Author, poet, Marine, actor, filmmaker and photographer are just a few words describing the many faces of Benjamin Busch.Raised in central New York, Busch graduated from college with a degree in art before joining the U.S. Marine Corps, serving 16 years as an infantry and light armored reconnaissance officer. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and again in 2005 where he was wounded in Ramadi. His military decorations include the Bronze Star with V Device and a Purple Heart.
Between his deployments he worked as an actor, most notably appearing on HBO’s “The Wire.” Besides roles in more than 20 other films and TV shows, he’s the author of the memoir, “Dust to Dust,” and an award-winning poet and photographer.
Busch lives on a farm in Michigan where he works as a stone mason and illustrator. Before he visits Moscow Wednesday, Oct. 26 to talk about his memoir, Inland 360 caught up with him in an email interview.
360: You had a pacifist upbringing. What led you to join the U.S. Marine Corps?
Busch: My grandfather was a Marine in the Pacific campaign so I suppose it skipped a generation. I have a certain hunger for what can only be discovered by endangerment. I want to venture into the extremities of uncertainty. I think we are recruited into much of our lives by stories and the lure of knighthood filled my childhood. The Marines promised nothing but risk and I answered with all I had. The romance of mythology is destroyed by war, but you almost have to be burned to fully comprehend fire.
360: Between two tours in Iraq you worked as an actor, starring as Officer Anthony Colicchio on the final three seasons of “The Wire.” Was it difficult to transition between those two worlds of acting, where you might portray life and death circumstances, to soldiering, where you were actually experiencing them? It seems like a surreal juxtaposition.
Busch: I was intensely frustrated by my first deployment to Iraq, but I was expected to disguise my disappointments. There was an aspect of Colicchio’s furious intolerance for disorder that echoed my own experience in the disarray of occupied Iraq and “The Wire” allowed me to channel that version of myself. I also enjoyed inhabiting someone so unlike me in other ways.
360: You consulted on the HBO series “Generation Kill” and played Maj. Todd Eckloff in the show. As someone who was in the war, what did you want the series to show the public? Did you feel there were perceptions about the war that needed to be corrected?
Busch: I was just a minor player in “GenKill,” but it was a show that went after a certain portrait of the war that has felt true to many veterans. I think when you work in any subject populated with people who have lived in it, you struggle as much to convince them of its honesty as you do to articulate some of that to others.
360: You speak about the labels used to describe military service in America — patriot, hero and veteran — and that you feel these words are often misused. Could you explain your reasoning?
Busch: I feel these words have been used for sloganeering and advertisement so much that they have lost their meanings. I still prefer “service” as what participation in the military should be. Most true heroism are just acts considered necessary under the circumstances.
360: You published your memoir “Dust to Dust” in 2012. What have you been doing lately? Do you have any upcoming acting projects coming up?
Busch: “Dust to Dust” was an unconventional memoir I hoped would resonate with everyone willing to examine their journey. I have been writing some narrative poetry and very short essays. I have a novel in the works, because a writer is expected to say that, and a few screenplays in various states of ruin. I’ve been illustrating books, a return to my beginnings as a manual artist. And, of course, I was just in Tampa (Florida) wearing 30 pounds of leather and metal playing a gladiator in a new feature film. We were fighting in a warehouse lit by torches with no AC at the apex of Florida summer, so between that and Iraq I think I’m done with heat just in time for global warming. I can’t wait to read in Idaho where the temperature is more to my liking.
If You Go
Who: Author and actor Benjamin Busch
What: Reading from his war memoir, “Dust to Dust”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26
Where: Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, 508 S. Main St., Moscow
Of Note: The free reading will be followed by a Q&A session. Books will be available for sale and signing.