The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

MORTAR MORNINGS |

October 13, 2006

MORTAR MORNINGS
Author: SPC O
Posting date: 10/13/2006
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Washington D.C.

You're frozen. For a split second every muscle in your body tenses, and your mind draws a blank. Was that incoming? Wait for the alarm. If it was an incoming round, the siren blares off with a recorded voice and electronic bell "Incoming! Incoming! Incoming! Bing bing bing. Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!" Stay calm, get to cover, listen for the splash, look at your buddies and smile....Wait.

Everybody has their own "So there I was getting mortared" story. I was once pulling gate guard on my little FOB with a young infantry private I had never met before. We sat in a 113 (Armored Personnel Carrier) that acted as the gate. If someone needed to get on or off the FOB you just started the vehicle and threw it in reverse, let them drive by, then pulled back into your place. So there we sat one morning. I was in the driver's hatch and Pfc. L was behind me in the crew compartment with his SAW. We heard the first round strike about 100m's away, inside the FOB. We looked around for someone to tell: "There's incoming!!"

Another round strikes, this one closer, only 50m's away. We heard it whistle before it hit. I looked over "Dude, get your fuckin' hatch closed!" So there we were, an Infantryman and a Scout, neither of us having been on a 113 before, pulling punching slamming and smashing these hatches that refuse to come down over us to help aid in our protection. The familiar whistle is coming, I hit over his kevlar "Just get down!"

Just as we got our heads below the armor, the round struck not 10 meters from us, the dirt and shrapnel sprayed the vehicle and a cloud of dust descended on us. As me and this guy I've never met before huddled in our convertible armored vehicle we laughed with each other as he gave me the requisite "I love you, man". I dusted some earth off his helmet as we heard the next round whistle over. It landed farther away. That was it. We poked our heads out of our shelter to survey what was left of the earth, and our backup, about 20m's behind us came running up: "Medic!!! Are you guys okay in there? Oh holy shit, we thought you guys were done for sure!" Our gate took a nice peppering, but that was it. We all sat around and had a good laugh about how the 113 had instantly vanished from their eyes in a cloud of dust and black smoke. I've had some close calls, but in all the times I've been mortared that was the closest one.

Well, that's my opener for stories. If anyone back home reads this: If you're too far right to make any sense, leave me alone, and if you're too far left to make any sense, leave me alone. It's easy to say "WE have to go to war" if you're not WE, and it's easy to say "Bring home the troops" if they are not your brothers getting left behind on the return trip.

Comments

I like the "leave me alone" conclusion. I'm too far away to say anything but thanks for being there.

Thank you -- for your prose, and for your commitment. You shouldn't have to be there, but that's very, very separate from the strong support you have, from every American I know.

We need to know all your stories.

Thank you for your post. I am on the left but I don't want to say anything offensive to you. I appreciate all that soldiers like you are doing. You are there that people like me can have an opinion and voice that opinion. That isn't enough for me. I want to support you and your brothers in arms in a way that is acceptable to you. It is easy to sit here and say what should be done when I really have no idea. That is why I enjoy reading your posts to find out what you want to hear from people like me. I also get to hear about what is really going on. That way I can express my gratitude to you on this post. You are all my heroes. I pray that God will keep you safe.

I'm not right or left. I just read your stories and comments with a silent respect. Sometimes I laugh at the dark humor and wonder at the impossible situations you find yourselves in, but you deserve all the honor and respect for what you do and more. Which one of us can truly judge your situations or the decisions you need to make in a split second? I'm a mother of two young children, and you're doing what I can't do. Thank you.

I agree with the preceding individuals. I admire your strength and the ability to laugh. Incredible what you and the others are doing/enduring. May safety be with you. Take care .... Peace

I'm one of the left, and all I want to do is give you nothing but props for all that you do. You are there, you are doing your job, and more importantly--you've got your brother's back.
God Bless you and Keep you.

Kee-rist!! I got an adrenalin rush just readin' that!

Whether this Iraq thing's right, wrong, whatever - that's a moot point. You're there. You've experiences many will later regret never having done - and you can look those sorry buggerz in the eye the rest of your life...

The Buddies you make now will be among the most important in your life - and you'll have something unique to share forty years from now that others can hardly comprehend.

Peace, stay safe, and return home soon....

I'm a lefty, but one night, many years ago I was in the position of hearing the mortars explode around my tent. I remember hearing the dirt land on the roof, thinking the guys on that side were hurt. They were fine, but it was one scary night. I remember the big sucking sound of the explosions and my profuse swearing. I am angered you have been put in the position you're in, but one cannot fault your courage or devotion to duty. Hope you're home soon.

I appreciate the phrasing of your closing. I have a veteran friend who fought in Vietnam. I hear stories now and again, and once I heard him say that not a week goes by that he doesn't miss the service. I guess the reality is yours not mine. How do I, a person who never wanted you all to fight in Iraq, respect your service? I hope telling you that I respect it is a start (and I think other comments here are saying that too.) I couldn't be more angry and disappointed with our leaders. I would say that the feeling of powerlessness as a civilian is something I think about daily. I follow the local casualties, I hear the recruiters at high schools (due to my job.) We are in as troubled a time as I've seen. Once again, thanks for your service and your story.

Hey man, I just want to thank you for your service. I admit I'm on the left and I don't feel you guys should be over there in the first place. I wish we could bring you all home now. I understand you about not wanting to leave your buddies behind though. I have a few friends that are there or were over there, so I understand the camaderie.

I might be against this war, but I support you and the US military completely. Be safe and take care of your buddies.

*thumbs up*

Heart beating really fast just thinking of it. I appreciate your articulation and presence of mind. Am from D.C. too; don't you just wish you could walk unheeded through southeast right about now? Please come back alive, no L or R.

