Friday, November 10, 2006
How the Iraq war changed a Marine

It isn't unusual to hear songs these days questioning war and violence. What is unusual is to have them written and performed by a Marine veteran with combat experience.

Josh Hisle is a 24-year-old former Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq. He says he did not try to keep count of the number of people he may have killed in battle.

Make no mistake. Hisle doesn't regret his service and he fully supports the military. But after spending time at war, he's begun to wonder what impact the United States is having in Iraq.

Hisle says his mood changed while in Ramadi in 2004. He said many people there who once greeted American forces as liberators wanted them to leave. He saw Marines attacked on a daily basis. At the same time, he longed to return home to see his newborn son and his wife, but never thought he'd leave Iraq alive.

Armed with some melodies and a whole lot of war experience, Hisle put his thoughts to music. He has created an album of love, loss and regret for some of the things he's had to do.

Taking the stage at Allyn's Cafe in Cincinnati, Ohio, earlier this week, Hisle played for a cheering crowd. Click the image above to watch a clip of him performing his song, "A Traitor's Death." There's more about him and his music on his Web site:

I find it interesting to hear Hisle try to reconcile two very different aspects of his life -- as a family man and a Marine -- through his music. What do you think?
Posted By Jason Rovou, CNN Producer: 4:16 PM ET
Hey Jason~
I think Hisle is very cool and clever to portray his feelings of war and family through his music. That must be very therapeutic for himself as well as his audience. It would be fasinating to hear his songs at the cafe in Ohio. Maybe, a field trip. . what kind music is that? Folk? Anyway, cheers to Hisle. This is just more proof that we need to get out of Iraq. I get chills just thinking of the 3,000 plus Americans that have already died and the 20,000 injured in this blunderous war. Thanks for the enlightening post!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:52 PM ET
Always interesting to learn what those who have been in Iraq are feeling once they come home. What a great outlet for John and a great way to share his experiences with the world. I am familiar with the restaurant/bar that he played at this week and I hope he gets more coverage in Cincinnati. Would have loved to have been there to support him!
Posted By Anonymous Emily, Cincinnati, OH : 5:20 PM ET
This is like a musical version of Philip Caputo's book "Fog Of War". I don't take this as proof we need to get out of Iraq, more proof that we should never have been led in there in the first place by the GOP. Its offensive to still hear people only talking about 3,000 american's dying for Haliburton over there, when 150,000-650,000 Iraqi's have been killed as well, both by each other and by our misled soldiers on a ghost hunt. Their lives are important too. That's like have 911 happen 50 or 200 times. Shouldn't we have to pay for that ? They had nothing to do with attacking the US. If we just pull out and leave them to implode then we get away with a terrible crime. Our "representatives" made that decision and even if it cripples our economy and costs us as many lives as they've lost we should have to make good there and leave them with a government as stable as the 30 year regime we overthrew, or we are just spreading death and chaos rather than freedom. We should pay a price that makes us think seriously about what war means next time the drums are drumming in Washington.
Posted By Anonymous Jaik Willis, Chicago IL : 5:25 PM ET
I was thinking that if for example, the Americans didn't vote like that to the Democrats and the Republicans could still control the Senate (at least), would Mr. Bush feel that Iraq needs a "fresh perspective"?!! Don't all these daily casualties in Iraq show that something is going on wrong?! And just their losing in the election revealed such neediness?!
Posted By Anonymous Amin, Montreal, Quebec, Canada : 5:35 PM ET
To: Jak~
You are so right to point out that we should have not been led into this war in the first place and that many Iraqis have been killed. But to suggest that we stay in Iraq to pay, is a travesty of injustice. No more lives should be sacrificed. Life is too precious and two wrongs. . .
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 5:47 PM ET
Dear Jason,

Thank you for bringing us this hopeful story of Josh Hisle.

As a fine artist, I can attest to the fact that artistic expression, whether it be writing, music, or art, can be a very healing outlet. Based on his book, I am sure Anderson would agree.

