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Interview with Krystyna Kalski [n.d.]

Marcin Chojnowsski:

The people present are Krystyna Kalski, Marcin Chojnowski, Kevin Lee, and Elizabeth Chojnowski. I would also like to acknowledge my mom for being the camera lady and Krystyna for helping us do the interview. Krystyna was the one in the war in Iraq.

Kevin Lee:

What did you do before you joined the service?

Krystyna Kalski:

College student, was a college student.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Where were you living at the time?

Krystyna Kalski:

Chicago.

Kevin Lee:

What branch of service are you in?

Krystyna Kalski:

The Army.

Kevin Lee:

Why did you choose your branch of service?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well the Marines are hard, real hard. The Navy, I didn't feel like being on a ship for very long. The Air Force, I have very bad eyes. The Coast Guard, no. The Army just worked out better for me for the things that I wanted, whether it would be, when it came to like benefiting me in school, when it came to me wanting to be National Guard/Reserve as opposed to going active duty. Because I wanted to go to school, that was my biggest thing, but I also wanted to be in the military. That's why I picked the Army National Guard.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Tell me about your first days in the service, what did you do?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well, I joined in October of 2001. And I left for basic training March of 2002, I think. That's right. And I had six months training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to be an MP. The wait to become an MP is very long. So the training, you know, takes about six months of training MP. Also takes X amount of time to be, you know a medic, it takes so much time to be a truck driver. Well MP school is about six months. They had this thing where you do half and half, so you could go just to basic, and then do you back and get your MOS training, is what they call it for your job. Well I did it all at one time. So I came up back about the end of July 2003, so I was gone for about six months. I came home in August. January I left for -- January I got the call, January, just turned 19, five days after I turned 19, I got the call to go to Iraq. February 3rd we left to go up north to Wisconsin, Fort McCoy, to go to the training, it's about a two-week training, you know, refamiliarization with weapons, stuff like that, before you get shipped overseas.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

For those that do not know what it is, what's an MP?

Krystyna Kalski:

Military police.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Why did you join the Army?

Krystyna Kalski:

Why did I join? Um, I've always been a fan of the military. There's a lot of honor and a lot of pride to join an organization that you commit yourself to. You don't do it just because you have to. You're not obligated, you do it because you chose to do it. Okay. Like you don't have necessarily a choice to go to school. In a way you do, because nobody is necessarily always going to make you go to school. Or when you go out in the workforce and you have to go to work because you know you need to get a paycheck, because you got bills to pay, you want to survive. When you're in the military, it doesn't work that way, you join because you like it, and you join because you want to. There's a certain part of people that says I want to be in the military. So that's why I joined. I mean people, a lot of people join because they want to go to school, they pay 100 percent benefits for school. School's very expensive to go to college. You know, that was part of the reason too, is I don't want to be in a lifelong debt to pay for my education. You know, and you think about it, you know, six months training, one weekend a month, two weeks of the summer, and your school's paid; what is that? And then you know like in little letters it says, oh, yeah but if something happens, you're going to get called up and you will be gone from your family for year or two. You know, they don't really emphasize that part. But when you just got out of high school and you don't know what to do with your life, it looks really good. My brother's in the Marines, so, he went four years active duty. My uncles were both in the military too. So military has been kind of part of our family. And just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I shouldn't be in the military. Another thing, a lot of people, even my father said you shouldn't join the military, you're a girl. What difference does it make if you are a girl or a guy? 90 percent of the military is men, but there shouldn't be a difference.

Kevin Lee:

Where were you when the first missile was launched in Iraq?

Krystyna Kalski:

Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. And we were supposed to be there already in Iraq, but because like all things in the military, they didn't know what they were doing. So, maybe it's not they didn't know what they were doing, but they weren't sure where they wanted us overseas, if they had room for us, all sort of stuff, so just to get through the fine print of everything it took us a little longer to get overseas than some people. So we were still in Fort McCoy training while the first missile was launched.

Kevin Lee:

Where did you serve?

Krystyna Kalski:

Like you mean in which states or which countries?

Kevin Lee:

Or what places pretty much did you serve?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well, like I said, I did basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. And then our unit is stationed, the 933 MP Company is stationed here in Chicago, the actual armory. We do some training in Marseilles, which is down south, where we had like ranges and stuff like that. Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and then Iraq and Kuwait.

Kevin Lee:

So you were in Iraq and Kuwait?

Krystyna Kalski:

Uh huh.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

What was your job assignment?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well when we first got there, it's pretty crazy. You know, you get off the plane, you don't really know what to expect. So we got there and then, they finally told us where we were going, whatever. When we got to where we were going, you know, it was totally crazy, okay. It's just like everything in your body is going nuts, it's like, you're going crazy. And the first assignment was to go out 25 miles from the post or the base that we were stationed at, then a platoon would be stationed there. We had relay points. Like we wanted to have communication from our base to the next base, which was roughly, I want to say 250 miles between our base and the next base, well we need to have communication in between there. And they would be, you know, off of a SINCGAR radio, and it would be all secured, you want to be on secure, so you don't have Iraqis or insurgents or anybody intercepting your communications. So every 25 miles -- the radios would reach 25 miles, every 25 miles we would have a platoon, another platoon, another platoon doing communication. If something happened bad, you know like on the road, see an accident happen and somebody's going to die or somebody needs emergency medical assistance, the only way that they can get the information that they needed to get to where there is medical assistance, you know, get a chopper out there and save this person, you know, was through the relay system. That was our first mission. Second mission was to do convoys, to take supplies such as food, water, fuel, every so often ammo. Anything that you think you would need would have to go up north, because the only way people in Bango (ph) get food is if we brought it, is basically what it would come down to. And of course all the other units involved in it, you know, fuel, I mean everybody needs gas, everybody needs to eat, everybody needs water. And the way to get it there is you truck it. They don't have trains, you can't fly it, costs too much money. So that's what we did. And then every so often there would be a rotation, who would take care of the battalion ____ major, and colonel of the battalion. So they need security because they want to go out and make sure everybody's doing what they got to be doing. Make sure there is no problems within the community. So they need security. There was some pretty high ranking people. So we go and give them security. So when they got out of the truck basically we get out of the truck, pull a 360 security on that person, that's how that works. And then we were getting ready to come home, packed all of our stuff, cleaned everything up, went to Kuwait. Took about 12 hours to drive down there. You know, I mean, you have been away from your family for a year and all of the sudden they're telling you you are going home, pack your stuff, you're going home; we are all excited, we're all real happy. We get there, wash all of our trucks, do everything, you wouldn't believe it. Two days before we flew home, we were getting ready to get on the damn plane, we got extended for six more months.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Wow, that sucks.

