The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Marissa L. Pelky [Undated]

Dane Cox:

Marissa Pelky. Her birth date is the 16th of March 1979. She was involved in the operation enduring freedom with the U.S. Army. Her rank is a captain and she served in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Dane Cox:

Ok Marissa, were you drafted or enlisted?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Um.. well...I am an officer, so I actually went through the Reserve officer training corp. which meant that I went to school in the University of Bloomington and got my 4-year degree in training and received my commission when I graduate.

Dane Cox:

And were you living here in Newburgh?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yes, I am a Castle graduate of 1997 and I just went up to Bloomington for my 4year degree.

Dane Cox:

What made you want to go into the service?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, I had done some summer camps for the state police while I was in high schooL and I really enjoyed to military discipline and when I went to college I took the Army ROTC class just for fun. It looked interesting. I had all sorts of opportunities like repelling and weekend trips and I really started to enjoy it and I pledged to a military fraternity while I was there. The color guards that you see there at the IU games, I ended up actually training those guys. I really liked the people. I liked the camaraderie and the pride we had in what we did,and so I applied for a scholarship and... when ahead and followed through.

Dane Cox:

Why did you pick the service branch that you chose?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well at IU, I had a choice between Army and Air Force and when I watched the AF cadets there, they wrote a lot of memos, and I got to play with firearms, so there was never really a choice (Laughs)

Dane Cox:

Do you recall your first days in the service?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Urn, on active duty I recall my first couple months I was stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia on my officer basic force and I was actually two days away from graduating when September 11 happened and we were originally earmarked to go to the pentagon and pull bodies out, because we were in Virginia, we were already trained in mortuary affairs, but they ended up just going ahead and sending us to our units and as soon as I got to my unit on September 14, we were in just a state of ramp-up everybody was getting into desert uniforms and...

Dane Cox:

Was that your first assignment, your first like..

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yea, my first [?] station was with the 10th mountain division. I... at Fort Rome, New York, which is right on the border of Canada, very cold. When I got there, we were just in a high state of alert. Most of the time the 18th Airborne Force so we are very rapidly deployable, light infantry, which makes even more rapidly deployable. We stayed at that level of New York for a while and I actually ended up deploying in 2004.

Dane Cox:

Tell me about your boot camp and training experience?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, because I went through the ROTC, I didn't actually [do] basic training. I did training during school. The summer after my sophomore year, I spent a summer at West Point on an exchange program and went through their cadet training and in the summer of my junior year, I went to a 5-week camp, Fort Hicks [?], Washington which was training and evaluation. And that's where you run infantry lanes. As a cadet you train with infantry tactics, because it's very easy to evaluate your leadership--based on your reaction time, your ability to communicate clearly, your ability to think on your feet, and to keep your knowledge of tactics strait. So you are evaluated on all of those skills while you are at this camp. And that helps to determine what branch you get placed into based on your preferences. So not quite as rigid, and inflexible, and the breaking down and building back up as they do for the enlisted, because the idea is to build us into leaders as opposed, you know, convert us into subordinates. But some similar atmospheres, inspections and times like that.

Dane Cox:

Do you remember your instructors?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yes, my first mentor was an infantry Master Sergeant. He had never worked with women before we got to ill. He was about 5 foot, tough as nails, swore a lot, one of those old school, hardcore, infantry types and he was absolutely wonderful. He was a brilliant teacher and really cared about making some good leaders and not just about doing his job and going home. He is also one who talked to my parents and made them comfortable with the idea of me getting a scholarship, and I'm still in touch with him.

Dane Cox:

Being a woman in boot camp and in the service, were you treated any different, do you think?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Not for the most part, especially with younger people and our age. People were more raised to feel that men and women are equal and can do similar things. There are different physical standards, because there are simply some things physiologically that we can't do as fast as men or lift quite as much weight, but in terms of sexism and discrimination, very rarely do you find it and when you do find it, it is dealt with very swiftly.

Dane Cox:

And you served in the Enduring Freedom War, was that what it was called?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Mmm mm (yea) Yea, Operation Enduring Freedom is one aspect of the global war on terrorism. And that's typically, any campaign outside of Iraq primarily in Afghanistan, and also facets of it in Aftica, but I served in Afghanistan.

