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.

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
Email: iwolfe11@msn.com 

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.

Comments

I am very glad to hear that the Iraqi Army and Police care and are committed to their country---they will ultimately determine what happens there!
And of COURSE you folks in the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy (and Coast Guard occasionally) are the ones at war. Those of us at home, whether disputing or dismayed, are very much not at war. But, you need to know, even those disputing that I have met, are also very busy worrying and caring about all of you at war. I know you all are in my heart---I want to see you all come home to family and friends and move forward with a life free of the travails that are your daily life now. Thank you for all you do, and I hope those Iraqi children remember you all for life---a ray of sunshine in what must be a terrible time for their country.

Nice post it was a great read.

SPC Wolfe,
I know what you mean. Don't ever expect anything good from the news. With having a soldier who is also deployed I read as much as I can, and you all are doing great things!!
Thankyou and all of the M.G. for serving!
We live across the river from you, in Gods Country.
Keep safe and come home soon!

Ian,
I hope you do not feel that all of us here in the states feel all soldiers are doing terrible things. I had that feeling when I returned from Nam. You have the support and sympathy of America. I hope you return home safely to your loved ones and I hope the war will end and that the Iraqis will find a way to live with each other.

I live in the Bay Area, in one of the most liberal and anti-war (at least anti-Iraq war) places in the country. Believe me, when people here talk and argue about what's going on in Iraq, they are NOT criticizing soldiers in the field. Most people just don't want any more soldiers to be injured or killed. If they don't have the stomach for the war, it's only because they want all of you back in one piece. Everyone here supports you.

Ian, YOU are fighting for America. Fighting to free the people of Iraq from the hatred and violence means you are fighting for America. You are are showing the world that America stands up to help. By your memories and wonderful words you show you know what is important and I salute you for that purposefullness. I am so proud and thankful we have Americans like you who are willing to follow through with your purpose. You are what makes America strong. You know who you are and you have your priorities. Know we pray for all of you and your families. I wish you were not in the position you are in, but I am glad we have Americans like you who follow through. I apologize for rambling, but young man I just want to surround you with prayers, hugs, pats on the back, and all the physical and emotional comforts you do not have right now. Thank you for being who you are, and being it for us, even if we don't always deserve you.

Specialist Wolfe,

Thank you and God bless you and your comrades for the valiant effort you are all making in this very difficult situation. I make an effort to read as much as I can about what is going on and while it is skewed to the big events, every day I read reporting detailing the professionalism, dedication and honor of our men and women in uniform. Your service makes us all proud, regardless of the political disagreements. Its hard to imagine the anguish you must experience seeing so much suffering. I pray that God comfort you and give you strength and that you all come home safe.

Keep writing, those of us that aren't at war are paying attention to the real reporters from this war - those that are fighting it and winning it one Iraqi at a time. Works for me, keep writing, I will keep reading and praying to the Higher Authority, the ones in between us are full of hot air and probably causing global warming. Hold your head up we are proud of y'all.

Thank you very much for servering America and the memories of many other American Soldiers who have fought for the same American Ideals! Freedom!!

SPC Wolfe

You caught it in a nutshell! It is too bad that all the talking heads and politicos are not required to read Sandbox, before they can talk to the press about what is going on in Iraq.

You an your brothers - Keep On Writing - then maybe all of us back home will have a bit of a clue about what it is all abut over there.

Keep it up! God Bless! Have a safe deployment!!

You are not being selfish at when you say that you "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."

You are exactly correct, but that is the intention of the civilian leaders in the White House and the Defense Department - they don't want the American people to feel the cost of the war. They want the cost of the war to be contained to as small a group of Americans as possible.

They sold this war to the America people as a "slam dunk" and now that the "long hard slog" is looking more and more like a permanent "Korea type" garrisoning of a "hot" Middle Eastern country, they are trying to hide the human and financial cost of the war. This is in hope that the American people will not debate the issue, and not direct the National Command Authority (NCA) to take a different course of action.

Fortunately, America is still a republic where open debate about everything the government does, including its military actions, continues. Debate is necessary for the proper functioning of the Republic. Thank goodness Americans are debating and not going to the streets, as they did during the Viet-Nam War!

During that war the NCA raised taxes to pay for the war and conscripted service members to fight the war, so it affected all Americans one way or another. During this war the NCA is taking it all "out of hide" in order to keep the real cost of the war "contained" to a small segment of American society. Instead of taxing and conscripting they are using deficit spending, budget shifts, and multiple redeployments of volunteer service members to fight this war. Fortunately the American people are finally waking up to this trick and have started debating the issue!

Thank you for your service under these unacceptable circumstances! Hurry home to Mpls, the weather is great and it is still possible for the Twins to become respectable - they beat the Nats 6-3 on Sunday! God Bless the American Republic and God Bless the American Republic's Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, and their families!


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c5f3053ef00d8357fd29869e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference FIFTEEN MONTHS AND COUNTING:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »




Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog

LINKS


About

My Photo

FEATURED BOOK