It gives you permission and an avenue
to express what you cannot, or find it hard to express any other way. Mr. Hisle is very lucky that he has the talent to do so. Sadly, many do not.

I wonder if he is familiar with a song called "The Grave" by Don McLean. A version by George Michael was aired across MTV Europe in 2003, I think he would appreciate the lyrics. It is available online.

I would like to thank him and all the other men and women in the military for their courageous service and sacrifice on this upcoming Veteran's Day. Take care.

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 6:46 PM ET
Wow, this is just like out of the new movie Sir No Sir about the thousands of vets who came back from the Vietnam War and participated in the antiwar movement. This soldier's questioning of war is exactly what they did. I always knew it wasn't only civilians who are questioning this awful war.

Joe Collins
Posted By Anonymous Joe Collins, Minneapolis, MN : 7:21 PM ET
This is music from the soul and it's message is deep. It should awaken our perspective on the war. I love the line, "this flag is so damn influential". It is indeed and I am very proud to be living under it's constant flutter but I often wonder where do we as Americans draw the line. When do we say enough is enough. Maybe we have done just that by returning the Democrats back into power.
Josh, your music invites us into the war zone and allows us a glimpse of what is not America's finest hour.
Posted By Anonymous Zann Vickers Easterwood Martin, Tennessee : 7:21 PM ET
Wow....Jaik from Chicago made me see the other side of it. Although I want to see us out of Iraq, if we just leave they will have tragic consequences and possibly an even more evil leader than Saddam ever was. We should NEVER have gone there but that is not the Iraq citizens fault, it was the greedy GOP and both our President and Vice President, who by the way have been profitting from this war. How do they sleep at night?
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills CA : 7:44 PM ET
First, I would like to thank Anderson Cooper for highlighting Josh! Thank you so much for bringing Josh's story to the forefront!

What can I say except how proud I am of Josh! He is a stellar example of what a man should be - protecting his country, his family, his wife and son. I wish him all the success in the world and thank God that He gave Josh the ability to express himself in such a wonderful manner. Your words mean so much to everyone and to me and it is a true blessing that you can share them with all of us.

-A journey of 1,000 steps begins with one.

God bless you Josh and we love you!
Posted By Anonymous Mark & Jenn Schell, Cincinnati, Ohio : 8:19 PM ET
Jason - I'm not sure I understand the reference to Josh trying to "reconcile two very different aspects of his life". There almost seems to be the implication that one is somehow unable to be both a marine and family man successfully.

I'm guessing you were really trying to say that it's interesting to see him try to reconcile the horrors he's seen and been party to with the goodness that is inherently represented in his family. This is certainly something that generations of servicemen and women who have been exposed to armed conflict have had to attempt to do.

Although it's a wonderfully positive thing to see Josh attempt this in such a productive way, we should be mindful that the most important message here is Josh is merely representative of the thousands of combat veterans who each and every day are attempting to reconcile themselves with the horrors, uncertainty, terror and tension of urban combat, as well as attempting to wrestle with the task of reintegration into day-to-day American society. The real story is whether or not the DOD and VA are providing our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines with the necessary counseling and support services they invariably need to support the decompression process from a highly intense and dangerous combat environment to the relatively benign one back home in the US.

To Jaik in Chicago, I applaud your humanity and your zeal to ensure we do the right thing by the Iraqi people, and I believe our country owes Iraq some measure of support to enable them to achieve the stable government and society most everyday Iraqis desire. However, in my view it is worth neither the continued expenditure of lives and treasure to attempt to achieve for them what they do not appear to have the will or intestinal fortitude to achieve on their own.

