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  1. #1

    Cool Tales from the front

    By Richard Tomkins
    UPI White House Correspondent
    From the International Desk
    Published 4/22/2003 6:22 PM
    View printer-friendly version

    WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- Not everything that occurs during war makes it into the initial stories correspondents file, especially personal observations and ruminations. Here are some of mine from having embedded with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines for the push from Kuwait to Baghdad.



    Ever notice how men tend to pamper their cars, especially those of the antique variety? They wash, they polish, they vacuum, they wax, they rub and rub and rub some more their four-wheeled pride and joy.

    Marines with their amphibious assault vehicles are no different. Oh, sure, they have to take care of them, but somewhere along the line an unexplainable bond develops, much like that between sailors and their ships.

    "Damn infantry," snarled Cpl. James Lyons, a normally affable AV driver from Springfield, Va. "They have no respect for anything. Look at the mess they made, look at the mud they dragged in."

    Lyons and other crew called the Pork Chop Express (1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd AV Battalion) were in a dither. Ground-pounders whose own vehicle had clapped out on the long march toward Baghdad, and were then added to the Pork Chop Express's manifest, had either not wiped the thick mud off their boots from a surprise bout of heavy rain before entering, or had scrapped them on the sill of the entry port. The sticky, slimy mass had to be scrapped away before the steel door could close.

    And after they finally left ... well, there were empty food wrappers and boxes everywhere, and AV crew gear had been elbowed aside to make room for their own packs.

    Disrespect, that's what it was, and totally unacceptable!

    Now truth be told, the Pork Chop Express and her sisters are not much to look at. They are downright ugly, in fact, kind of a cross between a cockroach and a beetle on tracks. They are big and heavy -- 26 tons -- and slow despite their 400-horsepower engines.

    According Lt. Anthony Sousa, commander of the Pork Chop Express, these vehicles were designed to take troops from ship to shore and a bit inland. Top speed on water is about 3 mph. On land, it normally cruises at 15 mph but can do 35 or better if needed. Gas mileage runs between 1.5 to 3 miles per gallon, depending on the model.

    Armored plates are attached to its sides to deflect enemy fire, and they work. More than one AV sustained multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades while entering Baghdad, but none penetrated the inner shells of the vehicles the 1st Battalion was riding in.

    The Pork Chop Express is about 30 years old. It rattles, it clanks, and don't even ask about what it's like to ride in, comfort-wise. But it was home. It made it. It only clapped out once. True, it was a few minutes and a few miles before we rolled into a hellacious ambush, but hey, it did it beforehand -- not during -- and she eventually acceded to the crew's ministrations, incantations and exhortations.

    In the days -- I can't remember the exact number anymore -- following the Marines' invasion of Iraq from Kuwait, she and her sister vehicles made one of the longest sustained marches by AVs in their history, which dates back to World War II.

    Breakdowns occurred regularly with the AVs attached to the grunt units. Their crews, working around the clock in dust storms and without needed parts, stripped down and cannibalized others as needed. The result: The ride to victory, while crowded, continued.



    Bad news and good news for the folks at the Pentagon who came up with the name of this war -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. I know it sounded good from the public relations standpoint, but it got an initial thumbs-down from troops in the field. When told of the name, Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines either just shook their heads in disbelief, groaned audibly or greeted it with a string of expletives.

    Desert Storm II suited them fine, according to an unscientific straw poll, if political correctness was to rule the name game. Other high-scorers were Operation Sandstorm and Operation Stand Still, in honor of the many delays in the momentum of march to give supply trains time to catch up with front-line units.

    The good news is that that attitude quickly changed, and it was the people of Iraq themselves that did it for the Marines. All it took was the liberation of a few poverty-stricken villages and outbursts of joy from a repressed people to change the Marines' mind.



    Rolling across the Iraqi heartland for days on end in the same clothes you put on a week before hostilities began, you begin to appreciate the little things in life we so often take for granted.

    Take fresh socks for instance.

    Given that take-only-what-you-can-carry rule for the infantry, most Marines had only one or two changes of socks in their packs. And there was never enough time to wash them. So you'd turn the socks inside out after a few days to try to capture a fresher feeling. Later, you just gave up and adjusted to the sticky feeling, not to mention smell.

    Later yet it was just airing your feet that became the treat, even if for just a few minutes. One thing about being in a war zone -- you don't take off your boots at night in case you must move quickly. It makes for a Mel Brooks-like comedy sketch when they finally do come off, especially in a group situation.

