Monday, July 23, 2007

Perspective: One month, two brushes with death

Above: Aftermath of an EFP (explosively formed projectile) attack on an armored Humvee.

Pvt. Kodey Briggs slid out from behind the wheel of the Humvee. He looked at what was left of his driver's-side window -- the spider web of cracked armored glass, the layer that didn't break.

His thin chest heaved. His pale hands trembled. Why didn't it break? He lit a cigarette. Then another. He took off his flak vest and helmet, sat down on the ground and leaned against a pile of sandbags. He seemed so fragile in that position: 18 years old, 152 pounds, a fuzz of short blond hair on his head. The other soldiers in his unit approached him deferentially, with pity and wonder.

"Most people don't live through one of those things," remarked Cpl. Richard Smith. "Briggs has lived through two."

When soldiers die here it tends to happen randomly: A single shot from an unseen gunman and someone falls to the ground. A bomb placed by an unknown hand takes out one Humvee from a line of four or five. There are no front lines, no armies to fight, just moments of chaos. Wrong places, wrong times.

So luck is something to worry about, to entreat and to supplicate. But it is not always easy to classify. Is Briggs lucky or unlucky, charmed or marked?

The Army has given this high school dropout a promising new life. A life in which he's almost died twice.

Read the rest at the Washington Post