When it comes to the Iraq conflict, we all have our opinions as to why we went into the country. We are not going to agree if it was the right thing for us to do or not. Personally, I am interested in the human aspect of war. Recently, I had a soldier come speak to my class about what it is really like over there as compared to what we see or hear as a result of the news. I wanted to show my students the different sides or “faces” of war so I asked one of my student’s brother to come speak about his experience.
I will just call this soldier, John to protect his identity. John is in the Army and he was sent to Iraq last year. He was there for only a month before he was seriously injured by a mortar shell (22 millimeter round)that hit the base. Luckily for John, only the top exploded or he would have died because the mortar hit ten feet behind him. Minutes before the mortar round hit, he was inside the humvee fixing the weapon, but realize that he needed a part from the shop to fix it so he got out to go get it. He told the other soldier to keep working on the control while he went to go get the parts. As he was walking toward the shop there was an explosion. At first, he thought the other soldier accidently hit the wrong button or something went wrong and the weapon exploded. Seconds later his Sergeant screamed, “What the hell is that?!” John said he didn’t realize that he was hit or remember falling down. At this point, he had strapnel embedded in his side and his arm hanging by the tendons and bone but didn’t realize it yet because his adrenaline was pumping so fast. He said his main focus was getting to his Sergeant so he got up and went to help her. He tried to pick her up but couldn’t because his right arm was hanging and useless so he told his Sergeant to put her arms around his neck so he could take her to safety. She had third degree burns all over her back so he couldn’t touch her there. Even though the pain was excruciating he dragged her to safety. He was awarded a purple heart for his bravery.
John said that there are not “competition” or “separation” between the different branches of the military. Everybody helps each other out. Their main focus is to get out of there alive. All the soldiers think of each other as brothers and sisters. They are very close because of this experience.
John said it was very difficult to relax or sleep in Iraq because he was scared of the mortars hitting and snipers. Also it was so hot and there were sand fleas that made it almost impossible to sleep. Even though he is home now, he suffers from shell shock. He said he hates being in crowds because he is afraid of being “ambush” or attack. He said he realizes that it seems an unreasonable fear since he is in America now and not Iraq. Besides his distrust of crowds, he also is scared of anything that has a switch or anything that you have to turn on like a gas stove, a car and a microwave because he is afraid it would explode. Another thing he has to deal with is nightmares. Sometimes he would accidently push his wife off the bed not realizing what he is doing. He has to take medication to calm his nerves. He said he is lucky compared to some guys he knows because some of them lost both limbs or some of them just give up on their lives because they can’t handle it. On the other hand, John said some of the guys continue to live their life in a positive way and refuse to let their injury prevent them from doing what they want.
Here are some observations and things John witness about Iraq, its’ people and his experience:
1. A large number of Iraqi kids are not afraid of the American soldiers. They would come up to the humvee to ask for candy or water or whatever the soldiers would give them.
2. The adults in Iraqi are more cautious. They tend to keep their distance.
3. The situation in Iraq is improving and there are many improvements made to the infrastructure.
4. Each family in Iraq is allowed to keep one Ak47 to protect their family. The American soldiers have to be careful and not get nervous and fire at the civilians. They have to follow the rules of engagement.
5. Because of his experience in Iraq, he values life more because he says how bad some of the people in Iraq has to struggle.
6. Soldiers has to be on constant alert because of mortar attacks and snipers.
7. He said troops needs to be brought back gradually because it is going to take some time to stabilize the country. He said we can’t leave things unfinish because it will make us look bad.
There are many reasons for war, but we have to remember the human aspect of it. Not only civilians suffer because of war but soldiers as well.