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That 1,000-yard stare
Posted By David Hackworth On 03/29/2005 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Guess what, folks? As you were checking out the Easter bonnets, our warriors were still paying the ultimate price in Iraq. Yes, America, the war in Iraq is still on the boil. We’re approaching 1,600 dead plus approximately 15,000 battle-wounded, along with thousands upon thousands of non-battle casualties – a deeply guarded Pentagon secret – from accidents, sickness or stress disorders.
Lest we forget the sacrifices young men and women are making daily on our nation’s behalf, here’s one e-mail from the barrage we and Soldiers for the Truth receive weekly – a father sharing a letter from his son “who is helping run the port in Kuwait where young heroes arrive in the war zone and depart from months later.” As Dad puts it, “If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will.”
So haul out your hankies and read on for some serious ?ber-reality:
“They are so damn young! I was going to the gym tonight (really just a huge tent with weights and treadmills), and we had heard that one of the MEUs (Marine Expeditionary Units) that had come out of service in the ‘triangle’ was redeploying (leaving country). We saw their convoy roll in to the Kuwait Naval Base as the desert sun was setting.
“I have never seen anything like this. Trucks and Humvees that looked like they had just come through a shredder. Their equipment was full of shrapnel blast holes and missing entire major pieces that you could tell had been blasted by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). These kids looked bad, too! I mean, sunken eyes, thin as rails, and that 1,000-yard stare they talk about after direct combat. Made me pretty damned embarrassed to be a ‘rear-area warrior.’ All people could do was stop in their tracks and stare … and feel like me … like I wanted to bow my head in reverence. A Marine captain stationed with me was standing next to me, also headed to the gym. He said: ‘Part of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 8th Marines, sir. Took the heaviest losses of any unit up north as part of Task Force Danger, sir.’
“As the convoy rolled up, all of us watching just slowly crept toward these kids as they dismounted the Hummers and 5-tons. Of course, we were all shiny and clean compared with these warriors. These kids looked like they had just crawled from Iraq. I had my security badge and ID around my neck and started to help them unload some of their duffel bags. A crusty gunny came up to me and said, ‘Sir, you don’t have to do that.’ ‘Gunny … yes I do.’
“They all looked like they were in high school or younger! All held themselves sharply and confidently, despite the extreme fatigue you could tell they had endured. ‘You guys out of the triangle?’ I asked. ‘Yes, sir. Fourteen months, and twice into the grinder, sir. Both fights for Fallujah.’
“All I could do was throw my arm around their shoulders and say, ‘Thanks, Marine, for taking the fight to the bad guys … we love you, man.’
“I looked at these young kids, not one of them complaining or showing signs of anything but focus and good humor. ‘Sir, they got ice cream at the DFAC, sir? I haven’t had real ice cream since we got here.’
“They continued to unload … and after I had done my handshakes and shoulder hugs, the captain and I looked at each other. … They want ice cream; we’ll get them ice cream.
“You see, a squid (Navy) 0-5 (commander) and a focused Marine 0-3 (captain) can get just about anything, even if the mess is closed. Needless to say, we raided the closed DFAC (mess tent), much to the chagrin of one very pi–ed-off mess sergeant, and grabbed boxes of ice-cream sandwiches, as many as we could carry, and hustled back to the convoy. I felt like Santa Claus.
“‘Thank you, sir,’ again and again from each trooper as we tossed up the bars to the guys in the trucks. ‘Son, what the hell are you thanking me for? I can’t thank you enough.’
“They are so damn young. … I will sleep well knowing they are watching my back tonight.”
Don’t know about you, but this letter had me crying a river. Where do we find such fine men?
Eilhys England contributed to this column.
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