Thursday, April 28, 2005

Children From a Sunni Village

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And the disabled boy who made me hurt and smile at the same time.
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Sunday, April 24, 2005

God, Hope, and Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash’s haggard voice soothes my soul. I’m listening to American IV: The Man Comes Around. The hurt and joy spill from his soul to mine through a pair of cheap headphones bought at the px to combat the music played by my roommate. Cash’s voice takes you to another place, a place you just feel. He’s able to take Trent Reznor’s Hurt and turn it into a cathartic experience. How can someone have that affect with mere words and worn voice. God is in that voice, speaking to me. I need Him. The Man in Black. He knew You and is no longer in the dark.

What have I become my sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

Even in this song God is somehow there. My sweetest friend. We are all going away, but you endure. Take it all. I have nothing. This empire of dirt is my home. Take it. Take everything away, but leave me your grace. I will only let you down. In our quest to please ourselves and you, we only succeed in making you hurt.

I sit here in my box, my patience being tested. The roommate’s listening or watching some shitty gangsta rap DVD on his new tv/DVD combo he just bought at the PX. We stopped by the PX after having to qualify at the range on paper targets. Qualifying in a combat zone, God help us. Could we possibly do any more admin crap while we’re in a supposed combat zone. We get rodded onto the range for safety, when less than 100 meters outside the FOB there are those that want to kill us. I’ve already had two all night missions this week. God forbid if they give us a few hours of down time. Not sleep time, down time. There’s a difference. Can I have one waking moment not involved in a mission or sleeping? Is that too much to ask? The rap music is trying to overwhelm the music in my headphones. I must escape this place. I have to turn up the volume on my headphones to stay sane. I’m winning the war on what flows through my ears, but my nose is in a losing battle. He’s doing it again. He’s spraying some God-awful cologne or deodorant spray up into the air around him as if to ward off evil spirits.

Take me away Johnny. Sing about God, hurting, killing, whatever, just take me away from this place for just a few moments. I hear a soulful woman’s voice singing with Cash. It’s rapturous, more beautiful than the sweetest smelling rose, lifting me higher, taking me away from this ugly place. It reminds me of being surrounded by dirt and violence and some angel of a girl walking up to me and handing me a rose. God she was precious, and the flower smelled like heaven. What are you doing here little girl? How can something so beautiful exist in such an depraved place? I want to cry out to God to help this girl. I want to protect her. Give her a good life, free of oppression. Rid her and the others of the chains that have forever bound their kind in this land. Protect her and give her peace. Give her a chance. Let her smile forever be. She must be an angel, sent here to remind the sorrowful that there is goodness and beauty on this earth. I hope she stays a long time. I don’t want Him to take her back yet. Don’t leave little girl. You must stay in this place and provide hope. Let her help these people. Give her opportunity. Don’t relegate her to being another field hand, watched over by men who sit idle. Keep her healthy and happy. Let her prosper. Let her dream big and attain them. Send her to school, a scholarship, opportunity. Make her a bright shining light.

Cash’s voice is bringing me back. The awful stench of the cologne has receded. The sleepless night before is behind me. The wasted hours sitting at a traffic circle don’t seem as fruitless anymore. For those hours make this moment that much better. I have three papers in front of me. I need the news. I need to know of something other than this place. They are all days old, but I don’t care. Discarded, they sat on the floor of the PX, with it’s picked through shelves. The Mother’s Day card display is almost empty as well. Only cards for daughters remain. How many people shopping in this shithole have daughters that are mothers? DVD’s, always DVD’s. So many movies, so few that interest me. The magazine rack in the back has been picked through as well. Hundreds of magazines but none with news. I need news, not magazines with girls asses bursting from the cover.

Cash is quoting a passage from Revelation. Take me away, even if it’s Armageddon. Let the Man come around, and I will welcome His embrace. Let the trumpets and multitude of angels sing. Let their voices fill my ears. Let the Man come around, and I will bow down before his throne. Fill this ugly place with your wrath and goodness. Show us your grace. Forgive me.

Magazines and magazines but nothing I want or need. Muscle men embracing bikini clad women, ass barely covered by a strand of fabric. God I don’t need this. I don’t need the women’s magazines boasting of the newest diet or position that will drive him wild in bed. I don’t need the guns or the trucks or the women or the computers or the games. How have they managed to make a dime from these magazines? To whom do these appeal to? Give me news. Doesn’t anyone in this God forsaken land read the news? I know not what day it is, neither the day of the week nor the date. It’s just one big day, eternal, never ending.

Where is the light? In the dead of night, in some desolate part of this place, why are my eyes always drawn toward the light? What am I looking for? I’m searching. Searching for that escape. Help me find it God. Show me the light of this place. Show me the light that will give me hope. Cash is singing about Hurt. I keep going back to that song. Listening to it doesn’t make me Hurt though. I makes me feel, the mind no longer numb.

Another song. A dying man, and Cash is putting me next to him. I’m listening to his last words. He’s out of prison and trying to get back to Louisiana to see his wife and son. God, don’t let me be that dying man on a journey to see his Rose. I’ll send his message and take his money to Rose, but I won’t walk in his shoes. I won’t have the same fate. I’ll give my love to my Rose and tell my boy how proud his daddy is of him. A man’s dying wish. Please give my love to Rose, don’t forget. I won’t forget. I’m not this dying man sitting beside me. I’m alive and will deliver the message myself.

The books are no different. Who are they appealing to? Is every person in this place a female looking for an escape through a romance novel? Another dark hole that leads to nothing. The books laugh at me as I peruse them, and I laugh back with the knowledge that I will never pick one off their dusty racks.

The newspapers are on my bed waiting to be read.

Cash is singing about a bridge over troubled water.
When you’re weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them off
I’m on your side
Oh, when times get tough and friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over trouble water, I will lay me down
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the streets
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part when darkness comes and pain is all around
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine

God, be my bridge, and give me safe passage over this water. The bridge is long and the water dangerous. Help me cross it. Ease my mind. I’m weary. I’m weak. Strengthen me. I feel small compared to you. My tears are dry, but I sometimes see hurt in their eyes. Show yourself to these people. Fill their heart with light. Be on our side. We’re all the same. Another little girl peers around a gate. Look at her smile. There are millions like her, young and old. Sail on little girl. God, let it be their time to shine. Let their dreams be on their way. Let her shine. I’m on the streets and night has come. Deliver me from the pain. Show me the light that will guide my way. Help me to see. Help me to feel your presence amid the darkness that surrounds me. Is that you in that girl’s smile?