There are legions of Iraqis who are daily involved in and committed to destabilizing the government. Until the people of Iraq coalesce and say "enough!", and participate as a people in bringing stability to their country by expunging those opportunistic elements from their society I feel neither the responsibility, duty, nor obligation to continue to sacrifice lives and money to achieve for them what they cannot or will not participate in achieving for themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Essex Junction, VT : 8:31 PM ET
i first heard JOSH on NEIL YOUNGS "living
with war's one thing to write a song about IRAQ,it's quite another experience to have served and write a song about IRAQ..certainly gives him a unique perspective.
Posted By Anonymous Mr mcguire louisville ky : 8:32 PM ET
Josh and all soldiers that participate in war are the artist in the biggest theatre. The soldiers who are still alive, and those who have fallen, will be written into history for future generations to read, study and analyse. Lets give them the moment of silence, this remembance day. God bless and God speed to all Americans,British and Canadians that continue to fight for our freedom.
Posted By Anonymous Claude, Calgary AB Canada : 9:42 PM ET
The video on Josh Hisle was very powerful. It is a glimpse into the reality and gruesomeness of war. The piece reminded me of a poem written by Thomas Hardy entitled "The Man He Killed."

It goes like this:

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because --
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

He thought he'd 'list, perhaps
Off-hand-like -- just as I --
Was out of work -- had sold his traps -
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.

The soldier in this poem, a decent hard working man, is struggling with the fact that he killed a man for no other reason other than the fact that he was on the other side, the man he was told to kill.

I think it is easy to say that the video is a testament to the fact that we have to get out of Iraq, and I do believe that we need to get out of Iraq. Hisle's song and passion is about much much more.

Hisle's passionate song tells us an even greater story, it clues us into the irrationality of war and his confusion about killing people he may under different circumstances had a drink with. It brings up the bewilderment we face when it comes to war: why do men kill who have no anger, no grudge against each other otherwise? The result of that bewiderment is pain, guilt, and remorse. In essence, what are we doing in Iraq?

I hope that Josh Hisle continues to spread his message through his music and make us all think deeply about the truth of what our soldiers are going through in Iraq. I hope that he finds peace. I hope that our soldiers can one day soon come home.

Madeliene Bolden
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia : 9:46 PM ET
This young man probably stood on the route that I took every day down to the Governor's Center in Ramadi in the spring and summer of 2004. My job was to bring the reconstruction effort to Al Anbar. I failed because my leaders failed. I lived because this young Marine like so many other did not fail me. Let him sing what ever he wants. He knows more about life than most. Semper Fi.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse Barker, North Carolina : 10:02 PM ET
As a former Marine with 2 tours in Viet Nam under my belt I can empathize with guy. He has the courage to express his feeling and that will help heal the scars of war he brought home. I have volunteered at the local VA and have had a room mate with PTSD,so I know talking about the war and getting those feeling out will help. We sang songs in combat, some funny, some morbid and some political(we did'nt know it then) and they helped pass the time. I went to Nam in August of 65 and stayed 26 months. I knew something was wrong, very wrong. i was only a sergeant not a general with access to strategy, but i knew deep in my heart what were doing was not working. i don't think I wrestled with the morality of it until later, but over there was going the way it was supposed to go. We knew that I always wonder why they did,nt.
Posted By Anonymous Brett, Oriskany, VA : 10:06 PM ET
reaveling our feelings is reaveling our own self. it is a nice thing to do!
Mr. Hisle done it and he done in a productive and creative way. thank you jason and regards to Mr. Anderson Cooper and to the staff and crew of AC360.
Posted By Anonymous Jemillex Bacerdo Chicago, IL. : 10:33 PM ET
Throughout history the arts have been a bridge to understanding, I'm thankful one more Vet is finding a safe road home. And I grieve for the destruction that has been called 'nation building'. The soldier carries the burden of the poor decisions of his leadership.

Please tell me how more bombs by any name, bullets, displacement, death, injury, unemployment, fear and chaos are not an evil master. Let's not forget that at one time the USA backed Saddam against Iran and the Taliban against the USSR. A continual cycle of creating monsters needs to stop.

We could have recovered from 9-11 with the help of our friends and a strong defense. How do we recover from the destruction of our military and the loss of world respect. Those who recall recent history should recall the 'domino effect'. We see it progressing globally at a rapid rate.

