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No posts since September of 2011! I wonder if anyone is still here.

In case there are, here is a narrative of an anonymous Iraq war veteran. I compiled this from a series of forum posts by the individual and while I should note that I made some changes to improve organization, grammar, and clarity of language, I kept as much of the writer's own words as possible. Likewise, my only additions were to explain terminology or for transitions between topics. As such, this does not read like Shakespeare, but it is honest and direct.

I tried to contact the veteran who made the posts that I compiled into this narrative but he did not respond. While I did not obtain his permission to repost them, the original posts were made on a public forum which required no log-in, and I feel his story is one that can only benefit others if heard. I make no claim of ownership over these words, and merely wish to share them.



I’m an Iraq War veteran recently released from Landstuhl Medical Facility in Germany after being wounded by an IED. The insurgents deliberately place some of their IEDs at waist level to strip soldiers of their manhood. My doctor tells me this injury is quite common, and was also common during the Vietnam War as a result of the NVA and VC’s use of “bouncing betty” mines that explode at crotch level. Our body armor only has a tiny flap that protects the front of a soldier’s crotch, and the blast left me resembling a GI Joe doll down there. Surgeons tried to save my testicles, but the necrotic flesh developed epyditimitis and hydrocele, and after several intensive surgeries there’s nothing left down there, like a neutered dog. I still have a penis and can achieve erections, but how it looks is not something you can hide from a woman, and it’s not something you can explain.

I receive monthly hormone injections, and my doctor has discussed the possibility of prosthetic testicles, but this shit is depressing and I feel humiliated. Seeing pretty girls is the thing that really bothers me. I feel like a neutered weak bitch of a man, especially after how in shape I was during my initial enlistment. My testosterone has taken a terrible dip. I cry, I look in the mirror and call myself a "pussy" or a "faggot."

When you reach a certain level of disability, you receive Tricare and all of your medical care is covered, except dental work. The free health care is nice, but VA hospitals are depressing as hell. If you ever go onto a long-term psych ward you will see guys who are so fucked up they cannot speak, shower, or recognize themselves or family members.

Being wounded is a strange experience. Guys who get really bad injuries that mangle or sever a limb usually pass out, especially if they get a look at the wound. Even if you stay conscious, you’re not all there. It's kind of like if you get punched in the face hard enough, all you see is colors. You feel nothing. There is too much shock. You just watch yourself being Medevaced and then you're in a Chinook, and then you're in a hospital, watching Maury and wondering who you are. It is a nightmare that segues into a dull dream. Then you finally cry; after that you are pissed. After that you deal with it, because you have to, just like life.

That wasn’t the first time I was wounded. When the insurgents began using heat-activated IEDs, we placed things called Rhino Mounts on the edges of our Hummers. The mounts were just ammo cans crimped to the engine block, so they would trap heat in the box and prematurely set off any such IEDs, but this doesn’t mean we were safe. My rhino mount was triggered by a roadside bomb, and the blast ripped through the Hummer’s armor and drove pieces of my SINGARS (radio) into me. Field doctors got most of them out but I could just be sitting there, having a conversation, and a bit of metal would leak out of my hand and fall on the table. There are up-armored Hummers, and there are "soft" ones. You are technically not allowed to take soft ones on convoys, but I have, simply because not enough up-armored vehicles were available. Fortunately I was in an armored one that day, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

Armor is great, but the weight can work against you. I talked to a guy in Walter Reed who was closing the hatch of his tank when he felt water spill all over him. He looked down and saw it wasn't water, but blood. He had accidentally taken his hand off in the tank hatch. He passed out when he saw it. Also, If you flip an Abrams tank into a culvert or waterway, there is a good chance you will drown, and if your tank is badly hit, you can be trapped inside as it burns. Your radio still is working, so all of your friends back at MNC or operational headquarters get to listen in as you scream while you drown or burn to death.

I didn’t see any of the huge battles like Fallujah or Haditha. The thing was I had bad luck. I was down south in Basra when some English soldiers decided to beat the shit out of some detainees and then released the video on Youtube, so it was kind of like being in LA right after the Rodney King verdict. On another occasion, I saw an American arguing with an Iraqi who he thought had stolen his flash drive. After arguing a few minutes, the American lost his cool and said, "Fuck your God. And fuck the prophet Mohammed." The Iraqi stopped arguing, calmly nodded, and left. About two hours later mortars began walking up and down all over our AO and we had to hide under the T-barriers.

