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Global War on Terror: A Guide to First-Person Narratives in the Veterans History Project

Combat: Dangers & Dilemmas

Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq—National Guard personnel and active-duty military alike—describe major difficulties adapting to unfamiliar surroundings and cultures, coping with 24/7 danger and insecurity, and sorting out ethical issues of soldiering in complex political settings. Some wish for more intensive training in international law and military ethics, given the need for quick decision-making under duress and the narrowed options available in asymmetrical war settings. Others wish for greater promotion of respect for international standards by U.S. political leaders. Others value programs which enabled them to interact with local people and help them meet their educational, medical, and other needs. There is also a distrust of the media’s portrayal of the conflicts.

Featured Collection

James Nappier
“So many things went wrong that night, and they wouldn’t let us take them out.” (Video Interview, 58:33)

James Nappier’s persistence and devotion to serving his country resulted in the improbable scenario of a man in his 40s with a grown child enlisting in—and being accepted by—the Navy’s Seabees. By virtue of his six years in the Marines beginning when he had dropped out of high school, Nappier’s real age was knocked down to just under the upper limit for eligibility. This was in 2000, when no one had any idea of military deployments to a war in the Middle East. In Iraq, Nappier kept volunteering for the most dangerous missions, figuring he was saving one younger man with young children from harm’s way. Though still a firm believer in the military and the mission, Nappier does express serious misgivings about the armored protection and amount of ammunition he and his men were given, as well as leadership during an engagement which resulted in two fatalities in his unit.

Learn more about James Nappier

“A lot of guys had families, I mean young kids at home, and I figured if I was out there, there was one less of them that had to be out there. I’d raised my family.”
– James N. Nappier, Jr.

Additional VHP Collections

Image of Krystyna R. Kalski

"And the thing that motivates you the most to stay there are the people you're with."

Krystyna R. Kalski's story

Image of James Joseph Maddix, Jr.

“... it made me realize I am no Rambo; I'm more like Beetle Bailey.”

James Joseph Maddix, Jr.'s story

Image of James R. Welch

“Being a father and being a husband myself ... I'm gonna do what it takes to get myself home”

James R. Welch's story