Ryan Conklin, the impish, guitar-playing merry prankster of this season's "The Real World: Brooklyn," was packing his guitar to head off to Iraq on Sunday.
The former cast member of the MTV reality show was feeling more than a little anxious. "I want to get this thing started, because the sooner I do it, the sooner it'll be over," he said Wednesday. "I'm kind of just getting antsy with time."
He hopes to serve a rotation of just nine months.
The 23-year-old Gettysburg, Pa., native was on the front lines three years ago. He received his deployment notice while living in the "Real World" house. It was one of show's most poignant moments: His brother called with the news, and Conklin's emotional reaction ran the gamut from denial to disbelief to tears.
Conklin, who voiced his opposition to the war and participated in a Veterans Day parade on the show, touched the hearts of viewers who sympathized with his predicament.
"I knew it could happen," Conklin said of being redeployed. "I really wish it never did, but it did."
He estimates there are hundreds of soldiers in his brigade who've been recalled to active duty through the Army's Individual Ready Reserve program.
"They're all here," he said in an interview from Fort Bragg, N.C. "They're all pretty bitter. … Misery loves company, so we stick together."
Conklin enlisted in the Army at age 17, spurred to take action following 9/11. In his previous experience in Iraq, he constantly risked death and, in lighter moments, played soccer with Iraqi children. He also played his guitar.
He has no regrets.
"It's opened my eyes to see this, do things and learn things about myself and other people — and in any other environment, I wouldn't have gotten that experience. … It's kind of cool just to look back at what I did and actually be proud of what I did. If I could do it all over again, I'd do it again," he said.
But Conklin has had to put life on hold, especially his aspiration to make movies. He took a filmmaking class during "The Real World," and plans to "mess around" with his camera equipment on the base.
"As soon as I get out of here, I want to find a good school somewhere back home, get involved meeting people that are already in the game and learning from them," he said.
How about a Conklin-directed documentary about his redeployment?
"Exactly — it's 'The Real World: Baghdad,'" he jokes, a touch of vinegar in his voice.
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