I pick up the paper on top and death screams out to me. 50 bodies found in the Tigris River. The Tigris. I’ve felt its cool water upon my skin. The souls of those killed making it colder. Kids playing, swimming against it’s current, oblivious to the horrors that lie beneath. Underneath this gruesome headline is Brittany Murphy. “A treat for the troops.” “20,000 free copies of Maxim going downrange featuring Brittany Murphy, a Marine’s curvaceous cousin.” Brittany staring at me with seductive eyes. Turning the page I see listings of recent U.S. deaths in Iraq. I’ll never be on this page. I can’t be. I still have to give my love to my Rose and tell my boy how proud I am of him.

Next page, ‘Akbar was racially harassed’, ‘DOD prepares to launch new sexual assault policy’, and ‘Maxim to give free copies to troops in Iraq’. Brittany again. A picture of the cover. She’s now wearing only underwear. A picture of a girl wearing almost nothing next to a story about the DOD’s sexual assault policy. I keep turning the pages. The new Pope, Putin and Rice, Saudis’ interest in nuclear development, Italian premier resigns, an image of Virgin Mary on a Chicago underpass. People desperate for any sign of hope in a dark world will see anything in the most unlikely places. I don’t need a vision of the Virgin Mary. I need God. I need to feel him. God reach out to me, embrace me, draw me to you. I see you in everything and yet I somehow still feel a million miles from you.

Did you know that boy I saw yesterday, the disabled boy who couldn’t walk? His legs looked strong. Why can’t he walk? Why did his parents not bother to clothe him from the waist down? Who are these people? How could he still be smiling with joy? He has hope in the midst of nothing. You gave him that hope. He sees you and knows you. How could he make me hurt for him and make me smile at the same time? His face was aglow with joy as I took his picture. Turning the camera around to reveal to him his own image looked to be the greatest gift he’d ever known. It’s just pixels, tiny digital dots that made him somebody, even if just for a moment. His image may be erased from my camera but never from my thoughts. Go with him throughout his hard life. Give him a little joy amongst the pain and the hurt as he did for me.

My roommate is now attempting to clean the pigsty that is his home. Our box is ugly. There is nothing beautiful inside. Where are you God? I need you and yet I reject you. The music is still loud in my ears, barely defeating the vile sounds emanating from our room. “The first time ever I saw your face.” He’s doing it again. Taking me away.

I thought the sun rose
In your eyes
And the moon and the stars
Were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless sky
My love

I see it. I see you when the sun rises or sets. I see it here in this box. My love, my precious wife. Her picture draws me closer to you. There is something beautiful in this box after all. It’s You through her. God, be with her and our son. She is a gift. A gift of You from You. Her light is eternal and endless as the sky, shining thousands of miles away, giving me the gift of promise. Promise and hope for a new day. The light in the distance that sustains me. You sustain me through her. I can feel her heart close to mine. Let me see her again. Let me feel the joy of life through her. Her hope is never ending and everlasting. Let me embrace it. Let me embrace her again. She is my hope. You are my hope. There is hope in this world, even in this place. Let these people see it as I have.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pictures from the River

I meant to post these along with my previous entry but didn't have the time. I want to thank an anonymous commenter, who also happens to be a Marine, for telling me about Image Shack. I tried to use bloggerbot, but we aren't supposed to download programs to these computers. I hope this works. I'll post more later when I have more time. I just got back a couple of hours ago from an all night mission that started at 2100. Fifteen hours straight that followed a half day mission yesterday. It's nap time.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

This Past Week at the Bridge

We’ve just completed our final week of guard at the Tigris for a while. All of us are glad to be giving it up. It will be another three months before we have to return. The less time I spend sitting on top of a tank guarding something is a good thing.

I watch the Iraqis passing by for four hours during my day shift, and see nothing but darkness during my night shift. The day is always more fun, for no other reason than things are happening around you and it makes the time go by faster. You never know what you may see during the course of those four hours during the day.

Most people come through and wave and smile as usual, but others just look at you blankly or don’t even turn their head. It’s almost like some of them just refuse to acknowledge our presence in their land, and I can’t really blame them. I don’t think they hate us, they probably just want to see us gone. It’s fun to try to wave to them anyway, especially the kids. A lot of cars will pass by us that are packed full of kids and adults. I always wave to the kids. They usually wave back, even when it looks like the adults are telling them not to.

The other day I saw a car drive by with its trunk open. A little boy and girl were both sitting in the trunk. The girl waved to us and the boy gave us the peace sign. Peace, something these kids haven’t experienced much of during their young life. I couldn’t help but think how much trouble the parents would get in if they were to be caught letting their kids ride in the trunk back in the States. Later the same day I saw a man riding in the bucket of a big front end loader. The tank on the other side of the river called over the radio telling me to get my camera ready, that I was about to see something that even out here would qualify as odd. It was more funny than odd, and the man seemed to be enjoying himself as I took his picture.

It’s still early April and already signs of the oppressive heat of summer are upon us. I’ve already experienced two summers in either Iraq or Kuwait, and I’m hardly looking forward to another. The heat in this land drains your spirit, leaving your body void of any energy. The necessity of water is paramount, a commodity more precious than gold. This leaves me wondering why the Iraqi Army guys show up for their guard without bringing this simple necessity. It’s worse than if they showed up with no weapon.

“Meester” they call incessantly, peering up at us from beside the tank. Why do they call us mister? The term mister is wearing on our nerves. Call me dude, man, Michael, American, or soldier, anything other than “Meester”or “Mista.” I try not to show my impatience with them as I respond to their call. “Meester, you have Wata,” they ask for the thousandth time? Are you kidding me? How can they show up for a 24-hour shift with no water? I know they have access to water. Why wouldn’t they bring a jug or some other container full of water from home? “We have no water,” I lie and feel cruel in the process. For it is a lie, but one I must tell. We have water. I have a big bottle sitting next to me, but it’s for me, for us, for our platoon. I felt like an uncaring ruler sitting upon my tank throne as they walk away dejectedly.

We are no longer allowed to give them water, a temporary shortage the last time we were here brought about this cruel rule. I used to give out water like candy, not thinking that our endless supply might possibly come to an end. But it did, and for a day we had to ration what little water we had until we could be re-supplied, causing us to ask passing convoys for any water they could spare. It was almost embarrassing to have to wave down a passing convoy and beg for water.

