Monday, March 24, 2008

Photo Story Monday - Stories Cut Short

I was in Baghdad when the number of U.S. forces killed in Iraq reached 3,000. It was New Year's Eve, and we were walking in from a couple of miles to conduct a raid in some shitty ghetto no one ever heard of. It was supposed to be a quick in and out. Except for the two mile hike. It started near midnight and we had been walking for awhile until we halted, Dozer and I taking cover behind a long Iraqi van. I covered my watch with my hand and hit the Indiglo button: 12:27 AM, New Year's Day. I whispered to Dozer about the milestone we reached and we hugged before getting back up to continue the march. We had hoped 2007 would be better than the year that preceded it, but it didn't go exactly like that.

2007 was the deadliest year for American troops in Iraq because of the surge and a new up close and personal strategy of living amongst the Iraqi Army in regular neighborhoods. I've said my piece about how well I think that has worked and how long it can go, but today isn't about that. It was reported that the death toll has now reached 4,000. The media loves big, round numbers and glosses over the fact of 4,000 fallen sons daughters, and 4,000 families torn apart. A good deal of us were fortunate to make it back from Iraq with our lives. Four thousand weren't as fortunate.

Twenty-one men from 5/20 Infantry Battalion and 1/12 Cavalry (First Cav, Ft. Hood) are figured into that. One man died in Mosul and another in Anbar. The remaining nineteen fell in the battle to take Baqubah and Diyala Province from the grip of insurgents. No one disagreed that we were severely undermanned, but we still went out and did what was asked of us. Twenty-one men did more.

Cpl. Casey Mellen - Headquarters
Huachua City, AZ
KIA Mosul, September 25, 2006

Cpl. Billy Farris - Headquarters
Bapchule, AZ
KIA Anbar, December 3, 2006

Cpl. Brian Chevalier - Bravo
Athens, GA
KIA Baqubah, March 14, 2007

SSG. Jesse Williams - Bravo
Santa Rosa, CA
KIA Baqubah, April 8, 2007

All six men from Alpha Company died together on May 6, 2007 in Baqubah. From left to right:

Cpl. Matthew Alexander
Gretna, NE

Cpl. Anthony Bradshaw
San Antonio, TX

Sgt. Jason Harkins
Clarkesville, GA

Sgt. Joel Lewis
Sandia Park, NM

Cpl. Michael Pursel
Clinton, UT

SSG. Vincenzo Romeo
Lodi, NJ

Sgt. Daniel Nguyen - B 1/12 (Cav)
Sugarland, TX
KIA Baqubah, May 8, 2007

Sgt. Jason Vaughn - Alpha
Iuica, MS
KIA Baqubah, May 9, 2007

The three men above died together on May 18, 2007 in Baqubah. Assigned to 1/12 Cav. In order they are:

Sgt. Anselmo Martinez
Robstown, TX

Spc. Joshua Romero
Crowley, TX

Spc. Casey Nash
Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Iosiwo Uruo - B 1/14
Agana Heights, Guam
KIA Baqubah, May 24, 2007

Spc. Francis Trussel - B 1/12 (Cav)
Lincoln, IL
KIA Baqubah, May 26, 2007

Sgt. Andrew Higgins - Alpha
Hayward, CA
KIA Baqubah, June 5, 2007

PV2 Scott Miller - Headquarters
Casper, WY
KIA Baqubah, June 9, 2007

Cpl. Darryll Linder - A 1/12 (Cav)
Hickory, NC
KIA Baqubah, June 19, 2007

Cpt. Drew Jensen - Headquarters
Clackamas, OR
Died in Seattle on September 7, 2007 from wounds suffered May 7, 2007

It's easy to forget the names and the faces of those fallen since this war started five years ago unless your life was touched by them. I only knew or talked to a handful of these men - Chevy, Jesse, Higgins and Captain Jensen. All of them and the rest of our twenty-one comrades died protecting us in harm's way. It's an insurmountable tragedy that we couldn't do the same for them. Those of us who came back from Iraq have either left the service to continue our own stories, or have stayed in to add more chapters of war when they deploy sometime in the future. For twenty-one men and their families, their stories have ended, but have not been forgotten.



Kathleen said...

It is so easy to just see the numbers when you haven't been touched by the men (and women) in some way. "Four thousand!" I thought this morning, as I read the news article.

And then you see their names and faces and read stories about them written by their friends.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these pictures Alex. We only see brief glimpses of our fallen heros in news stories on TV. You can find sites that have them, but most people don't purposefully go searching for them. I remember when missing children were put on milk cartons all the time. It would be fitting to start putting our fallen on products so their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Nick D said...

