When soldiers talk about being "in the shit," they sometimes mean it literally. This week Iraq veteran Jason Christopher Hartley, author of "Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq," reveals the grungy, scary, and often darkly funny reality behind a war most Americans know only through television packaging. A Utah native who joined the Army National Guard at 17, he guarded the fallen Twin Towers on 9/11 before being shipped overseas for a tour of duty. There he began his dual career as soldier-blogger, posting candid on-the-ground stories and photos until he was forced to stop, having been accused of running afoul of the Geneva Convention.

In his interview with Big Think, Hartley discusses the sobering calculus of death in modern warfare, the relative difficulty of writing versus soldiering, and why the play ("Surrender") he's based on his war experiences has been as confusing to his sense of identity as it has been terrifying for New York audiences. As a bonus, he names his personal heroes--and they're not the ones you might expect from a trained warrior.