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But it's not just the discussion of war he omits from other students. He shows up for class, takes notes, and leaves, most of the time without communicating with students or professors. His reclusive behavior on campus betrays the man who was once my roommate in a dilapidated Korean War-era barracks at Ft.In the first three months of his first semester at UW-GB, he never said more than a few words to anyone. Lewis, since renamed Joint Base Lewis-Mc Cord, a verdant mega base that sprawls along Interstate 5 near Tacoma, Washington.Josh Martell doesn't look like the popular kid anymore.His thick neck protrudes from a muscular body that once led the Preble Hornets of Green Bay to consecutive all-conference football titles.Most of them were worrying about prom dates and acne while Josh trudged through open sewers, took sniper fire, and saw his fellow soldiers mangled and killed.He definitely doesn't mention the time four roadside bombs detonated next to his Stryker assault vehicle in rapid succession, where each explosion felt closer to the one that would tear open the steel underbelly like a sardine can and vaporize the men inside. " he told me over the phone as his own kids played in the living room.His thick black hair and Nicaraguan descent challenge the stereotypical image of a combat soldier as a redneck with a southern drawl. Jason, 28, earned a Purple Heart during his first tour after shrapnel from an explosion burrowed into the left side of his body.The scars aren't visible anymore, and neither are the tiny bits of shrapnel still embedded in his skin.

He hung up his cleats to work the night shift at UPS, a decision Mendieta says his privileged classmates likely won't face during their studies.

No longer part of the close-knit team, Mendieta's only social outlet melted away, and with it, interest and motivation in his schoolwork.

He now struggles to maintain a crowded schedule on an average of four hours of sleep a night.

It might have been luck that saved Martell during a patrol in Baquba, Iraq, a lush, rural insurgent paradise nestled in a river valley 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.

A bomb targeting foot soldiers detonated near him during the bloody summer of 2007, when American casualties reached an all-time high.

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