This letter home is part of the “2026: Operation Iranian Freedom” series of fiction written by Phil Walter, Dr. Diane Maye, and Nathan Finney and published by The Strategy Bridge. This letter is written from the vantage point of a soldier serving in the infantry unit described in Part 1, while some other elements of the letter can be found in Part 2 of the series here.
We originally entered this letter into a competition sponsored by the Armed Services Arts Partnership and The Art of Future Warfare project at the Atlantic Council. The contest is over so we are archiving the letter here. On behalf of Dr. Diane Maye and Nathan Finney we would like to congratulate the winners of the contest!
March 18, 2026
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am writing you from Iraq, near the Iranian border. I spend most of my time trying to stay hydrated, cleaning weapons, doing virtual rehearsals on the unit intranet with the platoon, and trying not be bored out of my mind. Dad, you always told me life in the Army would be “hurry up and wait,” but this is extreme. By the time you receive this DM we will likely be on the other side of the border conducting “the raid to end all raids” as the battalion commander calls it. My history professor would have had a field day with that phrase! The total communications blackout kind of negates “instant communication,” but our signal guys assure me this message will be auto-delivered to you once our attack begins in a few days and comms are back up.
Despite the boredom, I can’t describe how amazing it is to be here right now. I know I made the right choice in dropping out of college and enlisting in the Army. While my brothers are back in Tuscaloosa drinking heavily and riding mini-bikes around the Phi Gamma Delta house, I am preparing to do my part in ensuring the rest of the world is free from a dangerous Middle Eastern government with nuclear weapons. This is a once in a lifetime experience and much better than “shoveling shit in Louisiana, as General Patton supposedly said.
I’m lucky to have landed in C Co, 2-34 Armor, the “Fighting Aces.” The unit is solid and has been together for a few years, except for a few newbies like me. Captain Devine “Dev” O’Niall is our commander; a third generation Army officer, graduate of the Ranger Course, and tough as nails. Just the other day she caught a soldier in second platoon wearing his standard field uniform, which we were not supposed to bring with us, instead of our new flame-resistant auto-tourniquet field uniform. This uniform clamps off your arteries as necessary when wounded. I’ve never heard an ass-chewing so severe. As a former Drill Sergeant, I wish Dad could’ve been there to see it. The CO would have made him proud. While the other companies in the battalion don their virtual reality goggles to do mission simulations once a day, Captain O’Niall has us also doing prep out on the local range as well. As a company, we have crossed 46 Easting hundreds of times in simulation and as many times in training at the range. At this point, we are as ready as we are ever going to be.
You should see the Army assembled for battle. We have every toy you could think of and more. Between the flame-resistant auto-tourniquet uniform, lightweight spider web-based body armor, and featherweight helmets the guys joke are made of “unobtanium,” we feel safe and protected. Plus, we have the A-10D Thunderbolt X. Remember when the Air Force finally refused to continue funding the A-10? Well now it is both an Army platform and a drone. Knowing that a soldier is flying it makes us all feel good; at least it looks awesome in our virtual exercises.
I have to run for another virtual rehearsal, but I love and miss you both. Try not to worry about me, I have everything I need.
It will all be over quickly, anyway.
“An Ace ‘til Death!”,
P.S. It’s just a unit motto, Mom…
Phil Walter has served in the military, the intelligence community, and the inter-agency. He blogs at www.philwalter1058.com. Dr. Diane Maye is a Visiting Professor at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. Nathan Finney is an officer in the United States Army and founder of The Strategy Bridge. This article does not contain information of an official nature, nor do the views expressed in this article reflect the policy or position of any official organization.