Letters from the front... part 3.
Hey Everyone -
It seems that I am always starting these letters like this. That is, with an apology for something or other. I know. I promised that I would get this one out with less turnaround time. It’s just that so much has been happening with my unit that it is incredibly hard to stay abreast my self. As a result, I will pick up where I left off in the last installment; however, I will skip a large portion of what has happened within the last few weeks. Much of what occurred is not the best of news. Suffice to say that we lost forever, seven good men - though they all continue to be in our hearts. Twice that many have been seriously wounded. They have all been evacuated to Germany, or points further west. We’ve got ten or so around here that are in various states of recovery. God bless them, they are just itching to get back outside the wire and go to work with the rest of us. Also, God bless all our fallen and wounded soldiers and their families. Anyhow, where was I…
If I did not earn my C.I.B. (Combat Infantry Badge - It is one of the most coveted badges of honor that a soldier can wear. It can only be worn by combat infantry soldiers who have been engaged with the enemy in combat.) on my first day, I definitely earned it on my second, or third, or fourth, or fifth,…day. It seems as though I re-earn it probably three to four times per week. We’ve had so much contact that I have stopped trying to keep count. I sent you all photos recently that showed the crater left by the most recent bomb to have hit us. That is just one of many. The roads here are scarred with bomb craters as a result of the enemy’s many efforts to kill us. In our numerous encounters with the enemy, we have found that his tactics are indiscriminate and cowardly. These are sure signs that he is definitely afraid of us. And we are slowly but surely helping him to realize that he will not succeed in winning this war. Me and my guys are definitely doing our part to convey that message. I’ve stated it before, and I likely will many more times - I work with a bunch of awesome soldiers. I attribute our individual good fortune to God, and our very aggressive combat style. Sorry, but there is no other way to say it - we do not fuck around.
It might seem odd to you that I can talk about my experiences as though I’ve been here for as long as the rest of these guys - like I’ve known them from day one. Well, obviously I’ve not been here as long as they have. (They were assigned to this sector about a month before I got here.) But as far as knowing them, that is a separate issue.
Unless you have been in these kinds situations (combat) you will never understand. And believe me, it is difficult to articulate. The closeness that develops, and the speed at which it happens, when you are counting on the guys around you to help you stay alive - and visa versa - is…difficult to articulate. I don’t know how to describe it. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt that there was only one of me. I didn’t come in here and try and shake up anything. I’ve just done my best to fit into the mix. There is no doubt that I have. I love my guys, and they love me. And strangely, the real catalyst that facilitates this kind of closeness - combat action - has been plentiful since I’ve been here. My guys (in this case, my leadership) have all told me that I have seen more action in the time that I’ve been here than 90% of the rest of the soldiers in the entire brigade. It is undisputed that my battalion’s sectors are the most dangerous in the greater Baghdad area. And further, my company is responsible for the most dangerous of those. Lastly, my company has had more combat contact than any other company in the entire brigade (there are about 50 - 60 companies in our brigade). Most of that contact has taken place within the last two months. I’ve been here for every minute of it.
When the battalion commander came to visit us after our most recent memorial service, in addition to confirming everything I stated above, he also told us that with regard to the capturing of enemy P.O.W.‘s, we are responsible for 80% of the brigade’s total. Remember, there are no less than 50 other companies here in our brigade’s area of operation. Needless to say, he expressed incredible pride in us. He was making every effort to hide his obvious emotions. I don’t know if I can fully convey to you the immense pride he has in us. But if I put just a few more numbers out, they may help. And they are the numbers that are the real source of his pride. You see, a normal company of soldiers in a unit like mine consists of around 100 to 130 troops. The higher number is roughly how many each of our brother companies have. Because of all our heavy losses, we have been doing everything I indicated above with an average of only 59 soldiers.
I seriously doubt that any of us will ever see any awards, badges, bobbles, bozo pins, or meathead stickers for our efforts; but, let me be the first to state that every soldier in this company deserves whatever laud, praise, and honor our country has to offer. There is no doubt in the minds of every other soldier in this battalion that we are the hardest working, toughest, and most productive company around. (I’m sorry for going on and on. But people need to know about this group of soldiers. I don’t believe I’ve ever been surrounded by more honorable and heroic company than that which I am now.)
Obviously, you can tell that I have dedicated most of this letter to the nature and character of my unit. We have lost too many good men in the last few weeks, and as all of them are heavy on my mind, they have dictated the tone of this letter. I am so proud to be in this unit. It is truly one of a kind. There is no doubt that God had his hand in on the decision as to where I would go once I got to this war. And I am glad he put me here. Enough for now. I will do my best to lighten the tone of my next letter. Until next time…
Much love to all - J
P.S. Although I’m not getting enough of them, thanks for the continued e-mails. Also, I’m still waiting for some photographs from ya’ll.<