I find it amazing that those who waved the flag, praised the lord and brought out the ammunition are the ones disguised in costumes, shouting brave slogans, reaping big profits, and wanting laws passed to protect them from 'war crimes responsibility'. Their actions will put a greater burden on those who voluntarily serve to protect our nation and carry the scars of combat. Sing, soldier, sing. Who has more of a right to tell the tale?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 5:01 AM ET
Another resource for PTSD is
Posted By Anonymous Dot Camden, ME : 9:05 AM ET
I admire Josh for being able interpret his innermost thoughts and feelings this way. It's quite possible that his words and music are saving his life. He is not allowing all the dark memories and thoughts a chance to fester and grow even darker in the back of his mind. Time and time again I have heard it said that much of the actions seen and performed in battle field are better left unsaid, but this is his own way of dealing with what he has seen in a positive and healing manner.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 9:19 AM ET
Phil's book was 'A Rumor of War' and while our lives are not more important they're also not less important. You've got guys over there being killed while trying to protect Iraqi children.

Democrats deserve as much of the blame as Republicans. Their submission to those who beat the war drums led them to abandon their constitutional duty to declare war has to be worn as a scarlet letter.

But our failure as citizens to be informed and active was the backbone to this conflict which is...over.

It was over when Malaki took down the checkpoints. When Mahmoud al-Mashhadani the highest ranking Sunni said that statues should be erected to those who kill Americans it was over. When al Anbar province was publicaly acknowledged by us to be under the control of Al - Qaeda it was over. It's over, the only question is how big of a mess will we leave behind.

The timing of the US leaving Iraq isn't in our hands. Al-Qaeda wants us there, easier to kill. By taking the American military into Iraq we brought the moutain to Mohammed.
Posted By Anonymous Peter, Napa CA : 9:34 AM ET
I am a former Marine, I joined the Marine Corps because my service to my country was the most important thing that I could provide. Seeing that hundreds of thousands before me had perished, the least i could do was do my time for my country and the people that take it for granted.We all have issues with something, especially war.Remember .... young men and women join the Marine Corps because they want to serve with the warriors that preceeded them, not to come home and whine about it.Too bad the on the scene media was not around during WW1, and WW2 we would have lost those wars and where would we be now??? Look at what has happened since...we are on the verge of loosing our Democracy to Socialism here at home because of the sit back and whine crowd.The president and our leaders have had a plan since the beginning, but continue to be underminded by every media outlet and the cry baby crowd in America.Quit your whining and let us fight this war over there and not here, whatever it takes. Get the job done, then we come home, our leaders are being persuaded by polls and the media at home, God help us!!!! Imagine seeing the carnage on the beach at Iwo Jima on CNN or FOX during that time, young men blown apart, captured Marines beheaded on film. We would have pulled out then too and the Japanese and Germans would have ruled the world, just like the radical Islamist are trying to do. Please wake up before you all end up like we did on 9/11.
Posted By Anonymous Eric Johnson Houston Tx. : 9:40 AM ET
Hi Jason, Expressing and feeling through music is certainly the most peaceful way to relieve stress. Also, his voice is being heard. Perhaps the words of his music will plant the seed for peace and love in another person.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn, MI : 10:18 AM ET
Listening to this boy and his music really puts a name on all of the nameless faces lost and damaged during the Iraq war. It really is a shame, and as far as the GOP is concerned, it is a sign of the times.
Posted By Anonymous Stefanie, Lapeer MI : 11:05 AM ET
you should hear The Bricks a band of marines stationed in Jacksonville SC
Posted By Anonymous r sanchez wilsonville illinois : 12:23 PM ET

When Neil Young was on the Colbert Report, Colbert asked him, why was he writing songs protesting the Iraq War. Didn't he already have his war? (Then he ribbed him about being Canadian.) Neil answered that he waited and waited for someone to step up the plate and no artist did. So he had to. Now with young artists like Josh starting to write and play their music, maybe Neil will be able to step back and let them tell their story through music. Thank you for highlighting Josh and his music. And for the current emphasis on 360 on returning veterans. They will need our love and support, regardless of how we feel about the war.

