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United States & World

Sergeant Sorts Through War's Chaos in Letter Home

U.S. Army Sgt. John McCary was 27 years old during his tour of duty in Iraq, serving as a human intelligence collector in the al-Anbar province of Iraq.

McCary speaks Arabic, and also learned the local Iraqi dialect. He says he became something of an interface for working with the local population.

"The counterinsurgency is in the middle of a living, breathing country into which you've inserted a full-blown military operation," McCary says. "So I ended up doing everything from negotiating with the local politicians to meeting with tribal elders to talking with religious leaders about the social and moral impact of our operations."

Like soldiers throughout time, McCary wrote a lot of letters home while fighting in the Iraq war. During his tour of duty, he sent one e-mail to his family that was different from the rest. The letter was included in the book Operation Homecoming.

John McCary has completed his military service and is getting a master's degree in security studies from Georgetown University.

This series is produced by Barrett Golding of HearingVoices.com.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.