Dane Cox:

Ok. And while you were in the service, did you just stay in Kabul, Afghanistan or did you go all over?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Um, well, I started out, when you first arrive in the country, you typically land in Bagram, which is just south of the capital, so I was in Bagram for a couple days. When I arrived we were starting a new task force. Task Force being (???). Task force responsible for training the Afghan National Army. When I got there, that task force was not in place. So we landed in Bagram, we convoyed down to Kabal, which is about an hour's convoy on the one paved road in Afghanistan that they had at that time. And we actually built the compound from the ground up. As far as different places that I've been, I spent a few nights in Manuskurgistan (??) on my way in, which was a post run by the Air Force. You know, little places we've stopped on the way in and out, just for refueling, and so the pilots could stretch their legs, but in general, I spent most of my time in Kabal and popped back and forth to Bagram for resupply convoys and things like that.

Dane Cox:

When you first arrived at your assignment, what was that like? Your first time in Afghanistan?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, we were on the CI-30. We--basically, we took a civilian commercial flight that had been charted just for us. So we were in civilian clothes all the way until we got into Khurgistan. When we got into Khurgistan, we changed into our uniforms, we pulled our weapons out of their cases, and then we got on a military aircraft-A CI-30 going into Bagram. And the first thing we noticed as we were going in, that we weren't aware was coming, was that the military planes do these anti anti-aircraft tactics, you know, they kind of maneuver around so that they are not easily targeted and we all got really sick. Didn't throw up or anything, but I remember just feeling horribly ilL So we landed in the middle of the night, and as were walking down the tailgate of this aircraft, this noncommissioned officer who was stationed in Bagram comes out, and says, "Ok everybody, stay on the tarmac! The grass-not all the grass here has been cleared. You step on grass or walk anywhere you're not supposed to you might, you know, step on mines." So we are walking on the tarmac, and all of a sudden we step foot on grass, and we just freeze, cause we have no orientation, we can't see a thing. We are just being herded into this building. But I'll never forget the feeling when I set foot on that grass, and went "Oh, no " So, you know, orientation quick.

Dane Cox:

Once you got to Kabal, Afghanistan, what was your job assignment?

Marissa L. Pelky:

When I first got there, I was very muli-functional. I was part of a 6-man team that went up over a month ahead of the main body to basically establish a compound that had never existed. So in the month that I was there, I started a post-office, I drew and issued all the ammunition for the advance party. Logistically, I was involved in setting eft} up some contracts determining the layout of our compound in Kabal. I was to be a paying agent, and a paying agent is part of a two-person team that appeals to an ordering officer, these people actually have the authority and the funds to go out purchase items on the local economy that are mission related. So, because we had nothing in our compound, we needed everything ITom the ground up. That meant computers, tables, chairs, office supplies, you name it. I had to buy it. So with my partner and a couple security, we would wonder through the city, and talk to local venders and purchase all of these things. I had an interpreter so, you know, I'm bartering with Mghanis in some pretty scary parts of town. Other places were safe, but there were a coupe that really weren't secure areas where people didn't like us very much. But that's what mostly what my first month was. I spent a lot of time in the downtown setting up contracts for a guy on a donkey to bring office supplies once a week, every week, just basic stuff, paper, white-out, expendables, figuring out how to convert the electrical over there to ours with the converters so we can use our equipment. You know, establishing contacts with some of these venders, so that we had habitual relationships with them for purchasing and some mutual trust. Because we were going to make them very wealthy by having this contract with them, and in turn that required their loyalty, and that they not try to rip us off. So that was the first month.

Dane Cox:

Did you speak their language to them or did you have a translator?

Marissa L. Pelky:

I always had an interpreter when I was downtown. I didn't learn very much Dari. "So mana lankem" [phonetic] which is, you know, the universal greeting. During a standoff I had with a couple guys who were in the middle the guy who was wounded. I repeated "Dak ban das" [phonetic], which is clean and bandage over and over again about a knife wound that he had. I remember carrying my little handbook and with my weapon and gesturing for them to lower their weapons while r m trying to read off this stupid, little handbook. But I was lucky I had a very, very, good interpreter the whole time I was there.

