Salute

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Every now and then I like to introduce readers here to some of the fine writing being done by men and women in military service in Iraq. It puts the news reporting to shame, frankly. Danjel Bout is one of our soldiers in Iraq, and like so many of them he’s worth your time to get to know. Here his unit arrives at the scene of a car-bombing just minutes after the event.

With the fire under control we could finally move past the blast site, and I grabbed our medic and started towards the human wreckage laying in the road. As I walked over I wasn’t expecting any survivors, but we had to check to be sure. I stepped around the first body and as I passed one of the destroyed trucks I felt my boot crunch down on a shard of something. As my weight shifted forward it cracked with a sickening snap and I suddenly realized what was under my foot. I didn’t bother looking down. I knew better then that. Instead I continued forward into the human wreckage in front of me. It took less then a second to realize there was nobody left to save in this abattoir. The Iraqi victims were utterly annihilated. White ribs glittered out of scorched bodies like the ivory spars of shipwrecked boats. The slick concrete was awash in congealing rivers of scarlet. What we couldn’t see from our original position was that this was a wasteland of metal debris interlaced with smoking piles of meat and ruptured organs. We stood there in numb shock for a moment, our senses blinded by the utter carnage before us.

Then we turned and started to tend to the living. Dazed and bloodied residents were still filtering out of the area, and then I watched a sight as pitiful as any I have seen in Iraq. A grandmother carried a dead infant carefully swaddled in blankets away from her shattered home, the grief stricken mother following blindly behind. They continued forward utterly oblivious to the broken world around them, shuffling slowly forward until they were out of sight.

By then the Iraqi police and fire department had the situation well in hand, and quickly started restoring a semblance of order. Once the fire was extinguished the firemen approached our vehicles and asked for body bags and surgical gloves and we quickly gave them all the supplies we had on hand. They shrouded some of the bodies in bags, wrapping the rest in burned blankets they pulled out of the wreckage. As the firemen were wrapping the bodies two or three Arab media outlets arrived on the scene. The Iraqi police gathered in a small circle and gave an impromptu press conference, passionately speaking to the cameras. I caught some of the words, and they seemed as appropriate as anyy. The police spokesperson mentioned that the AIF were little better then cowards, unable to fight like real men. Instead they wantonly sowed death, without thought of anything except their own corrupt designs. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Visit his site. Be sure to see his most recent posts, a tribute to a fallen comrade and a meditation on the wrenching business of feeling such grief while trying to keep your head in a dangerous place.

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