February 09, 2010

Name: Eric Coulson
Posting date: 2/9/10
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog: The Long Walk Home
Email: [email protected]

This post was written a few weeks back in response to an ongoing situation involving one of the soldiers in my unit, SSG George G. Nickel. It began with this incident last summer.

"This love burns inside me like the last light in the world"

As the weeks go by, the sense of urgency has passed. How quickly most of us return to normal. It is surreal.

I love the Soldiers I served with in Team Badger. Love has become so associated with sex in our culture that most men seem reluctant to admit that. I refuse to let our culture's reticence to admit to brotherly love stand in the way of that admission. I want to you to know I love those Soldiers. A few of them were leadership challenges; a few of them did not get awards they felt they deserved; and I had to punish a few. None of that gets in the way of how I feel about them. I love them all.

Why do I feel that way?

When we were in Iraq those Soldiers saddled up in RG31s, Cougars, and Buffalos; they got in HUMVEEs and HEMITT wreckers. The drove from Ramadi to Balad to get supplies; they cleared the roads of Ramadi, Falluja, and Karma to ensure they had no IEDs on them. They did not always know why, but they had the discipline and professionalism to do what they were asked.

PFCs and SPCs drove Huskys in tandem to sweep for metallic objects.

At they end of the day they did all of this because I, as the Commander, asked them to do it.

I remember back to April and May of 2006: The Company went to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California for our first prep for Iraq. We spent four weeks running around the California desert getting to know each other. As we simulated dealing with irate Iraqi crowds, SGT Jack and SGT John clawed at my webgear to keep me from getting sucked into a crowd of people that were angry at the US. I finally told them to let me go. SGT Jack told me they could not do this mission with a dead Commander.

On our first night out in Ramadi third platoon got out of their vehicles and hauled thousands of pounds of weapons and explosives into a central location to destroy them.

When directed to do so, second platoon, just returned from Falluja, went on mission into Ramadi to escort a construction element so we could begin the process of taking the city back.

First platoon got on the road to escort supply elements for most of the tour, and then when route clearance became plentiful, transitioned to a new and difficult mission.

The mechanics would work whatever hours were necessary to ensure the Soldiers going outside the wire had the right equipment and that it was serviceable enough to do the mission.

Now, over two years later, one of our members sits in jail and it hurts to have him there. It hurts to go about my life with him sitting there. It hurts to return to normal when he is living every moment with what happened that night in Boise.

Who knows what happened that night in Boise? I'm a lawyer by education so I know there are issues that I can't answer for but I do know this -- no one was killed, no one was hurt. And that means, regardless of whatever else happened, this can and should be fixed. If I could impart one overarching thing I learned from being in Iraq it would be that: if no one is killed, if no one is permanently injured, a problem can be fixed.

People have been through worse than what SSG Nickel is going through. If he could speak to you, SSG Nickel himself might say he has been through worse. But to me it is him. My Soldier. And he is going through this. Right now.

So even though I can't do very much, I have provided an affidavit to his counsel and I am trying to raise money to pay them. And I think about him every chance I get.

But the stars are burnin' bright like some mystery uncovered
I'll keep movin' through the dark with you in my heart
My blood brother

For an update on SSG Nickel's situation -- and my urgent request for your help -- please click here.


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Excellent! Cause I am attending inspired stitches! Can't wait!!

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