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This would have been a great story for Memorial Day. However, I didn't learn about it until today. This is the kind of story I think everyone at Daily Kos and the nation in general should be aware of. I hope that it gives you a good sense of what the Army strives to be, and sometimes even is, in spite of everything else.

Yes, this is a "positive story" (of sorts) coming out of the current conflict in the Middle East.

It all starts when a Soldier gets hit with an SA-7 RPG round. The round does not explode, but partially impales the Soldier with the round embedded in his chest...

This story happened in the GWOT somewhere in the Middle East. Forgive me for not being too specific in some areas, hopefully I will give you enough to get an idea of what happened.

A squad of Soldiers was patrolling a town. At some point they are ambushed by a militia. Terrorists. Insurgents. Whatever. Bottom line, the guys took fire, returned fire.

In a strange turn of events, the insurgents fired an SA-7 RPG at the Soldiers. One of them, a private, was hit with the round.  The round managed to pass through part of his flak vest (it would have done the same thing if he had the Dragon's Teeth vest - in fact if the round had hit a really hard piece - a plate - it probably would have exploded and killed him). His buddies applied some dressings around the wound and transported him back to the aid station.  Two other Soldiers were wounded by gunshot fire, but not critically. They too were transported to the aid station.

The kid was in shock, but still able to speak and communicate, besides being in a whole lot of pain. Imagine seeing a missile (and that's what it was, guidance fins and all) sticking out of your chest!

Needless to say, as soon as he got to the aid station, the docs in charge cleared out the place and put him in the operating room.  Nobody was required to stick around.

In fact, the SOP in these sorts of events is that the victim is generally not expected to make it back home alive, so the explosive device is not removed or otherwise rendered safe until after the unfortunate victim has passed on.

However, your friendly neighborhood EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team arrived on the scene, and, after a brief consultation with the docs, said, "screw that," and the three worked out a strategy to save this kid's life.

Because the doc sent the nurses out, he was assisted by the EOD team in doing the initial surgery. Everyone in the room donned such protective gear as they could in the area, which meant Kevlar helmets and their own IBA vests. No fancy bomb suits, no robots.

The round (and the kid) were x-rayed by the EOD tech to see what they were dealing with. Thank goodness, the SA-7 warhead was disabled. However, such explosive rounds contain a charge which sets off the warhead. This charge is roughly the equivalent to a stick or two of TNT. This charge was very much armed and ready to go off at any moment.

Now we have the odd circumstance of the EOD guy advising the surgeon how to cut the kid so as to best get the round out of his chest. A slightly different strategy of excision than usual is decided upon (so the round cen be removed with the least chance of it going off), and the EOD guy and his team member assist in the surgery. The kid is sedated and work begins.

Once it is possible for the team member to break out, he leaves the OR and ensures that there is a 100M clear zone around the vicinity, as well as a clear path from the OR to the location where the round will be disposed of. The team member also sets to digging a hole in which to destroy the round once it is excised. Another 100M clear zone is established around the hole as well.

Mind you, all this is taking place on the grounds of a field hospital. Operations were, um, to put it mildly, disrupted.

Once the round was (veerrry gingerly) removed from the kid's chest, they still weren't finished. The EOD guy safeguarded the round and waited until the kid was (1) sewn up, (2) stabilized, and (3) transported out of the area. Then the docs were hustled out of the 100m zone.

Then, and only then, did the EOD guy personally transport the round to the hole and blow the round in place.

At all times he could have been incinerated by this chunk of high explosive, and at no point would have been derelict in his duty had he said, "screw it, this is too dangerous. I'm sorry but the risks involved outweigh this one kid's life."

In the event, the EOD guy, his team leader, and the kid are all back Stateside now. And I'm even happier to report that the EOD guy will be getting a Bronze Star with "V" device for his heroism and valor over and above the call of duty, while his team member will be getting the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for the same. I do not know what awards the surgeon or the kid will get.

Some other things I know are these:

This is still a great Army we have in the United States.  People like these motivate me. I don't know if I could ever replicate the kind of courage and valor displayed by each of them, and I pray that I never have to. But knowing that they are out there and willing to support their fellows like that makes me sleep a little better at night. I'm glad there's folks like that EOD team and that surgeon who have my back if I ever need them. I hope that I can have theirs as well. But, like I said, you never know until you get to that point if you have it in you.

With everything that is going on, and has been going on, from Abu Ghraib to Haditha to other events I, frankly, don't want to mention - ugly horrible things have happened in this war. Some of them have happened at the hands of U.S. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen. That is two things: (1) shameful, and (2) to be expected.

Human beings are imperfect creatures. Not everyone rises to the occasion. Some people fall below the basic standard of humanity and decency which all of us expect from each other. That does not excuse their actions. On the contrary, they should be punished severely.

