We’re now on the 13th primary chapter of this series. Reading it, I was obviously having a bad day. I left out that when we arrived wherever it is we were, I was severely dehydrated from being in the truck all day in a charcoal suit without much to drink. I got the only saline IV I ever took in the Army after I almost keeled over setting my tent up.
3 April 03
Today was rough. Started with news that one of B Co.’s [Company] Blackhawks went down. All 6 on board died. I spent last week at Jalibah with those guys and now a few of them, like Boulet and SGT Pederson, are dead. That’s a blow. Ped and I were talking about getting together for a drink when we get back just a week ago. I was supposed to go hang out when we were at Rams, but that didn’t happen. It seems to happen so fast out here. You wake up, and suddenly someone you know is gone forever. I really hoped it wouldn’t happen out here and now it has.
Later on in the day we had a MEDEVAC [medical evacuation] come in with Iraqi casualties. They looked like civilians. There was blood everywhere. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. We carried them to another helo and off they went. I felt relief when I realized they weren’t our guys, but it’s sad to see people so mangled. I feel like today I’ve seen more of war than most, and I still haven’t seen true combat.
Well, I sort of did yesterday. We got up at 1:30 [a.m.] and the convoy rolled by 2. Before we left we saw heavy artillery fire, including MLRS [Multiple Launch Rocket System], going toward the Karbala Gap. It continued as we left and throughout the day as we drove. We stopped before daybreak and Bradleys that couldn’t have been 100 yards ahead of us laid 25 mm fire down range before we could proceed. The early going was very hairy, but once the convoy got going we moved well. Saw Iraqi training camps and a lot of the large lake on the west side of the gap. I saw my first Saddam portrait yesterday, too. It was like this mural in one of the camps, with his stupid grin painted across his stupid face. That’s the man who’s responsible for all this: the wounded Iraqis, Ped, Boulet, and all the other dead and wounded people so far. I really feel bitter tonight.
The bright spot of the day was talking to Dad.* Today, that is. He got a new job in South Florida, so he’s moving in May. That seems strange. He’s been in Oak Ridge forever, and now going to visit’s going to be a trip to the beach. Can’t complain there. I also found out Jefe [Jeff Sharp, to this day one of my best friends in the world] called wondering what had become of me. I’ve hated being out of touch with them for so long. Hopefully Dad’ll get their info so I can get back in touch, because God knows I’ve missed him and Kay. And Dylan, my little buddy. He also said Sharanya [Krishnan, another old friend] came asking about me. I guess all the good press** back home might help out some. It’d be great to hear from a lot of those folks again, if any more of them come calling, that is.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road after 36 hours of being stationary. Time to move a little closer to Baghdad. 15 miles closer, that is. Word is 3rd ID [the 3rd Infantry Division]took Baghdad International [It was actually still Saddam International Airport back then] today. One more objective out of the way. Sure, this war didn’t end as fast as some, including myself, thought, but it’s still going very quickly. I just wish it didn’t cost so damn much.
To Be Continued …
* I realize now that I’ve referenced talking to my dad more than a few times in this journal. Most probably think I’m crazy, but I had access to a satellite phone through one of the embedded journalists, CBS News’ Phil Ittner. It wasn’t like I was calling every day, but he let me a few times. The main reason on this particular day is we knew the news was going out about the helicopter going down and the names would be held pending notification of next of kin, so he let me call just to say I was alive. All of this is to say thanks to Phil and CBS.
** My hometown newspaper, The Oak Ridger, ran a story about me when we were in Kuwait for the major exercise in December 2002. They did an email interview with me and everything. The funny part is the story talks about how I “witnessed the shooting death of a fellow French journalist.” I wasn’t there when the French embed died, and he didn’t get shot. He was run over by a tank when he got caught in concertina wire while trying to get the “money shot.” Apparently the story no longer exists digitally.