Dane Cox:

Did you see any combat while you were down there? Pelkey: It kind of depends on your definition of combat. Typical infantry fighting. No. I got shot at once by a sniper who missed. I was leaving my compound, technically we don't know if he was aiming for me, or if he was just trying to test the compound defenses, but he missed by about 6 feet. Of course, I was still in the compound, so the guys who were minding the gate, and he didn't respond, and we got their quick reaction force out. I don't know if they ever found out where the guy was firing from. Had someone try to mortar us on the convoy ITom Kabal to Bagram. We actually saw it rise up out of the mountains, and kind of watched it for a minute and realized that the reason we were a target was because that we were riding in the commanding general's vehicle, and he had an armored suburban, so it pretty, really black, an armored, black suburban which stood out like a sore thumb, a sore thumb. And then I had somebody try to blow my team up downtown, but what they dropped was either a dud or a dummy, because they dropped some type of explosive device in a ammo crate about lOft ITom us, and it just didn't go off Yeah, so, we got really lucky OJ

Dane Cox:

Yeah...

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yea exactly, exactly very lucky, but in tenns, you know, back and forth small arms firing or anything that was really a close call, or did I see anybody get shot. No.

Dane Cox:

Ok. What about the knife incident?

Marissa L. Pelky:

That was my second day there, and we driving down from Bagram to Kabal, and we, basically, the road between Bagram to Kabal has three or four checkpoints that a manned by the Afghani Militia Force. And we kind of, at the time, had a very tenuous relationship with them. We weren't friends, but we weren't enemies. So they had these giant speed bumps and if you don't slow down they will just tear the undercarriage out of the vehicle the vehicle. And as we slowed down for this one, 2 AMF guys with AK47's, the whole works, came running out, and pointing at this other guy who had this big bloody, hole in his chest. At first we started to go past, but then we detennined that we probably need to give him some kind of aid. We couldn't take him to a hospital or anything, but in a country like that, the guy you save today, may be the guy who's paid to kill you tomorrow and remembers that you did him a favor. So we just went back and happened to have some extra medical supplies with us. We got the 2 AMF guys to lower their weapons and gave these medical supplies to them, but we stopped this guy's bleeding long enough that he was able to get to a hospital. But it was scary at first, because we didn't know, we weren't close enough to see how he had been wounded. So all we knew there was a sniper in these mountains. This checkpoint just happened to be in a pass. There was just very, very high mountains on either side of the road, and that makes you a little uncomfortable to have the low ground.

Dane Cox:

Yeah

Marissa L. Pelky:

So, we determined that it was a knife wound. We were very guarded about the whole situation.

Dane Cox:

And there weren't any casualties in your unit?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, not in my battalion there, no.

Dane Cox:

Tell my about a coupe of your most memorable experiences.

Marissa L. Pelky:

One of the unique jobs I had once we got going in Afghanistan, in one of these compounds. Soldiers aren't aloud to leave the compound, unless they are on a mission related trip. So you don't just go out and go shopping in enemy territory. So, soldiers obviously wanted to buy souvenirs and neat stuff to send it back home to the family, so we had this secure area of our compound, and every other week, we had Afghani venders come with their goods and they were allowed to sell. Before this started, I had to go into the community and screen these people, get these people checked out, make sure there weren't known ties to the Taliban or AI Qaeda, or anything like that. And then when C'7J they came in, I had to help with the searches and place them in certain areas and referee fights, and help with crowd control in the main gate. I met a young boy, who was probably 9-years-old, and he spoke perfect English, and because he spoke perfect English, he ended up being in charge. He ended up being like my assistant and all these 40 or 50-year-old men totally listened to this kid. This kid spoke and acted at the maturity of about 25-year-old. Kids grow up so fast there. When they are 3-years-old, they are out on the street selling things trying to make money to eat. So he just was wonderful. He was brilliant. He will probably end up being a political leader there, if he even stays. you know, when he is old enough. You know, that type of hierarchy, for 50year-old men to listen and nod and, you know, kiss up to this kid who is my assistant simply because he can translate well for me.

Dane Cox:

Was he an educated kid then?