But we don't fight for George Bush, we don't really fight "terrorism," or Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. We fight the "bad guys," who are defined as "anyone shooting at us," and we fight for our brothers and sisters on the line with us. The goal is for all of us to get back from wherever to home again. To see our wives, husbands, sons, daughters and parents again. To do all of the above, if possible, in one piece.

All that other stuff is way out of our paygrade.

Sometimes, we even get to do the right thing. We get to save a life, or have a positive effect in the lives of others, be they Americans or Iraqis or Afghans or whoever.

Sometimes, we have to do the morally questionable thing. We have to fire at a vehicle speeding toward our checkpoint, or clear a house occupied by civilians (or are they insurgents?)... you never really know.

And sometimes we do the wrong thing. The car careening toward the checkpoint is unarmed and un-booby-trapped. The family whose home we just searched (and trashed), whose pride is lying there on the ground where we held them for questioning... is just another family. But sometimes the car is a VBIED (vehicle borne IED). Sometimes the family is sheltering insurgents or hiding a weapons cache in the courtyard. You never know for sure until you know for sure.

But every now and again someone puts another human being's life and well-being ahead of his or her own. That's what happened at the field hospital that day not too long ago. And that makes me proud to wear the same uniform they wore. And hopeful that, if needed, I can muster the courage to put them ahead of myself.

Because that's what heroes do. They inspire us.  

Originally posted to Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 04:54 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A penny (18+ / 0-)

    for the old Guy?

    There's one more kid that will never go to school Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool. - Neil Young

    by Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 04:46:27 PM PDT

  •  So this is why we fight... how? (0+ / 0-)

    And when you say, "we fight", who is "we" and who is that which we fight and for what?

    Guess I may be obtuse, but I don't see the connection between the headline and the story relayed in this diary.

    cheers,

    Mitch Gore

    Bush's pre-1776 mentality is hurting America - Russ Feingold

    by Lestatdelc on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:03:04 PM PDT

    •  Sorry if I was unclear (6+ / 0-)

      "We" is "we, in the service." Ultimately, we fight for each other. In a nutshell, that's it.

      There's one more kid that will never go to school Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool. - Neil Young

      by Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:04:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This was a strong premise after WWII.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oregon guy, bustacap, kilo50

        But sometimes when we fight for each other, we lose sight that we also are fighting for the country.

        This was truly a heroic effort- personal risk, innocent victim, happy ending.  Unfortunately, some people will circle the wagons for Haditha and continue to fight for each other by keeping thier silence.

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:45:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          April Follies, bustacap, murrayewv, llbear

          The shadows of morality are lengthened by warfare. Which is why all wars are immoral, and why they should be avoided at all costs.

          If we start with the premise that "there are no good wars," we will be better able to decide which ones we will actually fight.

          Because I don't think the human race will ever stop fighting.

          There's one more kid that will never go to school - Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool. - Neil Young

          by Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:49:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No they are not. (0+ / 0-)

            World War II was not immoral.

            But I guess rather than fighting, you would have preferred everyone just lay down, allowed the Nazi tanks to roll over them--and we could have a Nazi-dominated Europe today. It could so easily have happened. If there hadn't been fighting on two fronts--in the East and int he West--Germany could have won. Let's see--Jews all dead, any mental "defectives' killed, homosexuals killed, gypsies killed, anyone like you who dared to dissent killed...what a lovely world.

            Britain was a  on its last legs during the Battle of Britain.  It needed lend lease and it needed and infusion of new blood. Had Hitler actually gone ahead with his planned Invasion--Operation Sea lion--we might live Ina Avery different world today.

            Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.  PLEASE do some reading before you make yourself look silly

            These quick one-liners sound oh so clever, but reveal a paucity of knowledge that is frightening. If you didn't score your way through calss, sue your high school history teacher. If you took history in college, and are still this naive--sue HIM or HER too,

            I wish we could all so easily dismiss war as evil and immoral as easy as you do--but some of us have great uncles who liberated the death camps, or have seen the tattoos on the wrists of concentration camp survivors and talked to them about their experiences--and we know that WW II was about as just and moral a war as it gets from our side.

            I can only hope you are really, really young.  Because then there is hope. If you're over 30, and you rent a complete pacificist ( meaning you;d die before lifting a hand in defense, AND you'd let your loved ones die before defensing them violently), then you are either amazingly uneducated or hopelessly naive.

            The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

            by irishwitch on Tue May 30, 2006 at 06:04:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Again (5+ / 0-)

              War is immoral... by removing the moral taboo against killing other human beings which is present in all peacetime human societies is gives vent to every human passion which causes suffering.

              I am most explicitly NOT a pacifist. I carry a rifle, know how to use it, and would use it against anyone as necessary to accomplish my mission and protect my fellow Soldiers.

              But as a matter of philosophy, I know that killing is wrong. And if I should ever have to kill, I will have sinned. Period. That is my personal belief.

              Justice does not involve killing. I am also opposed to the death penalty for similar reasons.