Krystyna Kalski:

So go find all of your equipment, clean our weapons, put them all in the trucks, put everything on the conexes, got our trucks all cleaned in the sterile yard ready to get on the boat, and you know, we couldn't go. So, you know, that was our mission, so we went back, out finished in Kuwait, we went up north and did the same thing all over for another six months.

Kevin Lee:

Did you see combat? If you did, can you describe it and how did you feel during the combat?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well, where we were stationed was pretty south, you know. Like I say, when we got there it was the beginning of the war. It's more crazy now than it was when I was there. You know, which is pretty sad to say. But towards the end as we were getting ready to come home, it got worse. And it was bad. You know it's not like the people are standing on the sides of the road with AKs and want to kill everybody, because that's not how it is. There is certain people that want you there and certain people that don't. And if somebody has a way to prove to you they don't want you there, and they think that's going to make a difference, they're going to try to hurt you in any way they can. It may not necessarily be me or may not necessarily be anybody in my unit. They don't target you as a bad person, they target the Army, the military. It just may happen to be your day that you got picked on, okay. And it will be weird, where you hear in the background maybe shooting and stuff like that. And it may be sometimes that you hear something blow up or something go boom, or whatever; like when we were in Baghdad and you hear mortars going over your head. You can't sleep because it's just like another one went off, another one went off, or alarms like in Anaconda, alarms would be going off because there would be more incoming, and Anaconda is an airstrip, so you hear that kind of stuff. Or for me personally there was an experience we were going up north and like when you work with a certain group of people all the time, you get a closeness with them like you're family, you see them every day, you work with them, you care about these people, you want them to go home, be with their families, because you know everything about their families, they know everything about yours, because you talk. And so we were going up north and I'm like the fifth truck from the front of the convoy, and we had a truck rolling with the convoy, you know, following it, make sure everything is good to go, and an IED went off, or one of our trucks went off, and IED is an Intentional Explosive Device, I believe that's the acronym. So it's basically a bomb in the ground. And it went off and the shrapnel got into one of our truck drivers, crashed through glass and everything like that, and a big cloud of smoke, and I saw it happen, I mean I'm driving and I just see this thing blow up, and you're just like, and you know, you are going 60 some miles an hour down the highway. You know, you're in the middle of downtown Baghdad, something blows up in front of you and you know that your truck was there, one of your team members' Humvee was there with three people that you care about was there, and you're just like, oh my God, do something, say something, do something. Thank God they were moving out of that spot for some reason, I mean we have communication, we have radios, we're talking to each other, but you can't, it's not like talking on a cell phone, when you're just talking to somebody else, and you are like ah ah ah, it doesn't work that way, you got to click it, click, wait, and you got to talk to people that are in charge and they got to make a decision of what to do. Now the person that was in charge of our convoy was all the way in front. So he saw it in his rearview mirror. And I saw it in front of me and the third truck that I'm talking about was in the middle of it. So thank God they were okay. Unfortunately, they are driving big 18 wheeler truck, so when the shrapnel hits the glass, some of the glass got in the guy's face, but it didn't kill him, you know, he was fine to drive. But think about it, something bad happen and the driver got hurt and he starts driving all kinds of crazy, because he's losing control, I got an 18 wheeler semi full of fuel let's say, that's going to blow up, and I got 40 other trucks behind me, so you got to anticipate all that kind of stuff and all kinds of stuff happens. If you're driving down the road this way and you see hets, not hets, but tanks coming this way, you know something's going on down there. But when you're coming up and all the sudden everybody wants you to stop because there's MPs patrolling, that they found something in the middle of the road. And all the sudden you got to come to a cease, you know, well you got 40 something trucks you got to stop. Well how are you going to stop 40 something trucks going 65 miles an hour? So finally everybody stops, and you get out of the truck, and you're like what's going on, oh they found an IED. Okay, well you're in downtown Baghdad. So you got to provide security for all these trucks, because they don't have guns, the drivers don't have guns; they have food, people want food, they don't have food. So they're going to do everything to get in that truck. You can't just go around shooting everybody, they're not a threat to you, they're not trying to hurt you. They want the goods that are in the truck. My job as an MP is to provide security for the drivers and security for the equipment. You know, so that's basically what it comes down to.

Kevin Lee:

Tell me about your most memorable experience?

Krystyna Kalski:

Most memorable experience, um, it was, there really isn't a very good experience per se for being in a bad place. It was very hard to call home. I called home once every two weeks, once a month. I didn't call home very often, because it was hard to talk to your family because you know you're so far away. And the best experience I can say was probably maybe in the, around the holidays, you know Christmas came, New Year's came, my birthday came, Valentine's Day comes, and all kinds of stuff comes, and it was kind of hard to be away from your family; you really don't want to interact with anybody else. But you think about it, everybody has different stories in their lives, but I tell you the best, to get on that plane and going home for leave. When you get on that plane, you know you're going to go see your family, that's the best experience. But what I did, I didn't tell my family that I was coming home, because I wanted to surprise them. So when I flew into Chicago, I mean it's like an 18-hour flight home. So finally when I got home, I flew into O'Hare, I got in a cab and told them to take me home. And I walked in the house, in my parents' house and they were like, I was knocking on the door, and they don't expect it. I think it was 10:00 at night I finally got home. And they were like who's knocking on the door at 10:00 at night, you know. And when they opened it, my brother was in the shower, my mom was watching TV and my stepdad was watching TV with my mom. My stepdad comes downstairs and he opens the door, and he was like, he dropped, he just dropped. He didn't say anything, he just fell. And my mom was like, and when she saw me she just passed out. Like she, she held me for about 45 minutes. And she wouldn't let go. And she just kept crying and she couldn't say anything, you know. My brother walks out of the shower and he's like are you home for good, because he just got released from active duty. So he just got out of it too, you know. And he just couldn't believe it. And I swear, word spread like wild fire because when my brother called one of my friends to let them know I was home, it was like within the next five minutes, my phone was ringing off the hook because people were just like calling, and they couldn't believe I was home. I was only home for two weeks, which I was lucky. There were a lot of people that could only come home seven, eight days, and that includes the flying time, think about it, that includes day to go and a day to come home, they were only home for like five days with their family. I was lucky, I was home for two weeks. You know and people change and family changes, your life changes and you come home. So that was the best experience to come home. The worst part, I know you were going to ask this, there was a lot of bad, a lot of bad. The worst part was getting on that plane and going back. That was the worst part, because you know what you're going back to. There is nothing good to going back there. And the thing that motivates you the most to stay there are the people you're with. When you get that family, you know, we work in squads, platoons, companies, that's how everybody works, but MPs roll out in squads. A squad is made up of 10 people. And that's just like three people in a truck, three people on a truck, then four people on a truck, our squad we had nine people. So three people on a truck, and that's your family, you live with them, you eat with them, you sleep in the same place, you do everything the same. And you want to see them come home just as much as you want to go home. So that's the one thing that always keeps you going is that those people you're with want to get you to go home too. So that's probably the best thing.