My conscience won’t let me be. I must at least try to get them some water. I call up the TOC and ask them if they can pass over some water to the IA, knowing what the inevitable response will be. The Lt. gets on the radio to respond. Apparently he must display his authority on the matter. With compassion in his voice he explains to me that we can’t afford to give them any water. I already know this but had to ask anyway, especially because of the heat. He tells me to ask them if they have any containers with them that we can fill with water from our water buffalo. This water is potable but not the bottled water they crave. Beggars can’t be choosers. They look up at me helpless as I ask them for some sort of container in which to fill with water. They have none, imagine that. I call back to the TOC and tell them that they have no containers. A minute later I can see over the barricades into our compound as the Lt. himself walks out with three empty water bottles. He fills them with the water from the buffalo, the same water that supplies our shower water. He then carries them over to the wall and passes them over to the soldiers. Mission complete, my mind rests a little easier as I swallow lukewarm water from a bottle, trying to replenish the fluids draining from every pore.

The Iraqi soldiers ask us for other things as well. They’ll ask for your watch, some trinket on our vest’s, chem-lights, always chem-lights, food, and our torch. Torch, as if we are cavemen from a prehistoric age. Which isn’t that farfetched when you consider that some of the people here live as though from prehistoric times. Torch is what some of them call flashlights. We need our flashlight’s, so we won’t soon be giving those up. I’ve had Iraqi’s in general ask me for just about everything on my person, including my wedding ring. They might as well ask me for my soul. It’s become a running joke among us that one day we might indeed be asked to give up our soul to these people. Always give me. “Give me _____”

I’m not disturbed by them asking me for water or other things so much as I am the greater problem I see in this. They want handouts. Maybe they’re used to us giving them too many things over the past couple of years. Maybe they’re accustomed to getting handouts from a dictator that gave just enough to meet their needs. Therein lies one of the many problems of a totalitarian or dictatorial regime. Those subservient to Saddam’s tyrannical rule were kept in submissiveness by his meager gifts. They tolerated him because within his iron fist he also held the food and other necessities which would sustain them. This as in communism creates an indolence within a population that can be much more dangerous than the dictator in whom they serve. They lose any desire to better themselves or their situation in life. Why try to attain something better when all you ever needed was handed to you.

We give and give and give some more and with pleasure, but at some point they are going to have to produce for themselves. This is essentially the most important issue facing them and us, especially in the case of the Iraqi Army, whose job it will be to secure their nation once we leave. They have to learn to stand on their own without our help and guidance. I’m personally very optimistic on this issue. From what I’ve seen they’re off to a good start, but there’s still work to be done. Like any organization, there are good people to be relied on, as well as those that contribute nothing to the greater good. I firmly believe that the vast majority of the Iraqi soldiers are good decent men that are proud of their country and want to see it prosper. These men will be relied upon to lead the others. I hope and pray they’ll accept this responsibility.

The other day, the same day that our Battalion Commander visited us, a long convoy of Iraqi troops crossed over the bridge. You should have seen them. This group of soldiers gave me pride as I watched them pass by. They had obviously been outfitted with brand new equipment and were wearing it with pride. Each of them had new helmets, bullet proof vests, weapons, and uniforms. They were even riding in new vehicles. Each vehicle was proudly displaying the new Iraqi flag, and as they passed, each man looked at us on the tank, and with the simple gesture of a wave, conveyed the silent respect that each army has for the other.

The young entrepreneurs that live close to the bridge have begun swimming to fight the warm weather. The strip down to their shorts, walk out onto the bridge or one of the pontoons supporting it, and launch themselves into the cold Tigris flowing beneath. I got caught up in their reverie and walked down the riverbank to take their pictures. The sight of me and my camera only added to their adventure as they rewarded me with more daring leaps. The river’s strong current would propel them down river as they swam for the shore. The goose bumps on their skin as well as their shortness of breath indicated how cold the water really was. Once ashore they would run to circle around me in the hopes of viewing their acrobatics on the small screen of my digital camera. With excited voices they would watch as I scrolled throughout the pictures, smiling and pointing to the camera when they saw themselves in flight. Each of their heads was dripping the surprisingly cold water onto my hands as they would say thank you whenever seeing their image. It was funny to me that they would say thank you. As if their image would be forever remembered from this day forward. I found myself wishing they had email addresses that I could send these pictures to. These images emboldened them even more as they ran back onto the bridge to jump again. Each one would yell to me before they jumped, making certain that I would capture their image again. I didn’t care. I was funny to watch, and my camera can hold hundreds of pictures. This cycle continued another five or six times before the cold water or the thought of lost money brought them back up to the road to continue hawking their wares.

Bayonets and of course pirated DVD’s make up most of their merchandise. You have to admire their persistence. A kid will try to sell you DVD’s until you finally tell him that you have no cash. The same kid will return 30 minutes later trying once again. Each of them will tell you they can get you whatever you want. They finally get a hint once we tell them we want a ticket home, a house in the Hamptons, a condo in Aspen, peace in the Middle East, a double Whopper with cheese, a billion dollars, and someone to pick up all the trash in Iraq. I actually don’t want any of these things, it’s just fun to sometimes watch them walk away frustrated. Why would I want peace in the Middle East, when the opposite affords me the opportunity to sit on a tank during the hottest part of the day next to the Tigris River.

Old bayonets seem to be more prevalent than the trash that litters the Iraqi landscape. There are so many kids selling bayonets that one really overzealous annoying NCO has made it his personal crusade to get rid of every one. He doesn’t seem to realize, even though our platoon Sgt. has reminded him twice, that there are no laws prohibiting the carrying or selling of bayonets. They’re allowed to carry an AK-47 for Allah’s sake, why the hell wouldn’t they be allowed to sell an old rusty bayonet.

One morning, as we were walking up to relieve this jackass NCO and another guy, I noticed a group of people standing on our side of the bridge. The jackass in question could be seen in the middle of this crowd as he hurled two bayonets in the river. God, he’s doing it again. What is it with this guy? He creates unnecessary drama everywhere he goes and annoys the hell out of everybody in the process. The poor kids crying, while his dad tries to smooth things over with jackass. Then jackass tells me before leaving to do the same if I see any. Whatever dude, just go away. After he’s gone, we call the kid over and give him five dollars a piece. This will at least cover his expenses. What jackass also fails to realize is that a lot of these kids are putting food on their family’s table by selling things like bayonets to passing convoys.

