Ghosts of War

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Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer. In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, readers march along one GI's tour of duty. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.

Curriculet Details
57 Questions
62 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 9th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining daily life in the modern military, historical events related to the war in Iraq and helpful cues regarding the author's diction. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about a soldier's experience in Iraq and using text-based evidence to make inferences. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of author's claims, textual evidence, and the central idea of the text. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension. This non-fiction novel contains descriptions of daily life in a war zone. Please be advised that there are vivid descriptions of war and adult language.

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Stuck in the Fence

The map below shows East Greenbush, New York. This is where the author of the text was raised.  (This annotation contains an image)
You can use the "Define" feature in Curriculet to look up and define challenging words. Simply highlight the word with your cursor and click on "Define". Make sure you do this with any words that are not familiar to you! 
In this passage, the friend is referring to the horrific events of September 11th. Watch the short video below to learn more about the events of this day and to learn about why it had such an impact on America. (This annotation contains a video)
Up until 5th period, the narrator 
The narrator's family and friends were 
Joining the military is a huge decision for anyone who is graduating high school. If you are not familiar with the difference between the reserves and active duty, or if you want to learn more about the different branches of the military, click the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
Heather's dream is an example of 
Fort Leonard Wood is located in Missouri. The map below shows the exact location.  (This annotation contains an image)
The images below show the fence surrounding Ground Zero and the memorabilia that people placed to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks.  (This annotation contains an image)


The questions that the author asks indicate that he is feeling ____________. 
A drill sergeant is typically portrayed in the media as someone who is like the man in the picture below. It is clear that the narrator is expecting this kind of treatment when he arrives at Fort Leonard Wood. (This annotation contains an image)
From the author's perspective in this passage we can infer that basic training is  

Basic Training Part I

The image below shows army recruits doing push-ups while a drill sergeant counts. Why do you think that there is so much physical training that occurs during basic training?  (This annotation contains an image)
The objective of the Drill Sergeant's behavior is to teach recruits 
The diagram below shows the exercise that the private has to do for failing to follow directions.  (This annotation contains an image)
In this context, "reeking" means ____________. 
"Olive Drab" is the color that many of the clothes in the army are dyed. The image below shows army issue clothing in "Olive Drab".  (This annotation contains an image)
This passage supports the author's idea that  
The image below shows two soldiers in a foxhole. A foxhole is a shallow shelter dug out of the ground. Why would the sergeant say, "There's no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole"? (This annotation contains an image)

Maybe a Ring?

The possibility of the author's deployment leads Heather to ask him to consider 
"The Sandbox" refers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Smithson calls it "the Sandbox" since it is a dry, desert climate.  
Use the Define feature to look up the word naïve. Then, pick the best synonym for naïve from the list below. 
Smithson is referring to the folded American flag that is given to the families of deceased soldiers. The flag is draped over the coffin and folded in an elaborate ceremony.  

EQ Platoon

"AWOL" stands for "absent without leave". It is similar to be truant from school. In other words, if a soldier is AWOL, they have not shown up for duty when they were required to.  
From Smithson's response we can infer that he is _____________. 
The image below shows all the different types of insignia that can be earned in the army. Each of these has a very specific job title that goes along with it. Why would this be an important part of a soldier's uniform?  (This annotation contains an image)
From this detail we can infer that 
We can make some inferences about how the command is organized based on the details in this passage. This video explains how to make an inference using textual evidence.  (This annotation contains a video)
The image below shows a picture of the inside of a typical army barrack. Think about how this living situation would help people bond quickly. (This annotation contains an image)

GI Joe Schmo

The tone of this passage is best described as ________. 
The idea that all the men have is each other is a reoccurring theme. Pay attention to how the author develops this theme and how different situations reinforce this theme in the upcoming chapters. 
Here is a map of Kuwait.  (This annotation contains an image)
At this point in the novel, the author believes that  
The picture below shows an image of army tents in Kuwait.  (This annotation contains an image)
"Haji" is the term that American soldiers use to describe Iraqis. 
The mood of this passage is ___________. 

