My wife was teaching All Quiet on the Western Front back in 2007 when she decided to contact a friend who had been in Iraq so that her students could ask some questions. While it might have been cool for him to come into the class or use Skype, I think the fact that he had some time to compose his answers makes this an excellent text to use in the classroom and in conjunction with any war novel or story you might be reading.
The assignment was for students to come up with questions. Obviously, you could do this on your own, as well, but it might be useful to see the questions her class came up with along with the well-written answers her students got to see. I also found a second correspondence with different answers, in more of an email format.
A couple of considerations: this soldier was only in Iraq for less than six months and he has a negative perception of why we went in the first place. It might be useful to find a soldier with a more positive view of the war in order to balance it out.
This ebook contains 23 answers to student questions. It's eight pages single-spaced. And it's insightful. Great for history classes, too.
Here's a sample question and answer:
7. Why/how did you decide to join?
I joined in 2000. At that time I was working a Hardee’s as a cook and was a senior in high school. The recruiter called me around 11 at night after I had just returned home from work after school. As you may well be aware, anything other than continuing on at a fast food joint sounded like a good idea. At that time I also didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and didn’t want to go to college. One thing led to another and three days after I graduated for high school I left for basic training. I know it is not a glorious reason for joining, I had just hoped it would be something different and exciting that may lead to a career.
This would also work with current issues, War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan, Vietnam, WWII, WWI, and more. Other novels that would benefit from this text include Red Badge of Courage, Catch-22, The Things They Carried, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bells Tolls, and many more.
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