PS: James Blunt was a British soldier stationed in Bosnia I believe when he decided to trade his gun for a guitar. Perhaps an interview with him in his order.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 1:01 PM ET
The difference between this war and WWI or WWII is that in those cases we knew exactly who the enemy was and we were directly engaging them. That is not the case with this Iraqi war, so we cannot say things like "We would have pulled out then too and the Japanese and Germans would have ruled the world..." - it just doesn't fit in this case.

I think it is wonderful that Mr.Hisle has such an outlet to share his experiences, pain, and questions. I just keep thinking that at 24 he's seen more than I ever want to see, and that is in many ways sad. It is good though that someone can say "I've done my duty and love my country, but there *are* questions we should ask..." Patriotism shouldn't have to mean blind obedience to our leaders.
Posted By Anonymous Lena, Winston-Salem, NC : 2:49 PM ET
Hopefully he knows about Iraq Veterans Against the War
Posted By Anonymous Todd San Diego, CA : 4:24 PM ET
First, thank you for doing the story on Josh and all the other fine soldiers serving our country. The story on Josh is extra special to me because I am his uncle. Josh as a child was always full of energy and mischievousness in my eyes and to others he was a very good kid. I spent a lot of time with him his brother and sister growing up and will always be grateful for the time I spent with them. Allot of uncles and aunts never get to have a close relationship with their nephews and nieces.
When Josh went to Iraq it was hard for all the family at some points it was even hard to work because of not being able to concentrate. My wife at times could not understand why I would be so overwhelmed about the situation. The biggest fear of Josh not coming home was always on our minds but never spoken. I often thought of Josh and his ability to adapt and figure out what had to be done to get the result needed. I prayed that he would call on his training in the Marines and his own resourcefulness to bring him home. After two tours of duty and talking to him on leave you could see a very dramatic change in Josh and what he was going through. Still always positive and Josh but combat was changing him, I was concerned for his life after Iraq and how he would be able to use his ability to adapt and get the result he needed to come back to civilian and life with his family. As always Josh seems to be dealing with this current challenge through music and creative outlets.
I am very proud and honored to be his uncle and very thankful he came home ok. I truly believe what Josh has said time and time again he fully supports the soldiers and what they are doing but it is great that he has the strength to say what he feels and that everything that went on over there is not justified.
I need to see him play at a public event I regret not doing this yet, to be able to see other peoples reactions. I do not get to spend time with Josh so much any more but will look forward to seeing him and the rest of our family around the holidays.
Should we be there or not I cannot say I think the outcome will never be exactly clear.