Kevin Lee:

Were there any casualties in your unit?

Krystyna Kalski:

One. I will never forget it, it was like yesterday. I was going up north to Skinia (ph) with a commander, and we get, we finally got there. And as soon as we got there, we had to turn around, they wouldn't tell us why. And this is the weird part, on our way there there was a convoy pulled over on the side of the road. I mean that happens all the time, you know, flat tires and all sort of stuff, and we kept going, because we got to do what we got to do, they got to take care what they got to do. Well it came out that one of the teams had to, they saw three men in a vehicle with weapons, with the intent to harm obviously a convoy, theirs. So they were kind of required to go and follow these people, catch them and, you know, follow protocol and do what they got to do. Well what wound up happening was they followed them out in the desert, they were going about 45, 50 miles an hour in their Humvee. The road is very unstable, I mean it's like it could be flat like the carpet and all the sudden it drops 50 feet, okay, but you can't see it until you're right on it. Going 50 miles an hour, you don't see it. Well the Humvee was chasing these people, the weapon jammed on top of the truck. And after this happened, a lot of things changed, okay, which is bad, the fact that it had to take this to realize that something had to change. So what happened was his truck kept going, he hit a dune, you know, obviously the people that they're following know where they're going, they've been out on this road, you have never been out there, we don't know what the hell we're doing. So he tried stopping them by shooting at them, the gunner, the truck flipped three times.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Ouch.

Krystyna Kalski:

The gunner died immediately because the truck landed on him, snapped his neck. And the driver got smashed. We were wearing a lot of equipment, there's a lot of stuff loose in the truck, I mean he got hit pretty hard. He wound up getting medivaced right away to Germany. He will like have permanent damage for the rest of his life. Okay. The gunner obviously died, his name was Specialist Brandon Ramsey, okay. We were the first ones that got out there when this whole thing happened. We had to flip the truck over, we actually had to take it and flip it over to get him out, Ramsey. Okay. It was very hard to look at somebody you see every day that's not going to go home to their parents. He's going to go home to his parents but not the way they planned on it. And you know we have a memorial service and you know, we all went to the airport, put his body on the plane, and all that stuff. And it was very hard. Very hard to deal with that. You know, it was the only casualty that was close to us was him. So they even made us little bracelets, I unfortunately don't have one, and they're like, you know, I'm sure you see people with them, they're black, or sometimes they're blue, or they're red, they mean, some of them are like prisoners of war, missing in action, MIA, when you see on the back of the trucks for troop MIA, that's what it means. And ours happened to be black and it had his birthday and the date he passed and his name and his rank. And you wear it as a memory kind of thing of the soldier, something that you always remember, when you look at it you're always going to remember this person. That was hard.

Kevin Lee:

Were you fearful?

Krystyna Kalski:

Sometimes, you know sometimes. We started taking houses, you know, big trailer houses up north because the way we lived was intense. So living got a little better. Well anyway these houses like trailers on big flat beds, big huge houses. They would, they would, we would take them through towns and cities, and people would do things on purpose to make us stop so they can take the windows or the doors off of them, or just to watch the trucks stop, because obviously nine MPs can't handle 40 trucks. You know what am I going to do go running down the road and chase the hotties off, who's going to watch my truck? So we would get out of the truck, and I would stay with the truck because I'm in front of the convoy. Well when all these people start running towards your trucks, it's kind of freaky because you just see all these people come out of nowhere, and start tapping your vehicle, you're like what am I going to do now? You can't just start shooting and blowing stuff up because that is just not going to help anything. Mind you, it's like moving traffic.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Can't use like mace or something?

Krystyna Kalski:

Doesn't work that way, we don't use that kind of stuff. Eventually we got non lethal. So it's like the force of maybe a paint ball gun, maybe a little harder, like a nerf ball, the size of a nerf ball and you shoot it out of a little grenade. But it doesn't kill them, it just stops them. Well you only get so many. And you only use it in emergencies, like really bad, you know. Well my team leader's running down the street because he sees something going on, I'm yelling to tell him to stop or turn around because I see a guy going right at him. And he didn't hear me because he's too far out. My gunner got out of the truck and she's running down the other side, you know, because obviously, okay, like if this was my convoy and I'm up here, about ten trucks back is another truck Humvee with three MPs, about ten more and that's the end. Well like my gunner's here, my team leader's here. So they kind of take the first five and then the next team takes the next five up, five back, and so forth so on, so everybody has about five trucks to pass security for. Well what if that convoy starts moving again, I got to keep moving because I got a convoy behind me and they don't want to stop in the same place and have the same trouble. So what am I going to do without my gunner or my team leader in the truck, I can't do shit. Well any way, this guy's running, and I'm yelling, I tell him to stop, I shoot off a warning shot, I shoot off another warning shot, he doesn't stop; I had to shoot him. I didn't shoot him and kill him, I shot him in the knee to stop him. You know. And it's those kinds of decisions that make you get scared, because you don't know, you know, they, you get used to everybody always telling you what to do especially when you're lower ranking, well you don't have anybody telling you what to do, you don't call anybody and ask them because you don't have time. You got to have your eyes everywhere, your ears everywhere, you people screaming, you hear gun shots. And all I got my eyes on is on my team leader, my boss for the last year who would have saved my ass, he's about to get fucking shot, how do you stop that? He doesn't see it. Because he's paying attention to something else. Maybe it's my fault, you know, maybe it's his fault, I don't know. Did I do the right thing? I don't know. All I know is my boss came back in the truck and we carried on with our mission. It gets, it gets scary, we've had quite a few times where it's gotten bad. I mean people are, Iraqi people can be very rebellious, they know how to take a bobtail, which is a front part of the semi, and detach it from the trailer, and the driver may not know that he's taken apart. And all the sudden we start moving and it's like where's all these trucks, why aren't they moving? How are you going to move a fucking house with a trailer, you got to connect them back. But let's say they disconnected the air hose, or they cut it or that's how they use their brakes is air brakes, you can't move it. You know everything just piles on and piles up. Or if there's an accident, okay, people see a semi truck open with food in it, they're all going to run and get in it, and take, and you can't stop them. You don't have the manpower, you don't have the fire power and you don't have the right to just shoot people. They want food. You're not going to shoot people because they want food, okay. You know when they started to see that we're not going to do anything or we can't stop them, they take advantage of that; and that's how they get a little smarter to stop our trucks because they know what's in them. Or like one time was right around Thanksgiving and we're taking up pie, well the truck jackknives, it was slippery, there was like oil or something spilled on the road and it jackknives. And the truck opens. Well it's full of Thanksgiving pies, I mean pumpkin pie, apple pie, you name it, all kinds of pie. What am I going to do with a hundred thousand dollars worth of pie? You know. You can only put so much in your truck, you can only -- so, and it's not recoverable, you don't have time for it. Your mission has to go on. You know, but you got all these people on the road. Well how are you going to get them out of the road so you can keep going? Take the pies, I don't care, take the damn pies, you know; that's not the point, the point is that, excuse me, we want to keep going, so you got to clear up this big mess. Then you got another convoy behind you, another one coming this way. So it becomes very hectic a lot of the time. Or at night, night's very scary, can't see nothing. They don't have lights like we do here in the city, you know. Maybe the bigger towns have street lights and stuff like that. But somebody could be running from behind us and we have no idea, so something bad happens. So accidents, stuff like that are big, big problems, you know, makes you very scared.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Tell me about the food and provisions that you guys had. What food did you guys eat when you were in Iraq?

