This piece includes an excellent focus on one thoughtful, smart, sympathetic character. His character arc is strong. We liked the beginning of the piece: It establishes conflict right away, gets us involved in the character’s struggle. We thought the battle scenes were effectively rendered for the most part, but found some moments confusing; at times we lost a clear picture of what was going on.

Here’s what Marino e-mailed us about the story:

I’m always looking for ways to find the story in the topic. When 16 Marines from Cleveland’s 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment were killed in a single week, I knew their friends would have a story when they came home. I began interviewing Marines randomly, talking to any Marine who wanted to talk from 3/25, thinking I’d focus on a sniper unit whose losses got the most play in the media.

But then I met Cpls. Stan Mayer and Jeff Schuller, members of a support unit called upon to do a dangerous infantry job. After my first interviews with them, I decided to change the direction of the story. Mayer and Schuller fought hard, lost friends and spared me no details. One interview turned into several. Some lasted for hours. I talked to other members of their platoon and requested official documentation from the Marines’ public affairs office, so I could verify times, dates and specific actions. It took months of waiting and following up, but that documentation did arrive right before my deadline.

The May 7 battle scene took the most time to write because it was reconstructed entirely from interviews and documents. Since people remember things differently, especially in war, I had some contradictory accounts. I included source notes in the online version of the story.

Read “Blood Brothers,” by Jacqueline Marino

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