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Army Col. Brian Perry’s essay on a special operations mission in Afghanistan has been selected for publication in an upcoming book on letters from the war front.

Army Col. Brian Perry’s essay on a special operations mission in Afghanistan has been selected for publication in an upcoming book on letters from the war front. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany — It can be hard to describe the excitement, boredom and fear of life in a war zone.

Sometimes it’s easier just to write it down.

Army Col. Brian Perry is better at writing than most. One of his essays, on the start of a special operations mission in Afghanistan, has been chosen to help kick off an upcoming book on war correspondences.

The book, tentatively titled “Above and Beyond,” is scheduled to be published in September. The writings are not by reporters, but by the people in the fight and their loved ones back home.

“[Mine] is on just how neat it was to one day be a lawyer in New Orleans, and three weeks later being in an [-130] landing in Afghanistan,” said Perry, a historian for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.

“I wanted someone to read it and feel like they were sitting in there with me.”

Perry’s essay describes his journey through various airports and finally onto an MC-130, a small cargo plane, which delivered himself and another officer to a remote runway in Afghanistan.

As the two men stood in the darkness, about to start a mission just weeks after 9/11, Perry described the wait:

“Above, a million stars shone. The sight was overwhelming. In that moment, briefly but dramatically, I felt totally alone but surprisingly at peace. I knew I was where I was supposed to be.”

And later:

“It was two o’clock in the morning by the time we were finally picked up and taken to the support base, which was not really a base at all, just an old bullet-riddled roofless building.”

“Above and Beyond” is the third in a series of books edited by Andrew Carroll on personal correspondences during wartime.

The first, “War Letters,” is a series of letters by troops, spouses and others from the American Civil War through 9/11. The second book, “Behind the Lines,” includes more letters by American troops as well as ones written by non-American war fighters.

“Above and Beyond” will focus on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and includes photos, poems, e-mails, blog-snippets and other written thoughts.

“For the most part, they wrote this without any self-consciousness that it would be read on a wide scale,” Carroll said. “These are private memoirs, writing just for themselves, to get these emotions and these thoughts down on paper.”

Perry started big as a writer. In 1999, his publishing debut came with a 275-page book, “Algiers Point: A Shocking Story of Murder and Corruption in the New Orleans Police Department.”

“I wanted the reader to be in that police car with me,” Perry said, “just like in that [MC-130], I wanted someone to see how exciting it is.”

The 50-year-old Perry felt flattered by his selection, just as any writer might.

“You definitely want to write stuff that people will read,” he said. “Your greatest compliment is when people come up to you and say, ‘I really enjoyed that.’ ”


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