Krystyna Kalski:

When we first got there, we had something called T-packs, like big trays of food and they just heat it up in the water, just boil water and whatever. Well just like cooking anywhere it's got to be clean and all sort of stuff, otherwise we get sick. Well sand, you know, and stuff like that would get in the water or get in the food and we would all get really sick. I mean we would get sick nasty, you are talking puking, diarrhea, and everything, altogether at the same time. And it just hits you like that. (SNAP) I could be walking and all the sudden oh my God I think I'm going to die because you just feel so nasty, we call that Iraqi crud. You anybody goes there, you can go to any country, you can go to Poland, go anywhere the world and a lot of times that will happen, because you're not used to the food, you're not used to the water. Your body has just got used to.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Change?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah, got to get used to all that. Any ways, so we got sick. So the food, you know they would close the MKP is what we call it, and they would close it down, they would clean it; sand storm will come, they had to fix it or clean it again. So it would be very rare to get fresh fruit, you know, vegetables and stuff like that. It would be very rare to get cold drinks and stuff. So we would eat MREs, it's like, I wish I had one, I had one, and I just threw it out, it's like packaged food, you know, it's like the heater, you just add a little bit of water and you throw your food in there, it comes in these little packets, it heats it up, it's like meatloaf and potatoes let's say, it tastes nasty, it's gross. They're coming along. They made a couple new ones, they're pretty good. And you got a power bar, or juice, water mix kind of thing, or peanut butter, like crackers or something. I mean after so long, there's like only 24 different kinds, you know, after so long, you can only eat so many. So finally we would get chow halls, you know, where they would cook food and stuff like that for us, it wasn't very good either. They just, it wasn't very good. The fresh fruit was nice, you know, apples and stuff like that. Bananas, grapes, very rare to get bananas, apples all the time, because apples don't spoil. What else, let's see here? It was hard to eat like on a regular basis because of the hours we worked. Like say for instance the chow hall would open at 5:00 and close at 8:00. Well a lot of times we would have to be out of the gate rolling on our mission by 5:00 in the morning so we couldn't eat breakfast. And when lunch time would come around, let's say noon or something like that, well we would be on the road; and by the time we got to where we were going, their chow hall was closed. So we would get back in the truck, go back, hopefully you make it for dinner, usually didn't happen. You know so you get stuck eating the stuff your parents, or your family or friends would send you or not eat, or eat an MRE. So that would basically your choices you had.

Kevin Lee:

Did you see troops from other countries?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yep, lots of troops from other countries. We lived on the same base as the British, it was originally a British base. We saw Italians, the Spaniards, the Pollocks, the Japanese; and then of course towards the end we saw the Iraqi Army, we saw the Kuwaiti Army, we saw them. Who else was out there? The Australians, they were out there too. I can't remember the other ones.

Kevin Lee:

Canada?

Krystyna Kalski:

I didn't see any Canadian troops. The Spanish guys were pretty cool though, they have some pretty cool looking equipment. I'll tell you that much. They had some nice stuff, compared to our stuff. I don't know who else was out there though, I really don't know. I mean I'm sure I've seen them and I met them or worked with them, but I can't remember the country names, because they would only have so many people there. Romanians I think were out there.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Did you have bathrooms to use?

Krystyna Kalski:

Not in the beginning, the beginning we didn't unfortunately. We had to burn our own bathroom-needed stuff. Eventually towards the end though we got trailers with running water and toilets and all that kind of stuff. But before we got that we had porta-potties, and they would come and clean it. It would get nasty, can you remember imagine pee and poo just sitting in an porta-pottie for 12 hours in a 150-degree weather, it doesn't smell very good. And the flies. You don't want to go in there and use it. When they first clean it, everybody runs because it's just cleaned, yeah. Well by the time the end of the day comes you're like I ain't going in there, you know. So towards the end, of course we had actual bathrooms.

Kevin Lee:

About how many pounds of equipment did you carry?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well our vests were ballistic, bullet proof, and what's it called, our vests were about 30 pounds I think. Yeah, this is one of the fun things we got rid of, it's called an LBV, a load bearing vest. It carries your ammo here which will take six, this is a grenade holder and it just wraps around the body, you snap it, no big stuff, it's heavy though, it sucks, it's very uncomfortable and it's just useless. So we got rid of them. We stopped wearing them. We bought like things to clip on to our vests. Our vests would have these little latches on them and you could click stuff on them. Okay. And put our ammo pouches in there, nine-mil holster, so it wound up being sometimes over 50 pounds that we would carry on an every day basis.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Whoa!

