…It only heals scars and dulls some of the difficult feelings.
I haven’t written on the blog in a while, some out of laziness and mostly out of exhaustion from all that being a new homeowner entails. But today is a fundamentally important day, because 11 years ago today, fourteen U.S. Soldiers and four U.S. civilian contractors were killed in a suicide bombing inside of the dining facility on FOB Marez in Mosul. Four Iraqi Army troops died as well.
I want to share with you excerpts from a journal entry I made that day. My platoon was slated to return to Mosul on the 20th for a special mission, escorting an endangered family of a Tal’Afar-based Iraqi Army General to a safe house in Mosul. We were slated to depart the evening of the 20th and return to Mosul 24 hours later. This is one of those times when fate interrupts in ways you never will know about until later. At the last minuet the Iraqi General failed to show for his escort, and the entire mission was scrubbed. Instead the General fled North to DaHuk (Dohuk).
Had the mission gone as planned we would have spent the night in Mosul and more than likely awoken, had breakfast, made some shoppette runs to the PX on FOB Marez, done some routine maintenance and departed after having lunch (because the DFAC was good and we’d want to squeeze in two meals while we could!). My best friend Matt also was in Mosul at the time and I would have sought him out for sure. We did not go, and I was not there. But I have spoken with friends who where -of what they would say- and I have seen a dozen or more grizzly photos of the immediate aftermath. Not pretty indeed. I wrote about it in the form of a poem, and Anderson Cooper did a great yet chilling story on it called ‘A lion in the village‘ for his program. I could not find a link to it.
“21 December 2004
Either way, the entire thing had bad-joojoo written all over it. We ended up being stood down for the mission to Mosul…as I worked on my 15-6 investigation for some Infantryman’s accidental discharge of a MK-19 on the FOB, I saw two of my soldiers walking in full battle-rattle. When questioned where they were going, they said the chow hall. There was DFAC guard again, due to some incident in Mosul. So I went to dinner, where the news prominently displayed the breaking news: 22 US/Iraqi soldiers dead, 50+ wounded in a ‘rocket and mortar’ attack on the FOB Marez chow hall. This occurred at noon a source told me, during the height of lunch chow. Instantly my thoughts turned to Matt, and the other Deuce-four soldiers, Archer Troop soldiers, and everyone else at Marez. No new details, and names haven’t been released yet. The phones and internet will be down for quite some time until this has all cleared, but before it does I expect the death toll to rise by a few, depending on the types and severity of casualties.
I hope and pray for the soul of my best friend, my brother, that he is alive and well, and perhaps missed lunch for a patrol. I asked God to watch over the souls of the departed, and all the families and soldiers involved… It is quite frustrating, as you run through a dozen different scenarios in your head- the worst, the best, is he alive? Is he dead? What happened? Will he be alright? There is so much to think of and at the same time you try not to think. So soon into our tour, and this is a major blow to the Squadron, the Battalion, and to the entire Brigade.
It wipes the Christmas spirit from me, and all I can do is continue with the work and tasks which I have been assigned, trying to keep my mind from wondering ‘what ifs’. If the unthinkable is true, I wonder how my entire life from here on out will change- my goals, my feelings, my attitude, my demeanor, my career… Matt and I have so much planned for our lives when we return, that I hate to even speculate at how they may all be drastically changed as a result of this. We already have lost Neil – I don’t want to see my best friends list keep getting shorter. The thought chills me to the core…I am unsure how my life will be without him. I don’t even want to keep thinking about it. I’ve been having enough trouble sleeping as is without this added nightmare.
The mood around the FOB is somber tonight. Many have friends, co-workers, soldiers, seniors, subordinates, loved ones at Marez. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them while we patiently wait…”
I still cannot really eat stir-fry without thinking about the DFAC on Marez; it was my favorite thing there and it was damn good.
As we prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday in the various ways that we all separately do, we should pause and think of all those wounded, for eleven years may not have healed all of their wounds. And pause in memory of those killed on FOB Marez that day in December:
• Chief Joel Egan Baldwin, 37, of Arlington, Va.
• Capt. William W. Jacobsen Jr., 31, of Charlotte, N.C.
• Sgt. Maj. Robert D. O’Dell, 38, of Manassas, Va.
• Sgt. 1st Class Paul D. Karpowich, 30, of Bridgeport, Pa.
• Staff Sgt. Julian S. Melo, 47, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Staff Sgt. Darren D. VanKomen, 33, of Bluefield, W.Va.
• Staff Sgt. Robert S. Johnson, 23, of Castro Valley, Calif.
• Sgt. Lynn R. Poulin Sr., 47, of Freedom, Maine
• Spc. Jonathan Castro, 21, of Corona, Calif.
• Spc. Thomas J. Dostie, 20, of Sommerville, Maine
• Spc. Cory M. Hewitt, 26, of Stewart, Tenn.
• Spc. Nicholas C. Mason, 20, of King George, Va.
• Spc. David A. Ruhren, 20, of Stafford, Va.
• Pfc. Lionel Ayro, 22, of Jeanerette, La.