The kid is happy again, and I feel like we’ve saved at least one family from hating us. Hell, we might have even made us a little safer. I told him that we don’t care if he sells bayonets, just don’t do it when the crazy tall guy with red hair is on guard. He understood and said thank you. His dad, the proprietor of the five star Tigris Restaurant, thanked us as well and gave us a couple of cold generic colas.

The Tigris Restaurant. I didn’t know if someone had painted it on the tiny stone structure as a joke or not. It stands on our side of the river about 15 feet from the edge of the bridge. There’s nothing inside except what the man brings with him in the morning. He sells little sandwiches with lamb meat, bread, and drinks. He wasn’t open for business until about three weeks ago. The bread is good, especially if you have some peanut butter from an MRE. The generic coke isn’t bad either, but we try to stay away from the lamb meat.

This past week the Battalion Commander and the Brigade Sergeant Major graced us with their presence. I like our Battalion Commander. He played football when he was at West Point and has that football player mentality. A lot of officers put you to sleep with their speeches, but this guy actually inspires you to want to go out and kill some bad guys. He also has a good sense of humor, which seems to be lacking in the majority of the officer corps. Most officers are basically dorks. This guy is far from what I would consider a dork. He’s still built like a football player, with a compact frame and stocky build. His short, powerful physique, bald head, and boisterous voice impart an old school presence. This guy isn’t a politician. He’s ready to lead men into battle. Hollywood couldn’t produce a character like him. He’s the real deal, and no actor could ever hope to replicate his almost comic book persona. As if wanting to convey the complete image of a man not to screw with, he can always be seen with a fat cigar hanging either from his mouth or between his meaty fingers. I can’t help but smile when he ends his speech with these words, “We’re going to close with and destroy our great nation’s enemies with speed, firepower, and shock effect!” When he says it, you actually believe it and want to follow him.

The Brigade Sergeant Major showed up one day as well, complete with knee and elbow pads. Nobody wears knee and elbow pads. Maybe he’s planning on having to low crawl sometime soon. Anyway, like I said, the Brigade Sergeant Major showed up the other day. Life at the bridge, I may even miss it.

Note: I've tried unsuccessfully to post pictures that related to this post. It's diffucult because we aren't supposed to download programs to these computers. I think there is a way to post pics using the html tab. I'm thinking of starting a yahoo group where I can post pictures. Anyway, I'll keep trying.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I Apologize

Sorry for the miscommunication. I didn't actually go home this past week. Our platoon was out guarding a bridge, and we just returned today. I won't be meeting my son until sometime this summer. Take care

Friday, April 08, 2005


I just wanted to say thanks for all the nice emails of support I've received lately. Both the wife and little Michael are well. They are both very healthy and seem to be happy as well. Thanks also for your prayers and for taking time out of your day to stop by. I'm leaving today for a week, so I won't be able to bore you with any posts until I get back. Take care.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Highway of Hell, Oil Spills, and the House of Killing

The House of Killing was our target, and as we left the FOB, I couldn’t help thinking how silly the name sounded. It sounded more appropriate for a haunted house that lures reluctant kids on Halloween. This macabre name no doubt came from someone that had never before been there.

We were traveling back down the Highway of Hell, past the spot where we’d been hit by an IED. Both sides of the road are riddled with deep holes, the result of IEDs from the past. Where did the contents of these holes come to rest? Did they fall harmlessly on the road, or did they find their mark, penetrating the flesh of a fellow soldier long ago, leaving only a memory? Like a scar that continues to fester without healing, these holes remain long after the initial wound, constantly reminding us of the almost inevitable threat as we speed down the center of the highway. We are a boat upon the river, aggressively navigating this narrow passage, leery of what lies on its banks.

The holes are now obstacles, deep traps that our tires must avoid to prevent an equally as deadly wreck. With the patience of Job, and no light to guide them, our drivers concentrate on staying in the middle. Thomas, looking through his magical goggles, can only see the faint green lights of the humvee in front of us as we cruise down the highway at speeds of up to 70mph. Sgt.W. is in the front with Thomas, while Ray and the medic are in the back. Looking through their night vision goggles as well, they help guide him with soft commands of “Left” or “Right”. Looking down from above, with my face to the 70mph wind, I stand outside the top of the turret to give him more help. The violent wind assaults my chapped lips as I struggle to keep them closed, saliva sometimes escaping my mouth, creating wet streaks across the film of dust on my face.

We got to our stopping point outside of the now familiar town and dropped off the dismounts. They were going to the Killing House on foot, skirting around the town to the west. The infamous Killing House was supposedly where terrorists take the captives of hijacked trucks and kill them. This information was obtained by another platoon, who received it from a kid. He’d also recently seen a man outside of this house carrying an RPG. RPG’s are illegal and something that, when used effectively, can be hazardous to our health. If I see a man with an RPG, he will become a dead man with an RPG.

The dismounts would be walking three kilometers to the Killing House with the intentions of ambushing anyone that arrived. Those of us remaining on the humvees set up a TCP along the highway. A traffic control point in the dead of night is never much fun. Sometimes you sit there for hours without a single vehicle approaching. A half hour before the end of curfew three beat up pickup trucks staggered up to the checkpoint with hesitation. Each man behind the wheel was removed from his vehicle and told to wait until the curfew had ended before continuing their journey. Each was seeking the precious fuel that would take them and their trucks to another place.

Fuel is exchanged, bartered, stolen, bought, and sold on every street corner and back alley in Iraq. People fill 50 gallon drums full of it, just to turn around and sell it for a profit. The interpreter was able to glean from conversations with the men that today was fuel day. As the son came up announcing another tentative step in Iraq’s development into a free and democratic society, a mad rush would ensue, as the citizens sought the fuel which would propel them forward. These men were the early birds, breaking curfew in order to get the fuelworm, not wanting to risk the chance of the well running dry.

