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This is War


A raw look at the combat and homecoming experience from American veterans who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This Is War” chronicles the trials of combat vets both abroad and at home.

A raw look at the combat and homecoming experience from American veterans who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This Is War” chronicles the trials of combat vets both abroad and at home.
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A raw look at the combat and homecoming experience from American veterans who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This Is War” chronicles the trials of combat vets both abroad and at home.




21 | McPadden

Ray McPadden, a newly minted officer, takes command of an infantry platoon for deployment to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, where he discovers just how deeply your first deployment can influence the rest of your career, what he can endure and, most of all, what it takes to be a leader.


20 | Buzard

Daniel “Doc” Buzard had been a working paramedic long before he deployed in his late 20s, but his first taste of combat medicine opened his eyes to the possibilities and meaning that providing aid has in a war zone.


19 | Avalos

When you enlist and take the oath of service, you take the oath by yourself, but not on your own. The oath implicates not only your family and friends, but also your future spouse and children, it implicates people you haven’t yet met and, in the case of a distant enemy, people you may never meet.


18 | Satterly Part 2

Tom Satterly fought in the Battle of Mogadishu and ran the “Mogadishu Mile” as part of his first deployment as a Delta soldier. It was the first in a special operations career that spanned into the War on Terror, including the capture of Saddam Hussein and combating the new enemies who tried to fill the power vacuum the toppled leader left. In the end, though, is the question of how a special forces operator copes with reintegrating into a society that doesn’t need specially trained soldiers.


17 | Satterly Part 1

During one of the most storied firefights in recent U.S. history, nine special forces soldiers held a house in Somalia, guarding one of the Black Hawk helicopters that had crashed during a routine operation. In the first of a two part series, retired Delta operator and author of “All Secure” Tom Satterly talks about his induction into the unit and the first combat experience in what would be a 20 year career spanning from the Battle of Mogadishu through the height of the war in Iraq.


16 | Jensen

Even when you spend the better part of your adolescence dreaming about warfare, and your teens preparing for it, there still is an unnavigable distance between theory and practice, especially when there isn’t even a war on. You attack enemies that aren’t just phantasms, but phantasms without nationality or goal, just representatives of the vague threat you’re trying to thwart. But when the war and the enemy are real, it is nothing like you possibly could have imagined.


15 | Knapp

Cowardice and recklessness are opposite reactions to the same inclination: putting your wants before the needs of the people you have promised to be faithful to. With Daniel Knapp it is more than that. There is an element of wanting to both emulate and get the respect of those above him. But for Knapp the people above him aren’t the people in charge, they are the people who are better Marines than he is. Those are the people whose approval he craves, because he knows what it means to get...


14 | Mitalas

The flag-draped coffin is one of the most enduring symbols of war. It is a reminder of the cost and also of the responsibility that young men and women take on as part of their service to their country. Brandon Mitalas enlisted in the Marine corps reserves for selfish reasons, but by the time he had sent 226 marines and sailors home under the stars and stripes, he truly understood the weight of remaining always faithful. He also understood something else: Sometimes it isn’t about you.


13 | Lyon

Most of the time when we do something, we’re either doing it for us or for someone else, but in the case of our duty, things can get a little less clear. You see, when duty is the thing we’re doing we kind of are doing it for everybody, to live up to a promise we made that we would fill a specific role in our society. Kenny Lyon was all about finding roles and filling them. Whenever he could see the world as a set of instructions, he could follow along nicely, and that got him pretty far as...


12 | Baskett

Kristofer Baskett was 19 years old when he arrived in Iraq. He had enlisted in the Navy with his sights on underwater demolition but a little more than a year later he was a corpsman doing his best to fit in with the more seasoned Marines to whom he had been attached. The thing is, when you enlist and accept your trajectory there isn’t much more you can do than go with it. As a Navy corpsman Kristofer hadn’t expected to be doing much fighting, but he learned quickly that combat was a...


11 | Siren

From early on in her training, Vanessa Mahan learned that being an aviator is more than just a test of strength and stamina, it also requires an unrelenting will and focus. What it requires most of all is the ability to shoulder the heavy burden of life and death for dozens of people every time you’re on a mission. On each approach timely action against the enemy ends in casualties or at least a routing on their side. Untimely action can cost American lives. But when you strap in and take...


10 | Shelton

When Shane Shelton had to delay his entry into the special forces to go and fight in Afghanistan the only thing that buffered his disappointment was that he would get the chance to fight. He had joined the army with an eye on putting his physical prowess to good use, but as he would come to find out, being in top physical condition is secondary once the shooting starts. Keeping a cool head and believing in your mission and in your battle buddies, especially when things get bleak requires...


9 | Jones

Training is a way of honing skills, of teaching your body to think without you, so you can concentrate on the crisis at hand, but you can’t train character, you only can amplify it. For Cody Jones the commitment he made to himself was part of a larger perspective, a way of lining up the world so that it made sense easily and immediately. When you give yourself a couple basic rules but then live up to them without fail, that’s what makes you reliable. At the top of Cody’s list was an...


8 | Lydy

Fighting has to be somewhere in your nature if you want to be part of a warrior class. Notions about having the killer instinct probably are overstated because killing isn’t always what circumstances requires of a warrior. The will to fight, however, is more than a mere prerequisite. For Kara Lydy, fighting was a way of life from early on. Overcoming adversity was a part of her day to day routine nearly from her moment of birth. But when you come up fighting, you can get the impression...


7 | Garcia

Violence is a necessary part of combat, and that is something every Marine understands when they step on the yellow footprints that first day of bootcamp. Few people crave it outright, but they all accept the very real dangers endemic to service, even when they join during peacetime. Once the war is on, though, it becomes necessary to embrace the danger and the violence and lose your sense of self for the greater good. But really accepting your mortality is on some level the easiest part....


6 | Alotto

Duty is above the letter of the law. It’s a way of calibrating what you want to do with what you’re responsible for and matching that up against how you see yourself as a person. Joe Alotto had wanted to be in the military since he was a little boy. Having become a soldier he knew his duty primarily was to hold himself accountable to the expectations his fellow soldiers had of him, and the expectations he had of himself. When you’re a soldier, though, sometimes you have to bet your life...


5 | Post

Being under constant assault in a war zone wears a person down in both expected and unexpected ways. Sure, it wears you down physically, psychologically and emotionally, but it also can wear down your soul, taking chips out of your humanity.


4 | Freeman

What do you do with rage when you don’t have any place to point it but inward? When there is no satisfaction in revenge and no way to put things right? Marcus Freeman spent nearly a decade as a combat medic, fighting the insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan with his healing power as much as with his weapons. But some wrongs can’t be righted, they only can be reckoned with. And when you can’t do the reckoning, the price you pay can be tremendous.


3 | Stormeski

“My training just kicked in.” We hear that a lot. It calls to mind decisiveness and instinctual reactions to uncommonly dire circumstances. For an Army medic, it’s about worst case scenarios and hoping on some level that your expertise rarely is called upon.


2 | Rumley

Many of the men and women who enlist in the armed forces do so knowing they might die, but somehow meeting death face to face still comes as an absolute surprise.