The War Project: Interview with Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman


Susannah Breslin's "The War Project," a series of interviews with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has a new feature up: the story of Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman. The 38-year-old veteran has been in the Army for 16 years. "I dream about my weapon," he tells Susannah.

Deckman is a combat engineer who has deployed five times--to Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq twice. He has served with the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 54th Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany, and 420th Engineer Brigade. In early 2007, he transferred to the Army Reserves and is currently assigned to the 980th Engineer Battalion at Camp Mabry in Austin. Later this year, he will deploy to Afghanistan. He lives in Killeen, Texas.
From Deckman's story:

One of the things that I got was I had nightmares for a while. I've been having a few more lately. It's a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. It's not normal to think you're going to be killed in the very next second. It does weird things to your brain.

I dream about my weapon. I can point it at the enemy, and I can see him coming at me, and I pull that trigger, and it feels like someone jammed gum inside there, and I can pull it, and pull it, and pull it, and it only budges a little bit at a time.

I didn't dream about IEDs while I was in Iraq. It wasn't until after I'd come back. I had one dream after I came back where I was walking through this little, shitty mud shack village. I kind of went up a hill on one side, and there was a little road come down to this ditch. Somehow I had fallen in the ditch, I couldn't get out of the ditch, and the enemy was up at the top of the hill rolling IEDs down the road at me.

INTERVIEW: Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman (, interview and photo by Susannah Breslin)

Read Susannah's post at Forbes about the process of helping these vets tell their stories. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. I heard an interesting short interview with Kurt Vonnegut on NPR yesterday.

    “When I went to war (WWII), we had two fears. The first was that we would be killed. The second was that we would be forced to kill someone else.”

    1. My grandfather, an uneducated Kentucky hillbilly who was on Normandy, refused to pick up a gun when he returned even though hunting was deep in his blood. “I’ve had enough killing,” he said.

  2. The question is, after decades of violent television, games where you are scored on how many of the enemies you shoot to death, and increasingly sophisticated propaganda dehumanizing ‘the enemy,’ how widespread this feeling still is.

  3. Relax Jason, after 10 or 20 years its gets a little eaiser. A little.

    zyodei: This is nothing like video games.

  4. Frankly, I’d rather hear from the Iraqis and Afghanis whose land we’ve occupied and are slaughtering (for having the gall to fight back against foreign invaders.)

    If I thought that I could go to sleep tomorrow, and I wouldn’t have to worry about Palestinians firing rockets into Israeli neighborhoods, I’d love it. That’d be great.

    The stupid acts of a small number of desperate palestinians have nothing on the systematic atrocities committed by the Israeli government. This notion that some people just hate us for no reason, and that’s a why we have to kill them, is bullshit.

    Maybe if we asked them why they were firing missiles at the people who stole their land we could come up with a solution that doesn’t involve invading other countries and killing everything that didn’t love us for it.

    Yes, it’s incredibly sad that decent people like Deckman are forced by debt to join the military, and be brainwashed into patriotic killers. It sucks that his friends died in pointless wars.

    This is a tragedy for everyone involved. Sorry if I care a little bit more for the people who didn’t sign up for it.

  5. “Frankly, I’d rather hear from the Iraqis and Afghanis whose land we’ve occupied and are slaughtering”

    Thanks, goldmineguttd. I was wondering when some anonymous Boing Boing reader who almost certainly has never dared a single moment of physical bravery or dedicated himself to a higher cause (say, swearing to protect the Constitution with his life) would from the comfort and safety of his home or office cubicle besmirch his bettors with a simplistic, lazy, and irrelevant-in-this-context political statement. And here it is RIGHT ON SCHEDULE.

    1. Well, they have a point, at least. It’s a complicated, tragic situation and the lion’s share of the info we get is on the experiences from our soldiers. Not to say that this guy’s story isn’t important, but it’s also the go-to story for the effects of war, albeit very personal for him.

