News from Baghdad

A small spot to describe to a certain extent what it is like for the soldiers here in Iraq. I must remain anonymous as there may be some who would view this as an "official" posting, however, it is not. Just some personal views on the politics and public views in this war that has been to oftentimes tainted by the sensationalism of the media.

Location: Home, United States

I enjoy my job to the fullest, regardless of the political climate at any particular time. My family and my soldiers are the central focal point of my existence as well as my religious viewpoints.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Well, let's see...back to the keyboard. It has been some time since I have posted anything, mainly because there wasn't anything worth posting, I suppose.

I'm back in the great state of Texas, albeit, not where I deployed from the first time. Currently I'm awaiting the date when my current unit will deploy, (I know the timeframe, just not the exact date). I look forward to going again, if only to see how much the country has changed since the last time I went.

I'll try to do my best to keep everyone in the "loop" as far as I can without compromising OPSEC. I look forward to writing again. It helped ease things a bit and keep everyone informed without bias from the news media.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

30 October 2005

The following poem was written by a very good friend of mine, Jordan Wierenga. I wanted to share it with you all. It speaks volumes.

In honor and loving memory of those who gave (and are giving) their lives for our country, and to everyone who died in the September 11th suicide attacks.

Blackberry Summers

Do you remember
Those long summer days
When we were children?
We'd lay in the grass
Smelling the wild flower blooms
And laughing and playing.
We'd taste the juicy oniongrass
The bitter tang of clover leaves on our lips
And, best of all, the wild blackberries
We'd return home stained blue-purple head to toe
But we never cared
It was alright as long as we were together
And we grew year after year
Suddenly, those long summer days turned shorter and shorter
We did not have all that time together anymore
But still we tried so hard
And we fell in Love.
Then one day you were gone
Called to War overseas
I remember crying and screaming at you
But you stood there so strong and calm
Refusing to be hurt by my sorrow
But I saw it in your face, saw your fear and love
And I kissed youAs a tear slid down your cheek and mingled with mine
No, no, can't you, YOU CAN'T!
And then I was alone
I'd lay in our meadow
Thinking of you
Missing your gentle embraces
Your soft kisses
Your long letters of love
Then One end of summer eve
Coming home from our meadow
Cheeks stained blue with juice like old times
Times long forgotten now
I got a letter from the army
This is it! I thought
You were coming home at last!
I rushed to the privacy of my room
And opened the envelope hastily
Ignoring the running blood from my newly slit palm
I dropped the letter opener softly on my blankets
I stood up in eagerness
And read with joy!
And then I stopped
The letter slipping from my grasp
As I learned you were never coming home
You were stained, too
Not with the sweet juice of our childhood
But with blood
So much blood
I fell to the ground and heard something crack
But I did not feel it, for what was left for me to feel?
A tear fell from my eye
Just oneI did not mind
As far as I cared
I was dead
Like you
But if I was dead, where were you?
You were gone
Just like the long days of summer
You were gone

Sunday, August 28, 2005

August 28, 2005

Well, it has been a while since I posted, several months actually, so I figured that I would update you on some pertinent things since I wrote.

As you know, I am home now, and I have left the lovely state of Texas and am now currently stationed in Kentucky training soldiers. I am trying to pass on lessons learned during my tenure in Iraq to the best of my ability. Maybe it will save someone.

I am saddened by the news these days. I am upset that people are disgracing my fallen comrades, America's soldiers, at their funerals. I read recently where there was a church group yelling obscenities at soldier's funerals and at their family members saying that God was punishing this country for harboring homosexuals and that is why their sons died. I care not one wit for the opinions of a so called "church" whose members resort to the tactic of berating the grieving family of a fallen soldier who gave his life for those he loved. I see articles in the news and other blog postings remeniscent of the "documentary" (more like travesty) Fahrenheit 9-11. I see where soldiers, soldier's families, friends etc. flame the government of this country and in turn disgracing the memories of their loved ones. Do I see a grieving mother at the ranch in Crawford, Texas? No, I see a disgruntled American citizen who is ravishing in the throes of public attention to publicly grieve for her lost son. I see not a mother who cares for her son or for his comrades in arms. I see a woman who is hell bent on rending this country apart because she lost her son. I would to God that if my mother was in her place, that she would thank God above that her son was now safe with Him. As much as it pains me to see a soldier die, or get injured, it IS our profession. It IS what WE signed on to do. No one made us do this. No one drafted us. We volounteered.

I read another article earlier on about a Sergeant, a Non-Commissioned Officer no less complaining about having no time off, his truck was broken, etc. Well listen here SERGEANT, fix your vehicle, continue your mission the best you can. You are in a war zone. The enemy doesn't take time off...why should we? We are soldiers; hardship is our middle name and a soldier, especially a leader, must make the sacrifice of "time off" to ensure his mission is completed and his men are safe.

I am disheartned by these facts, these soldiers and soldiers families disgracing everything they and their sons and daughters do. There are better ways to remember them. Memorials. Take an ad out in a newspaper. Something other than rend our country apart.

