The Sandbox - "Dispatches from Troops in Iraq & Afghanistan;" edited by David Stanford

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MWSA Review

Who are these Marines and Soldiers whose courage and tenacity is so glorified and politicized by those who never served ?

 Editor David Stanford brings us the daily stories of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in their own blunt words. An Gary Trudeau-inspired addition to his 11-year old website, Trudeau and Stanford invited the warriors overseas to write back so the folks back on the homefront could stay informed about the war. They weren't looking for strategy and tactics, but rather the daily routine - ranging from boring to mundane to kinetic - that the troops experienced.

 And write they did, as "mil-blogging" increased in popularity, the writing skills of a few of the blogging Marines and Soldiers brought the wars back home in a visceral fashion that often leaves the reader with damp eyes. No slick writing here, but rather just the honest words of your son and daughters and husbands at war.

 1st Sgt Troy Steward, New York Guard, writes of his time in Afghanistan as part of an Embedded Training Team (ETT) with an Afghan National Army Unit. Sgt Roy Batty, stationed in Baghdad, writes of the boredom associated with living on a FOB and then later segues into problems with an Iraqi Police unit that shot and killed an old man. "They are our buddies," he writes,"our comrades in arms with whom we are supposed to bring Jeffersonian democracy and security to this wonderful country..." . 1st Lt Stefan laments the death of a fellow officer, 2nd Lt Scott Lundell, with whom he attended OCS. "Rest in peace,"Stefan grieves on his keyboard,"...a brother in arms who is loved and missede. The debt will not go unpaid..."

 Stanford has sifted through the hundreds of articles posted on the more popular milblogs such as, and, and posted a few of the best. "The Sandbox" has articles from men and women, officers and enlisted men, and warriors, chaplains, and corpsmen. These are unforgiving wars where the combat zones start at the border, and Stanford lets those doing the fighting talk about how it affects them. In an environment where the media is criticised for playing politics by wanting to show photos of coffins being returned to the United States, one can instead read SPC J.R. Salzman's ( blunt description of having his arm blown off "...the tast of blood in my mouth, realizing that the bottom half of my arm was missing with nothing left but a couple of fingers and part of my hand hanging off by some skin and tendons and realizing how much pain I was in."

 The value of "The Sandbox" is that it lets the reader forget the petty politics of the last few years and instead get to know something about the Marines and Soldiers who are doing the fighting and dying. Republicans - Democrats are unimportant when one reads 1st Sgt Stewards reports from Afghanistan, or SPC's Salzman writing about how "the last time I saw my wedding ring was when it was being snipped off with a pair of bolt cutters at a hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad." Thank you, Gentlemen, for what you are doing, and thank you for sharing it with us; "The Sandbox" should be read by every American.

MWSA Reviewer: 

Author's Synopsis

Launched as a military blog (or "milblog") by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau in October 2006, The Sandbox is an online forum through which service members in Afghanistan and Iraq share their stories with readers here at home. In hundreds of fascinating and compelling posts, soldiers write passionately, eloquently, and movingly of their day-to-day lives, of their mission, and of the drama that unfolds daily around them.

A dog adopts a unit on patrol in Baghdad and guards its flank; a soldier chronicles an epic day of close-call encounters with IEDs; an Afghan translator talks earnestly with his American friend about love and theology; a dad far from home meditates on time and history in the desert night under ancient stars; a Chuck Norris action figure witnesses surreal moments of humor in the cramped cab of a Humvee —'s The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan presents a rich outpouring of stories, from the hilarious to the thrilling to the heartbreaking, and helps us understand what so many of our countrymen are going through and the sacrifices they are making on our behalf.

* I really feel like most people look at this war as little more than a television event. How many have ever taken the time to stop and think about what we go through every day over here? The bullets, rockets, and IEDs are not the hard part. The hard part is knowing that life goes on back at home. —FC1 (SW) Anthony McCloskey

* The man looks at me, his jaw working in anger. For a brief second, I get the impression that he is going to attack, and then suddenly, as if the energy has gone out of him, his shoulders slump slightly and he looks down at his brother's body. —1LT Adam Tiffen

* Out here in the desert, Time is King; the minutes are his minions and the months his sabers by which you are knighted. The King controls all that you do, when you come and go, and how long until you see your children. —Capt. Lee Kelley