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First Lt. Alexander E. Gertsburg is an associate at Cleveland’s Calfee, Halter & Griswold. An Army reserve officer, he was called to active duty on Jan. 16. He married his fiancee, Inna, on Jan. 22, then reported to Fort Knox two days later. Now stationed in Kuwait, Gertsburg has led supply and equipment convoys in and out of Iraq. The following are excerpts, edited for brevity by the NLJ, from e-mail messages he has sent to the firm while on duty in the Iraq war. Jan. 30, 12:07 p.m., [Fort Knox, Ky.]. We’ve been training every day. Many of my soldiers are right out of high school. Others have grandchildren of their own. The food could also be worse, but not much. If you have a moment, with respect to the cases I was working on, please e-mail with an update. Feb. 21, 12:39 a.m. We should have been deployed by now. The other day, I went to a court-martial, just for the hell of it. Don’t worry, it wasn’t mine. It made me homesick. I really wished I was practicing law. May 19, 9:57 a.m. [Camp Wolf, Kuwait]. It’s been 120 degrees at mid-day since we arrived, and we try not to go outside between 11 and 1 if we can avoid it. Nights are cooler, but not cool enough. I sleep with a wet towel wrapped around my head to make it tolerable. [We are in] Camp Wolf, a holding area for transient soldiers on their way elsewhere. There are several thousand soldiers there. We were immediately briefed on all the security measures to take. For those that had never been to the desert, the heat came as quite a shock. It hits you like a sledgehammer right when you get off the plane. I think often of those that came before us, not just during this war but all the others. They didn’t have cell phones and laptops. They certainly didn’t have air-conditioning. They were rationing food and water and everything else. We really do have it made here in so many ways. Perspective, humility; very important. We’re surrounded by soldiers who are on their way out, or who have been here since before the war. Our soldiers ply them for information constantly, and they’re more than willing to share it. Since arriving here, the stories and our collective imagination have painted a fairly vivid picture of the convoys to come. I’ll spare you most of the details. If you are so inclined, send me a copy of the [Cleveland] Plain Dealer. It will be 11 days old when it gets here, but reading it will bring great joy, I assure you. June 17, 1:35 p.m. We’ve now been in-country for nearly a month . . . mobilized for nearly six. The soldiers have started a betting pool to guess the date we leave the Gulf. I’ve stopped guessing. I’ve recently commanded two convoys to Baghdad and back. Staying on this side of the border is hotter but more secure, and my cell phone works here . . . so I can call the family once in a while and allow them to get a good night’s sleep. I understand the news coming out of Iraq back home is not very promising. We get the news in pieces and parts down here. The convoys to Baghdad have been epic. We’ve seen the best and worst of Iraq. Most of the 3-to-4 day round trip consists of desert as far as the eye can see. It graduates from a fine sand that looks like talcum powder, dust really, to heavier sand and rock, and eventually as you get up north, to green grass and trees. It’s much cooler up north, especially at night. While down here you have to sleep with a wet rag on your head just to bear it, up north it gets so cold at night that you need to wrap up in a warm blanket. The bugs up there aren’t too friendly either. Between long hours through seas of desert, we come across little towns scattered along our routes. They are typically very poor and dirty and lined with people along the streets doing business or chatting or gesturing to us. Most don’t appear to have electricity or plumbing, so the aroma leaves something to be desired. Our initial convoy carried a lot of anxiety when we were around Arabs, every one of whom seemed threatening at that time. It was mostly that fear of the unknown, though, that stressed everyone out. When we do stop . . . our vehicles are swarmed with Iraqis trying to sell us things and trade with us. They all appear very friendly. No doubt many see us as a source of revenue, and even as liberators. You can buy just about anything from them, ice being the most desirable commodity. I instruct my soldiers not to buy or trade anything with them as it encourages them to approach us in larger numbers. [They are] just country-folk who mean well. The children around here are the most noticeable. They are truly fearless, and a little insane I think, like most kids I guess. They run out to the convoys whether we’re stopped or moving. They’re always smiling and waving and giving us peace signs and thumbs-up signs and salutes . . . they ask for food. Baghdad is . . . packed with people and traffic; hollowed-out burned shells of tanks and armored vehicles still sitting on the side of the road where the U.S. blew them up. The people appear to have done what they could to get back to normal life, but they can’t be happy about the current atmosphere. The ubiquitous smell of burning diesel fuel surrounds the city. We usually get a few days off between missions. I recently received a letter from a law school moot court alumnus. Somehow I felt closer to home because of it. I hadn’t thought about moot court in so long. Suddenly I felt like I was in Cleveland again, even for a few moments. The old saying is . . . true: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s out of reach. I don’t think I’ll ever take home for granted again. Peace and love, Alex.

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