Marissa L. Pelky:

I think his uncle. He lived with his uncle, who was also one of the other venders. I think his uncle saved extra money just so he can learn English, because English is just kind of one of those languages, that everybody. We are the only country that doesn't automatically teach our children a second language. I think that the idea, especially in that area is know English gives you a leg up, gives you more opportunity. And if you don't. I think just you start a child at a early age, it is very easy for him to pick up that language. Sharp as a tact, very hard-working, and he had all this incentive for him to help out, just even for the pull that he now had with elders. So..

Dane Cox:

You weren't a prisoner of war were you?

Marissa L. Pelky:

(laughs) No.

Dane Cox:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yeah, the basic ribbons I got for just breathing on Afghanistan was the operation, eh, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, which now, since I got off of active duty the first time. You actually can get a separate medal depending on whether or not you went to Iraq or Afghanistan or campaign medals. And I got a Army commendation medal just for doing my job and doing it fairly well.

Dane Cox:

Uh-uh

Marissa L. Pelky:

Nothing horribly exciting

Dane Cox:

How did you stay in touch with your family? Er, you have a fiance right now, you are getting married this Saturday aren't you?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yes, we were not together at that time. That was back in 2003. Um, I had pretty good e-mail access. I think I probably made a phone call a month. I tried to do it especially on birthdays. But you know, access wasn't too bad. We had an internet cafe type set up that people could use. Because I was a staff officer, I did have a computer of (0 my own, so when things were slow, I could jot off a quick email. Our mail system is pretty good. When your overseas, if you just send a standard letter, that's free. You don't have to have stamp. If people send anything to you from the United States, all they pay for in postage is what it costs to get the package to the east coast. If it's a letter, it just standard flat rate, you know, whatever a stamp is now. Its packing just what it costs to get to New York. Usually it took me a week in a half to two in a half weeks to get something from my family here in Indiana. So not bad for communication-fairly consistent. d

Dane Cox:

What was the fod: like?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well it started out MRE's, which are the field rations. They are pretty standard when you are not in a fixed living environment, and then are dining facility at Camp Pheonix, because we were a smaller compound, we used what were called UGRAs, which were unitized group ration. It's like a giant, bad TV dinner that feeds 50 people. So we had the same 6 or 7 menus, which were not bad really-beat the heck out MREs, because MREs were not tasty

Dane Cox:

What exactly are MREs?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Meals Ready to Eat. Basically, it's a brown box, a brown package of a meal and the meal will include a main dish, and crackers, and I think there is like a package of peanut butter and jelly. It all has a shelf-life of like 10 years and it all taste the same. It is designed to help constipate you on purpose, so when you're in a field environment, that eliminate that need from occurring often, so you can imagine how much fun that is. You know they are so chock full of preservatives. You can imagine mixing, you know, a canned ham, you buy the processed meat. Its that kind of thing in a variety of flavors that all still taste the same. And in each package, you get a little bottle of Tab as co, toilet paper, and salt and pepper. And a heater. But the UGRs were like TV dinners, and every now and then you did get some fresh vegetables. Because we were a smaller compound, we got last dibs on everything. So all the vegetables that the other compounds didn't like, even canned vegetables,. we got. So we had asparagus like 4 nights a week. Which I now have grown to love.

Dane Cox:

I like asparagus, too.

Marissa L. Pelky:

The food wasn't bad.

Dane Cox:

Did you have any food from Afghanistan?

Marissa L. Pelky:

I did, because when I went out and bought with local venders, they are very, hospitality oriented culture. It is rude to say no. So I had to make this bread, and it is flat. It is probably close to 2 feet long and a foot wide, and it is just completely flat. They almost grow it. What they do is just put meat and potatoes and whatever and just wrap it up. e-lfJ

Dane Cox:

Is it bad...?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, its not bad, but you have to be careful with, because their living conditions are unsanitary, so are their food preparation conditions. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to eat meat, it needs to be charred beyond recognition to kill. You go around open markets in the sun, and you see flies buzzing around big cuts of meat. These people are used to it. They immune systems are used to it. But I had dysentery about three weeks after I got that for two weeks, and it was the worst illness I have ever had in my life. So, I tended to accept food cautiously. The one time I didn't was when a guy offered me what looked like to be a big, mayonnaise jar full of yogurt, and I told the interpreter to tell him that I was lactose intolerant, so I wouldn't have to eat it, because I knew that that was going to make me so sick.. ???