    Well, guys would think it funny, but then the male species has a unique sense of humor.

    For embedded reporters, these circumstances proved an unexpected benefit when they returned to Kuwait on the way home: They didn't have to wait in line at a hotel check-in counter. Other guests obligingly moved aside, hotel staff hurried them through the paperwork and made sure they made it to their rooms -- and baths -- with a minimum of delay.

    And that bath ... There is nothing quite so exquisite as a hot shower and hot soak after a month without one.

    I won't even mention another of life's pleasures. But let me say, not taking along an entrenchment tool (shovel) when answering nature's call was a real novelty back at the hotel. I did, however, miss the inevitable morning serenade from artillery batteries while attending to business once back in Kuwait City.



    They don't put cigarettes in the individual meal packets of Marines anymore, but the noxious weed still carries high currency among the troops in the field, more so the farther you travel from home base.

    Prior to the start of the land war, Marines lining up for hours at Camp Grizzly in Kuwait for the once-every-two weeks visit by the PX were only allowed to buy four packs because of low inventory. Lucky Marines were those who received smokes in packages from home.

    The result: THEMS WITH became experts in the law of supply and demand when dealing with THEMS WITHOUT -- $4 a pack, $5 a pack, $6 or more was the going rate in Kuwait. Deep in Iraq and far from base, selling for profit gave way to bartering; later, bartering also fell to the wayside. Marines simply shared what they had. Eight or 10 men sharing one cigarette was commonplace.

    While bartering was the rule, one pack of M&M candies from an MRE pack -- a rare find -- was worth two smokes. Later, a bite of lemon pound cake was worth a puff. How many packs for a candy bar or jar of coffee? Want a pack of MRE peaches?

    This brings me to a gripe, a major gripe. OK, smoking is bad for your health. But hey, give the Marines in a battle zone a break.

    And think of image. In every war movie you've ever seen, GIs win the hearts of local peoples by tossing them packs of cigarettes. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, impoverished Iraqis won the hearts of the GIs by offering their liberators smokes.

    Sure, the blue-packed Sumer cigarettes -- "a fine blend of choice Iraqi and Virginia tobaccos" -- were a godsend, but we could have sworn they also contained at least a pinch of sawdust.



    Death or injury is horrifically random in war. And survival is sometimes almost inexplicable. Some chalk it up to Lady Luck; others to fate and God's will.

    Here are three such incidents in which, in this reporter's opinion, angels were looking out for our boys. I'm leaving the names out, however. The men involved may not want their families to know how close they came to meeting their Maker.

    -- It was the battle for a key bridge over the Saddam Hussein Canal, a span that would give Marines quick access from southern Iraq to central Iraq. The ambush of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, began almost as soon as we crossed the short expanse. A company of Iraqi troops opened up with automatic rifles and mortars from positions off the side of the road. Lucky for Bravo, the second Iraqi company on the other side of the road didn't open up when the Marines exited their vehicles to do battle -- they ran, leaving the Marines only one direction on which to concentrate. Mortars rained down on our positions, but luckily no one was hurt, not even a flanking platoon which was showered by debris thrown up by a round that landed just 10 meters (30 feet) from where they were moving forward at a crouch.


  2. #2
    -- A thunderous, metallic bang sounded, a bright and eerie orange light filled the compartment; dirt, stones and metal rained in and the Pork Chop Express, all 26 tons of her, pitched onto one track before righting herself. An RPG, aimed for the vehicle on the way into Baghdad had instead hit a burning 7-ton truck we were passing next to. The truck's explosion added to the explosion of the rocket, but we escaped. The men who had been standing half-out of the top of the AV firing at the enemy in the dark were shaken but unscathed. The mortar rounds, 50-caliber ammunition and 40mm grenades in the Pork Chop Express had not been set off. The battle was rejoined.

    -- The corporal from Alpha Company was excited. He stopped everyone nearby to tell his tale. And what a tale it was. The Marine was driving his Humvee when ambushed in Baghdad and five bullets tore through the Hummer's paper-thin passenger door. Two exited without causing damage. One hit his passenger in the wrist. It was bullets four and five that kept his adrenalin pumping, however. Bullet four, he said, hit his shaving kit that had been placed in a raised position between the seats and lodged in a washcloth. Yup, a quick look confirmed the tale. Bullet five was still sticking out the side of his flak vest. The vehicle door, a flashlight and a metal drinking cup had slowed it down and kept it from penetrating the Kevlar protector he wore.



