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Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able in order to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan’s dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.

“If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, and you could only have 10 books, what would they be?” Have you ever been asked – or asked yourself – this sort of question? It’s a good thinking exercise.

For me, it was more than that. I had to ask myself a similar question when I was called up to active duty by my National Guard unit. The deployment is scheduled for a year and a half – or maybe longer – and includes a year’s tour of duty in Iraq.

I had to ask myself: “What books should I take?”

There were several factors to consider, among them time and space. Limited space precludes having a large library. Plus, free time is limited and dependent upon the training and duty schedule. So, like the proverbial question, I wound up packing about 10 books.

The first book I selected was an easy choice – “The Bible.” If I could only take one book, that would be it, no other book even comes close. So I brought my preferred English translation, the King James version.

I also packed a few Arabic language books. I studied Arabic in Mexico a few years back, but after the class ended, I forgot what I’d learned, including the alphabet. After being called up for Iraq duty, I started looking at Arabic again. I figure the more one knows of it, the better. It could come in handy.

I also packed an almanac, a handy one-volume reference. After I was asked to write this column, I figured I’d also better take a dictionary, and so I did.

I brought an anthology of great English-language poetry. And I packed a copy of the works of William Shakespeare.

Another book I brought was an reference book on biblical archaeology . After all, I’m going to Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

And I brought along a copy of the novel I’ve been reading – Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

Other Guardsmen brought books. I’ve seen others with Bibles, and a few with novels that easily fit into their cargo pockets. (A cargo pocket is the large pocket on the side of the uniform’s trouser leg – there are two, one on each side). Another soldier enjoys Reader’s Digest. Another Guardsman was reading Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”

There is some free time when reading can be done in the barracks. A soldier can also read while out training or carrying out some other activity. That’s because there are often times when you suddenly are stuck somewhere, waiting for something, and there may be time to read. In such cases, it’s good to have something to read or study. The key is to have something ready and to be flexible – ready to read or quit reading at a moment’s notice.

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