Army soldier speaks on shut-down blog

Billie Jo Kubat

Billie Jo Kubat

Echoes of contemporary war tales and first-hand accounts of experiences in Iraq filled the air in the Performing Arts Center on Oct. 27, as the Harding Distinguished Lecture Series and the South Dakota Humanites Council featured U.S Army machine-gunner Colby Buzzell.

The book My War: Killing Time in Iraq is a compilation of Buzzell’s blog posts while in Iraq.

“Buzzell brings a diverse perspective on the war,” said Laura Wight, assistant professor in Briggs Library and chair of the Harding Lecture committee. “Students don’t always hear a person with his experience from the war.”

Buzzell graduated from high school in 1995 and was one of the bottom-ranked kids in his class. In his opinion, college was not an option, so he got a number of odd jobs. He moved to Los Angeles and then to New York.

When the World Trade Center was hit, Buzzell was in New York. He took photos of the Twin Towers as the planes hit and the towers fell. At this time, he felt he was too old to join the military.

Buzzell decided to move back home, and this is when he first started to keep a journal. One day he read his journal and was not happy that every day was the same.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is pathetic,'” said Buzzell.

At 26, Buzzell went to a Marine recruiting office and was turned down. When he walked outside, there was an Army recruiter waiting for him. He signed the papers that day and went to Army boot camp.

Buzzell went to Iraq during the second year of the war, when it was no longer front-page news.

He was reading an article about soldiers blogging in Time magazine, so he went to an Internet café and started his own blog.

“It became therapeutic after a mission when my ears were still ringing, to let it all out,” said Buzzell.

One blog post Buzzell highlighted was called “Men in Black.” While running a mission, his battalion was hit with mortars, and he started to wonder what he had gotten himself into.

For Buzzell this was a long, intense day, and he thought that it had to be on the news. When he saw that there was hardly anything in the news about it, he wrote about it in his blog.

After he wrote “Men in Black,” he received hundreds of e-mails from people, and he even received several requests for an interview. The military then found out, and he was ordered to stop blogging.

After his presentation, Buzzell answered questions from the audience. One question asked dealt with his views on censorship in the military.

“I understand. If too much information is released, it could potentially cause trouble,” said Buzzell.

Students said they had different reasons to come listen to Buzzell. Emily Van Klompenburg, a freshman pre-pharmacy student was required to come for a class.

“I thought it was very interesting,” said Van Klompenburg. “I don’t know much about the war. I like to learn about it.”

Another student said that the lecture brought him new ideas.

“I walked away with the message that I need to get as much college experience as possible,” said Trevor Johnson, an undeclared freshman.

The Army machine-gunner and author said he likes to talk at colleges to educate students about the war. For him, the lesson to be taken from Iraq is all about education.

“Learn from other generations’ mistakes, and do not repeat those mistakes.”