The major conflicts I experienced were around Nasiriyah, which the Americans call Talil Air base, but most engagements were minor skirmishes. Very few insurgents are stupid enough to try to fight you head-on, though this happens when a whole city is sympathetic to them and will shield them from American reprisal.

Battle itself plays out in such a way that when someone asks a question like "How many people did you kill" it’s impossible to answer. Here is how it works. You are driving along with “terps” (translators), who occasionally stop to interview locals. If the local has a lead on insurgent activity, or says he’s seen evidence (this usually means a pile of bodies) you might receive clearance from MNC (Multi-National command) in Baghdad to patrol around. You leave a skeleton crew with the convoy, where the vehicles are arranged in a herringbone formation. You walk around, bullshit with the Iraqi kids, and scratch your ass. Most of the time, nothing happens. If you draw fire, you go into 'buddy set, buddy move' teams of two men who leap frog forward between cover and concealment. If your vehicles from your convoy are within range, their crews light up the building the gunfire is coming from, which could be as close as a few feet from you or as far as two hundred meters, with .50 caliber rounds from the crew serviced weapons mounted in the turret. Everyone lays suppressing fire with their M-16s and M-4s and if there is enough distance, you fire your M-203 grenade launcher. Earlier in the war, you might also have a vehicle with a Mark 19, which is a rapid-fire grenade launcher that was outlawed by the Escalation of Force rule sometime between my second and third deployment.

After this, if there is no return fire, you stack up at the door of the building. Teams of two form a four man chain of people holding onto each other. One man hides on either side of the door and a third kicks it open and gets out of the way while the fourth sweeps the room with his weapon in a zig-zag pattern. At this point, you typically find bits of insurgent around the room– torsos, fingers, heads, and pieces you can’t identify strewn among pools of blood. You still have to watch out for mines or booby traps. In one case, there was a clever insurgent who left his laptop on the table. When a soldier went to look at it, thinking he could find some OPSEC (operational security) intel on the enemy, the computer exploded when he clicked the mouse.

I'm telling you right now - you don't know a tenth of the shit that goes on over there. I've seen a man have sex with a camel on a nightly basis. There was a madrassa (school) where little Iraqi first-graders would try to get you to give them candy or MREs, but there was also an Iraqi dwarf who would pretend he was a kid in order to get free stuff. One day he forgot to shave, and I saw a soldier blast him right there in front of the kids because he was trying to pretend he was a child who went to the school. I saw someone get hit with an RPG but it didn't even hurt him. An RPG round has to gather distance before it achieves brisance and can explode. The insurgent who fired the RPG was so close that it just bounced off of him and left an ugly bruise.

I saw some horrible things. My worst day was in Baghdad 2, which is what we called the Baghdad suburbs. For weeks, a handful of Iraqi Sunni had gone missing from their homes every night until the number finally got up to 200 missing Iraqis. We were patrolling on foot one day and we found them, all of them, in a big cordwood-like bundle. They had all been blindfolded and had their hands tied, and someone had run a drill through one side of their heads and out the other. Very little blood, no bullets. A human landfill.

I never saw American soldiers involved in true war crimes. However, if you are part of a mixed unit, like I was with the ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Corps) you are much more likely to engage and not give a damn about the consequences or legality. You have to remember, most of the insurgency in Iraq is not domestic. They are either locals paid by anti-western groups in other countries who don't want to dirty their hands or are themselves from other countries. The nation of Iraq is just an arbitrary creation. Most Iraqis have loyalty to Kuwait or to their brand of Islam, and consider the insurgents to be invaders, many of whom torture, threaten, rob, and rape local Iraqis. Once the Iraqis catch them, they do not fuck around and they make Abu Ghuraib look like a picnic. I have seen them take insurgents out to a soccer field and beat them to death with the butts of their AKs. I used to have to fill out incident reports through translators where farmers complained ICDC troops were raping their daughters or shooting their animals for fun. There are American soldiers who act like assholes, but their behavior is isolated and usually swiftly punished.