Dane Cox:

Did you have plenty of supplies there. Were you well supplied?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Mmm, mm, pretty well. Um, you know, we had a really neat mission being that we were training the Mghan National Army, so the only infantry missions we went on were primarily patrols for security. So we didn't go on any mission the same way other people do, but we contracted out fuel, and the water we drank was bottled. We used a (???) water purification unit to basically use water, standing water in lakes and rivers to shower facilities. Food came pretty regularly. We didn't have the same problem twice ( ???).

Dane Cox:

When you went to the restroom... how did you... ?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Depending on the area, sometimes we had porta potties. We were in what's called a force provider, which is basically an entire camp that is built in shipping containers. . . . . . When the Army drops a force provider here, all these giant, all these? shipping containers contain tents and things, and then you have shipping containers that have self-contained bathrooms What it's like is. .. imagine a porta john with 8 stalls, and each stall has a curtain, so you have a little bit of privacy. . . Then instead of excrement going into a big, open, vat, there is actually a little hole, at the drain of the toilet, there is a little cap, so you can flush, you are not really flushing, but just emptying into another space and then closing it off So you don't see everything that is in there. It smells a little bit better; it's a little more sanitary. You don't feel sick the minute you walk in. Then we had contracted people to come in and empty those units. ???????

Dane Cox:

Do you feel any pressure or stress while on the job?

Marissa L. Pelky:

You are so busy. Time goes by quickly, because you are very busy. But I know, like my schedule everyday you never get days off I got up at 3:45 (am) every day and I was usually in bed around 11 :00 (pm). Now and again, I would take little naps here and there ifI had a break. But you are just going and going and going, and the mission doesn't stop. After a while, your body starts to wear down after a bit, just trom the lack of sleep, but you get used to it. It becomes routine just like any lifestyle change. There are times where it occurs to you that you are stuck in foreign country and no way to go f!~ :.- home until your mission is complete, but having that routine communication with your family really does help. It reminds you that you have a life, and it's back there, that this is just temporary, and you just have to stick it out fo x number of days until you go home.

Dane Cox:

I bet coming back here and sleeping 7, 8 hours a night....

Marissa L. Pelky:

I came back and slept 15 hours my first night just solid. When I came home, I came home the night before Thanksgiving in 2003. That was back in New York. So I came home to see my family for the first time at Christmas. My mother came to wake me up one morning and I was sleeping with my arms straight down to my sides, because I had been sleeping on a cot for so long that I was used to no extra space. It took me a while to re-acclimate I couldn't be alone just because I wasn't used to it. So I had to have the TV going, because there is no privacy in a combat zone, at least where I was. We lived in tents, you know the bathrooms, the public bathrooms. It is not as if we ever have alone time. Anybody drop anything and make a loud bang, I'd be on the floor (?).

Dane Cox:

Was there anything special you did for good luck?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, I am a Christian so I prayed fairly routinely. That was about it.

Dane Cox:

How did you guys entertain yourselves in your ftee time? Pelky. We had very limited entertainment, so we can always work out.

Dane Cox:

Like you weren't already.

Marissa L. Pelky:

A lot of the folks bought these 350 dollar portable DVD players, and they would have people send them DVDs. During these bazaars that I told you about earlier, there were actually a lot of those pirated DVDs. So you could buy... back then it was the Matrix Reloaded, and you put it in and someone is actually filming at a movie theater, so you see the little exit sign in the comer.

Dane Cox:

I have heard about those.

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yea, and some of the older stuff, you know, they were just really fine copies (???). They were just pirated DVDs, 6 of us would huddle around this miniature, portable DVD player and watch whatever. For me, I brought my CD player. It will be an Ipod for this deployment. My fiance is loaning me his.Ipod. Music makes all the difference. Just to be able to listen to American music.. . .

Dane Cox:

What is Afghani music like down there?

Marissa L. Pelky:

There is a lot of moaning and chanting. It is hard to tell, because the country is that poor. I'm not sure they have a lot of bands or anything in the recording industry the way we do. The one thing that was kind of, I guess you could call it music, was their call to prayer which always seemed to happen when we were sleeping. The guy who did this Dr) call to prayer, he must have had quite a set of lungs, because you could here it for blocks. It sounds very much like chanting, like a Gregorian chant or something similar call to prayer. It is beautiful, but I it is very haunting and it is very scary those first couple days as you get used to it. I don't know. I'm sure they probably had access, the more wealthy people, had some access to some European music I would imagine, or some music ffom India or further east. I'm sure you've heard of that Tunac Tunac song that's gotten so famous that global music video. You know stuff like that that is in a language that they would be able to translate parts of

Dane Cox:

So you were actually living in the same vicinity as these people? Like you were neighboring. . .