I cannot express in words what reading about what you've done in this post means to me. Or the people of America in general.

Its easy to turn this into a political statement, especially for ending the war.

However you have honored your friends in a way that deserves to be free of all that. It should stand as something more. That we are all human, we all have stories, we all have families & friends. I will remember that about everyone in uniform and in life again. Thank you Alex.

Unknown said...

"All gave some and some gave all."

A fine tribute to those men who made the ultimate sacrifice.



The Minstrel Boy said...

jesus jesus jesus dude. that's right, these were people, not numbers, not statistics, these were people who lived and breathed and laughed and loved.

six degrees of separation note: i played harp for corporal mellen's family. i sort of fell into that duty because of small town stuff. arizona stuff. veteran stuff.

i would rather be playing electric guitars at quinceneras and goat bbq's. i keep doing it because it provides some small comfort to the families, it provides me a means of keeping this fucking war personal. every one of them hurts. every one of them is sad beyond measure. i also take pride in knowing that i've been to 10 more military funerals than either the president or the vice president.

carry on.

SUEB0B said...

Thanks for posting the photos. Keep it up. We all need the reminders.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/25/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Anonymous said...

From Brian's dad

“I don’t understand why we have to have so many of our troops over there, to blow the country up and try to rebuild it,” said Rick Chevalier, who opposes the war. “We’re wasting a lot of our people, when the troops could be here doing things for this country instead of doing things for people who are killing them.”

It slipped by me in the story about Brian that he was from Athens where I live. I hope you guys find a way to be less bitter than most Nam vets are. This shit can't trun out well in the end and it's not going to be because of you. Like Cheney said. "so"?


Skip Rohde said...

Powerful, powerful writing, Alex. Entries like this should be required reading for our Commander In Chief and all those who sent you guys over there. And are still sending guys over there.

-Belinda said...

Thank you to all who have served or will serve from the bottom of my son is over there now.

Maggie Goff said...

What a very touching post. Thank you, and thank you for what you do.

I attended services for both Casey Mellen and Billy Farris. I have Billy's picture in my home, and pray for his family every day, as I do for all the families of our fallen soldiers. Actually for *al*l of our military and their families. I am forever grateful.

Anonymous said...

i found your blog via AOL article. thank you for your blog and thank you for your service. thank you for all you do. i don't know you or your family BUT i do know (to a certain degree) what your family is going through. i am a military wife. your blog gives our service members a voice- thank you again.

JLC said...

As an Iraq vet myself, I have personally found that in coming home, it has been easy to attempt to cope with everything I went through by intellectualizing it. It makes me feel good to give my own little world some semblance of sense. However, I have never been able to cope with or intellectualize the fact that other soldiers died out there and I got to return home. Also, it has been hard to really cope with the fact that people here (civilians) go about their daily business of living without even a gentle nod to the fact that the best and the brightest of us are being sent off to their deaths.

Your eloquent style of writing coupled with the gentle reverence and respect that you demonstrate in both what you chose to say and how you say it is extremely touching. I particularly appreciated your observation that, “It's easy to forget the names and the faces of those fallen since this war started five years ago unless your life was touched by them. I only knew or talked to a handful of these men - Chevy, Jesse, Higgins and Captain Jensen.” Where most people have chosen to make hard-hitting arguments with their blogs, yours has been a beautiful reflection of nothing more than the truth of you experience. Keep on blogging and sharing. Hopefully, your words will reach more of those on whose behalf we fight and perhaps it will give some peace and justice to those who have fallen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for including photos of the comrades you lost in Iraq.

It makes me crazy that the majority of print media can't spare the space to publish the photos of our fallen soldiers.

When friends of soldiers I knew in Iraq died in Diyala I felt the need to "know" who they were because their loss so impacted my friends. It was then I was struck by the fact that unless the soldier is local (and not always then) there were no photos. Not even in Stryker News.

I still remember those faces.


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JW Raah said...

Got this link through Doonesbury, through Slate. something about those simple pictures, makes these kids' sacrifice, what they forfeited, seem immense, makes their chatacters seem weighty ( and maybe they're less kids than I who've never been to war)

Unknown said...

Thank you for reminding me how much you people put on the line, and paying the ultimate price. Puts things in perspective.

Regine McClammy said...

My son is Cpl Casey Lee Mellen, one of the many fallen soldiers listed above. I want to thank the person who wrote this story. For many people our soldiers are just numbers but at least this way they can put a face with this number. Thank you for not letting anyone forget about our fallen heros.