    The crescendo of battle around the al Azimiyah Palace in Baghdad was deafening. It was like a Fourth of July fireworks display, with constant booms and bangs that were punctuated with the rapid-fire pops of automatic rifles. Yet when an AV pulled in and the body of Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Bohr of Alpha Company was brought out, the sounds of war suddenly seemed distant, muted; there was a vacuum of silence around us, or maybe we just imagined it.

    The gunny had died fighting around a nearby mosque. In one hand, observers said, he had held his field phone, advising headquarters of his men's situation and asking for help in fighting off extremist gunmen. With the other, he was simultaneously firing his M-16 when felled.

    Marines are supposed to be tough, and indeed they are. But that afternoon -- or was it morning -- an unbelievable tenderness was also shown. The gunny's body was lifted in a stretcher from the AV slowly and with great care as Marines, who just minutes before were shouting commands, lapsed into silence. The gunny's body armor, load-bearing vest and other accoutrements had to be removed before he was taken to an evacuation site. And it was done with a surprising gentleness. The respect shown in the handling of the gunny's body by these battle-hardened men brought something to mind -- parents lovingly placing a slumbering newborn into its crib and gently rearranging its blanket and clothing.

    A Marine had died. One of their own.

    Copyright 2001-2003 United Press International



  3. #3
    Registered User Free Member tommyboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Seabrook, NH
    what a great article. cant imagine going that far in an aav. that is simply amazing. im so proud of our marines. what a tough bunch!

  4. #4

    Cool Faces of Iraq

    Posted on Fri, Apr. 25, 2003

    DEANGELO STROMAN - Pontiac, Mich.
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: DeAngelo Stroman
    Hometown: Pontiac, Mich
    Age: 19
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Lance Corporal
    Job: Security at a Navy surgical hospital br>


    CAMP CHESTY, Central Iraq - The enemy prisoner of war sits naked in the sand, covered with a shiny silver blanket, his hands tied with plastic bands.

    Lance Cpl. DeAngelo Stroman stands about 4 feet away, holding an M16 rifle.

    The prisoner refuses to talk or cooperate. After a translator arrives, the prisoner is taken into the Navy surgical hospital, about 80 miles south of Baghdad. He doesn't appear to have any serious injuries.

    "My shock trauma platoon, which is like a mobile surgical company, has seen 100 patients, and I'd say almost 75 percent or more has been EPWs," Stroman says, using the shorthand for enemy prisoners of war. "Most of them stay quiet. . . . You just want to watch them."

    Stroman, 19, of Pontiac, Mich. isn't afraid. He stands 5 feet 10 and weighs 210 pounds. Most of the prisoners are small and look weak.

    "There are a lot of people around," Stroman says. "The EPWs are unarmed, so they can't really do anything to you. Me? I'm a pretty big guy."

    Stroman has four sisters and two brothers. He played football, basketball and baseball at Pontiac Northern High School. He played defensive end and wide receiver. "I was pretty good at football," he says. "I played a lot of sports to stay out of trouble."

    Stroman's wife, Shaneka, talked him into joining the Marines a year and a half ago.

    "It was my wife's decision," he says. "I wasn't really doing anything but getting in trouble. She sat me down and had a nice little conversation, and then I saw a recruiter. From there - boom! - that's how it happened."

    Stroman trained to be a motor transport driver, called a Motor T. But he's been used as security in Iraq.

    "My recruiter said, `Go Motor T, because it's really fun. You won't be away from your family a lot.' I said, `All right. Good to go. I'll go Motor T.' Before I knew it, I was here," he says.

    He's been in Kuwait or Iraq for more than two months, watching the doctors make medical magic.

    "Watching the doctors work is amazing," Stroman says. "We had one guy, an Iraqi, come in with three shots to his head, and our team was working hard and they brought him back. I was watching. I was curious. It's eye-opening."

    When he gets out of the Marines in about three years, he plans to go to college.

    "Hopefully, I'll have it better planned when I get back," he says. "But I want to go to school and get an associate's degree in business management or something, so I can get out and explore on my own."

    Stroman and his wife have a daughter, Taylor.

    "I miss home a lot," he says. "I miss everything. Snow. Real food. Ice water."


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  5. #5
    Posted on Thu, Apr. 24, 2003

    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Brian Dollinger
    Hometown: Morton, Ill.
    Age: 30
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Sergeant
    Job: Combat engineer


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Sgt. Brian Dollinger wants to be home in Morton, Ill., by May 30, when his daughter, Arianna, turns 3.

