Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing F. Scott Service, Author of Lines in the Sand: An American Soldier’s Personal Journey in Iraq.
Hi, Please tell us about what it is that you do.
Well, like a lot of folks, I’ve been many things in life. I’ve been a surveyor, a draftsman, a web page designer, even a waterbed delivery driver… that was a great job. And most prominently, I was a sergeant with the Army National Guard. But more importantly, I’ve been a soldier, husband, son, veteran, brother, friend, caregiver, lover, wanderer, explorer, and student. Nowadays, I’m a full-time author.
A lot of people, when they hear that I’m a writer, wonder what I do. Sometimes, it’s my feeling that they think I don’t really do anything, that writing is easy, that because I’m on my own time all day, that I’m free. I’m not convinced, sometimes, that they feel it’s a job, that I have set hours in which I plan to write. And even when the day is finished, I’m not sure they realize that my latest book is buzzing in my mind long into the night, sometimes waking me up with its own inspirations.
Writing is solitary, mentally exhausting, and hard work. It’s a messy experience stitching together a book. But in the end, the reward is holding your own creation in your hands. It doesn’t get any better than that for me.
Please tell us more about your journey.
Gee, it’s kinda funny you ask that. I just wrote a book about this question. It’s called Playing Soldier and essentially, what it deals with is a life-long struggle to become and embrace an authentic me.
Society has a strong pull. It compels us to acquiesce to what others, some strange powers of the convention, have prescribed. So many people I know have dreams they long for but never do anything about them. They end up wishing their lives away, resigning themselves that this is all there is. Existing, not living.
But it doesn’t always have to be that way. That was one of the biggest lessons I learned from the war. I often think to myself that when I’m pulling in my last breath, I want to say, “I did,” instead of, “I should have.” Follow your dreams. They’re worth living because before you know it, it’s all over.
Please tell us about your book, ‘Lines in the Sand: An American Soldier’s Personal Journey in Iraq.’
It’s easy to view Playing Soldier as a war memoir; the title implies that. It’s even easier to view it as yet another Iraq War book because the market’s been saturated with veteran’s writing in recent years. However, the story goes deeper than that. In a nutshell, learning through living is the centerpiece of the book. While the war is a character, an influential one to say the least, what’s important to understand is that at the heart of this story is the unlearning of expectation, the dispensing of edicts dictated by the mechanism of society as to how one should live life.
I tried to show how I learned to be free from what is often a humdrum prescription. All my life, I followed the rules. I went to college. I got married. I got a job. I bought a house. I enlisted with the Army. I stayed within the lines of precept, despite my inner self begging me to do something different. In other words, I ignored my true dreams for what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to present myself to the world for the sake of approval and to be a well-oiled cog. And that’s really what the war is all about in this book. It’s an instrument of central release, along with the events that followed, that allowed me to return to my original childhood self. The one who wanted to create stories and write books, to go my own way and be myself without inhibition, to be liberated from an inner pressure rooted in the endorsement.
Following your dreams can often be an act of reconciling your pain and making peace with your demons. I hope I did a good job relating that.
For F. Scott Service, a five-minute phone call one peaceful morning was all it took. Faced with the terrible dichotomy of his moral opposition to war and an innate sense of duty, little did he realize that when he was called for deployment in Iraq that his would be the journey of a lifetime. A tour of duty destined to change him forever.
Witnessing the violence of a country ravaged by chaos and facing the disintegration of his life back home, his sojourn in Iraq forced him to fight a new battle, a battle within himself. What had once been a noble intention became a desperate struggle to salvage what was left of his humanity, an excursion into the darkest recesses of the human mind that ultimately led him to question everything he had come to believe.
Pushed to the edge, only then would he discover what lay within.
An artfully lyrical epistolary composition and transcribed from his handwritten journals, Lines in the Sand is a powerful exercise in self-exploration amid heart-wrenching loss and anguish.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my life is letting go being consumed with approval from others, being too concerned with how others viewed me to the detriment of crafting my own life. I don’t know if I’ve ever developed a strategy for shedding those notions. The strategy isn’t the word I would use. What I can say is that when I faced my own mortality during the war, my mind changed, and I began to see with a little more clarity. That lucidity built upon itself over time and has been very rewarding. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m at the point now where my inner self has a stronger voice than outside approval.
Any message for our readers.
Yes. Chase down your dreams. Our lives on this planet are a mere blink and to simply resign oneself to what society deems is important, to smother our dreams with what others tell us we should be doing, to live by someone else’s humdrum prescription is doing oneself an injustice. Live your life, your dreams are real and valid, and I hope my writing can serve as some sort of encouragement.
Fantastic! So tell us, how can people find out more about you?
Thank you so much for giving us your precious time! We wish you the best for your journey ahead!