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah, and you sit with a vest, you sit with a vest, now my vest didn't fit me, I'm kind of small compared to, obviously a small man, okay, and so mine would sit really low, you know. And you sit in the truck for eight hours, sweating your ass off, wearing all this crap, you know, then finally when you get out it's overwhelming, you have everything in the front, you don't have anything in the back. Another thing, these are our boots. I bought these, I paid $120 for these boots, they're called Ultimas. Reason I bought them is because of the soles, these are called ripple soles. When you walk they give you a nice cushion. The issued boots don't have that, okay. But when you're on your feet for a very long time carrying all that equipment, it can be very painful. I mean I would get blisters from my old boots, well finally I bought these, thank God. Just so you guys know, mail sucks really bad, mail is horrible, it took me over a month to get these. Okay. Anything that we would get, took approximately a month to get. Because just the mail sucked. It would take them forever to just, it just sucked really bad, I mean our equipment sucked, out mail sucked, the food sucked, everything sucked. Oh our uniforms too sucked. Mine is, this is a summer, I have a winter one. And I don't know if you guys can see the difference, but these have little lines in them, they're kind of insulation, lighter, the material is a lot lighter. But can you imagine wearing this, wearing all that equipment and sweating your ass off.

Kevin Lee:

Did you have any armor?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah, the armor was ballistic, it would protect up to a 7.56 millimeter round, like an M16 round. I think even an AK round it would stop it. But there were some cases, like you know, the sides would just be the paneling, you didn't have a plate there, so if something came in the side you're screwed, your kidneys are here, or any kind of organ, I don't know I'm not a nature of any kind or science. But you know, an IED blows up on the side of you, that shrapnel is going to come in straight in here. And we had a problem with that several times. I mean if you get head on or straight on, yeah it will stop it. But what about your sides? So what we started doing, is we would have like extra pieces, we would call it a weiner flap, it would like hang off a triangle here to protect men, okay. So we would take it off and stick it in the sides, just to give extra protection, you know; like I didn't need mine, so I put mine on the left side because I drove. Like our gunners we would give them the extra ones because they would be up in the hole the whole time. So you know, you would have this neck thing and I wish I could show you guys, because that just sucked. The vest itself maybe wasn't heavy but once you put all that crap on it, it could be very very heavy. What else? M16s suck. We had the M16 A2s. M16 A2s are about that long, (indicating). Okay. And you know obviously your body gets conditioned and you have no problem carrying it. But then you see people running around with one like this big that does the same thing, (indicating), which is like an M4. You're like give me that one. It's lighter, does the same thing. So why do I have to carry something this heavy when I can carry something this heavy? Ones you carry on the shoulder, it's shorter. Meanwhile when I carry my M16 it was down here, because I was short. So you have to think about all that kind of stuff. You know, let's see, when somebody would adjust my seat in my Humvee, when I drive, because I'm short, so I just pick it up higher, it would get stuck in the lower position, so I would have to sit on stuff. Our helmets were heavy, and I think they weighed eight pounds. And they just sucked. I mean the strap that goes, it's made out of leather to protect your head, kind of gives you a little bit of cushioning, has like a little net in there. That would sweat, and your sweat would get absorbed in it and it would stink but you couldn't get a new one or switch them out. Technically you're supposed to be able to switch them out but again the same thing equipment problems. Let's see, what else did we have? Gas, we didn't pay for gas. Oh, yeah, gas men had to pay for gas. Everything would be so hot you couldn't touch it, you would have to wear gloves. I always switched my socks twice a day because your feet would sweat so bad, but they would sweat so the socks would absorb it, and they would become real thin, and then your feet hurt because you're on your feet, and then you're just rubbing against the leather or the suede of the shoe. Anything we touched was just incredibly hot. The steering wheel you couldn't touch, your M16 you couldn't touch, your 9-mil, anything that was in the sun, or even if it was in the shade, it would just absorb the heat. Anything metal obviously conducts heat. The truck is running all day so it makes heat and you just take it in all the time. So it was hard, it was hard. The equipment was shitty, it sucked really bad. I mean every time we went out on a mission, 90 percent of the time we would have to tow back a truck. Okay. And sometimes we would run out of tow bars. But you can't get equipment out, you can't call back for equipment, because they don't have it. You can't leave equipment anywhere, so you got to stay with it until they could come and get you or something like that. The radios, they would suck, I mean sometimes you would have to hit them to get them to work. The sand would get in them and they would suck really bad. Sand would get into everything. Like we had to change our air filters all the time, well not our air filters, but the Humvees they used to work, where the air would come in and it would circulate the air for the engine also, so what they came out with, we called it a fishbowl, and you have to unscrew it, pick it up, throw out the sand. I mean literally you would pour it out, like you were coming out of a bucket.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Did you guys have AC like air conditioning?

Krystyna Kalski:

No no no, no AC. I mean in the winter time we didn't even have heat. It's got a little button, it makes noise. But there's no heat. Like when we were going to Wisconsin, it was cold. I had three pairs of socks on, I still couldn't feel my toes. I had two pairs of gloves on, I couldn't feel my hands. I was like all you could see were my eyes. And I was freezing, I mean I was sitting there fidgeting trying to make my body warmer. And in the summer it was just no air conditioning. We didn't even have air conditioning where we lived. So you work all day long, sweat your ass off, you can't take a clean shower, you can't eat because there's nothing to eat and you can't sleep anywhere where it's cold; and you can't sleep past sun up, and you can't go to bed until a couple hours after the sun goes down. So it was hard, it was a hard every day dealing with everything. It was very difficult, it was sometimes overwhelming; and you're just like I don't want to do it anymore. Suicide rates were really high, people were like screw this, I mean you got a loaded gun. Some people see that as the answer. So I mean there's a lot of, a lot of things you get used to. You know, like you just wake up every day and just do it because you know hopefully God willingly one day you're going to go home. You know that you're going to be able to feel, see, touch your stuff and do the things you want to do one day again. You know, whether it's taking a shower, flushing a toilet or just simply putting on a clean pair of clothes or it's simply just being, drinking a cold glass of water. Okay. I mean we're not talking driving a Mercedes-Benz, we're not talking wearing thousand dollar watches, that's not what we wanted. Just a simple fact to flush a toilet, that's pretty sick that you want to come home and do that and you couldn't do that there. I mean the basic necessities of life that everybody takes for granted here in this country, you realize that you don't have that there. And you're an American soldier, the Land of the Free. Where every day over 10 billion people enjoy those things every day, there's over 175,000 people, 175,000 troops suffering every day because that's what they chose to do. So it can be crazy.

Kevin Lee:

What artillery did you use?

