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.


May 04, 2007

Name: Eddie
Posting date: 5/4/07
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Milblog url:

Yesterday was one hell of a day. The day before, we'd headed out to pull overwatch over a crappy area. It was pretty uneventful, because my squad stayed back to guard the trucks while the dismounts set in. Not that I'm complaining, because overwatch usually involves a tall building and a lot of stairs, and with all the equipment, we're each carrying 50-60 extra pounds. I ended up sleeping in the truck all night, which sucked because I could not, for the life of me, get comfortable, and mosquitoes were chowing down on me like I was a full course meal.

The next morning we went out and did a little dismounted patrol around the area. Nothing exciting. Just a lot of walking and not really anything to show for it. When we got back we got a call to head out to the towers that we just built in the bad area. Apparently the IA (Iraqi Army) took a couple days to come occupy them, and during that time the tall tower had been blown to the ground, and a 155mm artillery shell IED had been placed in the other tower. We were to secure the area for EOD to come in and blow it.

We ended up pulling security in the exact same area where I had a grenade thrown at me. OK, a little unsettling, but what can you do. Hopefully if it happens again we can shoot the bastard this time. Well, not even 30 minutes into sitting there we suddenly hear a loud explosion behind us and see a dirt cloud coming from the IA check point, about 200m back from our position. They come under small arms fire and engage for about 20 minutes until things settle back down. Again, no US troops involved. Nothing else ended up happening while we were out there, which is good.

Once EOD had successfully placed a charge on the IED, we pulled our video recorders out and got an awesome video of the explosion. They set it off inside the other tower, and amazingly that tower is still standing.

We headed back to base for a quick lunch stop and to pick up our CO to go check some markets. On our way out, we got a call about an explosion in one of the markets in our area, believed to be a car bomb. Before we were even somewhat close, we could see the black smoke billowing in the sky. This definitely was not going to be good. As we got closer it became obvious how big it was going to be. When we approached the street that the blast was on, all of a sudden I no longer felt like I was living my life. I honestly felt like I was watching a movie. Hoards of people were walking away from the area, some hurt, some shook up. We then began to see emergency vechicles flying in and out of that street. Even civilians with flatbed trucks were helping. We'd see them fly by with 20 people on the back, some screaming, some helping the wounded who were lying on the bed. We were about 1/4 mile away when the street became too crowded to drive down, and we dismounts hopped out and headed down on foot.

It was utter choas down there. I honestly could not believe my eyes. It was surreal. People were being helped away from "ground zero", some of them covered in blood and wounds. Windows hundreds of meters away were shattered; glass scattered on the ground. Cars 100-200 meters away were damaged by flying debris, windows shattered, hoods bent in, blood on the paintjobs. The fires were still going strong, and the streets were soaked in the foam/water mix used to put them out. The closer we got, the more tainted the water became with an awful red. I could only imagine what it was going to look like even closer. We ended up looping around to the west end of the blast site and were probably about 25-30 meters away from where the vechicle had exploded. The ground was burned black, and every vechicle in that area was a charred mangled metal mess. People were rushing in, some trying to put out the fire, others to rescue people. Even more were simply recovering bodies.

The crowds in the area had to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. Some of them had been wounded themselves in the blast. Many of them carried expressions of sorrow on their faces. Some had anger, and even more wore expressions of confusion. They all had something to say to me as I passed, and although I do not speak their language I knew exactly what they were saying. "How could you let this happen? Do something about this!" But there was nothing I could do. I was helpless to do anything, yet people continued to plead with me. Sitting there at ground zero, I saw charred dead bodies pulled from the mangled car frames. It was the worst sight I've ever seen in my life. Every time someone would come past, pushing a body, or two or three, on a wooden cart, away from the scene, everyone in the crowd would all begin yelling "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great") over and over, along with some other phrases. They would load the bodies up on a vehicle with many helpers on back, and they would begin to chant as the vehicle sped away, sirens blaring.

All of it just did not seem real. Yet I was there, living it, experiencing it fully with my senses and emotions. I pray that I never have to see anything like that ever again. That one event has angered me more than anything else here. All this carnage and destruction in the name of God. Allah. Where in the hell is God's work in all of this? It makes no sense, and these people are crazy fanatics. I just don't understand it. Talking it over with my buddies, I estimated there had to have been at least 50 killed. The next day I was utterly shocked to read the real numbers in the news: 140 killed, 150 wounded. I'm not sure how accurate those numbers still are, because the dead and injured toll continues to rise with every hour. Truly a horrible and horrific day.


May God grant you a peaceful sleep. Keep five yards.

I can't say any nonsense that would make it all better. It's not. You saw exactly what it was.

The compassion, the imagination, the feeling that you hold is a very valuable human thing. Now is not the time to explore it.

Make it back. Add your humanity to our citizenry, and make the world a better place.