Thank you, Dave Jackson
Posted By Anonymous Dave Jackson, Cincinnati Ohio : 4:43 PM ET
Whenever I watch CNN all the discussion is about increasing the troops or decreasing the troops or staying the course to solve Iraq problem. But why the Secretary and Generals forget the basic question of engaging the enemy and disarm the militia which should be number one priority? Whether it is Sunni or Shia or Kurd a civilian has no right to hold arms. This is basic understanding. America wont achieve success unless to disarm the militia. Supporting Shias in totality by America can be very dangerous because you are almost handing over Iraq to Iran. Can Mr.Secretary answer my question please?
Posted By Anonymous Narendra, Toronto, Ontario : 7:37 PM ET
Josh, it was an honor to serve with you, and a pleasure to make music with you. Keep doing what you're doing, it seems to be working. Take Lost in Holland to the top, brother.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Easton PA : 8:44 PM ET
I'm a vet who marched and protested in the Vietnam War after returning home. I'm glad CNN is recognising that in this war vets are once again protesting this war and in larger numbers.
Posted By Anonymous Allen Smith , Philadelphia, PA : 11:23 PM ET
I am looking foward to the show monday. I hope it sheds more light to the war. It would be good for us to hear an honest perspective from those who are caught in the middle, our men and women serving in Iraq.The president should have declared victory when they captured Sadaam. Now it has turned into a down fall.Thousands of innocent civilians dying and the lives of soilders being lost in a war that right now isn't making much sense. I here people saying we are better off fighting the terrorists over there. Then i guess we will be fighting them forever because we seem to be creating more terrorist now than we are destroying.They have done a good job installing fear upon the people of America. They see a people who have no faith. They see people who are torn apart by these war. They are creating chaos there and here. Terrorists have no value for life that is why they do not care how many innocent people die because they have nothing to live for. They look at us and see a people who have lost faith in their God a people who do not respect their God. They would rather do what pleases them than do what is right. They have thrown away their morals and now they want the whole world to live by their example.One thing the terrorists fear is the God who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt.If you dont believe me just ask the Egyptians they know this story all to well.The same God who sent His son to die for our sin. What makes Him powerful is that He conquered death and rose again.Their god did nothing of the sought.Everyone should read the story of David and how he destroyed Goliath. Iraq is a country that never came to America and asked for help. Many may agree that they were better off with that dictator because what is happening now is ten times worse.It may have been unstable but we pulled out that one block that kept it together.Victory doesnt always mean coming in first victory can be defined as putting your pride aside and finishing the race even if it means coming in last. Wars never have good outcomes but peace always does. We dont need more veterans living their lives wondering if they did what was right, they dont need to have nightmares or post traumatic stress. Its hard to fix a problem when you are starting to become the problem.
Posted By Anonymous Valerie, Hesston KS : 12:33 AM ET
he sounds off key. was he off key?
Posted By Anonymous jennifer pittsburgh, PA : 12:36 AM ET
I believe that Marine has every right to express his opinions. . . as long as he is not on active or reserve duty. I know it is tempting to ask military members their opinion, but I remember being trained that our job was to carry out policy and keep our political opinions to ourselves. It is extremely important to have the military remain apolitical. I always get concerned when military might or views are shared or used in the U.S. (such as in L.A.). I did not serve my country to have the military take over.
Posted By Anonymous Pete Hoeft, GySgt (Ret) USMC, Columbus, Ohio : 4:10 PM ET
i would like to remind you all that british man&women are dying too.and paying a high price,
Posted By Anonymous david pittaway oxford england : 2:53 AM ET
I was in the Navy from 1979 to 1985. I was in the Gulf in 1980 when the Iran-Iraq war started. I went back to the Gulf in 1983. My ship just had passed through the Suez when the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed. Still I had it easy compared to my father. He was in the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force) during WWII. His father was in the trenches in WWI, and survived being gassed. I've said before that each generation in my family had it easier than the one before it. My father overheard me saying that, and although he didn't disagree with me, he said something to the effect of "All I had to do was help my buddies bomb grandmothers and their grandchildren". During WWII, our bombers regularly attacked German cities. I'm sure there were many grandmothers and grandchildren huddled in basements in Berlin, as well as in London, Manchester, Leeds, etcetera. I'm not dismissing or even minimizing Hisle's service; I only can imagine some of the horrible things he had to do. Taking another human life is not something anyone with a conscience does easily. I am so very thankful I never had to make that decision. Every war demands we do just that, though. All too often when we talk about an impending war, we overlook how relentless war is in its requirement that we participate in some of the very worst of man's inhumanity to man.

We are so very blessed to have men and women who are willing to continue to fight for our country. We do need to do much more to prepare them to go to war, and apparently even more than that to prepare them to come home.
Posted By Anonymous Tom S., Baltimore, MD : 9:18 AM ET
I served with Josh in Fox Company and he and I were friends. People should keep in mind that his music was initially written for those serving, and it takes someone who has been there to be able to understand his points. There isn't a soldier or a Marine out there that doesn't want to come home and wonder what the hell our goal is, but we all stuck together and support each other. In our minds, we should be the only ones with the priveledge of bitching about the war in the first place. If you haven't sweat in 140 degree heat and froze all night on a mission, keep the comments to yourself. Keep on rockin' Josh, the ole' Blackheart boys are proud. Vrazel
Posted By Anonymous Jared, Tulsa, Oklahoma : 6:58 PM ET
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