Photo by Romina Peñate

The first time I set foot in Iraq was as an Army grunt in 2004. Like most war experiences, it was an intense one, undoubtedly altering my life trajectory. Mortal combat, unlike most undertakings, has a transformational effect on the mind. In fact, almost any veteran who has ever squeezed the trigger of a rifle or ducked a whizzing bullet in a firefight can draw a thick line across the course of his or her life dividing before combat and after combat. Oftentimes that demarcation happens without notice, almost subconsciously.

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