Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Lines in the Sand by F Scott Service - Book Tour

Historical Middle East Biographies / Memoir

Date Published: September 16, 2020

Publisher: MindStir Media

Lines in the Sand: An American Soldier's Personal Journey in Iraq

For F. Scott Service, a five-minute phone call one peaceful morning was all it took. Faced with the terrible dichotomy of his moral opposition to war and an innate sense of duty, little did he realize that when he was called for deployment in Iraq that his would be the journey of a lifetime. A tour of duty destined to change him forever.

Witnessing the violence of a country ravaged by chaos and facing the disintegration of his life back home, his sojourn in Iraq forced him to fight a new battle, a battle within himself. What had once been a noble intention became a desperate struggle to salvage what was left of his humanity, an excursion into the darkest recesses of the human mind that ultimately led him to question everything he had come to believe.

Pushed to the edge, only then would he discover what lay within.

An artfully lyrical epistolary composition and transcribed from his handwritten journals, Lines in the Sand is a powerful exercise in self-exploration amid heart-wrenching loss and anguish.

Editorial Reviews

"Impeccably written, relentlessly engaging, so intimate it hurts, Service's extraordinary tale is where the reader wants and needs to be." - Readers' Favorite

"F. Scott Service is a gifted writer. His words are eloquent, with powerful expressions. A remarkable story of tragedy to triumph." - Readers' Favorite

"This book is one that is incredibly hard to put down, and readers may, in fact, find themselves obsessively reading the story from the start through to the finish, all in one sitting. I highly recommend this book and this author." - Readers' Favorite

"... eloquent and beautifully moving... " - Pacific Book Review

F or e w or d

Naturaly the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany.

That is understood.

But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.

That is easy.

All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

It works the same in any country.

—Hermann Goering, 1946

 THERE COMES A TIME when every service member must face the ultimate test of their commitment. It’s often long after they chose to raise their right hand in some dank gray Federal office building in sight of a wrinkly American flag taped to a cinderblock wall and pledge their utmost devotion and allegiance to a president and a populace the vast majority of whom they will never meet. It is the part that requires them to dig deep within their psyche into the complex labyrinth of their own self-defense mechanisms, fears, trepidations, morals, values, and beliefs.

It is the part when they are deployed to war.

Going to war is difficult and frightening enough. Surviving a war is often much more traumatic—it can force you to examine everything you had become accustomed to relying on in your previous everyday life. A war zone’s constant reality of lethal threat can throw you into utter confusion. Established values and beliefs often wilt like a solitary flower baking in the desert sun.

A soldier’s base human survival instincts are usually jump-started with a force that takes many by surprise. A deep recess of the mind conditions you to instinctively drive on no matter the consequence to your psyche; it eventually consumes every thought or feeling and very nearly forces soldiers to extinction as human beings. In the process, a new identity is created even while you desperately attempt to cling to previous images of yourself—your lifelong beliefs, values, and motivations—as if they were still sincerely yours. In reality, you are being spiritual y killed by a force that is just as real as the physical bombs and bullets flying around you.

We grow up in America being taught to believe in the

“Golden Rule.” We do our best to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us. We hold the door for people. We cover our noses when we sneeze. We say “please” when we want something and “thank you” when we get it. We are supposed to treat others with dignity and respect. We are taught that these ideals are the basis of a civilized society—our society.

And we definitely  don’t kill people. Is that not an ultimate betrayal of the morality we were brought up to believe in?

With few exceptions, we don’t do it. And when we do kill, those who are found guilty of such a crime pay a hefty price according to the laws we have crafted as a culture.

However, as a nation we have also become accustomed to think of war as an exception to this code. It becomes automatic and instinctual to consider oneself “under orders”—obeying the rules of engagement formulated by men thousands of miles away who insist it is permissible to act violently—to break that sacred Golden Rule. And a soldier often has the means—at the very least the standard load of ammunition and an M-16 rifle.

Some may ask, “Will I do it? If I have to, will I shoot someone?” Some have answers, some don’t. When they answer

“yes,” changes begin. Their foundational beliefs have just received a giant whack to the head, and it leaves them reeling with the consequences of not only their actions but their dearly held beliefs as well.

From the comfort of “Ft. Living Room,” for some it’s easy to say, “Yeah, we ought to just go kill all those motherfuckers.”

But for a veteran, it is a weighty charge and a jarring realization that the Golden Rule is just a shibboleth that evaporates in the harsh reality of war. I don’t believe any of us are really ready for the ramifications of having our moral foundation leveled.

What I have just written is but a mere glimpse into what a soldier is forced to grapple with, not only during war but after returning home, when the struggle of reintegrating into “normal life” begins. As people of a civilized society, we are still striving to understand the infinitely complex changes that someone who has survived a wartime experience will undergo. We invent convenient labels such as “shell shock,” “combat stress,”

or “post-traumatic stress disorder” to slap on another in order to ground ourselves with an explanation, some sort of narrative that could explain what that person is experiencing. And more than anything else, we take comfort within the justification that this war was a good war, a just war, a war worth all the pain and suffering for—a war worth fighting.

I first met Scott in 2009, four years after he returned from Iraq, after he called my office at a local Veteran’s Center seeking help for the problems he had incurred while serving overseas. I was and still am a mental health counselor, and since I am also an Iraq War veteran it was felt that meeting with me specifical y would significantly increase Scott’s comfort level during an initial conversation. We met on a gray December afternoon in a small parking lot in the van I had requisitioned from the Veteran’s Center—the van being the only place he felt comfortable, away and out of sight of people.

