One year ago today
It’s been one year since my first close call in Iraq. For as long as I live, I will never forget this day. Nor will I forget SSG Charles Kiser, the Wisconsin soldier who was killed when we were conducting operations throughout Mosul after suicide bombers hit the police stations on June 24, 2004. Kiser was a soldier’s soldier and a loving father and husband. I know this day will be difficult for his family, as I’m sure every day has been hard since his passing. Please keep them and all military families in your thoughts and prayers. Below is the post from one year ago….
June 24, 2004, is a day I’ll never forget.
I wake up, yawn, take a shower and walk to the palace, for what I thought would be an uneventful day of downloading the past day’s photos and writing a couple of stories. Little did I know, this day would be anything but boring.
I am told that a car bomb exploded outside of a police station in southwestern Mosul. They wanted me on the scene to photograph and document the carnage caused by terrorists who kill children and innocent civilians with every bomb they plant.
I stand over a 5-foot deep crater where the explosion occurred. People wrapped in blood-drenched bandages are walking to and from the area. I counted seven cars with severe damages. I photographed them all, grabbed my gear and headed back to the humvee. The temperature at this point was about 98 degrees and climbing. It would eventually reach 115, but as the day progressed, I didn’t even realize how hot it was.
The police station was now documented and I was on my way to download my photos and send them to the Pentagon and media news services. As we drove over a bridge, I noticed there were no people standing on the sides of the road, which is odd. People are always on the road, watching the cars pass by in Iraq. Then, I hear gunfire. We stopped the vehicles and see Strykers ahead of us engaging a large enemy force. We set up our defensive firing positions, and I of course have my camera along with my M-16 ready. Bullets were flying every where. Tracers could be seen bouncing off the Strykers’ thick armor. And loud explosions echoed off every building in sight.The fire fight lasted 40 minutes, without a single American casualty. The bad guys, however, suffered quite a few.
The Strykers move closer to the objective and out of our sight. Fighting is still going on, but very little. We didn’t feel the need to stick around any longer, so we were preparing to redeploy back to the palace. Then, I hear a ping, ping, ping. They were 7.62 rounds from AK 47s bouncing off the pavement. We quickly returned fire and then I see a rocket propelled grenade flying in between our humvees. It was a dud and did not explode. It felt as if time had frozen when I saw this baseball bat looking thing with a tail of fire. My heart pounded like a race car engine and I felt relieved that we were leaving the scene. The dud landed about 10 feet from me. After the immediate enemy was no longer a threat, we all felt like we cheated death. Little did we know death was still following us.
We were heading toward our Mosul home just after minutes of intense combat when I heard a familiar ping. We’re being attacked by a different set of terrorists. Nobody was hurt and we eventually returned home to the palace, where everybody wanted to see my pictures.
The rest of the day
People of all ranks asked to see my photography. I was the most popular soldier among the men in uniform for a few hours. See, the insurgents were firing at us from a Mosque and my photography would prove this and the insurgents couldn't say we unlawfully fired at a holy site.
When all the excitement settled, the press wanted interviews. So, we set up live interviews with soldiers involved in the fire fights and with the Mosul Governor. My part in this? I guarded a cord to make sure nobody unplugged it during the live interview feed. You might wonder how somebody can go from documenting combat to dodging bullets to guarding a cord. Well, I’m a soldier. And I’ll do anything my country asks of me.