You see, I had terrible news this week. A young man I had known since a child, a young neighbor boy, who spent half his young life at my house because he was friends with my son, was ruthlessly murdered downtown St. Louis.
A black man put a bullet through his head. It seems, he and his friends were riding around downtown, (white boys) and pulled up next to a car of black men. Stupid words were shouted.
Colin, (the young man) was sitting shotgun, and evidently was not the trouble maker at the scene, it was the driver of the car. (a "friend" of his) Who knows what racial words were said, there was probably drugs and alchohol involved...I'm not sure...but the black man got out of his car to shoot the driver and the driver ducked. Colin died instantly from a bullet to the back of his neck, or so his mother was told. The black man has not been found, and probably never will be.
As you can imagine, we are all in mourning. You don't have to be in Iraq to get murdered. Some of America's cities are war zones.
There's a whole blog here, I have so much to say... but like I said...it will come out when I start up again...right now, my emotions are much to close to the event sooooo
Onto JASON...(and Thanks
to our Army MOM! for sending me his letter!)
This letter is really special. Jason and his unit save the lives of thier Iraq brothers-in-arms...and also makes a great point about how this very important news is not getting out to the American public AT ALL. You will be, as I was, so very moved by our boys overseas.
The letter was written in February, 2008, some time ago, but as you will notice, it's timeless.
Hello everyone once again from beautiful and cool Afghanistan. A little interesting this week so shall I get started?
We leave the FOB and start to travel out to the border when we get no more than 500 meters past the FOB when we see a truck that is stuck and is blocking our way. My terp gets out and says that the tire is off. There is no way to change the tire there since it is too muddy so what does the driver do? He calls about 15 road workers over there and they then proceed to lift up the back end of the truck and move it over some. Then they go to the front and do the same thing there! Well, I have to say that the road is clear and we can drive through now. The truck is not there when we come back 6 hours later.
Ok, this past week saw us going out to the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and looking at living condition out there. What is normally a 25 minute drive turned into over 3 hours of driving to try and make it out there. Not only did we have to travel through the snow (which some people pay to get to do) we met a convoy in the worst place possible. Not 300 meters after the best place to meet them, we met them in a curve and there were snowbanks on each side of the road. Man, it was really fun driving through that snow and the bumps and dips and all in the road.
Well, after about 15 minutes, we make it past there and continue on our way.
We make it out to the border and it is good to get out there. I have not been there since last October. It was the first week of October because our firefights were in the middle of the month.
So anyways, we get up there and this is the Major’s first time up there as well as the other members of the new group. They see the sites and we get to see our little ‘pets’. Yes, the dogs, Sybil, vet and the others are there. They are really glad to see us and we feed them some of our MRE’s that we have for lunch. Although there is like 5 feet of snow still on the ground, they can walk on top since it is hard snow.
We eat our MRE’s and then look at the border positions. I show some of the places to the major and I show him where the border is and to watch where you step so you are not in Pakistan. Of course, there is a Pakistani soldier watching us the whole time but he does not have his weapon with him. We have ours. We bring on of our terps up that can speak Urdu (Pakistan’s language) and we ask the guard if we can come up and take pictures and meet him. He says yes so we walk to the OP and shake hands and talk to him for a few minutes. He is nice and lets us take all the pictures we want.
Our main focus is to take pictures of the Afghan OP’s but we have to stand right on the border to take them. The Afghans stay way back from the border. (Side note: The Afghans and Paki’s hate each other and this area was the site of a major battle last May where the AF and PK were fighting each other. This is also where a US Major was shot and killed last year. This is why we are always armed and always ask permission if we are going to be on the border line so that they do not think we are invading and just need to do some site surveys.
We look at a few more areas where we may build some Afghan buildings and then make our journey back to the firebase. This takes about 2 more hours. We download our gear and fuel our vehicles.
The next day, we plan on staying up here working on end-of-tour paperwork when Fazli, the Afghan ABP S-1 (personnel guy) and that can speak 6 languages, come up to us telling us that he needs our help. 7 of his men were burned and injured in an explosion of a propane tank at the border where we were less than 24 hours earlier. This happened at 12:30 and it is now after 4:30.
