Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hit in the gut

I had a great R&R with Carren and Tanner. I'll put more on that later but I wanted to share a letter I wrote today to some friends. It follows here:

While I was on R&R I heard that we had lost an Apache in Baghdad. Even though the news did not confirm it I knew it had to be one of ours stationed here at Taji. I always have a feeling like I have been hit in the gut when I hear about helos going down. This has been ever since 1st Cav lost an Apache and I knew both the airmen. This was the same.
I knew them both. I didn't know them closely but I had met them in an MWR center and we talked aviation shop talk. These Apache crews are joined at the hip. They call each other "front seat" and "rear seat".
They rag on the Black Hawk pilots and are considered the elite of the rotating wing air world. They are the best helicopter pilots in the world and they are absolutely fearless.
I know a lot of the guys from here who have been killed or wounded. I also knew several of the contractors and some Iraqis who have died.
Today we got news that a bus on its way to the airport was ambushed and 4 women in it were killed. Sure enough we heard that two of the women worked at the snack bar in the airport. This just makes me ill. These were young girls. They were good Muslim girls who wore their head scarves and did not flirt but just conducted their business professionally and while being friendly about it. Nice girls, educated, and good English speakers. I spoke with them several times and like most Iraqis they just want all the strife to end so they can get on with their lives.
I know all this will be over one day and we will all go on with our lives but I just hope that none of these people are forgotten. I remember a promise I made to myself at the very beginning that I would not forget those I knew. I still think from time to time about Francis Vega. She was the first I knew to die. She worked in the postal section and had handled several packages for me at BIAP. She was transferred North and when she got her R&R her Chinook was shot down with 17 casualties. This was in November of 2003. They named the Post Office at Camp Liberty after her.
I hope that no more people I know die but I am sure some will. I am glad that most of my friends have made it home safely. Guys like Butch Jacobs, Dwayne Koontz and Neil Cohen. They are unsung heroes who did their time and now are just trying to get on with their lives. I know that they talk about all of this to people but that they always hold something back. They tell some of it but not all. They understand now why Vietnam vets would say," You would not understand, you were not there." Its true, you don't understand unless you have been here. I am glad they are OK but I know that they wake up every day and wonder how their friends over here are doing.
I got a phone call today from a guy who worked for us in 2003 and early 2004. He wanted to check up on everyone and see how we were doing. He also just wanted to vent a little about how the media is misrepresenting all of this. He knows what we know. We are not fighting the Iraqi people, we are fighting radical Islam. We have no beef with the Iraqis. For the most part they are good honorable people who just want to get on with life. We want to help them to accomplish that.
Sometimes the violence hits close. I mean this in a literal and figurative sense. Mortars, rockets, and sniper fire are one form of it. Violence perpetrated on those you know or are affected by is another form. It all plays on our souls and on our attitudes. My attitude about this is unshakeable. This is a good fight. This is the right thing to do. There are those who want us to fail but we will not. We can't. Our very way of life depends on it. I may die over here. If I do I hope no one forgets my sacrifices the way I don't forget the ones before me.


Anonymous Vince Pantano said...

Well stated, Bro.

The biggest surprise to me, now that I'm back, is the relative ambivalence of people here to whats going on in Iraq. Yes, they know about the body counts and they vaguely remember that there was an election, but once they've heard that I wasn't absolutely terrified every second I was over there, their eyes glaze. Of course, no matter how small our part was, we knew that what we did helped in a much larger way. I guess that's why no one talks much about Viet Nam: Folks, here, have their own lives and really don't have time to give much thought to some place 15000 miles away.

The second biggest surprise is how much I actually miss the people that I worked with. I often think about you guys, I guess that's why I haunt your site and Earney's ...for news and a little inspiration. Go figger....

Vince Pantano

12:51 AM  

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