I remember coming home after being deployed and everywhere I turned, someone said thank you. Now, not even 5 months later, it seems every soldier is looked upon with disdain. We answered our country's call. Right or wrong, we answered the call.

I have one question to pose to the reader. Has there been another 9-11 here on American shores since the OEF and OIF campaigns? Think about it. Think about it long and hard. And also remember this...if we, THIS generation were not called to do this would be YOUR sons, YOUR daughters, YOUR grandchildren, doing it in the years to come. As long as there are men in this world whose only desire is to control people, there will be war. It is OUR am as the American servicemember that WE continue to remain a free and independant people, free to voice our opinions, but remember, a Soldier gave you that right. A Soldier continues to see that you can exercise that right. A Soldier will continue to safeguard that right. Always.

"Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Kipling/Orwell

Good Night and God Bless You and God Bless America

Monday, May 16, 2005

Baghdad July 2004 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Final Patrol

My final patrol was for the most part, uneventful, however, and in no wise am I attempting to disgrace my Bradley (Armored Personnel Carrier) brethren, it was a rough patrol. It was the first, and hopefully the last, time that I will ever ride in that particular vehicle. The entire patrol, we had two Bradleys and that was the roughest, noisiest ride I have ever taken. I was numb from the waist down, and I have never been so glad to get out and walk in my entire life. I felt a little upset that the words that we had spoken to these men about patrolling in this tight urban area seemed to go unheeded in that a large vehicle such as a Bradley cannot effectively move through the tight streets as a HMMWV can. They seemed to be insistent upon using these vehicles, however, and I had to realize that I am no longer going to be in charge of that sector and it will be up to them to figure out what works best for them. I only hope that they will figure it out quickly and I sincerely hope that none of them are hurt.

We introduced them to our families and had to say goodbye. This, in itself was a hard task, however, I know that they will always be in my heart. I shall never forget them.

This was the last patrol that I did in Baghdad, and with a certain level of relief and regret, we put all of our tanks onto trucks for the movement south to Kuwait.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Last Week

The day of 20 February will be another historically painful day for me. One of the days that you kind of wished never saw a sunrise. One of the days where you wished you never got out of bed that morning.

Our replacements had arrived and we had been talking to, briefing and training them to take over our piece of Baghdad, for the past couple of days. Their platoon sergeant and mine decided to go out together on our evening patrol, and also our final MSR (Main Supply Route) security, where our task is to search for bombs to ensure that the highways remain as safe as we can make them for supply convoys and other patrolling units who use those routes. My A Team leader and a couple of my soldiers took the tank that evening while my platoon sergeant took the truck. None of us even suspected what was going to happen that evening. A few words of humor to my platoon sergeant before he went out, and then he left for his mission. I went to my room to relax for a little while and rest a bit, and a knock came on my door requesting my presence in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). Our platoon's patrol had been hit with a bomb and soldiers were hurt. At first, the reports were sketchy at best, but as the confusion, which always accompanies such attacks, subsided, it became clear that my platoon sergeant was injured, seriously enough to go the the Combat Support Hospital, and another soldier in my platoon had received minor injuries. I felt helpless. Those were my men, leader, friend, mentor and confidant out there hurt and I could do nothing to help. I felt feelings of guilt that I should have been out there, maybe even that it should have been me taking the trip to the hospital. The order from the Commander that we needed to take another truck out there to replace the one that had been damaged came, and I immediately rounded up enough people to make a crew and we left. I arrived on the scene just as they were taking him to the hospital. Confusion still reigned somewhat as I had to make the attempt to find everyone who was left, round them up and continue with our mission. We continued on and completed our rounds. We were going back to the camp when my convoy was hit with a bomb as well. No one was hurt and no damage was done, but I felt so angry. Twice in one night. Only instance of this happening to my platoon the entire year. During the last week at that! On a side note, and to add a bit of comic relief, my gunner for my truck told me the following day that he had thought to himself, “Wouldn't it just be fitting if an IED went off on us right now?” and then BOOM! I informed him, jokingly of course, that his thinking privileges were now revoked until our return home.

I took the platoon to see our leader the following day, and he was in good spirits. We talked, laughed and joked for a while and it was good to see him doing well. He was injured in the ankle, enough so that they will have to now put pins and rods in, but, thankfully he will be able to keep his foot, and he will walk again. It was hard for me to see him there, this man seeming indefatigable will, of uncompromising principles and a demeanor that he was untouchable, and unable to be hurt, lying in the bed, foot propped up on a pillow. The man who had successfully, honorably and throughly led us through an entire year, getting ready for a plane ride home. As I left, I knew that I would see him again, but, noticed not by any other, tears came to my eyes as I walked down the corridor, and this I cannot explain. I had said goodbye to fallen comrades who I know I will never see again, however, I do not know why I was pained in this instance. I would see him again, talk to him again, laugh and joke with him, but it was hard to say “So long”. Our interpreter, who had worked with us the entire year, was very broken up, but was glad that he could see him one more time.

