Leslie Turk

Iraqi soldiers get taste of home

by Leslie Turk

It wasn't the microbrewed beer he longs for, but UL Lafayette journalism professor Robert Buckman and other soldiers serving in Iraq got a little taste of home during last night's incredible Super Bowl spectacle, in which the Steelers captured an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title after rallying to beat the Cardinals 27-23. According to Buckman, soldiers had their choice of Heineken, Schlitz, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Light.

Over the next several months, Independent Weekly intern Ryan Broussard will be blogging some of his ongoing communication with his professor.

Since last June Buckman, a lieutenant colonel, has been in Baghdad working under Gen. Ray Odierno on plans for the transfer of control from U.S. and Coalition command to Iraqi command. It was Odierno who issued a waiver allowing military to drink no more than two beers for yesterday's big game, breaking from rules prohibiting alcohol that were established due to the U.S.'s occupation of an Islamic country.

"I come from a family that believes if your country asks you to serve, you don't say no or try to alibi your way out of it," says Buckman. "I was 60 when I was asked to take this assignment. I was in good health after defeating prostate cancer, and I saw it as the last opportunity of my lifetime to serve a combat tour. I really haven't seen any combat in this staff job, although there are still occasional rocket attacks on the IZ (International or Green Zone). I put in 85-hour weeks, and I miss my microbrewed beer and my Great Dane, but this has given me the opportunity to see first-hand one of the major events of my generation - or yours. It has helped to satisfy my journalistic curiosity, even though I'm not here as a journalist."

A journalism major, Broussard has taken three of Buckman's classes. "He is a stickler for good journalism, and sometimes his methods seemed overkill, but he is just trying to prepare his students for the challenges they can expect in the real world," Broussard says. "While in Iraq, he sends dispatches to a group of family, friends, colleagues and former students about what life is like there. He has given his permission for us to print his dispatches for everyone to see."