At a remote outpost in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009, a handful of American soldiers held back an assault by as many as 300 Taliban fighters during the Battle of Kamdesh. Though the attack was repelled, and as many as 150 Taliban fighters were killed, it came at a terrible cost: Eight Americans died, and 27 were wounded.

It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war and resulted in two Medal of Honor recipients: Clint Romesha, and Ty Carter.

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In November 2013, I was traveling in and out of southern Turkey. I'd come there for a number of reasons but most fundamentally to understand how the wars I'd fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were echoing out into the current revolution in Syria.

One evening, a friend of mine named Abed, who worked for a humanitarian aid organization and himself had been a democratic activist in the Syrian revolution, told me he'd met someone in a refugee camp who "he really thought I should meet." He explained that the man's name was Abu Hassar, that he'd fought for al-Qaeda in Iraq, and that he thought the two of us "would really get along."

A few days later, Abu Hassar and I met, two veterans of the Iraq war though we'd fought on opposite sides. Up to that point, the wars had been the defining event of my life. Fighting in them had been like a shadow dance, in which you never see your partner.

Ten years later, on that day in 2013, I wanted to meet my partner, this person who had so defined me. Meeting Abu Hassar was a gamble, because I was betting that my fascination with him would prove equal to his fascination with me.

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How To Listen To A War Story

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I never felt angry until I went home on leave.After hours spent with my deeply supportive and loving family, I would sometimes find myself retreating to a secluded spot to stare at the wall and clench various muscles. Perhaps a part of my reaction was that, in my mind, I had no reason to be angry.

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At a remote outpost in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009, a handful of American soldiers held back an assault by as many as 300 Taliban fighters during the Battle of Kamdesh. Though the attack was repelled, and as many as 150 Taliban fighters were killed, it came at a terrible cost: Eight Americans died, and 27 were wounded.

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Public domain

Here’s the first entry in our Combat Pooping contest, and it’s a strong one. If you have something you think is as good, please e-mail it to Tom Ricks.

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U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

In his Iraq War memoir Eat the Apple, Marine infantry veteran Matt Young offers readers a meditation on grunt life and war that’s crass, reflective, candid, and self-deprecating.

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