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 03, 2009

Name: Teflon Don
Posting date: 8/3/08
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog: Acute Politics

I was driving late Tuesday night, heading home from seeing some friends.The lights were soundless as they came up behind me. I’d had a beer, and I pulled over and worried for a moment as the lights carried on past me into the night. Ahead of me, more lights flew by soundlessly, then more. As I pulled to the curb in front of my house, the first siren split the humid night air, and yet another set of lights burned down the road.

Let’s go back to 2006 and meet George Nickel. He’s been in the US Army a long time -- he was a private in the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry back when the Tropic Thunder division still had an Air Assault regiment. When I met him, he’d already left the Army and come back to join the Army Reserve with friends of his from his work at Idaho’s State Penitentiary.

He’s given this country of ours a lot. On February 8th, 2007, on a narrow road outside of Karma, Iraq, Staff Sergeant Nickel, USAR, very nearly gave it all. He was the lone survivor from the explosion of one of the largest IEDs ever placed in Iraq -- his 12 ton bomb-resistant vehicle was thrown above the tops of the 10-foot high reeds that lined the road. Three other good men died. The truck’s gunner, just a foot away, was blown from the turret and died before he hit the ground. The sergeant riding shotgun was even closer to George -- he too died instantly. The driver was the furthest from the point where the blast penetrated the armored hull. He lived long enough for a medevac helicopter to arrive, but died en route to the combat hospital in Fallujah. George Nickel was separated from death by mere inches. Nearly every bone on the right side of his body was broken, and shrapnel from the blast tore his flesh.

George was a private man. He was the sort to get married to a woman and only tell his best friends, the ones he had rejoined the Army with, when they noticed the ring he was wearing. Everyone who deploys overseas has a contact number on file, so if the worst happens, the military can begin the process of alerting loved ones of their service member’s death or injury. George gave the Army a number that he knew his wife wouldn’t answer, trusting his friends to tell her before the Army found her. In the end, that was exactly how it happened.

He arrived from Germany at Walter Reed Army Medical Center just after the neglect scandal broke there. There wasn’t enough room for him; the administration there wanted to send him home to continue his rehabilitation therapy. He was on canes then. His house was in the woods of Idaho, an hour from the nearest VA rehab facility, and definitely not handicap accessible. So instead he was housed in one of the old hotels that the Army had rented nearby in order to house the overflow of wounded warriors from Walter Reed. A cab took him to his temporary home. Another wounded veteran helped him carry his meager belongings upstairs. He ate from care packages rather than trust the meal service. He finally came home to stay in Boise on July 4th, 2008.

Fast forward to July 28th, 2009. Boise’s finest are running towards the sound of guns, and at the end they find George, still running toward the sound of his own guns. Towards his own demons. He’s lost his dog, and he’s searching the nearby apartments for the pup. A bullet into the lock. A boot into the door. Staff Sergeant Nickel is searching buildings, clearing rooms just like he did in Iraq. Suddenly there’re bright lights and a voice yelling “Police! Put your hands up!” He doesn’t. They start shooting, and he takes cover. Suddenly the war has come home for everyone, not just George. Trouble is, this is America and not Iraq, and in America we like to pretend that soldiers are GI Joes, like they're heroes who never need our help. George is in a new world now -- one where he is the 'perp' and not the hero -- and in this new world he needs our help more than ever.

If you haven't read the reporting on this in the Idaho Statesman, please go to the stories linked below, read them, and leave a comment. You may specifically want to address this quote from Boise police chief Mike Masterson:

"This is bizarre behavior. I don't know what would push people to that [level of] desperation."

Mystery still surrounds Iraq vet's clash with Boise police
Armed Iraq veteran charged in apartment shooting in Boise
Man shot at by Boise police Tuesday night is an Iraq war veteran


I read the third article. I had to choose to not respond there for I could not say what I wanted. To me, George's situation goes beyond 'depression'. I would call it Survivors Guilt and PTSD, two I finally had properly diagnosed for me for surviving a conflict as others didn't. Hopefully, someone with proper knowledge and wisdom can go to George's side for his support.