Krystyna Kalski:

You mean weapons or ammo?

Kevin Lee:

Weapons, ammo, everything?

Krystyna Kalski:

Okay, let's see start with the little ones, 9-mil, 9-mil Berretas, that's what we use, M16s, 7.42-caliber round. M-249, which is a soft semi-automatic weapon, it shoots 1000 rounds a minute. The rounds I think are a little bigger than, not bigger, they're just a little different because they're on links, they come in cans of 200. You feed them through a tray, they just kind of slide, you get to switch barrels because they get so hot they'll melt the barrel actually. And the M-203, the M-203 is basically a M-16 with a grenade launcher on it. So you would shoot like _____ I was telling you guys about. Smoke, what else? I think they shot a .22-caliber, nah, it's bigger than that, it's like a little grenade, about that big, about that long. And it would go boom, I mean it was really cool. That thing would take down a building I think, maybe, put a hole in something that's for sure. Then there was a Mark 19, which shot a 44-millimeter round, that was mine, my toy, I shot that ____ McCoy, I mean I shot all the weapons, but that was like my specialty was a Mark 19. That fucker, that took down a building. I don't remember exactly the range on it I think is over 1500 meters. So it's like, 1500 meters, how do you convert that? I don't even know, but it was far. And even you could shoot something like as close as we are. Now you charge it twice, okay, you got to pull the handles back on it twice to get it to fully load, and like these grips come out, take the bullet, strip it off of the belt, and you know whatever. The weapon itself weighed I think 50 pounds.

Kevin Lee:

Wow.

Krystyna Kalski:

The ammo cans weighed about 40 something pounds, the mount for it weighed about mayb e90 pounds. And here's my little ass picking this thing up off of the floor, putting it on the truck, picking it up off of the truck, and mounting it all by myself. I mean there is supposed to be two men to do it but you don't have time for that stuff. And then eventually we had both of them, the M-249 and the Mark 19. Then we had the 50 Cal which is the Mongoose. We had that round, I wish I had some shells, I don't know what I did with them, they're probably in my pile of crap somewhere over there. I mean there was a huge bullet and it comes also in like a can of 100, 150, I don't know, that fucker can shoot too. That, there was a 60-cal, we didn't have the 60s, we were supposed to have them but we didn't have them. But that's a big ass round too. All the weapons average about 40, 50 pounds. So to shoot them is pretty cool, I mean they make a nice big bang, you get all excited, ahh, cool. And we would get fun toys, we would get night scopes and we would have lasers, and you know, of course you have to clean them, and you have to do everything else, the maintenance is another big issue, you know. Everybody has to clean their weapons, so, so yeah, it was pretty cool. I mean it was pretty cool to go out there and blow some shit up.

Kevin Lee:

So you have your own weapon that was yours, and no one else's?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah, I had three assigned to me, like when you sign your signature, the Mark 19 -- can't speak, Mark 19, the M-16 and then the 9-mil, those three were mine.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

What would happen if you were to lose those?

Krystyna Kalski:

I would probably be killed. You don't lose weapons. We had somebody lose his, he forgot it in the porta-pottie, he was going to the bathroom, you wear it side arm, so you strap it on to your belt loop, he took his pants off. But he took it off of his leg, and put it on top of where the toilet paper was. And you get so used to it being there that you feel naked without it. Well, he walked out, somebody walked in, and said ooh, a 9-mil. I mean a soldier, somebody soldier found it. It wasn't like we were in the middle of downtown Baghdad or something and we just leave it somewhere, doesn't work that way. So he got in a lot of trouble. Got in a lot of trouble. He got rank taken away, money taken away, you know, all that fun stuff, he got in a lot of trouble.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

How is the weather over there?

Krystyna Kalski:

Hot, real hot, really really hot. Really cold though at night sometimes, like our sleeping bags are three layers, outside is Gortex, so it's like a waterproof, all this other stuff. And inside there is a thermal layer, and then there is like a summer layer which is thinner; and you get inside all of that, and you would have to use it actually all of it because it was just that cold sometimes at night. In the winter, there were typically it rains, it can rain a lot, I mean it can rain nonstop and then during the day, it could be hotter than you could possibly imagine. I mean sometimes they would tell it it would be 145 degrees in the shade. So you can imagine being out in that heat wearing all this crap, your water is boiling because you don't have any ice. Now they've covered a lot of that stuff, they don't have any of that kind of problems now, you know, they have ice and we have, they have air conditioning, they have ice. You know, they have, a lot of Humvees now are getting air conditioning. We didn't have any of those luxuries, you know. Laundry facilities for instance, you know, we didn't have those, we had to wash our laundry by ourselves, in buckets with water and soap. If you got the soap out, good, oh well, you smelled good but it irritated the hell out of your skin. You know you can't wear a T-shirt every day because it soaks through. It's pretty nasty to wear it with salt stains, you know, you get pit stains. It will sweat straight through your vest. I mean can you imagine sweat coming out of everywhere, it's pretty gross, we stank really bad. I'll never forget the first shower I took, it was awesome, like oh my God running water. Mom send me some shampoo. You know, I mean it was pretty rough, it was pretty rough.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Did you have any contact with the Iraqi people?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yes, we lived near a town called Nasria. Nasria I'm sure you guys heard of, near the Italian camp that got blown up real bad. That was Nasria. We were there, we would go there every once in a while just make sure everything was good. We would do patrol sometimes for Nasria. We trained Iraqi police that are there now, we trained all of them. The Iraqi people when we first got there were good but bad, because it's like, you guys have little, yeah you have a little sister, like if your little sister is standing on the side of the road asking you for water, and you can't give her water because you only have so much. Or if you're driving down the road, and something happens and you stop and all the little kid wants is maybe a piece of the cracker you're eating, and maybe you can't give him that cracker because it's all you have to eat. How do you look a kid in the eye that may be three or four years old and tell him that you can't? And they are calling you Mr. Mr., Mrs. Mrs., please please, and they're begging you. And they're like ready to grab on to your leg and say Mr. Mr., please please, or you give them something small like a pen. Well to them it's everything, it's like don't ever touch my pen, this is my pen, or a piece of paper. Or like I told my mom, send me crayons, send me coloring books, send me all kinds of little stuff that she can buy at a dollar store, so I can give out to these kids, get them off of the damn streets. We got trucks rolling at fucking 55 miles an hour, and you got little kids standing on the side of the road, begging for water and food, covered in sand and dust because that's what we're kicking up on them. Of course and the little kids of course eventually do get hit. You know, I have seen it, I have seen it several times, you know. Little kid gets hit, his arm gets ripped off, his leg gets ripped off. What are you going to do for him, you going to sew it back on? You can't, he's going to die. And you have to put him back down on the ground and walk away. Yeah. And all he wanted was maybe some water. Or maybe he was walking to school. And it's hard, it's really hard. People there down south are not bad, they're good, real good. The people up north, don't like us, they're more into the political stuff, they're more educated, stuff like that. Eventually the people got smarter and realized that we were there not to hurt them, we were there to help them. And some people accepted us, some people didn't. You're always going to have the bad and you're always going to have the good. You know. Some people will come up to you and give you information, like my gunner spoke Arabic. So when he would communicate with the people, he knew what was going on. People would run up, and say Mr. Mr., blah-blah whatever, there is people with guns over in. So we would go back, report it, then we would go and bust it. And for us it looks really good because we just caught nine AKs and seven boxes of ammo, you know. And for us obviously it looks real good. But that person doesn't have a weapon now. So the intel was pretty good. I mean when we had my gunner out with us, which was Gendy (ph), he was great, pretty awesome. He loved the people, he loved working with the people. We would go back to our base and he would pack our truck, me and him together with candy and stuff, that people would send that we didn't want to eat necessarily, or that we didn't want anymore, or we would ask people to send us, so we can give it to them. You know. Because you feel bad, you feel bad driving by the same kid every day and telling him to get off the road. But he, all he knows is to go and beg. All he knows is somebody maybe will give me a bottle of water so my family can survive for the next day. So it is hard, you know, how do you tell kids no? You know, I have a sister, I have a brother, I have nieces and nephews, I have cousins. And that's all I can see, you know, so it's hard, I mean Iraqi people like I said, they're good, they're bad, and some understand, some don't. You know you're not going to sit there and educate them. They either know what's going on or they don't. They accept the fact or they don't, so, that's how it is.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

