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Soldier letters reveal true cost of war

The Denver Post 11-25-06

Originally appeared in The Denver Post


Most would say that a writer’s dream is realized when his or her work is published.

But Ryan Kelly can’t bear to read “Operation Homecoming,” the book where his experiences were captured. The memories are still too raw.

A Company Commander and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Kelly spent a year in Iraq. The 37-year-old was born in Cheyenne and reared in Littleton, and joined the Army in 1992 at the age of 22. But he did not embark on his first deployment to a war zone until twelve years later, last Thanksgiving.

While at war, Kelly, wrote numerous letters home to his wife and mother. Two of his letters, as well as short stories, eye witness accounts, poems and even lyrics written by other soldiers and their family members, appear in “Operation Homecoming” a literary work created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kelly’s letters embody two central themes of the book – the diversity of the troops and the true costs of war says editor Andrew Carroll.

“I see all these kids playing war-related video games because this war is so distant and remote that it seems like a game,” Carroll says. “Kelly’s letter shows the real people impacted by these conflicts and the physical and emotional sacrifices they endured.”

Kelly was responsible for more than 70 soldiers in his company, the 1-150th General Support Aviation Battalion 42 Infantry Division (Mechanized), New Jersey Army National Guard: The immigrant troops not born in America but fighting for us anyway; the motor cross stunt man who begged to have his motorcycle shipped to the desert; the newly married couple who could only express their love through tender glances and shared water bottles.

All of them came home. It is now one year later.

How beneficial was it for you and your family members to stay in contact through letters?

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