The ICDC is incredibly under-equipped. Their idea of an armored vehicle is a Datsun pickup truck with a lawn chair in the bed and an M-60 mounted on a shaky stand. By comparison, two up-armored Hummers with crew-serviced weapons (M-60s, Mark 19s, and .50 caliber machine guns with butterfly triggers) could annihilate a city full of insurgents if they know what they were doing. There are surveillance blimps all over Iraq. If they see some guys in the middle of the street at night taking a pickax to the ground and planting something (sometimes they even plant it in a dead animal carcass) they will light them up immediately. If one of our bases is hit with a mortar attack, a good artillery unit can calculate exactly where the mortars came from based on the angle of entry and respond in kind.

The only place I would be afraid to engage in the enemy is in Sadr City, a district of Bagdhad which is controlled by a radical cleric named Moqtada al-Sadr. Take the worst ghetto you've ever seen or imagined, and realize it is nothing compared to Sadr city. It is literally flooded with blood, and they have to push-broom all the human remains into drains and ditches on a daily basis. Sadr is not really a terrorist but a powerful warlord who views his neighborhood as his own fiefdom, and he defends it against insurgents, gangsters, Americans, and the ICDC. Just because there is a war going on does not mean that there are not drug dealers and gangsters. If they think insurgents are messing up their hash or heroin trade in a city or village, they will work with Americans. If they think the Americans are harming their drug trade, they’ll work with insurgents, and they’ll switch loyalties in a moment if they see profit in it.

As for the Americans, except for Special Forces and Rangers, all the guys carrying guns are just like people you have met. Some of them are potheads, some are on anti-depressants, some are just plain stupid. The Army has tough jock types, but there are also some incredibly strange people, as well. You have to remember the "tooth to tail" ratio. For every rifleman there is a cook, a communications, specialist, and roughly thirteen to fifteen people (quartermaster, admin) whose job is not really to kill. You meet Wiccans, Satanists, gang-bangers, white supremacists, Army brats who've never known life outside of a base, and people who are rich but patriotic or eccentric enough to throw in with the enlisted ranks. There are a lot of Ron Paul supporters, some Alex Jones conspiracy buffs, and I even had a friend who taught me about David Icke, who believes we are all controlled by a lizard race called the Annunaki. I had a sergeant keep me at the motor pool going on and on about how a) the white man created AIDS b) the pentagon was hit with a missile, not a plane, and c) 8 Jews ran the world via the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral commission. I’ve also seen soldiers who were so pissed at their chain of command that the bolts of their M-16s were confiscated because the officers were afraid they would kill them.

We had a few AWOLS while I was over there. Every one of them got caught except for Sergeant Begay, a Native American who made it onto his reservation where the MPs could not catch him. There was also a Mexican-American soldier who fled the base in Rustamiyah and began walking around the Iraqi cities. He was in civilian clothes and he kept his mouth shut, so the Iraqis just assumed he was a mute Muslim.

There are tons of accidents in Iraq. I've seen a man get his hand pinched off in the door of a shipping container. He wasn’t paying attention when someone else slammed it shut. I saw this one MP who was working in a detention facility where the jail-cells worked on a central lock mechanism. He got his head caught in the door. He makes Sloth from the Goonies look like Justin Bieber. Most heavy guns work on springs and bolts, just like your typical small rifle. The problem is that the bolt on a big gun is as large as a baseball bat and made of steel. If you forget to release the tension on a fifty cal and you begin disassembling it and the spring comes lose, it can go through the front of your vest, into your chest, out your back, through the back of your armor, out the back of an armored vehicle, and still soar two-hundred feet before coming to a stop. There are too many ways to get yourself dead, and it doesn't matter how many weights you lift or how hard you are. You are basically just a fucking water-balloon surrounded by motherfuckers who want to pop you.

Accidental discharges are a huge problem. You don't hear about it because nobody wants to think about how stupid it is when the people assigned to protect you accidentally shoot themselves. There are clearing barrels where you check your chamber all over Iraq, especially in front of DEFACS (dining facilities) and before you enter and exit a base. Still it happens, and I've personally seen a Sergeant first class accidentally shoot a private in the leg.

