In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mosul blast: not the numbers, but the people

There they sat, enjoying lunch. Knowing the Marez’s menu, they either had beef stew, a turkey sandwich or maybe a cheesecake. No doubt, the food we’ve enjoyed in this conflict is comparable to a Luby’s rather than the traditional military mess hall. Their conversations were probably about football, guard duty and somebody who ticked ’em off. Some of them spoke Arabic, others English with Southern, British, East-Coast or Cool-dude West-Coast accents.

And then it happened. An unidentified explosion erupted and took the lives of civilians, Iraqis, Americans, Soldiers. People of different nationalities, from different countries and in Iraq for different reasons, all paid the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t care what color their skin was or what language they spoke, the people killed shed their blood for a free Iraq and to rid this world of terrorists. We’ve fielded more than 200 media inquiries the past 24 hours and more are sure to come. The reporters are just doing their job, a difficult job: reporting the horrific occurrences in a war zone. For the most part, they’ve done a good job reporting on this incident. But, right now, they’re all caught up in learning the numbers and how it happened. I’d like to tell you about the people who died and those who saved the lives of many…

They may have just plopped lumps of mashed potatoes on our Styrofoam trays, but their callused hands cooked and served the food that fueled our soldiers from dawn until dusk; and they did it with pride. They may have just latched multi-ton trailers to the hitch of a diesel truck and driven it up and down Iraqi highways, but they brought us the necessary tools to win this war. They may have just signed up for college, but they laced their boots up when their name was called to defend America.

Whether they knew it, these people who lost their lives yesterday stood for something. They were bold and daring for tackling a job that required long hours in a very dangerous place. Sure, they were well-compensated, but every contractor, interpreter and Turkish worker I’ve talked to said they don’t do it for the money. And the soldiers, well, they do it for love of country.

The horrific scene within the facility I only saw through classified photographs taken by one of my soldiers, who is forever changed by yesterday’s events. (SIDE NOTE: I’m so proud of her for not only volunteering for such a difficult assignment, but the way she bravely looked fear in the face and captured the perfect images that will be used solely for investigative purposes.) I’ve been in that mess hall a million times, but in these photos, the usual sight of smiling faces was replaced with images I choose not to fully describe. It was a horrible sight, but the moments after the blast is what I would like to remember.

Within seconds of the explosion, wounded soldiers provided aid to their buddies. Many of those giving treatment would normally have been considered urgent, but not this day. The gaping wounds in their legs and arms would have to wait; their buddies, who suffered severe head and gut wounds, needed their help. Many more lives would had been lost if it weren’t for the first responders and medics who patched and resuscitated the fallen. The media’s tabbed this attack the “Mosul Massacre.” I prefer to call it the “Mosul Miracle.” We had the wounded on hummers and medical vehicles and in the hospital within minutes, where the Army doctors began performing miracles.

As with every tragedy America has faced in the past decade – the Oklahoma City Bombing, World Trade Center & Pentagon Attacks – people (Americans, Iraqis, Turkish) bonded to save human life. We are all in Iraq for that reason: To preserve freedom and human life. And when a person is right there in front of you dying, you can either run away and cry in a corner or you do whatever it takes to save the father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter who lies before you helpless. The Army medics and untrained civilians did everything they could. God only knows how many people still have a heart beat because of their efforts.

Yesterday was indeed the worst day of my 26 years; I feel so horrible and can’t fully explain why. I wasn’t there, but a piece of me was lost. I would gladly give my life just to have those people back. A lot of my fellow soldiers feel that way. We ask ourselves why our life was spared. Again, only God knows. You can’t help but feel guilty, but the mission must continue…

“I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” These are not just words. These are facts; our ethos. As our soldiers proved yesterday and continue today and will tomorrow, we live by these words.

34 Comments:

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Kim said...

This is the first time one of your posts has made me cry... thank you for sharing this story.

 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure glad you escaped unharm. You're right. Only God determines when it's one soldiers time to die and another's to live. He's in control. You were spared probably to keep telling the world a side of Iraq that the media refuses to report. And to make us appreciate what we've got here in the States. Merry Christmas to you!

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Mike R. said...

God Bless You man. Take care of yourself. Its an outrage what happened but nothing short of a miracle, like you said, it wasn't much worse.
My wife pointed your blog out to me and we both worried about you until she tell me yesterday you were okay.
Have a Merry Christmas and just know there are a couple of people in Plano, Texas pulling for you guys ever so much.

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger ac blue eagle said...

Glad to hear you are safe. The work you and your fellow and woman soldiers are doing there is appreciated.

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Molicious said...

With tears in my eyes I am praying for you and for the men and women who lost their lives yesterday. I feel angry especially because there is nothing I can do. Please be safe and like my husband said above, we're pulling for you here in Texas.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger dax said...

Please be safe, my man.
BLOG ON!

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Kno1special said...

Found your blog the other day, excellent writing.

Thank you for everything.

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger Triplet Dads said...

you're off to a good start on your writing. Good work and God bless you.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Army Mom said...

As my soldier arrives home today...I will make sure to hug him extra tight. Know that you and your comrades are not far from our minds...and our hearts. As usual, stay safe and come home soon.

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

Thank you, I can not say enough! Hang in there!

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger Kayla said...

Yes yesterday was difficult for me too!! Not knowing if my husband was ok or not was horrible. But he called not long after I heard about what was going on. I thank God that he and you are ok. He is very proud of the job that you all are doing over there. Thanks for keeping us informed! Did you take pics? Have you posted them yet? Have a great night, God Bless you, and be safe.
-K.M.

 
At 8:15 PM, Blogger Bigs said...

Mr. Sminklemeyer, your writing is superb and from the heart. I have never been to war nor can I comprehend what you and your fellow soldiers are going through. I am a father of a soldier as well. Your writtings and comments speak what other soldiers are thinking and doing. Please pass it on to the Iraqis,soldiers, and workers our prayers are going out for all the victims and their families.
I personally will be praying for the people who were part of planned destruction. To have such hate, anger and going against their own religion for a lie! What a loss on both sides! The news says it was possibly a suicide bomber.....How many Virgins did he score? Another Lie................

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger another_army_mom said...

dear mr. sminklemeyer:
you are a very gifted writer i have enjoyed all your stories. i speak for many, we are all very proud you are out there telling the army story
everytime i think about the bombings including the one in the mess hall i want to drop to my knees and cry out to the Lord,but i know he is in control even though the enemy is trying to drive fear. i will continue to pray for you and all the troops there are many large strong angels guarding all of you and i thank the Lord for that. just keep doing what you've been doing remember how much we love and support all of you take care of yourselves and come home soon.

 
At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I just found this, so I haven't read any of your other entries.

This is so very touching, and so heartfelt. And such a horrible thing that happened, and I don't think that anyone over here (or anywhere that hasn't been touched by attacks like this) could know what it's like. Thank you so much for sharing.

 
At 3:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post. When that bombing happened, I was reading about it CNN, Fox News, and a few blogs, but all I had was numbers, and even they didn't convey much to me. Now, a month later, I read your description. As you said, not the numbers, but the people. We need more of this kind of reporting out there, reporting that shows the human side of the war, but not one that uses the human side towards a political agenda as so many liberals have been doing lately.

Thank you a ton (boy, I sure do seem to be saying that a lot to you tonight), you really opened my eyes to a new perspective.

Jake

 
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