Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Perspective: A Salute for His Wounded, a Last Touch for His Dead

Left: Col. David Sutherland. Sutherland, along with Maj. Charlie Fenton, a chaplain, visit every dead and badly wounded soldier in their unit.

BAQUBA, Iraq, March 31 — In the last moments of his life, Sgt. First Class Benjamin L. Sebban saw the flatbed truck speed into the concertina wire guarding his small Army patrol base near Baquba.

“Everybody get down! Get down!” he screamed. Soldiers dropped to the ground.

A combination of the strong wire and muddy gravel stopped the bomber, who then detonated explosives packed into the truck bed. A 50-foot-wide fireball enveloped the base, an L-shaped school that weeks earlier had served as an insurgent hide-out. Soldiers were slammed into walls and windows, they later recalled, battered by pieces of brick and glass turned into shrapnel.

Unaware of a deep wound beneath his body armor, Sergeant Sebban, a 29-year-old medic, shook off the blast and staggered to his first-aid station to treat casualties, other soldiers recalled. “Let’s get ready!” he shouted, one soldier said. Then he collapsed. He bled to death even before the evacuation helicopter arrived to carry him away, 17 minutes after the 6 p.m. attack.

Read the rest at the NY Times