SERGEANT ZACK BAZZI is a University of New Hampshire student and a Lebanese-born American who escaped from the Lebanon Civil War with his family at age 10. Bazzi joined the military to travel and see the world, and has been deployed overseas twice before – in Bosnia and Kosovo with the 101st Airborne. He sent this email to Deborah on March 3, 2004.
My original name is Zaher Bazzi. I was born in Lebanon, where I spent the first few years of my life. My family immigrated to the US when I was 10 years of age. My mother and I moved to Watertown, MA where I attended middle school then high school. After a mediocre high school career, I joined the Army in 1997. After the completion of Basic Training, I was assigned to the one and only 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
At the end of my initial two year tour, my unit received orders to deploy to Bosnia, so I reenlisted in order to accompany my Company there. Soon after my return from Bosnia, I made the rank of Sergeant and not long after that I was back in the Balkans again, this time Kosovo.
After four great years in the Army, I decided to get out and go to school. I traveled around for a while, and then I lived in Chicago with an Army friend of mine, but eventually ended up back home in Watertown. I worked as a security guard until I got accepted at The University of New Hampshire. I began my current tenure at UNH in the fall of 02. It was then that I found out found out about C co. Not long afterwards, I decided to join the NH guard and was assigned as a team leader in C co. One year or 12 drills later, we received activation orders to go to Iraq.
I see this deployment as another part of my job and not as this super patriotic struggle to protect “our freedom and our way of life.”
Being a soldier is a fundamental part of my identity. It is something that I love and enjoy doing. Being deployed to go to war that is being questioned back home does not affect my passion for the job. I will do my professional duty regardless of the political context or my personal feelings on the matter.
I go to this mission gladly, simply because it is my mission. Soldiers are there to accomplish their mission. I’m a soldier. I signed on the dotted lined and gladly accepted the many benefits the Army had to offer. Now it is my turn to repay the Army.
As for my unit, I think it is an outstanding Guard unit and most of the soldiers are of high caliber. I am looking forward to getting to Iraq to begin then successfully accomplish my mission in a professional and exceptional manner. Plus, it should be one hell of an adventure. War always is an adventure.
I listen to all types of music with the exception of rap. I like classic Rock, Country, some techno and pop, and love Irish drinking music -- especially while drinking a Guinness.
For hobbies, I enjoy running, working out, hiking and camping and reading a good book. My greatest passion is traveling. I spent last summer in Quebec, Canada where I was able to do a good amount of hiking, canoeing, biking and the highest bungee jump in North America-very fun.
For books, my preferred genres are History and Biographies. I recently finished The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris--good read
Upon my return, I will take some time off and travel and maybe take a couple of odd jobs just for the novel experience. Last summer I did some carpentry, worked on a blueberry farm and did some landscaping. Once I finish my travels, I will return once again to school at UNH and hopefully and finally graduate.
I am a soldier NOT a film maker
Over the last few months a number of people and press have gotten the wrong impression from the film and interviews that I deployed to Iraq as film maker, or that I spent much of my time in Iraq filming or thinking about what and how to film next. While many of these false impressions are understandable, I feel compelled to clarify my personal involvement with the project in order to rectify such assumptions.
I deployed to Iraq as a soldier, and nothing else, period. While there was no censorship from my unit or instructions on when and what to film, my involvement in filming footage for The War Tapes was done in a very limited, tightly controlled manner set by me. As a sergeant in a tough combat environment I had much more important things to worry about than what and how to film. Throughout the year I filmed about 50 tapes, a good deal of which were shot inside my home base and not during tactical operations.
When outside the base, during tactical missions, I filmed using a very strict protocol: the tripod was secured with screws to the dashboard of the Humvee; I would then mount the camera to the tripod prior to leaving the base, then press record. After that, I would forget about it, mind it no attention whatsoever, and upon return to base I would turn over the tapes to my commander. Very rarely did I deviate from this routine and that was only on a handful of occasions, when the tactical situations clearly allowed doing so, such as while working with the Iraqi police inside their police station. Not once did I mount the camera to my helmet or weapon, or carry it while fighting. Not once did I “upload” footage to the director over the internet (doing so would have been against rules set forth by my commander).
Filming for me was always secondary and optional. And by optional I mean it was me and only me who decided when to film, what to film, how to film and why to film. The director Deborah Scranton would every so often make requests of me and the other soldiers who were filming. Sometimes, if the situation permitted, and I had the time, I would perform some of them.
To be clear, Deborah Scranton never directed me in any way. I was not in constant and “perpetual” email and IM contact with her. We had occasional conversations during which we rarely talked about filming and telling the story. I was not in the habit of chatting with her “on IM and in emails about what happened.” We did not discuss combat events such as ambushes and firefights as soon as they occurred and then “conducted interviews 24 hours later.” It would not have been proper military protocol to discuss such events with outside media so soon after they happened. Never did I think of myself as a filmmaker, journalist or someone who was directed by others. I deployed to Iraq as a soldier and soldier only. The only direction this soldier ever took was from his exceptional chain of command-and proudly.
If anyone would like to contact Zack or have a question they can do so at zackb7 at yahoo d.0..t com