              Sometimes the shades of grey favor one side over the other: Republican Spain, the democracies in WWII, South Korea, Kuwait in 1991, other cases here and there are justifiable wars. They aren't just.

              There's one more kid that will never go to school - Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool. - Neil Young

              by Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 06:16:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I am opposed to the death penalty also (0+ / 0-)

                But as a Wiccan I believe firmly that doing no harm requires me to DEFEND others.

                War is never good, But it CAN be moral and just, The alternative, after diplomacy fails, is standing around watching while wholesale slaughter goes on.  Defending the defenseless is  NEVER a shade of gray.  It is a moral imperative.

                Not to have taken arms against Hitler would have been one of the greatest evils the world has ever known. I firmly believe we waited far too long as a country.

                ANd I am Wiccan, and don't believe in sin.  I do bleive that the amount of harm yoau re allwoed to do is jsut the amount needed to prevent greater harm from being done.

                As I said, NO ONE in their right mind would say war is ever good--but soemtiems it is just.

                The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

                by irishwitch on Tue May 30, 2006 at 07:57:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  So I think we're kind of arguing about wording (0+ / 0-)

                  And perspective.

                  The problem is that the moral imperative of protecting the defenseless rapidly runs smack-dab into the brick wall of doing harm while effecting the cure.

                  An example - I cited to in another comment - the Vietnam war. We sent troops to Vietnam to protect what we saw as an innocent Vietnamese republic from invasion by the Stalinist North.

                  Now, a few years of involvement with the Diem crime family disabused us of the notion that Vietnam was a democracy. But we were in, and committed.

                  We tried being "moral" in our rules of engagement of the conflict (ie. not sending troops north of the DMZ) but then proceeded to carpet-bomb the North's urban centers and the Ho Chi Minh trail by which the N Vietnamese shipped supplies and personnel into the South.

                  Gradually we found ourselves using Cambodian territory and Thai airfields to support the conflict, with the connivance of the local rulers in those nations.

                  The Chinese responded by supporting the Khmer Rouge, who seized power in that sad country. Shortly thereafter, millions were murdered.

                  The Vietnamese "cleaned up" that particular mess by invading and occupying Cambodia in 1979. That said, Cambodia is still a mess and far from democratic. Neither is Vietnam a democracy, but many observers believe that the regime in place now is an improvement on our erstwhile allies from 1956-1975.

                  Whom did we protect?

                  I don't really know.

                  Again, I'm not saying that some cases of aggression are not more clear-cut (Germany-Czechoslovakia 1938) but once you decide to pull a trigger, you ake yourself the hostage to all manner of evil and misfortune. Winston Churchill had something to say about that.

                  Even the "righteous" war of WWII spawned much evil from the "good guys." Think Manzanar, Dresden, Tokyo firebombing, Monte Cassino, a steadfast refusal to take military action against the concentration camps even after we had learned of their existence... to say nothing of the litany of evil from our "allies" on the Eastern front: Katyn forest, SMERSH, the Gulag, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

                  I'm not a pacifist in the sense that Gandhi was... but I don't think he was wrong morally. The fact to my mind is that we live in a very flawed world and we do the best that we can.

                  The ultimate reason why I say things as strongly as I have is rooted in one of my original comments - that we need to rope off the concept of warfare as never being wholly good so as to always give pause to our leaders prior to embarking upon it as a course of action. It is all well and good to mouth platitudes about warfare being an option of last resort... George Bush said such things in 2003. So have aggressors throughout mankind's history. Hence my belief that if we think of war as never being wholly good or moral - we can reduce the likelihood of wars of choice being presented to us as wars of necessity.

                  As someone who has to deal with the reality of a war of choice on a regular basis, this is important to me.

                  There's one more kid that will never go to school - Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool. - Neil Young

                  by Oregon guy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 08:43:11 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Just doesn't mean good. (0+ / 0-)

                    Justice can be very harsh.

                    And while I have never been in war--I know its consequences.  I;ve been writing about Married tot he Military--what it's like to live with a soldier, sailor or Marine-as a spouse--and I have two more dairies to go--one design with the Reserve and Guard, one with Wounded Warriors. I am married to one.

                    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

                    by irishwitch on Wed May 31, 2006 at 09:34:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary. (0+ / 0-)

    It has helped me understand the mindset of many in the military in Iraq.

    Now, perhaps you can enlighten me/us on why they joined up to go there in the first place. And I'm not talking about the ones forced to go or forced to stay there. I'm talking about young men and women who signed up in the last few years, knowing they were going over there to fight.

    THAT is what I don't understand. I'm not believing it was to get a college education, or GI benefits, or any of that stuff.

    Can you shed some light on this?

    Maybe that includes you, too? And I don't mean this in a hostile way, honestly. I just have trouble coming to grips with why anyone would voluntarily leave their family and life in the U.S. behind to go overseas and kill people, which is what it really comes down to.

    And how do we "support the troops" for that? Just asking.

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