How did you pass the time, what did you do?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well we worked a lot, you know. Eventually we got a schedule going where we would work two days, have a day off, or work four days, have a day off, work five days and have a day off. Sometimes we would work two days and have two days off. Usually on your days off you took care of your laundry. Sometimes you wouldn't get a day off for two weeks. So obviously two weeks of stinky socks and stinky underwear and stinky uniforms and all kinds of other stuff, gets pretty nasty, you know. I mean it was funny though, because you wash your laundry outside and I swear like the minute you hang it up, go back down, pick something up to hang the next thing up, the first thing's dry. Okay. So I mean a lot of that, then you would spend like writing home, some time writing home, maybe watching movies. Like I had my laptop out there and personal DVD player, so there was a little store there, PX, and you'd buy laundry detergent, soap, all that, movies, CDs, music, listen to music, write home. Just hang out, relax. Some people tan, I tanned, I know I don't look it now but I did tan. It felt good just to lay out, not wear all this crap, wear some shorts and a T-shirt, issued to us. Go, make it to the dinners and lunches, go to the gym, just relax, you know. Just relax a little bit and take it minute by minute. So it was pretty good.

Kevin Lee:

How did you stay in touch with the people at home?

Krystyna Kalski:

Oh in the beginning we really didn't have a way to do it. We had one phone, and I think two Internet computers. But the lines would go down all the time because like there was one building on course that would have all the wires and they would run it to all the separate buildings, like our tack (ph) is what they call it. And obviously somebody steps on it, it gets ripped, so then we don't have a line. By the time somebody figures out that it's the line that's broken, we have to fix it. Maybe the computer's broken, the phone's broken. Plus you got to think there's 172 people in my company, there's 172 people wanting to write home on the Internet, you know, email. There's 172 people that want to use the phone. What are the chances you're going to get on the phone? What are the chances you're going to get on the computer? Slim to none. Plus you got to wake up in the morning and go to work. You're better off going to bed and trying 3:00 in the morning. Because hopefully half the company will be sleeping, but they're not, because all they want to do is call home, talk to their wives, talk to their husbands, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, everybody, they just want to call home and write home. So towards the end though it was pretty cool because we had more phones, we got a better connection, they went to satellite as opposed to direct line. I mean technology's awesome. Then eventually we got cell phones, not in Iraq, but in Kuwait they worked. They were expensive as hell but it was worth it because you don't want to wait in that line, because then of course more new troops are coming and they're all waiting in line to tell their families they're okay. So talking home, letters was good. I mean I would write home at least once a week.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

What did you do for recreation?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well we liked to play sports, we liked to play football and stuff like that. But then they told us we couldn't because people were getting hurt. I mean, going to like my team leader, he slipped on a rock and broke his toe so he couldn't wear boots for a six weeks. Just his big toe, you wouldn't think anything of it. At home you wear slippers, he couldn't wear his boots so he couldn't go to work. You know, I mean people get hurt all the time getting weird kinds of stuff. Like me personally I fractured both of my hips, yeah, so it wasn't very fun. I'm still trying to recover with that stuff. People get hurt all the time. So it's not a big thing. But recreation, the biggest thing was watching movies, you know, we all sit around and watch movies. You could pop a bag of popcorn outside, so it was pretty cool, you know. Eventually we got microwaves and fridges, little ones and all that kind of stuff, so it was pretty cool.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

How did you celebrate holidays?

Krystyna Kalski:

Holidays were hard. We really didn't want to celebrate them, we kind of just wanted to think it was another day. So what we would do was they would make it mandatory where we had to go to the holiday Christmas party, where we had to go to the New Year's party, or we had to, you know, do the big holiday thing. A lot of people didn't want to go, but you get in trouble if you didn't go. So just, we went for a couple hours, whatever. We would barbecue, we would barbecue all the time. Like if a reefer would break down, which was is a refrigerator truck, would breakdown, okay, we would have enough steaks for the whole company, we would take them back and cook them that night, so we would celebrate like that. Sometimes we would just, everybody would get so crazy, and just so wound up that we would just go nuts, we would go roaming, we would go, I mean, we were weird, we were weirdos. Holidays weren't a lot of fun. The biggest holiday we did have was Christmas and Thanksgiving. So they barbecued. They tried Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, Fourth of July, they tried to put fireworks show together. Basically what they did was blow up a lot of stuff. I mean you could see it from a miles away. It was like a celebration of the Fourth of July for higher ranking people in the area and us. Holidays really were not good for anybody, so we didn't really try and celebrate them.

Kevin Lee:

What skills or lessons did you learn?

