Before he was sent to the Middle East, a young soldier from Texas began corresponding by e-mail with some of us in Dallas. His view of the war and army life was considerably different from what the “embedded” U.S. journalists were reporting. Even though we were thousands of miles apart and only connected by mail, we North Texans became extremely fond and protective toward “Soldier Sal” Here are some excerpts from our correspondence.

Dear Jim,

Thank you for writing back. It means a lot, especially considering how busy you are. I am not very busy out here. It is so hot so I go into the building we work at out here like six hours before my shift starts. It means I am susceptible to more details, but at least I can be in some air conditioning.

I don’t get much contact with the Iraqi locals because there have been a lot of attacks lately. They say that the Iraqis are shooting at us because they want us to go home, which is ironic because that is basically the only thing I want right now! I guess it is just lost in translation.

On the convoy down here, we had a lot of exposure with locals and it was really sad. The convoy commander told us we couldn’t give anything to the locals, and if we did, we would be disciplined.

I didn’t understand why he would say something like that until we got into the situation where we had to stop and a bunch of Iraqis came up to us. They looked absolutely decimated. And the sad thing was that every Humvee was filled with an abundance of food and water. And these people were offering to sell beautiful knives and old currency and other things just for a bottle of water or an MRE [meals ready to eat].

While the guy in my Humvee wasn’t looking, I handed one guy a single peppermint, but I got caught and yelled at. Then the guy started begging for one for his baby and I couldn’t. It was very sad and I was very mad that I couldn’t share my food and water with them.

I will be getting out of the army soon enough. I will be very relieved when I get out. I have felt so restricted for so long that I almost forgot what it was like to be a free person.

Have you ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? It is a very wonderful book. I get a lot of reading time out here. At first I wanted to just read a lot of theory and stuff, but then that got boring so I split it up. Half theory and half regular fiction.

In solidarity,

Sal of the Sand