FIFTEEN MONTHS AND COUNTING |
June 05, 2007
FIFTEEN MONTHS AND COUNTING
Name: SPC Ian Wolfe
Posting date: 6/5/07
Stationed in: Camp Adder, Iraq
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Fifteen months and counting. We were extended back in January, but we are expected to be leaving soon. We have been doing many things here as a medical company, including combat arms missions; go figure. I originally posted here about a first aid mission we started to teach basic first aid and women's health out in the villages. We have been very proud and humbled to help the local population. Our team that works with the Iraqi Army has passed the first aid mission on to them. Now the Iraqi Army medics are teaching out in the community, and it has become an Army-wide program. The Iraqi Army medics have a better understanding of the locals, and are able to build a better relationship with the people. This is important, as one of the Iraqi doctors told us that the people in our area are still a bit hesitant about them because of what the army did under Saddam.
It is interesting to hear about what people say on the news back home. The daily situation is not really reported, only sporadic events. I will tell you of one situation that is all too common here. Our base was getting rocketed and one of our patrols saw the people responsible, but were unable to attack them because there was a village near them. You must always think of where your rounds may end up, so we continued to get attacked rather than risk hurting civillians. We constantly put ourselves at risk to make sure Iraqi civillians are safe. The military is not a bunch of brainwashed thugs, although we do have some bad eggs. The majority of us come here to make a difference and to do good. We spend countless hours and resources to further the Iraqi infrastructure and their well-being.
Part of my company's mission is to rotate through the theater hospital in Camp Anaconda. The time I spent there was unforgettable. The patients varied, from Iraqi civilian, police, and army to American and coalition wounded. Unlike us, the insurgents don't care where their mortar shells land, and they don't care where they shoot them from. One man decided to shoot them from his own house. When our systems shot back, his kids were wounded. I can't believe that as a father he could do that.
I took care of a lot of pediatrics. One in particular who I will never forget is Marwali. She was an eighteen-month-old girl who was wounded in an insurgent attack. She was blinded and hurt in her arm. She would cry unless someone held her. Here grandma was there too, but she was still confused after the attack. Her family didn't come until about two weeks later. The men in this country don't always take a big part in the fathering area, however there are some that do. We had some other kids whose fathers stayed next to them the entire time.
Seeing the American wounded was a very somber experience I will never forget. It was also scary, and a reality check to think about all the times I was outside the wire. We usually got the wounded out to Germany right away once they were stable. I remember one kid we were working on who was okay except for his feet. They were gone. He was intubated, tube in the throat, so he couldn't talk. We called his family for him and put the phone up to his ear. It was one of the saddest things, and we were all teared up. We always describe amputations as "below knee" or "above knee". Every time the doctor told his mother and wife that he had a below-knee amputation he would sit up, mad. He wanted to make sure we said he only lost his feet.
There were others who were not in that good of shape. One night a Marine came in who had a tattoo of the names of fallen comrades. He had so much vascular damage that we could not stop him from bleeding. There was so much blood it was pooling on the cot and the floor. He was bleeding right through an inch of bandage.
I did meet some very interesting people. One of my favorite patients, besides Marwali, was Jasim, a young Iraqi Army soldier who lost a leg and was burned. He was my patient a lot of the time. He was very friendly and his wife was having another child. He missed the birth, but was very excited about it. Once he got better we moved him to the other ward where I would visit him. He was also in lively spirits.
There are a lot of young men fighting for their country here. Despite what the media says, the soldiers and police believe in what they are doing. Recently in our area the Iraqi Army dealt a huge blow to the Mehdi Army. It turns out that the police and army have not been infiltrated by the Mehdis. One of our teams was at Camp Ur, the Iraqi Army base, and they greeted the soldiers as they came back from their victory, all in high spirits and very proud of themselves. As always, as in our own military, there are bright courageous young men who have strong convictions who step up to do something.
We always get grouped into a mass unit, but think of the individual soldiers in our Army. We come from all walks of life and we each bring something to the table. We all come here with idealistic views of helping the people and completing the missions before us. We do this as people criticize and argue back home. We do this while hearing about the latest debate in Washington. We do this while uninformed celebrities voice their opinions loudly, and sometimes even insult us. When I think about this, I think of all the people I met through my time in the ICU in Camp Anaconda. I think of Marwali and what kind of life she will have in a male-dominated society. I think of how the soldier with no feet will feel when he returns home, probably with a big smile on his face. I think of Jasim and his homecoming with his children; I know he will tell his kids someday about the service he did for his country. I think of all the people who have been injured, and I think that we are not fighting for America, not directly anyways; we are fighting to free the Iraqi people from this hatred and violence.
This might be selfish but I don't feel that "we" as America are at war. "We" as Soldiers, Marines, Airman, and Sailors, and our families are at war, while the rest of America debates about it. The news reports events with their stock footage, and only the people involved really know the work being done. I applaud this site for giving the people involved a place to talk about our individual experiences, rather than the one bad thing that is reported on CNN each week. As always, thanks to all who support us, and I pray for all who sacrificed for the well being of others.