Cold Lightning

The author compares himself to a wolf to illustrate 
The video below will help you understand how the army works in Kuwait. While the base in this video is far more established than the base described in this book, it does have some similarities.  (This annotation contains a video)
This image is of soldiers greeting Iraqi children in 2004.  (This annotation contains an image)
What does the author mean when he states, "This is why we invaded Iraq"? 
The image below shows army rangers shooting a mortar.  (This annotation contains an image)

The Eight-Hour Delay

The fact that the author prays during his mission indicates that he is ____________. 
The image below shows an army rucksack.  (This annotation contains an image)
President Bush was the president of the United States during this time period. Here is a picture of President Bush.  (This annotation contains an image)
The author claims that  
What does the author claim about the story of the war? 

The Town that Achmed Built

The video below shows army engineers at work building a bridge. How does the video below compare to the experience that the author describes earlier? (This annotation contains a video)
The map below shows the location of Samarra in Iraq.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an image of a Humvee that has machine gun mounted to the roof.  (This annotation contains an image)
What did the author expect when he deployed to Iraq? 
The author uses _____________ in this passage to convey his confusion. 

A Taste of Death

The video below shows the first moments of the war in Iraq on March 21, 2003. This video was taken about a year before the author was deployed to Iraq.  (This annotation contains a video)
What does, "Even if they have to take me home in a pine box," mean? 
This video illustrates the challenge that IEDs brought to American soldiers during the war in Afghanistan. While the setting of this book is in Iraq, IEDs were used in both regions.  (This annotation contains a video)
The details in this section of the chapter describe  
Do you find this passage humorous? Why do you think the soldiers are laughing during such a challenging task? 
Quiz 1 

Basic Training Part II

The image below shows a M16. Why would it be important to learn how to move around while holding this weapon safely?  (This annotation contains an image)
This portion of the novel takes place ______ the author goes to Iraq. 
The video below shows soldiers marching in unison. This would be similar to the experience that the author had.  (This annotation contains a video)
The purpose of this song is 


Smithson claims that  

War Miracles

Abu Ghraib prison is an infamous prison in Iraq. It is best known for horrific images that were taken by American soldiers of Iraqi prisoners in disturbing situations. The photographs were made public and they infuriated the world community. Overall, the publication of the pictures revealed significant issues with the way that the military was running the prison. 
The image below shows the entrance to Abu Ghraib prison.  (This annotation contains an image)
The third-world country contractors in Iraq 
The soldier in the image below is wearing the gray and tan digital camouflage that Smithson references in this passage. (This annotation contains an image)
The video below shows what it was like to live on an Army base in Iraq during the early part of the war. What similarities do you see in the experiences that the soldiers in the video have to the experiences that Smithson describes? (This annotation contains a video)
From this detail we can infer that 
The video below was taken by a reporter in Afghanistan (around the same time period that Smithson was in Iraq) during a mortar attack. Notice the immediate reaction that the soldiers have when they hear the mortar. How is this different than the reaction that Smithson and his colleagues have?  (This annotation contains a video)
Up until this point, Smithson sees mortars as 

A Taste of Home

"Leave" is another way to say a vacation or a break. During leave, soldiers are able to return home to visit family and loved ones. Why would this be an important fixture in the armed forces? 
From the details in this passage we can infer that 
Smithson claims that 
What causes Smithson to have this reaction? 
Smithson is having a stress-related reaction. When it becomes serious, it is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Here is a video describing how trauma from deployment in a war zone impacts the emotional state of veterans. Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) can happen to anybody who has experienced a traumatic event. It is important to understand that this is treatable if you talk to a professional. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Smithson's use of the words "brother" and "sister" illustrate his feelings towards his fellow soldiers? 

