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.


August 06, 2007

Name: Eddie
Posting date: 8/6/07
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Milblog url:

Our battalion had a lucky day recently. One guy was shot in the hand while on guard duty, by a small caliber weapon. Another guy was shot in the head on guard, but nothing serious; again by a small caliber weapon. A third guy out in sector was shot in the head by a sniper. The round entered the front of his helmet, traveled along the top of his head, and burst out the back of the helmet. Other than a cut along his head (and I'm sure one hell of a headache) he's OK. I don't know what made God watch down on us that day, but he sure had other plans for those three guys. The one that was hit in the head on guard used to be in my company, and me and him are pretty cool. I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, but I did see him walking around the other day with his head bandaged up, so he's doing good. This was his third deployment, and this time he became a "fobbit" and doesn't have to leave the FOB. How ironic that on this deployment he gets shot.

As I'm sure many of you have heard, there has been a big soccer match going on, I believe in Asia. Iraq has been doing well, and they celebrate with gunfire. Yesterday apparently was the finals, and it was Iraq vs. Saudia Arabia. My squad was on our patrol shift throughout the game and afterwards, and decided that if Iraq won we would go out and see if we could find some of these guys that are out there shooting machine guns in the air. For the record, no Iraqi is allowed to own a machine gun.

Well, Iraq ended up winning, and as expected the whole city erupted in gunfire. As this was going on, we were getting our gear on and getting ready. We were waiting for the massive barrage of gunfire to die down before heading out. I was excited, because this was the best chance of getting into something that we have had in a long while. I figured with everyone out shooting, there might be a person or two that would get ballsy enough to take a few shots at us. To my dismay, word came that we were not to go out. I was pissed. Things have slowed down a lot, and I really haven't felt like I've accomplished much over here lately. It's hard, because I try my best to stay positive, especially considering how much time I have left, but this place manages to suck the motivation out of you. Especially when others around you aren't as positive.

So today I was chilling up on the guard tower. Nothing really noteworthy happened until just near the end of the shift, when I heard an explosion. Nothing loud, just a normal explosion (I know that sounds crazy). I wouldn't have thought twice about it except that I hadn't heard any all day, so I started scanning to see if I could tell where it came from. I couldn't see anything from my tower so I ventured outside, and that's when I saw a plume of smoke. I radioed the other tower to ask them if that smoke had been there all day, and they said no. Slowly the smoke became thicker and thicker and my heart sank. I knew what this was. Something I've become all too accustomed to; a car bomb. Surprise, surprise. It seems endless, the death and destruction they rain down upon each other.

Just before our shift was ending we got word that we were to head out there and check it out, and take pictures and whatnot for our company commander. I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of heading down to check out another VBIED (Vehicular Borne Improvised Explosive Device), but I had no say in the matter. We rolled out to one of the markets in our sector, but when we arrived I was quite surprised to not see much carnage. In terms of car bombs, this one was pretty pathetic. By the time we left they were saying that only five people had been killed and 20 wounded. I hate to use the world "only", but after seeing the carnage at another site where over 180 were killed, five is really nothing anymore. But this just goes to show that our mission of "protecting the markets" is a waste of time. The only way to stop this is to go after those making the bombs. Until then, I will continue to wonder every day if today is the day I'll drive by a VBIED.

One thing that I noticed, and was talking with my grenadier about (he was gunning and I was driving), was how Iraqi civilians react to these explosions. They will walk by, sometimes stop, maybe exchange a few words with the others around, then walk away, still looking at the blast site. I guess the best way to describe it is to say that it's the same way Americans treat car accidents; they drive or walk by, staring at the scene, then just continue on their way like nothing happened. It's just a part of their lives, and I guess they've become adjusted to it.

Yesterday while I was out guarding the gate, this little kid came up and started talking with me. I guess his mom or family had come inside for something but he had stayed outside. I don't know why, but this kid didn't annoy this shit out of me like a lot of them tend to do. He was really cool, spoke pretty darn good English for his age (he looked about six, but was actually 10) and we had some good conversations.

It was pretty cool, but then out of nowhere he started telling me some stories. One was about how his friend was killed in a sectarian driveby, shot in the head, and how others were shot in various appendages. He also told about another time when someone threw a grenade at them, and he made the hand gestures of pulling the pin, throwing, and then the explosion. I remember thinking, how fucked up is it that this kid should even have these kinds of stories and memories to be able to tell? He's so young, yet he's had to learn some of life's hardest lessons. Things I don't even know if I'm fully capable of handling at my age. It just truly sickened me, and I wished I could take him away from all of this. Instead, all I had to offer was the rest of my Cherry Kool-Aid.


I went swimming once in the river in Vietnam, lots of lost boys there playing war, with the body scars and missing limbs so I knew it wasn't based on movie entertainment. They made grenades of ammo bands with a rubber band holding them together, bent and under tension. When it was thrown and it landed the band split and the ammo bands sprung in all directions - just like a grenade. I hope they grew up to give their children better games, but the war in Vietnam went on far longer than 1975, but we had stopped playing by then.

Your acknowledgement of the boy's stories & your sharing your Kool-Aid was the right thing to do. When children have horrid things to recount, some people say shush, don't talk about that, as if it will magically go away. The boy's being able to talk to you about what he had seen is a release of sorts for him. In the same manner your telling us about the stress of absorbing his stories is a small release for you. Share the burden; we offer our respect and support.

There is something I feel for you guys on this post. Here it is, your job is to stop people from having guns they can kill others with and you cannot even do your job. Yet, on TV that evening, you saw Iraqis firing off rifles and machine guns in celebration. Once again, you are allowed to fight them when they want to kill, but not prevent crime in peace time.
I cannot imagine my own child talking about her friends dieing like that. Even scary, to even be able to pull the grenade. I am glad you shared the boy’s story. No one is naive after a war. I am happy to be in our free country. I hope that you all can stay safe as you did on this day.

Wow...It is very sad that a small child has been through that, that several small children go through that every day. I can understand that it must be hard not always being able to change anything, but you guys just being over there is helping. God is watching over you guys and you are all in our prayers here, back in the States. Thanks for sharing your story.

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