This is the type of story that absolutely breaks my heart. How long will we allow the rest of America to ignore the high cost to those who defend our freedoms and protect our borders and its citizens?

That police chief needs to get his head out of his ass and take a good look around our country! America is at war and it comes with a price. Chief Masterson get a fucking clue!
Respectfully submitted,
Clara Hart

What I find truly horrifying is that the sheriff and so many others truly don't get it and don't seem to have enough human compassion in them to try.

Just an old peace-nik putting in her two cents I pray nightly for an end to the war and for a safe return home for each of you with the hero's welcome each of you deserve.

His blessings all around

What I find truly horrifying is that the sheriff and so many others truly don't get it and don't seem to have enough human compassion in them to try.

Just an old peace-nik putting in her two cents I pray nightly for an end to the war and for a safe return home for each of you with the hero's welcome each of you deserve.

His blessings all around

The military has taken some fairly large strides in PTSD treatment. And now, they need to step up and be by this brother's side when he goes before the judge. George does not need to be in jail. He needs to be in recovery. He needs for all of him to come home. And he's going to need help getting back.

He took a blood oath as did all who wear or have worn the uniform(s) of our country. They all believe that oath. The rest of us need to start honoring our part of the oath - we need to make our elected folks in DC act to get top-of-the-line medical care for our vets. Bug the hell out of them. Emails. Letters. Phone calls. Hollar at them when they come to town. Be the squeeky wheel that won't be greased. We need to help George find his dog without the combat gear.

George, may you find peace. May you finally come home.

Boise police chief Mike Masterson, what a complete fucking moron. And to George...fair winds, following seas, brother.

This is an unfortunate incident. I am not going to go into detail of any personal events.
Only those who have never been in our shoes would not understand. Those are the lucky ones, they sleep peacefully at night, and don't jump at loud or distinct noises, and do not relive the memories daily.

What a senseless tragedy. While the municipal police are signed up for training programs galore, another should be added to teach them to deal with situations involving PTSD and TBI injury symptoms. It might prevent this same scenario from playing out again. It's absolutely inevitable that there will be similar situations - learning how to best deal with them is the only solution.

Tennyson wrote "The Charge of The Light Brigade". In it he writes how heroic the soldiers were as they rode there horses into a wall of artillery. Truly they as brave as they could be. Then Kipling wrote "The Last of The Light Brigade", in it he wrote how those same heroic survivors, now forgotten, needs the attention of the masses they fought for , only to be forgotten. God Don't let us forget!


Granted, the police officer may not have known who this man was. He was just doing his job. Anybody who wasn't a war vetern would have been shot down without anyone asking why. And I'm sure this man felt like an a$$ after realizing what he had done.

George, thank you.

Words will never amount to anything, will never be enough to thank heroes like George.

On the national news, a story was told about George. He was looking for his dog and perhaps something happened that took him back in time to his deployment in Iraq. Our soldiers and heroes are coming back to live and trying to fit in with those of us who have never experienced the horror of war. Our police have a difficult job that they face everyday also. They are often unsung heroes who face danger everyday in protecting us. It is difficult to understand why Chief Masterson made the statement that he did. Perhaps, he was unaware of the trauma that George had been faced with. He, as a law enforcement officer with training, should have been thinking about depression and desperation that anyone can suffer with at anytime. Many times, all of us speak too soon and wish later that we could retrieve those statements.

Our country needs to provide better care, more support, and more training. We as citizens should support both sides and thank those who day after day put their lives in jeopardy. This incident could easily be replayed many times as the war continues. George needs many supporters and we can only hope that he and all those in the same situation are not ignored. Thanks to those who keep us safe and keep the war from the United States.

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