It didn’t take me long to discover that Scott is a brave person.

He is a deeply abstract thinker, which as beautiful as that is and though it makes for wonderful conversation, can be burdensome when confronted with the trauma that war inevitably inflicts and the expectation of recovering from that trauma. Like most veterans, his recovery has been slow and painful. He is brave because not only has he truly tried to integrate his war experience into his life, he has actively, honestly stared at himself in the mirror and asked who he is and how he might rebuild himself to become better.

It’s funny. You might not pick him out of a group as an Iraq War veteran. I’m not sure I would have when I first met him. He wears his hair long and usually has some form of a beard growing. He doesn’t seem to pay much attention to his appearance—not out of neglect, it just doesn’t feel important to him. He makes himself unnoticeable, often preferring to stay anonymous in the shadows.

He has been slow to come out of his self-imposed shell.

I have watched that shell slowly begin to dissolve through careful, compassionate nurturing, but normally he prefers to isolate, spend time with a stray cat he adopted rather than approach people and be social. It is here that he finds safety. A few years ago, isolation was all he knew. He never came out of his apartment—not for a long time and even then only when necessary to buy groceries or run an errand. He does now, albeit with many restrictions and some pretty heavy trepidation. On the surface, this may seem irrational, crazy, or even lazy.

But there are reasons for his choice of lifestyle. Scott has been permeated by post-traumatic stress. Not only has Scott endured difficulty in the combat theater of Iraq, in Kuwait, and in the years following his return, he did so with tremendous upheaval at home, having received the infamous “Dear John”

letter and losing everything he had built in his civilian life. When he came home, he decided to stand up for his beliefs, salvaging what was left within him to make a statement as to why war is futile, ugly, and unworthy of the pain and confusion of being forced to sacrifice cherished morals and beliefs.

Army Regulation 600-43, “Conscientious Objection,” is an evaluation process in which the soldier must be deemed sincere in his overall demeanor to object to such conditions as war and the effort of killing. Scott had to be noble and honest with himself to even consider applying—in military life, and in life in general, there seems to be some sort of unwritten code that discourages taking this sort of stance, of being bold enough to step away from the herd, to be the black sheep, to deviate from the accepted norm.

There is definitely the risk of being ostracized. What if the application is not approved? What would life in the military be like if the application failed? How would a comrade view that black sheep? And what if his status was accepted? Would his friends stay away from him? Would they consider him disloyal, even a traitor? These questions must have weighed heavily on Scott’s mind as he tried to balance his disgust for war with his innate feeling of duty to his fellow comrades in arms.

As you’ll read in the fol owing pages—the diaries Scott kept while serving in Iraq—he had a choice. He had a choice both before and after his deployment to Iraq, but it was only after his deployment had ended when he final y applied and was granted conscientious objection status.

Why would anyone make the choice to go to war? There are different reasons for each person, but for Scott that motivation revolved around having to confront a broader picture than his own fears or dislike for war. He was forced to realize there were others who might need him and it was his duty to honor them above all else.

There was honor in honoring them,” he would tell you, and if he hadn’t gone it would have been a betrayal of not just them but of his own sense of loyalty and commitment. For Scott, war has meant much more than fighting for a cause. War has meant an opportunity to not only face the darkest fears that we’re all afraid to confront but to develop a greater understanding of who he is, what he stands for, how he wants to approach the world, and what he might have to offer those around him.

He did what he thought was a great thing when he enlisted with the Army. He surrounded himself with less than one percent of the American population. He fought a war, became a veteran… and a conscientious objector. That is where the truth of his character is truly projected.

Fighting in Iraq and becoming a conscientious objector was the beginning of a personal and moral journey for Scott that allowed the seed of his ideas and views of the world to become a full-grown tree. He chronicled his way through Iraq.

He wrote in his journals about his everyday experiences even as mortars fell around him and is now presenting a firsthand, front-row ticket to the realities of war.

War and moral injury are the veteran’s common, yet unique story. This book is about heartache and loss, courage and fear, loyalty and betrayal, commitment and abandonment, self-reflection and redemption. It is about the deconstruction and deliverance of the human soul.

Jay White

January 2013


About the Author

I live in New England with a talented social worker (who also happens to be my EIC) and Jerome... a trouble maker unless he's purring for an evening snack.

Having earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional/Technical Communication and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I have had experience with editing, journalism, desktop publishing, videography, and am a full-time author.

I enjoy gardening and cooking with an emphasis on ethnic foods including Indian, Thai, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, Chinese, Spanish, Middle Eastern (especially Algerian, Iraqi, and Egyptian), Mexican, and Italian. My next venture in culinary delight will be with Caribbean food.

Being an avid explorer, I've spent time in all but two states in America and am always on the lookout for someplace new (I just never thought it would be Iraq and Kuwait as my first international travel destinations). On my list of new places are Pitcairn Island, Easter Island, Stonehenge, Leap Castle in Ireland, the Hobbit village in New Zealand, Hunyad Castle in Romania, and the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Other interests of mine include horror literature and memoir, a long-standing fascination with UFO, paranormal, and occult phenomena as well as playing guitar, backpacking, and bike riding

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