Krystyna Kalski:

Patience, I mean patience, the biggest thing is patience. I was very, I'm a very anxious person, I like to know what to get it done, get it done. Well there it doesn't work that way, because I got a boss, my boss has a boss, my boss's boss has a boss, so forth and so on. So by the time word comes down to me to what has got to get done, it's like eight hours later. So for that whole eight hours I'm sitting in a truck with all that shit on, and I'm pissed off. You know, but you can't do anything, all you're going to do is bitch, whine and complain, not going to change anything, nobody is going to do anything for you.

Kevin Lee:

How difficult was it being separated from your family?

Krystyna Kalski:

Oh it was hard. I mean like I told you guys earlier, my parents, my mom, she's the pillar of us all, because my brother was away for four years, then I left for six months; we thought we were all going to be together that following summer after all these years and I got deployed. And I left for a year and a half. So every time I would talk to her, it was just like mom please don't cry. And of course if she starts crying, I start crying because I miss my family. And 90 percent of the time I just want to tell them I was okay, because I knew something came up probably on the news or something that happened during the day that we heard of. Like if there was Apache that went down and mom would be freaking out. Even though I had nothing to do with Apaches, she would just go crazy. So like my dad he wrote me every Sunday, like I mean I got them all in chronological order in my drawer, because he wrote me every Sunday on his day off, he would write me every morning. My sister, she would draw me pictures, so I could hang up or put in my truck. My brother would write me too. My other brother would write me, and he doesn't write anyone, I mean he's just a dim whit, but he wrote me. My step brother wrote me. Unfortunately my grandma passed away, so my grandma probably would have wrote me. My grandpa wrote me which is so hard to believe. But he did. You know, and they were all supportive. And that was the hardest thing was to tell them, you know, we got extended about six times, so it was about six times that we packed our crap, getting ready to come home. They told us first off you're going to be home for Christmas, finally, all right. Maybe New Year's, two weeks, yeah I think they started telling us just to get us all excited just so we could be disappointed. And then finally when we really were coming home this last time, we were like, whatever dude, whatever. Where is the next mission? Because you just get so like, I don't care. It makes no difference at this point in time, it's already been year and half. You know, whatever. So it was hard to be away from my family. It was very hard to be away from the family, very hard to be way from everything you've ever known. So patience like I said I learned. Understanding is a big thing. You know, everybody like I said earlier, you may be going through something, you may be going through something, I may be going through something, and you don't feel like telling me and I don't feel like telling you, and you're in bad mood. I say something wrong and you're going to snap on me like that. And because you are tired of looking at these people, tired of hearing them, ah, I've had enough.

Kevin Lee:

How did you feel when you came home?

Krystyna Kalski:

Good. But weird. It was really weird. When we were coming home we had two buses bring us from McCoy, or no, four, I'm sorry, four of those big Coach buses, we had a police escort, fire truck escort, ambulance, it was like a big parade from what, all the way from Wisconsin to the armory downtown. I mean they would be moving traffic out of the way so we could get there, and our families were all waiting, there was a band playing and, you know, I cried. Because the formation that they threw for us the last one was, you know 933 MP company, let's take a moment of silence for Ramsey. And we did. And then they're like you're dismissed. Everybody is kind of standing there, like saying let's go. And so it was really weird. Because like for the first, for the longest, I mean I'm still getting used to being home. I'm just always afraid to answer the phone and be like, ah, who are you, who are you looking for? Because I don't want to get called again, you know. So it's weird, it's definitely difficult and definitely weird to be home.

Kevin Lee:

What did you do in the time that you came back, what have you done so far?

Krystyna Kalski:

Well, let's see, two, no four days after I came home, no, it was not even, it was the day after I came home I rented a car and me and my boyfriend drove to Cincinnati and we bought a car, we bought a Mustang. We drove home. A day later we left for vacations for two weeks to South America. Came home from that, a day later, we moved into my house. And then couple days later we left for Texas for a week, I think we went to Texas for a week. And then came home, and started work, and going to go to school in January, so we haven't really done too much.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Did you make any close friendships?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah. I mean there is some people you just bond with, I mean you can be, they'll be your best friend one day and the next day they will be your worst enemy, just because people get weird. I mean the sun does all kinds of things to your brain. It gets weird. I mean I had a lot of good girlfriends that I met there, and a lot of good guy friends. You know when somebody will put their life for yours, and you will put yours for theirs, it means a lot and that will forever be with you. I cannot see one of them for 20 years and see them one day on the street and be like we're best friends. So I mean there's a lot of good friendships that we made. A lot of bad ones, but a lot of good ones.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

Do you continue with any of those relationships?

Krystyna Kalski:

Yeah I do, I actually have one girlfriend, supposed to be coming to visit me. She lives down in Bloomington, she goes to school there. And she lives next to another girlfriend that I was with. And then my best friend _____ didn't go to Iraq, because she got pregnant. She's still a big part of me. There's a lot of people that you will always have with you. So no matter till the day you die, they're going to have a part of your heart because you know that they have put their ass on the line just like you did for them.

Kevin Lee:

Did you bring anything from Iraq to remind you about the times you were there?

Krystyna Kalski:

You guys saw some of the pictures, I got tons of pictures. This is not, I can't find my Iraqi money, but this is Kuwaiti money, this is half a dinar. They call their money dinar there. This is a dinar, one dinar. This is equivalent to our money, $3.33. When the Gulf War happened in Kuwait and all that stuff, their money was worth shit. Now think about, 3.33 of ours for one of theirs? So we have this theory that in Iraq, their money is going to be just as much worth as Kuwaiti money or if not more, because they have a lot more oil, value and stuff like that. So I bought a bunch, I have like maybe $300,000 worth of Iraqi money, maybe I have more, so maybe in 10, 15 years I will have 300,000 American money. But I have a lot of it. So I can't find any of it, it's in my stuff that I'm still trying to go through. Pictures, videos of people. There is very few things you can bring back to remind you, I even have like an Iraqi license plate, it's pretty cool. The rules have changed slowly through times, they have a like the a Hookah, they smoke this tobacco, it's like a sweet flavored tobacco and they all sit around and smoke it. I've never tried it. But you can't bring these back, they're like really expensive to buy here, but they're really pretty, they're made out of glass and there's water in them. I mean they are really really nice. But couldn't bring that back. Pictures, stuff like that, can't bring them back. So I didn't bring too much back but whatever I could, I did.

Marcin Chojnowsski:

And now we conclude the interview with Krystyna Kalski. Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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