Soldiers' Stories Statement
Former Sergeant John Holman, U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with friends Lenny and Dominique; Palo Alto University, CA, January 2010
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print

In Iraq I did combat operations—whether it was insurgents or the Iraqi Army or what have you, it was direct fire combat. We moved around a lot because we were light fighters. During the invasion we fought in Samawah and Diwaniya and we were some of the first guys into Fallujah, Habbaniyah, Ramadi area. They used us to push in because our specialty was airborne and urban combat. So, being able to move in, house to house, that’s what we did best. After the invasion we centered our operations out of Baghdad.

The hardest part of clearing or securing buildings is the stairwells, because they are huge danger zones. You have to go up, and grenades fall down stairwells real easily. Also, in Iraq a lot of the stairwells are very narrow and there can be dark lighting. So, you always kind of feel a little bit more nervous going up a stairwell. I don’t think anyone who’s done a lot of room clearing can feel comfortable in a stairwell.

A reason I began studying psychology was to try to understand what’s going on in my mind and everyone else’s mind. Because when we came back we were all different. There’s no way that the experience can’t change you.

Even in school, I can’t go up or down a stairwell without missing my rifle. A weapon system is an extension of your body. Shouldering it and firing becomes as natural as riding a bike: it is reflexive. When you do not carry a weapon, you miss it. A couple of law books are about the weight of a rifle. So more than once, I’ve gone up a stairwell and found myself lifting my books up to the front like a rifle and then thinking, “Hope no one saw me.”

John Holman is simultaneously pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology from Palo Alto University and a law degree from Golden Gate University.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in January 2010.

© Jennifer Karady 2016, all rights reserved.