.)

I quickly fell in love with the author’s writing style and wanted to share my sentiments on Instagram.

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Dotting the landscape of his personal narrative, I found direct information about service member casualties. It was unexpected, but almost like coming home. Someone encountered the casualty information, not necessarily the same way I had, and he recognized them as people. He was making sure they were not simply forgotten in a world where Americans drift from one new thing to the next and have grown tired of hearing about our protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On top of it, too, he gave more recognition to the marring of Iraq and the brutal toll the war’s taken on its people. When I worked on my graduate applied project, I found access to Iraqi casualty information difficult to recover. I used details I could gather from Iraq Body Count but again, The Mirror Test drew me in with the sensitivity and openness regarding interactions with Iraqis.

I didn’t expect to come across something more simple that hit a nerve.

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Anger, bordering on rage, hit me. I felt like the author immediately dismissed the value and burden of my deployment responsibility. My rant could not be contained. In fact, I hit the word limit Instagram has and to finish my rant, I needed a comment.Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.33.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.34.09 PM.png

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I try to keep tirades like this out of public view, but the sting that my work was not really seen as a war experience wasn’t easing up. It’s been awhile since I found someone’s written words tearing me up this way.

I put the book down for a bit to refocus. I did not want to discount the entire book based on this one piece, but I needed a breather.

After taking some space, I realized an opportunity existed. The author had valuable casualty information and might be able to help me find a way to finish reconstructing the casualty information from my own deployment. I had to ask. The worst he could say was “No.”

The Mirror Test

In my email request, I discussed the intersection of our time in Iraq and my work with the activity reports. I explained my interest in how he came to share the casualty information, whether he took good notes or if he acquired the details through Freedom of Information Act. I did not ask the author to do the research for me and this detail is important. I implore anyone looking to reconstruct their past be mindful to do the same with any person you reach out to for assistance. Do not ask someone to do work you yourself are not willing to do. If you have the capability to do your own research, do it. In this case, I have the ability to continue my research, but it helps to know where to look.

Thankfully, my request was well-received and the email I received in return, exceptionally courteous. He offered ideas to help me find the pieces of information I’m looking for to include checking out Brown University’s “Cost of War.”

I am happy with our correspondence so far and hopefully, he appreciates the feedback I have regarding his book.

More to follow.








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