Marissa L. Pelky:

Yea, our compound, we had a very small compound. Weare right on the outskirts of the city. We didn't have any locals that lived within our wire, within the walls of our compound. But yea, we were interactive with them and we also contracted with them if we needed manual labor, building of any building, or dig a ditch; we would contract with the locals for the labor.

Dane Cox:

What did you do when you went on leave? Pelkey: Well, I didn't get leave while I was there. I was there for 7 months, and that was also before they had a standard leave. When I was on leave while I was here in the states I typically came home for Christmas. I used a lot of leave at Christmas. My parents would come up and visit me in New York.

Dane Cox:

Did you guys pull any pranks while you were down there?

Marissa L. Pelky:

We talked about locking my battalion commander in the bathroom container, but that never came through. We did some goofy things. I wouldn't call them pranks. There was a couple special events while on holidays where we would have games, and relay races, and athletic events for the units to compete. It would be like crazy hat day, so people would have family mail them just strange hats and masks, or whatever like that, especially around Halloween and that type of thing, but pranks not that I can remember.

Dane Cox:

What did you think of your officers and fellow soldiers?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, I loved my soldiers. Being an officer, you know. I had... for most of my army career people I had people who worked for me. As a general rule they were terrific. When I was a platoon leader, which was the second job I had, I was very close to my soldiers. They have become like a family, and I am still in touch with quite a few of them. My peers were great. The army (????) motion system is setup so that is decentralized, which means that your immediate chain of command has very little to do with your promotions, so we were not quite as competitive, especially at the lower levels where the promotion rate is very high. So there tends to be a lot more of a sharing of information, without constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the guy next to you is going to try to stab you in the back. (????) much. As far as my superiors 75% of them 01 were great officers and 25% of them should never have made it past lieutenant. The army is hurting for officers. People have discovered they are very marketable in the civilian world with their leaderships skills, with the type of management they've done, especially the volume of people, or the amount of. .. they number of millions of dollars of equipment that they have maintained accountability of. So it is getting to the point where people who stay either really, really love the army or don't survive in the civilian world, because they have no personality and no people skills. There is a chunk of those guys out there and when you work for them they can make you life pretty miserable.

Dane Cox:

When y~a back in January are you going to be in the same group?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, I am assigned to a completely different unit. Now I'm set to go with a reserve unit. It looks like I am going to be dealing with ammunition, although I don't know in what capacity. So that's the downside of this. At least when you are in the drilling reserve or on active duty, you know the people you going with. When your pulled off of the end of the (???) reserve like I've been, I won't know anybody. I am just going to show up with that unit, meet the unit, train with them, deploy with them.

Dane Cox:

Will you be going to Iraq?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Mmm, mm. (yes). I did. In the beginning it was really easy, for a while, and when my energy started to wane, I didn't write nearly as much, but I kept one. I let my family read it when I came back. It was good experience to keep it. A lot of those little things that happen during your day that probably forget about. .. that is fun to laugh at later on.

Dane Cox:

When you came back here, when did you come back, you came back before Thanksgiving you said?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Well, from Mghanistan I came back to New York in 2003, but my service ended in 2005. So yea, I came back from Mghanistan about 10 pm the night before Thanksgiving and that was great.

Dane Cox:

So did you go to work or did you go back to school?

Marissa L. Pelky:

They gave us the rest of the week off until Monday. So I called father, my biological father, who lived about and hour and a half away and 10:00 o'clock at night, and said, "Hey, I'm home" My car was not working, because it had been in this storage lock for seven months, so the brakes were just shot. I just called and said, "Hey, love to come if you guys are doing Thanksgiving, you'll just have to come get me." Because my car is undrivable, my father came and got me, and I spent Thanksgiving with my father's side of the family.

