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Blogging from the Desert

By France Griggs Sloat

On April 5, Nate Showman posts a simple eulogy on his blog to the two men in his 3rd Platoon who died just days before shipping home from Baghdad. It was the least he could do.

“The knowledge that their suffering is over is some consolation, but the fact that they were so close to being back home with their loved ones has irreparably and deeply cut us all. We loved them both, and it has been and will always be one of the greatest honors of my life to have served with, led and had as friends SPC Durrell Bennett and PFC PJ Miller. I lack the words to put in context the depth and breadth of the sacrifices these two made.”

Showman, a first lieutenant who graduated from Xavier in 2005, set up Gishow.blogspot.com in late 2006, just before deploying to Kuwait in early 2007. The site, titled “On Soldiering,” is where Showman shares the sights, sounds and reflections of his 15-month tour.

The blog starts lightly, describing preparations to leave and his first impressions of the Arab world. There’s some attempt at humor—posting pictures of soldiers trying to pat the ranging camels—and art with photos of a brilliant sunset over the desert.

But the postings grow more serious and somber as his work and responsibilities escalate. One post from July 29 offers intricate details of an operation to capture an Iraqi cell member who’d been hounding his unit for weeks. They get the guy, but the trip back to their quarters is harrowing.
At one point, he marvels at the opulence of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces where he goes for training and muses at the comfort enjoyed by the soldiers stationed there while he and his men endure mud, sand and random attacks.

Showman’s parents, John and Mary of Fairfield, Ohio, anticipated his mid-April homecoming by keeping up with his blog. The postings offer an extra point of access into his life that most soldiers’ parents don’t have. The fact he started a blog was no surprise to his mother.

“He’s always been very articulate and a good writer,” she says. “I really respect my kids, and we raised them to want to be independent thinkers and not afraid of questioning and being who they are.”
On March 17, Showman gets political as he describes watching two Blackhawk helicopters lift off with the bodies of four young soldiers:

“I don’t know what … the politicians in their polished offices and glassy skyscrapers will decide to do with this problem called Iraq. We are holding a snake by the tail here; as it wriggles and writhes, we attempt to keep it from escaping while simultaneously attempting not to get bitten. Continuing to hold the snake gets costlier every time it bites, and the black birds carry home more bodies. Yet if we let it go it will breed, and its offspring will be stronger and more lethal than it and will hunt us.

“These questions are debated by those echelons above me and my men; down here in the trenches, it’s as simple as it can be—capture or kill them before they can blow us up.”

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