    2. The fact that there are a damn lot of people who have died in these conflicts who didn’t volunteer themselves to get shot at or blown up is pretty damn relevant to those people I’d think.

      And if you don’t like people criticizing their “betters”, find yourself a different society. In this one, we’re at least supposed to have the right to question and criticize what our paid public servants are doing on our dime.

    3. If our actions lead to more conflicts and enemies, and those conflicts and enemies lead to more American deaths and other issues, then how is that out of context? A bit long winded perhaps, but.

      What you don’t seem to understand is that out military, government, president and politics can’t be separated because they are all part of the same machine. Our president, who is a politician, directly controls our military, while the rest of our government cheers him on. You can’t pick things apart, you can’t understand one aspect without looking at them all. It’s a big interconnected, mindboggling mess and it’s not going to get better or end anytime soon.

  6. If a different soldier’s story had been highlighted, I probably would have reacted differently. Others (ie Zubaty, Minnick) are more nuanced.

    I kind of chaffed because the American Soldier’s side is all we hear, so while it’s probably cathartic for them to tell their stories, it’s not like their POV is really news (or a “wonderful thing”). It’s been a decade. I’m sick of hearing about the brave soldiers dying for Our Freedom.

    As for bravery: Are all soldiers brave heros? Yes. Without a doubt braver than I’ll ever be. That doesn’t make their mission just or necessary. They can say they’re just doing their job, but their job sucks.

    I’d say the bravest soldiers are the ones who realize the wars are immoral and defect and face the consequences. What’s braver than standing up for what you believe? Where are their stories?

  7. This guy is no less a victim than some Iraqi boot seller. To judge him is merely a distraction and plays into the whole kabuki of the conflicts.

    War is hell. It just sucks, and we need to stop sending people to conduct it and realize the costs are incalculable and measured in more than $.

    1. He’s a victim of poor judgment, with very real and serious psychological effects.

      Military service is voluntary. I don’t mean to belittle his problems, but yes, he is demonstrably less of a victim than your Iraqi boot seller. He signed up at 22, and choose to continue for 16 years, when standard enlistment is what, 4-6 years?

  8. from Bill Hicks, “But there’s no connection, and you’d be a fool and a communist to make one. There’s no connection between having a gun and shooting someone with it, and not having a gun and not shooting someone.”

  9. It seems like we (in the US) only ever discuss veterans in the context of their victim-hood. Why is this?

    1. Because, to do otherwise is to possibly give the impression that ours wars might be offensive, that they might not be in our best interests, and that it might not be a good choice for a naive 18 year old kid.

      1. Exactly. But that makes us horrible & unpatriotic Americans for having sense enough to realize that.

  10. apparently, the thing people hate most is that he’s not somehow apologetic for being in the military during war-time…

    1. Anon #16, except we arn’t in a war, it’s an occupation of countries that don’t want us there. No one is attacking us, hasn’t happened in a decade. And don’t say 9/11, more Americans die in each month from car accidents and other shit.

  11. “He lives in Killeen, Texas. ”

    I am the only one who did read “Kill´em, Texas” instead of Killeen?

  12. Was the invasion of Iraq an aggressive war and as such “the supreme international crime”?

    If so:

    So, yes, I would agree that “the thing people hate most is that he’s not somehow apologetic for being in the military during (AGGRESSIVE) war-time…”

    If you think he has no choice,or is not allowed free will, or that I’m saying everyone in the military is evil: please Google Ehren Watatda.

  13. I won’t agree or disagree with most of the posts here, and I don’t want to feed the trolls. However, there is one thing I would like to clarify – I’m not a victim. I joined the military because I was in a bad situation, but the debt was not the primary reason. I joined in order to grow up and learn some discipline, and in that respect the Army was the correct choice for me.

    1. Classifying people who think differently as ‘trolls’? That might just lead some to believe that you do, in fact, disagree.

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