Dane Cox:

But are you working now or before you.. . ?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, You mean as far as what I'm doing here D~J

Dane Cox:

Yeah

Marissa L. Pelky:

I am not a affiliated with the military right now, as opposed to be in the IRR. So what I get the call back on the 14th, you know, I start trom scratch on active duty.

Dane Cox:

Did you make any close mendships while you were in the service?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Oh yea. The majority of my close mends are trom my ROTC day and my active duty days. When you deal with those experience together. .. It is a tough environment; there is a lot of harsh reality that you deal with. You really get the opportunity to see people for who they really are in special situations. When all the gloves are off and your just (???) after seeing people like that, you just become really close.

Dane Cox:

And you have continued the relationships. Are they all still in Afghanistan?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, uh, a couple of my mends have gotten out of the army. Weare scattered all over the country. No one stays in one place to long. So I got a couple good mends that are in Iraq now. Some are just recently trom tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. .. at a given point... we don't do reunions very often... we can't. We stay in touch by email and the telephone, but I is hard to get us all together at any given time of the year, because usually someone is usually always can't (?).

Dane Cox:

Are you in involved in a veteran's organization?

Marissa L. Pelky:

In terms of the American Legion or the VFW. No, I have not become affiliated with them. Most of them have different rules about the function or the privileges as a female member, and typically they are not the same as if you were male... I have no desire to be and organization that says that I can't be an officer I can't because I happen to be female. So I respect what they do, I just haven't found one that fits me and my needs.

Dane Cox:

What did you think about the war before you... the war was going offbefore you joined it right?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No

Dane Cox:

It wasn't?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, I had already got my permission, urn, so Sept. 11 was a wake up call for us. We went trom a peace time army to a war time army.

Dane Cox:

You weren't expecting it right?

Marissa L. Pelky:

No, not at all. D~)

Dane Cox:

So after coming back ftom Afghanistan, do you have a different view versus everyone else?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Um, as an officer I can't comment on whether or not we should be in the way; it just puts my in a bad position. I can tell you that what you see in the news is not the whole story. In Afghanistan, over the course of time I was there, I saw roads being built, and industry booming, and people who had never had a dime to their name before had the opportunity to make the money. Having not been to Iraq, I can't say about anything there. But I have close mends who have been there who said that out of every 100 Iraqi, there is like 5 who hate the Americans. 95 of them won't. Even in Afghanistan, I would be in a business purchasing something and people who come up to me and hug me and say, you know, we left the country when the Taliban came in, because we were afTaid for our lives. But now that you have gotten rid of them or got them out of power, we are coming back to help rebuild. So I think we have opened up, particularly Afghanistan, because it is so... I don't know how to say this politically correct. The living conditions in many areas of the country are biblical. Just absolutely. .. no running water, no electricity, sanitary conditions are poor, and the mortality rate is very high. The fact that they are people who are natives of that country coming back with ideas on how to improve it and make it a safer and healthier place to live. That's what we have facilitated, and that's not what the media tells you. The media sees it only in terms of cost, which is human lives, and that's horrible.. .every soul we lose is one to many. But are we doing something of value. .. absolutely. When you eliminate a lot of the 3rd world type poverty, you lessening the likelihood that they are going to become a hotbed for extremist organizations.

Dane Cox:

Did your service affect your outlook on life?

Marissa L. Pelky:

Oh sure, I came back ftom Afghanistan a little bit more thankful for everything. I loved my family more, at least I showed it more. I am so much more thankful for all my blessings, because we all don't realize what a charmed life we lead. . .. The type of atmosphere we are born into as Americans; we are born into and atmosphere where you are democratic or republic, where people actually have choices. You can pick whatever religion you want. They won't knock your religion. You have all these choices; you have all these means of getting ahead and taking care of yourself It's just... we are so blessed. I think I really had a much stronger sense of that when I came home.

Dane Cox:

Well, Is there anything you would like to add that we haven't covered.

Marissa L. Pelky:

I think that this is great project. It's a... certainly nice that the state is going to have our thoughts on some of these issues and maybe our experiences can be shared with people who are looking into military service or might have specific questions about living conditions, or anything that went on in the past. It kind of gives a level clarity and honesty, when not all of your resources give you those, particularly with the media. You are always going to get a little bit of a slant, but it is the soldier on the ground who really knows what is going on.

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us