When Major David Tucker deployed to Iraq – his third mission since he joined the Army Reserves in 1982 – he told his soldiers to take the doors off the Humvees.
The soldiers didn’t have armor. The Humvees didn’t have armor. As Tucker saw it, they were better off without the doors in their way should a grenade hit. A quick escape route.
During that 13-month tour, he said he coped by changing his perspective.
“You can’t live with that sustained fear endlessly where something doesn’t change,” he said. “What you have to change is your perspective on it. It’s very black and white. Either you’re alive or you’re not. You have to adjust your sense of perspective in terms of what fate is.”
Tucker returned to the U.S. in 2004. His youngest son, six months old when he left, didn’t recognize him. His eldest became upset when, after being home for a while, Tucker needed to leave for a week to close out his command.
“Last time you left when I was 4, you came back when I was 5,” he said. After 22 years with the Army Reserves, Tucker took that as a sign to retire.
After his third deployment – he had gone to Kosovo and Haiti before – he returned to work at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. There, his friend, the late Jerry Manning, urged him to write. Tucker had been a playwright before.
“I was asked constantly about what the war was like. I didn’t want to talk about it,” he said. Manning told him, “Write what you can, write in the way you feel should be told.”
“It helped to get the feelings of the war inside me outside me so that I could have a little bit of a standoff distance and gain some perspective,” he said. “It didn’t mean I could let go of those things but it helped me.”
“It was extremely helpful but extremely hard. It helped to get the feelings of the war inside me, outside me, so that I could have a little bit of a standoff distance and gain some perspective,” he said. “It didn’t mean I could let go of those things but it helped me.”
Tucker remains a playwright. In September, the Seattle Rep will do a reading of one of his plays, "North Wind Blowin’," about 1930s Americana.
This post originally aired July 17, 2014.