Friday, August 24, 2007

Perspective: A soldier's e-mail home

Above, left to right: Billy Edwards was shot by a sniper. Andy Lancaster, William Scates, Justin Penrod, and Scott Kirkpatrick went in pursuit of the sniper into a house, and were killed when one stepped on a pressure plate, setting off an IED.

OK, so how's it going?

Again, I just got back from the PB. I'm feeling a little somber. I've had a memorable time of late. I don't want to misrepresent the state of matters here. For the most part, this AO (area of operations) is relatively tame = not busy. Yet it seems that sensational moments tend to be more regular.

Forgive me if this seems to be a part of an endless litany of grim tidings. However, you are my friends and family, and I suspect that you would rather hear the truth of my life, and hear the genuineness of my take on this life that I am living, instead of the forced laugh with press-on smile.

A little over a week ago, a man named Andy was killed by an IED, along with 3 others. In the incident, there were 3 wounded, and 5 total killed. An insurgent sniper killed a soldier, his friends (Andy & Co.) saw where the shot came from, and entered the building in order to apprehend/kill the sniper. The sniper had lured them into a house rigged with an IED, which Andy's crew functioned, killing 4 of them.

Their selfless devotion to their comrade touches me, and reminds me that I have lived an amazing life. A life that has allowed me to see greatness in action. Andy was a grunt, and we became friends here through some very tense situations. He watched my back on more than one occasion. He was a good man, and I will miss him.

Today, roughly eight hours ago, my team was called to a possible detonation site to allay the fears of the battle space commander. It was a "nothing" call. We showed up, and the guys that called us couldn't even ID a detonation site.

So, we checked some things out, and it was all nada. We packed up to go, started driving out of the area, when our lead security Hummer backed into a side road to turn around. An approximately 40-pound detonation left a 5' diameter by 2' deep hole, crumpling the Hummer's armor package. With dust and smoke swirling in a blinding haze, the grunts around us started to charge downrange. We yelled at them to stay in place.

Sending everybody in, with possible secondary devices activated by pressure, could result in more casualties.

As the haze cleared, the medic from the struck Hummer came running uprange to our truck. He yelled "Help them, they're burning!" Aaron controlled the scene, Danny and I grabbed metal detectors and headed downrange.

The scene that welcomed us was, unfortunately, not a new experience for me. Danny grabbed the turret gunner that had been thrown from the Hummer, and started dragging him to safety. I ran around to the driver side and briefly saw a prone figure.

Blood and skin were coming off him. I ignored his pleas for help, as I hastily swept the area for secondary devices. He kept saying that he was burning.

Within a few seconds a path was clear, and I went to him. I had thought that his burning sensation was from flash burns resulting from the explosion. I was mistaken. He was actually on fire.

Read the rest at the Oregonian