It took the ABP 4 hours to drive the soldiers to the clinic. When we get there, we set up security and I take control of the security element while the others go inside the clinic to help. 5 of the men are burned badly but 2 are seriously burned and they are in shock and looks like they will not make it. Their airway is starting to close since of the swelling. Skin is burned and it has a certain odor to it. Hands, feet, faces, upper body, etc. are all 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 50% of their bodies and I can hear one moaning for God. He is calling for Allah, Allah.
I may never forget that........ Our medic says that unless we get his airway open and intibate them, they will die. Plain and simple............... We then load them up in their ambulance (not more than a minivan) and take them up to our clinic to try and save their lives. I can hear the same soldier moaning for Allah. I forgot what the words he was saying but he was calling for God to help him. Over and over.
Well, we get them in the clinic and start working on them. Why did we not MEDEVAC them you may ask? There was too much cloud cover and fog and you could not see more than 100 feet in front of you so there was no MEDEVAC at all.
It is now around 5:30 and the medics and doctor (yes, we have an MD here with us) work on the soldiers trying to keep their airway open and to keep them out of pain. They are given Demerol for the pain (can’t use morphine because that slows your breathing down). They are basically almost in a drug-induced coma but not all the way. They are still conscious. The medics and doctor work on them for over 3 hours working on the two. We give them meds and oxygen and keep them out of pain.
After they are stable enough to move, we load them back up on the ambulance and they drive back to the hospital in Gardez. It is over a 5 hour drive there. As of today, they are doing better but still will require skin grafts and will always be scarred. They have about 15-20 years of recovery from this.
Ok, let me ask you this. Will you ever see something like us helping our fellow soldiers out on the news? NOPE! What they will say is that some civilians were killed or a school was blown up or something negative. You will never hear about the 300 people that we hired to improve the road, or the school that literally jumps for joy when we give them school supplies. Or the coochies that swarm us when we do a Humanitarian Aid drop. Nope, it will always be something negative.
These are soldiers that I have worked with for the past 9 months and since I have been embedded with them, I consider them my comrade-in-arms.
The local civilians saw what we did to help them and know that we tried. Fazli knew that he could come up to the FOB and get help and that is what he did. May Allah watch over them.
Well after the excitement from that day, we take the next few days to do yet more paperwork and work on the FOB. Since the ABP commander is at the hospital, there is nothing that we can do there so we work on our vehicles. No, nothing is wrong with the new vehicles but we clean them out and do the regular maintenance checks on them. We add oil to my vehicle and check the other things on it and clean it out.
The next day, we expect some visitors. The Brigade team is coming up here. Well, just the COL, SGM and the Doc. They just want to get out and see their men and the environment that we all live in. We stow their gear and then show them a tour of the FOB (which is really more of a firebase than a FOB). We give them the tour of the base to include the Russian bunker and show them the area around. We then eat and have a conference with them. They plan to stay for a few day to see what we live in everday.
Me? I like it up here. If I could get my mail here rather than being grounded, I would be happy to stay here the whole time. I mean, we do our missions from here and since we are 4 hours closer to the border, that is more time we can spend with the ABP. This is what we are here to do and we can do it more efficiently but we still must go to Gardez every few weeks in order to coordinate things there and pick up our mail.
WOOHOO!! That is one of the best times here is when the mail runs. Since I do not get any bills here, I am not too afraid to open the mail I get. Haha
Well, we are here on the FOB this weekend in Jaji. The weather has been much warmer. Down in the low 20’s at night and then in the 60’s the next day and in the sun, it is even warmer. When there is no breeze, it feels quite nice. The only bad thing about the better weather is that the bad guys start to come out more.
Well, that is about it from here this past week. The pictures are of the road workers moving the truck out of the way, me with a view of the Pakistan OP . I hope you enjoy the pictures.
That is about it from here. I’ll talk to everyone soon!