I will pray for you to find peace in the midst of the hell you are experiencing. God bless you, Eddie.

Peace to you. Bombing civilians isn't God's work. Just remember that you are there as a good guy, keep on moving.

I WAS going to say there's a lot of people who support you guys, but then it sounded so trite and superficial. But it is true. Good luck, and pray God you keep safe.

God bless you and be careful. You're in our hearts every day.

Eddie, please know that so many people here at home are praying for you and your fellow soldiers. It's with the utmost admiration for your bravery that I read of what you are enduring. Please understand that my being against the war since day one in no way lessens my gratefulness for your service to the U.S. God bless you and keep you safe.

Eddie, This isn't about God (or Allah, Dieu, Dios or whatever title you want to use). It's about power. The powerful are not those who bomb but those send the bombers. They use chaos as a tool, a hellish one. You have seen the face of evil. It is a blessing that you can feel so distressed about this. You will understand later.

Most things in life you can never fully appreciate until you see these things in person. For instance, the great glory of the California red wood trees that are hundreds of years old. Sure you could say “Wow! Those sound like some big trees,” but we all know they are much more than just tall trees. The war in Iraq is another good example of this need to experience theory. Good for the people that have concerns about why we aren’t making huge leaps over in Iraq trying to clean it up and get the hell out. I’m still in question about what the other fanatics that think we rightfully belong over there are thinking. In eddies post he talked about a soldier that had witnessed the aftermath of a car bomb, a 140 death count car bomb. What the fuck!? I'm sitting here in my apartment in L.A. hearing this on the news and it is just another statistic. I wish it wasn’t, but I have no choice, my brain can't even begin to fathom what that would look like.
I am sure that if he wanted to he could have gone into much more detail about the carnage, or maybe not actually. That type of event is probably so ridiculously mind blowing that you don’t have time to take everything in. Think about all these Iraqis that are, sadly to say, used to car bombs exploding. They must just sit and wait for the next strike. It seems like Eddie took the whole thing sort of as it went along. As the situation slowly got worse as he got closer to the blast zone, the blood and agony increased as well. Nobody should ever get used to this kind of thing and just sit there accepting it. Given, that is why we are supposed to be over in Iraq in the first place to stop these incidents, I start to get the feeling month by month that all of our soldiers are not as enthusiastic to be there as maybe they were a few years ago. No fault to the soldiers though, they can only handle so much; They are a napkin trying to soak up a swimming pool.

I always hear on the news about car bombings and innocent people being killed but it is a different thing to read it from the eyes of someone who was there. I could almost hear and feel what you saw and it’s shocking. I just can’t believe the fear these people must feel not knowing if one trip to the market will be their last day. I couldn’t imagine what you felt seeing people looking at you like you allowed this to happen or did nothing to stop it. I understand the anger you felt that people will do such horrible things in the name of God. It’s ridiculous. It’s surprisingly how many lives someone can take and hurt by setting off a bomb: 140 killed and 150 wounded. I realized how luckily I am not worrying about bombings that may happen if I go to the market or get on a bus. Our country is not invisible to crazy people feeling the need to take innocent lives but it doesn’t happen as frequently as in other countries.

Wow, that really is a bad day. Your story had such great details and I felt as though I was there. I am not the greatest fan when it comes down to war, and your story is the reason why. So many people die day after day and you have witness it. What got to me the most was how people were expecting you to do something about all the chaos, as if you have some kind of special power to make it all go away. It is just a terrible experience and I have to say that you are very strong for sticking it out. Not everyone would put themselves into that kind of situation, but you did and I have to say that is very brave of you. I know that I could never stand to view dead bodies being rolled around, people in agony, yelling and crying. It is way too hard for me, not to mention really emotional. I really enjoyed reading your blog, not that it was a fun story to read but because it showed the real side of war. It isn’t all just about guns, shooting and destroying the enemy. Many lives are lost and it isn’t the easiest thing to witness that. I would just like to say good luck to you and to all the others fighting out there; it isn’t an easy battle to fight.

I have seen lots of action movies, full of blood and gore, but I get no emotion as I did when I read your story. I don’t know why, maybe because its true or my imagination elaborates vivid images more explicit then movies. And after reading, I just sat there in shock. I don’t know how to respond, or how to comfort, or to even relate. Besides my silence I feel all that’s left is to give the repetitive classic saying, but with a heart felt emotion; God bless you and stay strong.

Thank you for sharing that. It's real. It's humble.

Oh, BTW: when you get tired of that, you can come up to the 34th floor and walk the red iron with me. Steel beams 4" wide and 20 ft long to walk on. Nuthing but prayer and agility between you and the ground, hundreds of feet below.

It's called Helments to Hardhats. We welcome proven men who can function under stress.

Five shots? Hell, you hit it each time! You'd think they would be gratefull . . .

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