The responsibility that now weighed on my shoulders as the acting platoon sergeant was a heavy burden on my heart. I wanted to carry out our platoon sergeant's promise to our soldier's families that he would bring them home. I feared greatly that during his absence I would not be able to fulfill this promise. I wanted to do everything right and bring everyone home. I now had not a squad to worry about but an entire platoon of men who relied heavily on his strong leadership. Was I up to the task? I did not know.

It was only a week, but it was the longest week of my life. It was a constant concern that my soldiers make it through each patrol with no one else getting hurt. We made it through that week, thank God, without any further incident, and we are now all home safely. I was able to see our platoon sergeant the day I returned home, and he had just gotten out of surgery to put the pins in. I was so glad and my heart sang when I saw him in relatively good health, complaining about the doctors, the hospital, and just being his general gruff self. I knew that his ankle but not his spirit was broken. I have seen him again since and every time, it seems like being reunited with an old friend. He has been one of the best leaders I have ever had and I thank God every day for his guidance and leadership. Most of all, I am thankful that he will continue his career in the Army and continue to train soldiers to the highest standards and help make the Army a better organization.

This last week closed with our final preparations for our departure home. We said our good-byes to our friends in our sector, and that in itself was a difficult task. The little girl who wrote the letter to the President in October was very upset with out having to leave and requested that I stay. Well, her father told her that if I stayed, I would be taking a risk of being blown up or shot and her answer was, “Well, not if he stays here in our house!” My men got quite a laugh out of that. Our friends were sad to see us go, but glad that we were able to make it home to our families safe. I sincerely pray for their safety and a free country for them to live in. I shall never forget any of them. They are the reason I had to be there and their friendship will always reside in my heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

News Reports Bring Mixed Emotions and Impact Morale Both Positively and Negatively

Freedom of the press is one of the inherent rights afforded to the citizens of this great country that many times is abused as a commercial marketing tool, with many of the reporters only concerned with the amount of money to be made by any particular article. Embedded reporters are a necessity in this “information hungry” age we live in now. I personally feel that reporters embedded with a unit can be a good thing as long as they live by a code of ethics not to place soldiers lives at risk, and to ACCURATELY report what they have seen. On many occasions, our unit was the focus of reports from many agencies, to include PBS (television special--”A Company of Soldiers”), CNN and most recently the Knight Ridder agency sponsored by the Philadelphia Enquirer. The names of reporters and particulars I shall not name specifically, however, suffice it to say that some reports were good and some bad. One report in particular, shed an unwarranted spotlight on my platoon and Company in particular, causing undue stress among our soldiers. Nothing in the report was untrue, however, the context and the wording of this report was what caused a problem. It made our unit out to be nothing more than a group of blood-thirsty thugs who relished in the violence that we so often had to partake in. This, was entirely not the case. We understood the responsibilities not only to our soldiers, but to the civilian populace as well. The responsibility that we had to our soldiers was to bring them home alive to their families. The responsibility we had to the civilians was to assist in the emplacement of security and to provide stabilization for the fledgling government and security forces in that beleaguered country. At no time was unnecessary violence meted out. At no time did any member of my unit meet with force any threat unless it was deemed necessary for the preservation of our own safety. The reporter responsible for the derogatory article attempted to sum up in thirty days nearly an entire year of hardships, successes and personal defeats. This in itself was not a realistic task. The morale of my soldiers was impacted greatly by this, but, as always, their professionalism and resiliency manifested itself by their desire to rely on each other and continue the mission that we started and finish it with honor and the undying courage so often demonstrated by these fine young men. I was able to watch “A Company of Soldiers” the other night and it brought back many painful memories, but was a fitting tribute to the men of this unit. No, this particular program had nothing to do with my platoon and Company, but, for those of you who have kept up with my drivel over the past months will know that many of my friends were focused upon in that program. It was an accurate reflection of the hardships of November, one of the hardest months in this operation. Friends are gone that I shall never see again. Every man in that program is my comrade in arms in one of the best Battalions in the Army. I say this not as being prejudicial against any other unit or branch of the Army, I say this because our Battalion's actions speak for themselves. I am sure that many units in Iraq have suffered harder times than we, however, each unit has its own challenges and my Battalion, Company, platoon and squad met each challenge with valor and commitment. I have never been prouder to serve with any group of men, than the ones I have served beside this past year. The Army has a rich heritage and it will continue by the men of this Battalion into the future as new soldiers come, old soldiers pass on their wisdom and experiences, and we continue the task of striving for peace, and in the event peace fails, to win in close combat.

An article that many of you already know about was posted in the latter days of January regarding my platoon. My men were so proud of the positive press and about what they had done. I was so pleased with what they had accomplished. The months of January and February were like a roller coaster as you shall see in the coming days with future postings. It is good to read things about your unit that a broadminded reporter writes, however, it is a little shattering to read something about your men and your friends from a narrow minded, materialistic viewpoint that attempts to shatter every success your men have striven for the entire year.

I shall post only a few more articles in the coming days, with a summation of the year, but be it known that I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your support. God bless.

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