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Another Day in Baghdad
Experiences of American Soldiers in Iraq
by Peg and Don
Tacoma Actors Guild, in
association with the Northwest Playwrights Alliance, presented dramatic
new play readings on the second Monday of each month during the fall of
November 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the TAG auditorium, a new play by David A. Tucker
II called Another Day in Baghdad was featured. This was a
dramatic reading, with professional actors portraying the characters. There
were no costumes and the set only included oriental rugs over portions
of an existing set and a partial slide show of Baghdad and Iraq. Some
of the actors had been involved in reading and staging the play
Based on experiences and anecdotes compiled from his tour of duty as a
Major in the Army Reserve, Tucker has written the play from the point
of view of a soldier in the field, at times under fire and sometimes
bored while waiting for the next excursion into the city.
The reserve soldiers are friends in civilian life, having
spent weekends together at training exercises back home. When they get
to Iraq , they are bound by the brother/sisterhood of an Army unit.
They are mostly young and inexperienced in battle, except
for the Commander and Top, the 1st sergeant. The only other one older
than 30 is Calloway, sometimes annoying and sexist to the females.
On their first excursion from their base into Baghdad , one
of the soldiers, Marie Littleton, is killed by an improvised explosive
device (IED). The other soldiers, especially Calloway, find it hard to
let go of her and make her replacement suffer by calling her Marie and
leaving her out of small episodes of friendliness. Until Wodjawoski
challenges her unit, she is not fully accepted.
"I think at some point you have to give something back. I used to sit
in coffee shops, hear people talk about saving the Albanians getting
massacred by the Serbs in Kosovo. Or what we should have done in Haiti or
better yet Rwanda. But thatís all they did talk, get self-righteous,
pound their fist on the table and complain that someone, SOMEONE, should
do something. And order another latte in the meantime. ďNo, no foam
please. I hate foam.Ē
Well, I canít do that anymore. To say someone, SOMEONE should do
something. Because I should be that someone, to look back on my life and say
ďI stepped forward when the rest stepped back.Ē
All right, that sounds more heroic than I intended. What I mean is I
want to contribute, to be a small part of something bigger, to help
improve a part of the world that is beyond myself, to get the hell out of
the fucking Starbucks and quit worrying about the late fees on my
Hollywood video account. To do something."
soldiers encounter Iraqi civilians upset by the shortages of electricity
and water; interact with Fatima, an Iraqi civilian interpreter whoís
threatened by other Iraqis for her ďcollaborationĒ; and the children that
steal their hearts.
"Thank you. You are a good man. Maybe you can help me. My son,
yesterday they threaten him. At school. The teacher, she is former Baíathist.
Very bad woman. She says she knows that I work for the Americans. She
also knows that we are Shia. She says she will tell those loyal to Saddam
and they will come and take my child and cut off his hands, then his
feet and finally his head if I do not stop working for the Americans.
Then they will find my daughter, do the same and worse."
encounter the same shortages of equipment that we read about in the
papers. They bitch and moan when their tour is extended and get ready to go
out again. They get bored between missions and fill their days with
longings for those at home and camaraderie with their fellow soldiers.
Itís a tight knit community and even the annoying Calloway is included.
"You specifically told me, sir, as the
supply officer, MY supply officer, that you didnít have any more plates
for our body armor. ďSuck it upĒ is the phrase I think you used.
Obviously you werenít going to help me and my guys out. So we helped ourselves.
Those goddamn plates are not your
property, Iím signed for them.
If you want me to sign for them, Iíd be
glad to. I have handreceipts for each and every one from my soldiers.
You are going to get them back, Major, and
youíre going to do it by tomorrow, understood?!
LTC begins to exit.
No, sir, what?
No, sir, Iím not going to get those plates
for you. Tomorrow or otherwise.
WHAT?! YOU WILL GET THOSE GODDAMN PLATES
OR IíM GOING TO HAVE YOU COURTMARTIALED, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD!! CAN I MAKE
THAT ANY MORE CLEAR?!!
Whatís clear is that you lied to me and
you lied to my troops. My troops are getting shot at out there almost
every goddamn day while you sit over at Camp Victory, doing your
powerpoint presentations . . ."
The play is designed to be acted on a mostly empty stage with photos
projected on a background scrim to set the locations and the mood.
Tucker has taken photos of the city and citizens during his recent
deployment. The photos accompaning this article are all Tuckerís. Staged
versions of the play contain many visual, lighting, and audio ques.
"You donít hear about it much, but for every soldier killed in Iraq,
there are nine, ten like me. Guys with this gone, that ruined, bodies
torn, shredded, burned, scarred by the reality of a war you never see. For
us the war isnít just another headline in yesterdayís newspaper or a
two minute story squeezed between the sports and weather reports. We
never really forget. Iíd like to forget.
I donít regret having served my country. But I do regret that wherever
my guys go, Iím not going with them. Ever Ö Iíll never be in the Army
again, but Iíll always . . . always be a soldier."
The end of the play came with each of the actors forming a line at the
front of the stage. Each one read off the name of a soldier from
Washington State that had been killed in Iraq. As video producers we are
sometimes asked to produce videos for funerals. And sometimes, we shoot
video of the funerals themselves. We did both for one soldier named. Of
course the funeral was a military funeral. I felt emotional pain and
regret for a life ended early when his name was called.
What continually goes through my mind when thinking about the play
Another Day in Baghdad is the song Just Another Day in
Paradise. What makes the song and the two titles so ironic and heartbreaking
is the fact that the biblical home of Eden (paradise) is supposedly in
Iraq. Can we get any further away from paradise than Baghdad? No,
probably not. And, yet . . . paradise is just somewhere just down the road.