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.