As the curfew lifted and the men were released, we drove to the north side of town to set up another TCP. The curfew now lifted, trucks carrying the liquid gold appeared in mass. The drivers of these trucks are regularly shot at and sometimes abducted, but they continue driving, determined not to let these armed bandits intimidate them. Trucks of all shapes and sizes, but all carrying some form of fuel, pass through our gates. They are our friends, and we give them safe passage. They drive reckless and fast, causing them to slam on the brakes upon seeing our flashlights and magic glow sticks floating in the air. With the momentum of a runaway locomotive, their brakes strain to slow the weight of their cargo. Their tires screech along the pavement as they try to maintain control over the beasts, sometimes going off road to avoid hitting each other. My position in the humvee just off the road is not a safe place. One truck came careening toward us with such recklessness that the guys forward of me, whose job it is to slow them down, had to jump out of the way, while I prepared to launch myself from the humvee. Fortunately he righted himself, making my flight unnecessary.

The trucks are now steadily flowing from both directions. As I keep a lookout to my front, I hear a splashing sound as some kind of liquid hits the pavement. I turned around to see a tanker truck coming from behind with something flowing from one of its pipes. The fumes are overwhelming as I realize that a lever or pipe has inadvertently been opened, releasing the bubblin’ crude that is held within the tank. You have to be kidding me. This guy is driving the Exxon Valdez down a highway in Iraq, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s passed me before I can signal for him to stop, as the crude continues to paint the gray pavement black. If I had an internet connection, I would have bought oil futures at that moment, knowing this truck might single handedly create a spike in oil prices back home.

The road became slick with oil, making the effort to slow down even harder. As each big truck and vehicle drove by, the tread of their tires threw oil mist into the air, which came to rest in little droplets on us, our clothes and our humvees. Thomas and Chris, ahead of me and closer to the road, walked back to the humvee with their faces and clothes covered in oil droplets. This guy must have released enough oil to make Jed Clampett a billionaire.

Covered in Texas Tea and wanting to leave, we finally get a call over the radio from the Lieutenant. We were to drive over and pick them up. We drove back toward the town, the road now dark black from the oil tanker. We wondered where this oil trail would end as the oil slick road in front of us stretched to the horizon, extending out like a virus, infecting all who tread upon it.

We entered the town, which was bustling with traffic at this early hour. As we were about to take a right onto the road that would lead us to the Killing House, I saw a massive truck hauling double trailers approaching. To my left, on the side of the road, was a small car, waiting for the traffic to subside. The double trailer truck was driving too fast to avoid the truck in front of him that had suddenly stopped. With the mixture of speed, weight, and the oil slick road, the truck began skidding out of control. I looked back quickly enough to see the car still idling on the side of the road, certain I was about to witness a catastrophic wreck. With the sound of his skidding tires now filling my ears, he yanked his wheel to the right to avoid the truck in front of him.

Going off road, the truck now saw the car sitting helplessly and yanked the wheel back to the left. The two trailers now formed a V, with the rear trailer whipping around violently. It somehow remained upright as it struggled to right itself, narrowly missing the car, who had seen the oncoming train and floored the gas to get out of the way. The truck shoots back onto the road, momentarily going into the left lain, before finally settling back down. Damn, these people drive like maniacs.

We left the oil stained highway behind and sped off toward the Killing House. Using my GPS to guide us, the house soon came into view. The Killing House looked anything but. It was a nondescript square stone building with a square cut into each side to serve as windows. It was situated upon the edge of a plateau that ended a hundred feet from the rear of the building.

Between the edge and the house were small ravines, rounded at the top, like folds of skin pressed together. The edge dropped off in a steep descent to an open basin. A small river flowed through the middle, with flat open land bordering both sides for hundreds of yards. The river had cut a path through the land from the time God had rested on the seventh day. The ugliness and madness of the oil spill and out of control trucks made me thankful for the pretty creation that lay before me. Hundreds of sheep contentedly grazed on the vegetation below, adding to the peaceful scene.

The dismounts had detained a couple of men before we got there. These men now sat flexi-cuffed on the ground next to their old Landcruiser. They had three AK’s and 15 full magazines of ammo in the truck with them. The limit is one AK per man and one magazine of ammo. Their excuse made me shake my head in laughter. Apparently they were out hunting falcons. Hunting falcons with AK-47's, wonderful sport. Yeah right. We ended up letting them go after a local mayor drove up and backed up their claim, making the falcons and us a little less safe. How the hell do you hunt birds with an AK-47? Only in Iraq.

As we loaded everyone up to head back to the FOB, I asked Ray what they had found in the House of Killing. He told me the entire house was empty except for a small closet in the back, where they found some human feces. With a tired look on his face, he looked up at me and said, “We’ve renamed it the House of Bullshit.” Maybe a little more accurate description, but equally as silly. I hadn’t seen any bulls grazing nearby.

Sounds nice doesn’t it? Makes you just want to jump on a plane and come visit. I should become the Director of Tourism for Iraq. I could print up some brochures in no time, appealing to sadist adventurers around the world. We could have a Cannonball Run, with people racing up the Iraqi highways. The victor wouldn’t be the one to finish first, no, the victor or victors would be the people who actually finished the trip without getting killed. Or how about a reality TV series documenting each leg of the trip. I’d personally like to see a celebrity race, with everyone from that fat chick from the Dixie Dicks, to that fat man Michael Moore. Did I just say Dixie Dicks, sorry, I meant Dixie Chicks. Actually I meant Dixie Dicks. Who else could participate? Let’s see, Donald Trump would be good. He could make it his last big hurrah before he and his hair hopefully fade from our memories. Paris Hilton, her rat dog, and Lionel Ritchie’s daughter could bring their Simple Life series over here as well. Oprah would be nice, maybe she could walk the entire trip, documenting her weight loss. Hopefully Michael Jackson and his sister could make it. Michael is still a big star over here. He could come here, become solvent, pay his legal bills, and build another Neverland Ranch. Never being the appropriate word, since he will never leave this land. Can you imagine how many fathers with AK-47s would be hunting him down after their son’s came crying to them. Janet could come over and offend every woman in Iraq with her nipple decorations, and offend me with that grating voice of hers. How about Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson’s husband’s. They could come over here and actually make a name for themselves without the presence of their wives. Martha Stewart could cater, although that ankle bracelet might cause some problems with her parole officer. Ben Affleck might also want to come. He could come over and resurrect his non-resurrectable movie career, becoming Iraq’s first B movie star. His movies would go straight to the burned DVD’s that are sold on the streets like all the other pirated movies. Iraq has quickly become the pirated movie capital of the world. I swear you can buy movies over here on the street before they have even begun filming back in the States. I think I saw the seventh installment of Star Wars for sale the other day. In it Luke Skywalker finally admits his sexuality and marries the Wookie. I would even let Jesse Jackson participate. When not racing he could blackmail big companies in Iraq for not hiring blacks, even though there are no blacks in Iraq. Jimmy Carter could come build some houses. Kofi Annan could come to collect some kickbacks he’s still owed from the oil for food program. Sean Penn could come to promote peace, all while getting in fights with anyone who tried to take his picture. John Kerry could come get another Purple Heart. Barbara Streisand and Justin Timberlake could sing Iraq’s national anthem before the race. Justin, I already have a place for you to stay. It’s called the Neverland Ranch. Reporting live for everyone back home would be the dynamic duo of Dan Rather and Katie Couric.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Guard Talk