Iraq got so hot that when I came home and it was seventy degrees, I was shivering and wearing a hooded sweatshirt and people were looking at me like I was crazy. You can get third degree burns from touching the hood of your Humvee without a glove. You have something called a "Camel-Back" and you usually run through a 2 gallon jug of water per day. I was on guard duty on day in Talil (Nasiriyah), letting Iraqis into and out of the base. I was dying in the heat with no one to relieve me, and I had no access to water, except for a big cooler filled with water that someone had left by the gate. Most of it had evaporated and it looked shady, but I was so thirsty that by the end of my shift I had drunk several handfuls. I was reaching inside for more water when someone shouted, "Don't drink that!" I asked why and he told me "The Iraqis wash their hair in there in the morning." The spiders and bugs are bad too. One guy got bit by a sand-fly and caught a disease called Leche Moniasis. You get bit once by the wrong fly in Iraq and it's worse than a great white shark bite.

Iraq wasn’t all bad. Soldiers who stay on the FOB (Forward Operating Base) are called "Fobbits." These are the guys who basically live in air-conditioning, playing X-Box all day, or swimming. They spend their days impregnating female soldiers, who then have to be redeployed home early. Not a bad life really.

When I was there, I would hand one and five dollar bills to random Iraqis. I gave food to whoever was hungry and I bought trinkets when I didn't need them, just to help the locals. There are these things called Hajji stands where Iraqis sell stuff, like bootleg DVDs. I bought the stupidest crap from them just to help them survive (I bought a fucking Dawson's Creek box-set for fuck's sake!) I did get some stuff I wanted, like a bootleg of The Simpsons which had 18 seasons on it. You could buy a stick of hash the size of a ruler for five dollars. There was an interpreter called Matthew who would sell us weed "Hey man, you smoke this you be like some kind of fucking space cadet or something, you know?" One time my friend tried to buy some cocaine. He didn't know the word so he just said, "Can you buy us some (makes sniffing sound)?" Matthew nodded and then came back the next day with a cup of gasoline, saying "Here, you huff benzine my friends."

The Iraqis are obsessed with porn. They would come into my hooch and watch DVD after DVD. They are very starved and repressed. I remember I showed them one where a woman was riding a man and they could not believe it, exclaiming "She is fucking him!" They hadn’t considered anything beyond missionary sex and it blew their minds. They’re also crazy about stupid American action movies, especially anything violent. They love Braveheart. I was told that it has been playing in an Iraqi theater there for ten years straight.

Most of the Muslims in Iraq are just like us. I remember once I asked one, "You smoke weed, watch porno, and drink. Yet doesn't your Koran say not to do these things?" He replied, "You do these things to. Doesn't your bible say not to do these things?" We all have hypocrisy in common. Most of my problems with Muslims came with Turks when I redeployed to Germany. I went all over Berlin, Darmstadt, Cologne, Bavaria, Frankfurt, and often the local Turks would glare at us and frequently try to stab us. On one occasion, we weren't allowed off base because a Turkish movie starring Billy Zane called “Valley of the Wolves” was out. It portrayed all the Americans in Iraq as evil, and the Turks were on the warpath looking to shank us.

I once asked an interpreter whether he thought it was better with us there, or when Saddam was in charge. He thought about it and said, "With Saddam, I go where I want when I want, and everything is okay as long as I say nothing bad about Saddam. Now, Americans touch me every twenty minutes." I asked the same guy if people used to complain about Saddam when they were home alone and felt safe. He shook his head and said "No, because one time there is parade, and a little boy on his father's shoulders stops points at Saddam and says, 'When my dad sees you on TV, he spit, spit, spit.’” So Saddam immediately picked the man out of the crowd and sent him to a torture chamber.

I don’t know whether we’ve done any good or not. The Army (enlisted and commissioned) are overwhelmingly tired of the war in Afghanistan. They think it is a waste and horseshit. The Marshall Center, which is a defense think tank I have been to in Germany said that due to our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan there are now 8 times as many terrorists as on 9-11. These guys are like the war college generals at Fort Benning. They are not liberal or anti-war. They are just being honest. However, I don’t regret going. My father got a deferment in the Vietnam War and he said it haunted him for the rest of his life. I would have rather died in the war than thought that someone was going in my stead.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
veshy
Jul. 28th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this, mycroft. Real life stories like this definitely have their value in providing insight in the normal people if the war, especially recent ones.
evilstorm
Jul. 29th, 2012 08:20 am (UTC)
Damn, that's fascinating. Thank you for posting.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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