CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Eric S. Freeman likes the old-fashioned idea of putting a pen to paper while other Marines enjoy e-mails and instant messaging. For him, the idea of scrawling his thoughts on paper is more than telling his family what's going. He hopes to tell the world.
The infantryman from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment's Company L, has documented every day of his deployment in a leather notebook. He details events and places he hopes to one-day turn into a book.
"I think to myself everyday how stupid it was of me not to have done this the first time around," Freeman said. "It's important, for so many reasons. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren what it was like. I don't want to be like 'Old Man River' who tells his tales and with each one the fish grows bigger."
Writing came naturally to Freeman. He traced his first effort to junior high school. As an early teen, he wrote short stories to help occupy his mind.
Still, the structured education of mastering the English language was a challenge for Freeman.
"I hated English in school," Freeman explained. "They always made you write the dumbest things, but once I started college I was able to write for myself. That's when it became fun."
But Freeman was far from lackadaisical student. He kept his studies a step ahead of his peers, graduating high school at 16 and completed nearly two years of college before joining the Marine Corps.
It was during those years after high school and before joining the Marine Corps when he found a passion for the written word. Still, he had a life-long desire to serve in uniform and put off his studies to become a Marine.
"I don't think people have reasons for everything," Freeman said. "But for me, ever since I was little I wanted to be in the Marine Corps."
Now, even while he's patrolling the streets and vast expanses of open desert in western Iraq, Freeman is scribbling down page-after-page in his notebook, hoping one day to turn it around into a published novel.
"He's such a smart guy," said Lance Cpl. Tom A. Harris, a friend of Freeman's from Tracy, Calif. "He thinks way into things sometimes. He turns the simplest tasks into complex problems."
His mastery of the English language has helped as a Marine as well as a budding novelist.
"He has the biggest vocabulary," said Pvt. Jesus Rivera, an infantryman with the battalion from Phoenix. "It seems like whenever anyone has trouble with a word or how to pronounce something he knows."
Freeman knows that breaking into the literary world is no easy task, but he's got a little experience. After several years writing short stories Freeman began writing a novel. Soon it became two.
"I just had this idea," Freeman said. "So I ran with it."
Not knowing how to contact a publisher he sold his novels to an author for $1,000 for their creative value to break apart and add to his own work.
"I was young and not sure what to do," Freeman said. "I got paid for it though. At the time that's what mattered most."
Freeman's an avid reader. He's got a list of authors he counts as his influences. Still, he hopes to bring a fresh, unique and personal approach to his work.
"Many stories lack realism," Freeman said. "Not everyone is perfect; you have ugly people, simple people. What about them? They need to have stories told about them as well."
Freeman plans to pursue more education and training to master his passion for writing at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His planned major is in English composition.
"Making it as an author is like trying to become a rock star," he said. "I'm realistic, this will provide me the opportunity to teach if all fails."
In fact, he's already been offered a role teaching at a college once he completes his degree, he said.
Still, he scratches out notes in his journals, keep his pencil dull and his mind sharp.
"I write everyday," Freeman said. "It's important to document what goes on. The mind goes but you can always look back and read about your memories."