A couple of weeks ago as I walked out to my guard shift, I was expecting a long four hours of intense boredom. I was back at the Tigris River, sitting on a tank, facing down a dark road with the moon offering little illumination. There was a stillness to the night that even the river couldn’t interrupt. The river itself had a stillness about it that made me think it had stopped flowing all together. This giant mass of water, which had been flowing since the genesis of time, seemed to have paused to rest. The moon’s dim reflection danced upon the black surface like city lights viewed from an airplane flying overhead. While the reflection was alive with animation, this stage of sparkling light remained stationary, giving the river a motionless appearance of restfulness.

Conversations on guard inevitably lead to some of the most bizarre subjects imaginable. Every now and then you have guard with someone that has a gift for storytelling. My buddy Rob is a master storyteller. He puts every ounce of his soul into telling a story. His laugh is boisterous and therefore infectious. His face is full of expression and his arms come alive with motion. With a harsh tongue and a rough voice, he entices your soul to join his and together you escape Iraq. The tank that we sit on becomes a time machine shooting us into the past. The past becomes present again as we relive the joy, sorrow, and foolishness of our youth. We are closer in age than most of the others and have both experienced life in college, which allows us to relate more with each others experience. The spirit with which he tells a story is enlivening. I found myself inspired and reciprocated in kind. My stories, and the manner in which I told them, became alive with energy, making our four hour guard shifts fly by with ease.

The calm night became full of laughter as we told each other stories about some of our college experiences. The Iraqi soldiers, who were crowded around a fire nearby, would look over at us and laugh as well, not having the slightest clue what we were laughing at. Most of these stories were a result of too much to drink. I realized after the first few stories that Rob drank a little more than me. I never was a big drinker in college. My problem was the few times that I did drink, I would go all out. Nowadays I may have a few beers every few months or so. Rob drank a lot more often than I did, and I’m pretty sure he went all out when he did. He says he has slowed down since college, limiting himself to the weekends.

We talked about how our personalities changed after having too much to drink. He said that he was always a nice drunk. I told him that it depended on what I drank. If I had beer, I was in love with every girl and nice to all the guys. If I had liquor, it was pretty much a toss up. Toss up is appropriate, since at the end of the evening I would usually toss it back up. During the course of the evening I could be nice or in some cases not so nice, inevitably waking up to find out I did something regretful. That’s one of the main reasons I quit drinking liquor. I haven’t had it in years.

We both talked about some of the stupid things that we both regretted doing. Some of these had to do with drinking and driving. I only did it a few times, but those few times were a few too many. If you’re in high school or college and reading this, don’t drink and drive. It’s not cool, and it’s totally avoidable. I guess this little speech would apply to anyone reading this, since drinking and driving isn’t limited to just those in high school or college. It’s easy to avoid. Find someone to drive for you or get a cab. Or you could plan on staying at someone’s house or just stay at your own place. Of course you could always not get drunk in the first place, which is probably the best thing anyway. There were many nights in college when I had just as good a time not being drunk as those that were and was able to provide them with a safe ride home at the same time. They’ll love you for it. Oh, and one more thing before I end this little speech. If you’re with someone who’s been drinking and they say they are alright to drive, guess what, they aren’t. They’re drunk, and they’ll say anything at that point. Okay, speech over, sorry about that.

One of the many stories Rob told me, involved him and a dump truck. He and his friends were at their frat house one night when they noticed some dump trucks parked outside the house that had been left there overnight by a construction crew. They’re all drunk and having a good time when Rob comes up with the grand idea to take one for a ride. With yelling and cheers all around, Rob jumps in the cab with a couple of other guys while the rest jump in the back.

They’re speeding down a quiet college town road with everyone in the back drunk and yelling. He said he crested a hill and began descending toward an intersection when he realized he had no brakes. Apparently you have to prep the brake’s hydraulics in a dump truck before you take off. He realized this as he was furiously pumping the brakes on the way down the hill, the intersection looming ahead. While he’s telling me this, his whole body is reenacting the whole thing. He’s yelling, pressing down on phantom brakes, and his arm is changing gears in the air.

The excitement was building as I was there in the truck with him, wondering if we were going to wreck. He said that by this time he was sober, as were the guys in the cab with him. The guys in the back were still oblivious to the fact that they were riding in a runaway dump truck.
He sees the intersection approaching with a few cars going by, wondering what to do. The light is still red and he has nowhere to turn. They fly through the intersection without hitting anyone, thankful for the early hour when the roads aren’t as busy. They continue on, losing a little speed but not enough. He finally thinks he’s lost enough speed and decides to cut into someone’s yard, hoping the grass will slow them to a stop. It wasn’t the grass that stopped them.

Turning into the yard, the truck jumps the curb, coming precariously close to flipping. Once in the yard, a massive tree appears in the headlights like a fortress, refusing to be moved. As he makes one last futile effort to mash on the brakes with all the strength he can muster, the truck slams into the giant tree, creating a monstrous sound that wakes the neighborhood. Rob and his friends are thrown forward with a violent jolt. Rob is dazed and has hurt his ribs. The rest of his friends are okay but for some minor scrapes and bruises.

As the lights in the neighboring houses begin to come on, they get out and run back to their frat house. The pain in Rob’s side prevents him from running, but he and the others finally make it back to the house. They turn off all the lights and quietly stand at the front windows, peaking out from behind the curtains, and waiting for the police to show up. A few minutes later five cop cars show up and speed past their house. One of them comes back and looks around with a flashlight but never comes to the door. Rob, relieved that he didn’t kill himself or his friends, goes upstairs to bed and passes out.