I am just grateful to hear your stories, as it is mostly just a concept over here, this war, and your voices are what makes it real.

It's not about politics, it's about humanity and I thank you for your courage and sacrifice.

That is some hilarious shit!!!!! Thanks for the memories.

Since all the American news reporters and cameramen are not in Iraq anymore, this is the only thing that gives us the soldier's story. The news only gives us the White House story filtered down thru the generals.

I too am on the left, I enjoyed your post; I can't help but wish you all weren't there.

I wish you continued good luck and a joyful homecoming.

Peace be with you...

Keep your head down until you get that wonderful head home.

My husband is there, and while I can say he has his own mortar stories -- one of which made the news this past week -- I can't even begin to say I know what you're going through. The sacrifice we families make is far different from the sacrifice you and your brothers and sisters in service make daily on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just know this: I pray daily for your protection and I also volunteer at the USO at one of the airports that R&R flights come into and out of. I'm about to head off for my shift and hopefully bring a little piece of home to the men and women who come through our doors.

http://www.uso.org/dfw

God Bless, Mary

Spc. O--

Thanks for sharing, I sure appreciate it. I recently lost the love of my life over there. He came home this week, thankfully--but when he came home he was no longer the person I loved, he no longer loved me. I read posts like yours, I suppose, partially looking for where that person I loved so much--and continue to love--might have gone. You can't force people to love you, but I wonder what happened to him over there that now he just wants to be alone. Part of me wants to join up and go over there looking for answers, THE answer, but I suppose there are no real answers in war. I'm quite impressed with what you all do over there, the amount of stress you all are able to handle, the strength of character it takes to compartamenalize so many strange and horrible things, and it gives me hope in a way to know that I have countrymen like you, who are able to see things in the bigger picture. I wish you all the best, and hope you continue to post. Take care.

Take good care and come home safe. Keep your stories coming and I for one will show up to read them and spread the word about where to find them. Protect yourself from the nutters, both those with guns and those with words. Whether we should be there or not is irrelevant to the fact you are there and I just want you and all your buddies to COME HOME ALIVE AND WELL!!!!!

Keep your head down and your a** covered, buddy. Keep up the good work as well, both in the field and on the keyboard.
--a former Navy man

Thanks to all military for your sacrifices. Even though our gov't is full of it I really appreciate the soldiers. My brother will be going to Iraq soon and I've learned a lot more about the soldiers from this blog. Thank you, soldiers!

I agree with that closing paragraph. Nobody really KNOWS unless they've been there...Thanks, man. We'll be headed back that way in a few months.

Thanks for you story, hun. Having been an army wife, I know that sometimes the dark humor is all you have to keep your sanity. Stay safe and be smart.

SPC O- Great story, brings back alot of memories for me! I never felt more alive than after an ambush or a mortar attack, ya know? And screw the politics, I went there for my brothers and I'll be going back again for the same guys, except this time as a butter-bar. But I loved my time in the "Spec-4 Mafia", best rank in the army. And when your enlistment is up, use your GI Bill and go to college, it's really awesome!

-OIF 1 Vet

I've been there and can feel the fear, adrenaline and relief, the laughter release valve. And really enjoy the right/left comment. It might heve been Ben Franklin who wrote, "in all things be moderate." Some of our fellow citizens have forgotten that. Retired Viet and Desert Storm veteran. My thoughts are with you guys every day.

May your higher power keep you and all fellow Americans safe and sound on your deployment.
I thank you all for your serving our country.
Also, while some of us back home don't approve of the war, we ALL approve of every American man and woman who puts their lives on the line for freedom.

Thank you.

I might be on the left, and I might be in favour of everyone coming home and no one being left behind, but I don't make that decision. But I do want to say thank you for the sacrifices you are making for everyone involved. And, if you want a little extra support, the url I provided is an org, that I belong to that offers a little extra something to any soldier who needs or wants it. :-)

I might be on the left, and I might be in favour of everyone coming home and no one being left behind, but I don't make that decision. But I do want to say thank you for the sacrifices you are making for everyone involved. And, if you want a little extra support, the url I provided is an org, that I belong to that offers a little extra something to any soldier who needs or wants it. :-)

www.deployedsoldiersnetwork.com

Keep your head down, be safe, and thank you. I pray for your safety and that of all your brothers in Iraq - my beloved son is there with you. I pray that you may all leave together and now. Amen.

Hi when I read your e-mail I really could think of a million things to say. But now everything I want to say sounds insignificant and chidish. I would like to know what you would like to talk about, or things you would like to hear from back home, or just to talk and say nothing. My hubby says I do a lot of that. hehehe. I would like to hear from you , and I will close this by saying , thank you! Darlene

Hi when I read your e-mail I really could think of a million things to say. But now everything I want to say sounds insignificant and chidish. I would like to know what you would like to talk about, or things you would like to hear from back home, or just to talk and say nothing. My hubby says I do a lot of that. hehehe. I would like to hear from you , and I will close this by saying , thank you! Darlene

I would like to hear what 'Spc. O' thinks should be done, does he think they should stay the course or bring the troops home? or does he have an alternative suggestion?

I appreciate the peril in which our elected representives have placed him and his comrades, and I have no wish for further bloodshed on any side, but it is just not enough to say 'each side leave me alone'.

If Spc. O has an opinion I would be the first to want to hear it, but if he does not I shall stick to mine own - Bring them home.

too far right?? no. too far left?? no. But I do have a grandson who just came back from second duty in Iraq, thankfully alive. And a son in law who did two terms in the Gulf War. And uncles who served in WWII, and cousins who served in Viet Nam. Thankfully, they are all alive.

Politics have no place in war. But war is all politics. Without politics, there would be no war.

Stay safe, and come home.

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