Satan’s Clothes Dryer

The phrase "Satan's clothes dryer" is used to describe ____________. 
The image below shows a M203. This is a very powerful weapon that launches grenades.  (This annotation contains an image)

Hard Canvas

The graph below shows the daily averages for Taji, Iraq. Imagine trying to work outside in 125 degree heat. Think about the fact that Smithson and his fellow soldiers are wearing body armor and a full uniform.  (This annotation contains an image)
This dialogue is meant to be ___________. 
Smithson claims that 
Many soldiers coming back from Iraq described the children they encountered. Here are images of Iraqi children flashing a "thumbs up" like the scene that Smithson describes in the text.  (This annotation contains an image)


Smithson is comparing himself to ________. 
The image below shows a MRE (meal ready to eat). This is food that does not require cooking. Rather, it is ready to eat and it keeps for a long time in the packaging. The MRE in the photograph is a pizza. Do you think this looks appetizing?  (This annotation contains an image)
In this chapter we learn that Haley was 
This is the first time that Smithson reveals he has cried while on tour in Iraq. Losing a pet can be really hard and Smithson is obviously deeply impacted by this.  

Bazoona Cat

Despite not being able to speak the same language, Smithson and the Iraqi child 
This image shows a soldier in a humvee interacting with Iraqi children. Why would it be difficult for soldiers to ignore these children when they are out on patrol or working?  (This annotation contains an image)


"Chow hall" refers to 
The graph below shows that when IEDS detonated in Iraq and Afghanistan, a soldier was killed 13% of the time.  (This annotation contains an image)
Smithson claims that Conklin died from 
The image below shows a "battlefield cross". This is what Smithson describes when he mentions the upside down rifle, Kevlar, and dog tags of the fallen soldier. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz 2 

Basic Training Part III

This chapter takes place  
The image below shows a soldier completing a shooting training in basic training. Notice how he positions his body in the same way that Smithson describes in this chapter.  (This annotation contains an image)
The Sergeant claims that the high school students  
Do you think Smithson feels like he is fighting for Iraqi's freedom while he is in Iraq? 

Best Day So Far

The mood of Smithson's letter is _______. 
Even at the base in Iraq, the soldiers had access to a gym. Why would this be important for deployed soldiers?  (This annotation contains an image)


Zerega's song is meant to be ____________. 
Smithson is highlighting the danger of war. Even when soldiers are on their way home, they are still in a war zone and anything can happen. 

The End

The soldiers are cheering because  
The soldiers are acting with poor etiquette because they have just survived a year in Iraq. Do you think that they should act this way?  
What does Smithson claim in this passage? 
This is an image of a fake town that is used for training in Fort Irwin, California. Why would this be important for soldiers to train in before deploying to Iraq?  (This annotation contains an image)
LT is crying because 
The author uses italics to indicate 
Despite a year in Iraq, the soldiers are recounting stories that are very comical in nature. What does this reveal about their current state of mind? 
Wisdom teeth are located in the far corners of your jaw. In most cases, they need to be pulled or else they will run the risk of becoming impacted and infected.  
The dialogue reveals that 

Silence and Silhouettes

The video below shows images of soldiers returning from a tour of duty.  (This annotation contains a video)
Smithson claims that the best part of being in Iraq is 
Smithson is having a stress induced reaction. His honesty about what it feels like to return from combat is very important. For many soldiers, this is a common experience and until recently, many people did not talk about it.  
The italics in this section represent 

Words on Paper

Smithson argues that the hardest part of combat is  
Think about what Smithson might need to talk about. Perhaps he needs to talk about his experiences and have someone listen to him about the challenges he faced while in Iraq. He has been under enormous stress and, as a result, he may not realize how much of an impact this had on him.  
Smithson finds that it is ________ to write about his experiences in Iraq. 
The teacher asks Smithson if he is receiving therapy. The website below is dedicated to providing mental health services for veterans who returned from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  (This annotation contains a link)

The Innocent

Smithson compares leading children to 
Smithson is struck by the fact that the children he is in charge of do not remember the events of September 11th. Why does this impact him so strongly? 

Ghosts of War

Smithson's description of war reveals that he believes  
Quiz #3