Once he was finished with his story he tells me it’s time for me to tell one. I told him a couple of stories from college, but then he wanted to hear some war stories from the first time I was over here. I told him a few stories about getting shot at while I was shaving or going to the bathroom and he wanted to hear more. Then he asked me how I met and married my wife. I told him the whole story right up to our private little wedding. Not thinking that he would enjoy the story, I was surprised to hear him say that it was a good one.

Sometimes when the stories have waned and he looks to be deep in thought, he’ll spring a question out of nowhere. “If you could have any meal right now what would it be?” “I’m simple when it comes to food,” I tell him, “So it would be a steak cooked on the grill, a baked potato, and salad.”

“Ok, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” “Somewhere out west, Montana, Jackson Hole, somewhere in Colorado.” “I also wouldn’t mind living at the beach, maybe somewhere down on the Gulf Coast.” “Next question, if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” “Dream job?” I ask. “Probably getting paid to travel and write, if I was good at it, other than that I would want to own my own business.” “What kind of business?” “I don’t know, but something I could do from my home and live comfortably, so I could spend a lot of time with my family.”

“There’s also a part of me that thinks it would be cool to be a fisherman, or a firefighter, or a lumberjack.” “Are you serious?” “Yeah, imagine going to a party and getting introduced to a group of people.” “All of these people either work in the corporate world or are married to someone that is.” “They’re standing around talking about how unsatisfying their job is, and your just standing there listening.” “After a while someone turns to you and asks you what you do.” “You look around casually and respond ‘I’m a lumberjack’, or ‘I’m a fisherman’, imagine the stares you would get, it would be great.” “Those jobs are made for real men, the kind you read about in books.” “There’s something romantic about them.” He looks at me and asks, “Did you just say romantic while we’re on guard?” “Yeah, I did.” “I must be losing my mind.” “Yeah, you must be.” “Sitting on a tank in the middle of the night guarding a bridge is really romantic,” he adds sarcastically. “Hey, it’s better than sitting behind a desk.”

And here’s where the questioning became difficult. “Okay, if you could bone any girl in the world, not counting wives or girlfriends, who would it be?” Damn, I hate questions like these. “My wife, but I wouldn’t use the term bone.” “I know that, but that doesn’t count, anyone except your wife.” “There is no one except my wife.” He laughs and responds, “I knew you would say that.” “Are you wanting me to name a movie star or musician,” I ask? “Yeah, something like that.” I haven’t even begun to think of one name when he asks, “I want your top five list of who you would bone if you could.” “Let me think for a minute,” I tell him. Top five bone list. Am I really having this conversation? I’m almost embarrassed because I can’t come up with one name, much less five. I haven’t watched much tv or movies in the last couple of years, so I can’t think of anybody. “Have you thought of anyone yet?” “No, still thinking.”

A few minutes later I am saved by two dark figures approaching on the road in front of us. No, these aren’t a couple of bad guys trying to sneak up on us at night. I recognize the way they walk and can determine who they are before their faces can be seen. It’s Sgt.D and Ray coming to relieve us. I look at my watch and can’t believe our four hours are already up. This is great. Rob will be with me on the rest of my guard shifts, hopefully making the time go by fast during all of them.

We got down off the tank, exchanged some good natured name calling with our relief, and walked back to our camp. On the way in the building Rob looked over at me and said, “I expect that top five list when we have guard again in the morning.” “I’ll try,” I replied. “Why don’t you grab that People magazine that was lying around earlier and find someone to put on your list.” Thinking that if I did come up with any list, it certainly wouldn’t include any of the vacuous people that grace the pages of that glossy, I reply, “Because my wife isn’t in there.”

Friday, April 01, 2005

March 31, 2005

My new best friend was born today. I have no idea what I ever did to deserve the angel that is my wife and the little boy that God created. My son was born today around 10:30AM. He was 8 pounds 5 ounces. I’m relieved to know that both my wife and son are healthy. Today was a good day. God blessed me and my buddies on two fronts today, one at home and one here in Iraq. He gave me the gift of having a son back home, and provided me and my friends protection from an IED over here.

I knew it was going to be an interesting day when I checked my email this morning before we went on a mission. In it my wife told me that our son was due any minute, and to remember what I did on March 31. I looked down at my watch and realized today was March 31. When I read that I would soon become a dad, I got that constricting feeling in my throat that usually leads to tears. In this case tears of joy at the thought of having a son, but I held back, not wanting my emotions to be seen by others. I wanted to climb a mountaintop and tell the world about my son. Since his inception I have loved him. I look forward to the day when I can meet him and hold him in my arms. He doesn’t know it yet, but his best friend is 7000 miles away on the other side of the world.

I also had the feeling that something was going to happen on our mission. I didn’t know what, just that it wouldn’t be an uneventful day. I hoped that it would be an eventful day, even if it meant contact with the enemy. I guess I wanted to be able to tell my son that on the day of his birth, we were in a fight against the bad guys. In reality, I should’ve wanted to be safe and sound in the confines or our FOB, but which story do you think my son would rather hear one day? Apologizing for not being there for his birth, I wanted to be able to tell him I was busy fighting like hell for something good. I told Thomas, my driver, what my wife had emailed me. He congratulated me, laughed out loud, and said with that knowing look in his eye, “It ought to be an interesting day,” “Yeah, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

We were going north to escort our CO to a council meeting. The mission is usually a boring one, with a long drive there and a long drive back, broken up by an hour or so of waiting and guarding the building in which the meeting is held. As we roll out the gates, my mind is on my wife and the boy in her womb. All I can think about is the pain that she may have to endure during the birth. I realize that she would rather me be concentrating on staying alert, so I say a little prayer asking God to look over them, and turn my attention to the mission and the gun that will look after me. God and guns, not a bad duo to have on your side.

We pull onto the Mad Max highway of chaos and turn north toward our destination. The speed of our humvee provides a nice breeze to combat the temperature that his risen, as I sit in my gunner’s seat atop the humvee. The 240B machine gun in front of me gives me comfort. It’s lubed and ready to go. I’d test fired it the day before and it felt good, much better than the .50cal that has been with me in the past.

The meeting itself was uneventful. I spent a lot of the time talking to some of the kids and giving them candy. There were two little girls in a mud house nearby who bashfully walked toward our humvee as I held up two little stuffed animals. They would only come half way, so I gave them to Thomas to get out and give to them. The animals brought a smile to their face and they ran back to their home proud of their new little toys. I didn’t know they had another little sister, which I regret now. I only had those two animals, and as she walked over and stood half way between her home and us, I could only smile and say I’m sorry. Man I felt helpless. I had nothing to give to her, not even any candy. I would rather face down enemy fire than have to look at her sad face, as she knew that she wasn’t going to get another animal like her sisters. Hopefully they will grow tired of them in a few days and let her have one. I learned to always have a reserve of things to give the kids.

