23 October 2010

4 June 2009

Due to a DOD directive banning military personnel from accessing Wikileaks, I cannot post or link to the site.  However, viewing any of the reports will give you the gist of what they look like.  Take that into consideration, then juxtapose it with an account from someone who has served in Iraq.

Here is the email I sent to friends and family following the events of that day.  I am not saying that the U.S. military has never done anything wrong or bad during the 6 years of conflict in Iraq.  But to think that these Wikileaks reports mean anything when isolated from their surrounding context is naive and stupid.  I mean that: stupid.  If you have not served in Iraq or Afghanistan, then you have no idea what happens on a daily basis there.  Not even the kinetic fighting.  Just the whole experience.


5 JUN 09: Red Dragon soldier killed in action
1 message
XXXXXXXXXXX Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 2:18 PM

To: (((OMITTED)))

Will probably be another 24 to 48 hours before this hits the tiny blurbs these types of things are typically relegated to in the papers, but I figured I'd beat 'em to the punch.
Obviously, I'm okay (since I'm writing this email to y'all).  Yesterday, 4 JUN 09, our battalion lost another soldier in the line of duty.  I'll refrain from putting the name out until I see it in the papers.  The soldier was not in my battery, but was in another battery in our battalion.
The soldier had been injured about a month ago in an attack (I did the investigation on it), and had just been awarded the Purple Heart for those injuries by the battalion commander during an awards ceremony last Friday.
I'll wait a bit before I put out the play-by-play, but it basically boils down to this: my platoon was in the north when Golf Company's platoon was hit.  We responded, took command and control of the scene (basically my platoon, plus two other platoons from different batteries), and ended up conducting massive searches around the attack area.
Managing a mixed-unit cordon, while battling equipment failures, namely a dead radio and a dead Blueforce Tracker (the screen with icons overlayed on a map which shows you where all of your friendly units are at), while searching for people who just killed an American soldier in four different parts of the city (up to 5 houses in each search area) was definitely a challenge.
What would've been a routine 6-hour patrol turned into a 12-and-a-half hour marathon, but in the end, my soldiers performed magnificently.  They were able to react and respond to an unknown, rapidly changing situation, and facilitated the capture of insurgents who killed one of our brothers in arms.  They did everything I asked of them, even when shit got chaotic, and I could not be more proud to be their platoon leader.
In the end, despite the outstanding effort put out by the battalion yesterday, nothing changes the fact that another soldier is dead.  When we heard the radio transmission, "Soldier died of wounds," I found myself not paralyzed by fear, sadness or even anger.  I don't think any of us did.  Maybe it's because we already experienced tragedy closer to home -- maybe because it was a soldier from another unit.  I don't know.  I don't know if those are the "right" feelings to feel or not.  Maybe SSG Webster's death drained me (emotionally) so completely that my platoon and I were able to drive on while units around us were running around in circles.
What I do know is that we all did feel a sense of determination, and all understood the fact that each passing moment gave the enemy an opportunity to get further away.  Everyone pulled together at exactly the right moment, and got the mission done, even in the face of tragedy.
Ultimately, it's been a crazy 24 hours.  I've received a couple of packages and letters, and I will write some individual responses once I get a moment to breathe!!
As always, love and miss you all.

I don't say this to sound superior.  It's a reality check for anyone that wants to judge me or my soldiers based on internet documents released by a company who has chased sensationalism and their own political agenda.  Before you judge me or anyone else, you better answer the following questions.  Then judge all you want.

Do you know what it's like to walk down a crowded market with less than eight dismounted soldiers, days after the same market saw IEDs and VBIEDs?  Do you know what it's like to have that godawful feeling in your stomach, that something is going to happen today?  Do you know what it's like to step out of your humvee and feel that blast of 120-degree heat, and the rivulets of sweat instantly breaking out and dripping down the small of your back underneath your body armor?  Do you know what it's like to smell the remains of human beings hours after they were blown up a suicide-vest bomber -- do you know what chunks of people smells like after they've baked in the sun for several hours?  Do you know what a person looks like after he has been killed by a VBIED and his entire body is charred black except for the intermittent streaks of red and yellow (fat)?  Do you know what it's like to wonder if this time that you leave the FOB will be the last?  Will this be the last time you brush your thumb against the selector switch on your M4 before a sniper takes you out?  Will this be the last time you key the hand-mic on your radio before your truck is destroyed by a deep-buried IED or EFP?  Will last night's phone call be the last time you hear the voice on the other end before your MRAP rolls over on some shitty mud road, killing you and everyone else inside?  Do you know?

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