So the meetings over and we start to head back, but not before we stop by a school across the street. We had some civil affairs guys with us, who talk to the school administrators about things they need. They’re responsible for giving the money needed to build things or buy supplies. We were there about a half hour before we started to head back.

We were speeding down the highway, doing about 70, weaving in and out of traffic, when I again started thinking about my wife and son, wondering if he had been born yet. When we’re wide open on the highway like that, there isn’t much for me to do other than make sure cars stay a good distance away from us. I’m sitting there deep in my thoughts, with the sound of the wind in my ears, focused on nothing in particular. BOOM! Hear we go, I say to myself as Thomas slams on the brakes, forcing me back against the turret, my ears ringing from the blast. “Assholes!”, Sgt.W yells, “where the hell are they, start scanning!” By then I’ve already thought of a worse term for whoever set this bomb off, and have already stood up and turned around before he told us to start scanning.

We’re in the rear vehicle, so I am facing toward our six, my back to the blast. I turned fast enough to see the small mushroom cloud rising from an exploded vehicle on the side of the road. An instant later my eyes are drawn toward a small dust cloud on our right, about 50 meters from the highway. “There’s a dust cloud on our right, I can see a man running!”, I yell down into the humvee. “Get on that sonofabitch!”, Sgt. W. yells! I can just see the man’s head, as he runs around to the other side of a sand berm. Dammit, there’s rows and rows of berms of varying height, giving him plenty of places to hide. “LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO!”, I yelled for anyone to hear. Sgt. W. was thinking the same thing, we were going to chase down these assholes, forget the terrain. Thomas floors the gas pedal as we speed off into the open land, full of ditches, canals, and berms. “I see a white truck, he’s going toward a white truck!”, I yell as I’m holding on to my 240, trying desperately to keep it still as we hit hard bump after bump.

This guy or guys, whoever they are, know the terrain better that we do, and have an easy time navigating through it. But we’re not giving up. Thomas is driving like a mad man, speeding through turns, slowing down to miss ditches and canals, he’s driving like he’s about to miss the last train to heaven. My knuckles are already bleeding from holding on to my gun. With every bounce, my hand slams into metal, my adrenaline masking any pain as it gnaws through my skin.

“Unload on those sonsofbitches!”, Sgt. W. yells at me as I continue to bounce around, holding my gun with my right hand, and the ammo can with my left, while my eyes remained fixed on the white truck. Dammit, all I can see is the top of the truck before it goes out of sight again. This truck becomes a phantom, haunting me in its ability to escape my view. “I don’t have a shot, we have to catch them!”, I yell in response. He knew I didn’t have a shot and focused his efforts on maneuvering Thomas through the maze of berms. I’m mad as hell, but somehow calm at the same time, still focusing on the truck as I hold on to the gun. If the truck had been sitting still right in front of us, I still wouldn’t have had a clean shot. It was impossible to hold the gun steady as we continued to bounce over every bump. When the truck wasn’t hidden, I could still only see the top, making it foolish to try a shot. I’m also having to turn the turret as the humvee turns, keeping my gun at least pointed in the right direction. All we could do was continue the chase, going out of the way to go around a canal or to avoid a ditch. I looked on helpless as the truck got further way.

He was driving toward a small village with mud houses dotting the landscape. Every house looked the same, and as I looked toward the town, I could already see two more white trucks. By now the truck had pulled into the village, the houses providing it the refuge it needed. As we finally got to the edge of the village, another small canal kept us from going all the way. I could see a white truck moving slowly between the homes and focused my sights on him. It’s the only choice I had at this point. As this one was moving, there were three others that I could see sitting still. Why does everyone in this country have to own a white pick-up truck? Why couldn’t he have been driving a red Mercedes?

Sgt. W, our medic, and an LT. that had come along for the ride, decide to get out. I still have eyes on the moving white truck as it comes to a stop between two small houses. I point in the direction of the truck as they run off. Mad as hell and with a face full of fire, Sgt. W. leads the way, running toward the house. I can understand his rage and feel the same way. Some asshole tried to blow up people we care about, not to mention ourselves. The rest of the platoon is further up the highway, leaving us alone. The blast had hit parallel with the vehicle in front of us, cracking the glass a little, but not hurting anyone. They reacted by speeding onward away from the site, putting more distance between them and us. We reacted as we were supposed to. When you see the threat, you go after it with a vengeance, bringing hell fire with you. Unfortunately the opportunity wasn’t afforded me to bring a little of this hell, and I was mad because of it.

As we watched them racing toward the home, I wanted to get closer to provide them cover if they needed it. From the top of the humvee, I directed Thomas around and over various obstacles until we were in the town. We finally drive up to the house as they begin to search it. The occupants are already outside and being guarded by the LT. They searched for twenty minutes before finally giving up. Nothing. I’ve already scoped out three other white trucks and we search them as well. In all we searched about five houses with white trucks parked outside. Finding nothing in any of them, we all looked dejected with frustration. How the hell did they get away?

It wasn’t meant to be I guess. Maybe the guys in the white truck weren’t involved and became frightened by the blast and did the only natural thing, ran. I didn’t find much solace in that. I knew I’d made the right decision in not shooting when I didn’t have a shot. See what you shoot. Well, I couldn’t see what I would have been shooting at. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have hit shit, not with me and my gun bouncing all around like that.

I was thankful that nobody got hurt by the blast, knowing that there will be another day to catch those responsible. I pray that we are as fortunate the next time, that God once again puts another layer of armor around us. It would be a hell of a thing to get hurt or killed by something that you are unable to fight back against. Fire your AK at me, or your RPG, anything that will lead me to you, and we will give you the war that you so proclaim you want.

Today was a good day though. I shouldn’t regret in the lives not taken, but should rejoice in the life that was created. It is said that terrorists are born every day in this ancient region of the world. I don’t believe that, but if it is true, we can rest easy knowing that there are many more warriors born that fight for what is good and right. These warriors will seek those that do evil with a passion their enemy can never hope to obtain or escape.

A warrior was born today, and he is good. He is my son and best friend.