    "I'm hoping to get back by then," he says. "And I know I'll be home in time for my wife's birthday in July."

    But then he continues: "Every day that goes by, I get a little more concerned that I won't make it. That timeline is starting to crunch down."

    Dollinger, 30, is a combat engineer with 6th Engineer Support Battalion, and his commanders aren't as optimistic about when they'll be back in the United States. They are hoping to get back by October, but even that date changes constantly.

    "Even though the mission is complete, there are different things we can do as engineers," Dollinger says. "I'm ready for it to be done. But I know how long it took us to come over, all the stages it took to get to California and then to get over here."

    Dollinger, a Marine Reserve, is a doctoral student in music at Ball State University. His specialty is conducting orchestras and playing the bass.

    He was one semester from finishing his coursework when he was deployed, and now he doesn't know when he'll get a chance to finish it.

    "Certain classes are offered only at certain times and not every year," Dollinger says. "That may be a problem when I get back."

    After he earns his doctorate, Dollinger hopes to teach at the university level.

    "Hopefully, it's a position like Ball State where I'll conduct the orchestras, I'll teach conducting, teach bass and then have a professional local symphony as well," he says.

    His wife, Sabina, is also a doctoral candidate in music at Ball State. They were planning to marry in July, but they bumped up the wedding to Jan. 14. The next day, he had to report.

    "It's been a learning experience to watch people adapt and cope with issues," he says. "Not everybody adapts very well. The ones you wouldn't think would be very strong have really come forward. I've been very surprised by a lot of Marines, how strong they've been and how they were able to pull through."

    Dollinger has spent most of his time in Iraq fortifying positions and on security details. His main concern is losing a finger, which would hurt his ability to play the bass.

    "When I'm doing the explosives, I'm not thinking about losing a finger," he says. "If something goes wrong, I'll lose more than a finger. When I'm doing barbed wire, yes, I think about it. If I lost a finger on my left hand, that would hurt me big time. That's the hand that goes up and down the neck of the instrument when I'm playing bass. As far as conducting, if I lost my right arm, I could conduct with my left."

    He's on five paying orchestras, four consistently. "Everybody needs a bass player," he says.

    When he gets back from the war, Dollinger plans to dedicate a performance to the Marines who died.

    "There are tons of pieces out there that are used in memorial concerts," he says. "I'm going to have a moment of silence and play a piece for them."

    While Dollinger is starving to hear some classical music, he says he has benefited by being around Marines with a wide variety of musical tastes.

    "I would give anything for a Beethoven Symphony right now, a quartet, anything," he says. "But I've been hearing all kinds of music from the younger Marines. I can't even pronounce some of the names of these groups, can't understand some of the things they are saying, but it's different music and interesting to hear it. Once in a while, I'll even get a good country tune."


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  6. #6
    Posted on Thu, Apr. 24, 2003

    JEREMY DEVAULT - Chillicothe, IL
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Jeremy DeVault
    Hometown: Chillicothe, Ill.
    Age: 21
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Lance Corporal
    Job: Combat engineer


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - For Lance Cpl. Jeremy DeVault, this war has been a grand adventure: wild, frightening, exciting, boring, sad and fun.

    "It's been an experience of a lifetime," DeVault says. "It's something you can go back and tell your friends about. Nobody has been to Kuwait or Iraq. Nobody is ever going to come here to visit a country like this."

    DeVault, 21, of Chillicothe, Ill., is a combat engineer with Charlie Company Engineers, 6th Engineer Support Battalion.

    "It's like a big family," DeVault says. "I'll remember how close everybody came together. How everybody was willing to do everything for each other, to be one family."

    A few weeks ago, DeVault was asked to work security for a convoy going south, to a camp in Kuwait. He stayed there two days, sleeping on a cot in an air-conditioned tent. He took showers and watched television.

    "I felt awkward being down there, when my fellow Marines are up here" in Iraq, he says. "It wasn't bad coming back here. This is home, you know."

    For DeVault, the highlight of the war came early on. As he was getting ready to get on a convoy in Kuwait headed for the Iraqi border, he watched a barrage of artillery go off.

    "We were right there," he says. "It was like a movie. It surprised you at first, then you kinda rolled with it. You could see the flashes of lights. You could hear the rounds projecting. That's when I said, yeah, we are really here. You really need to get this job done."

    DeVault, who is single, is a student at Illinois Community College in Peoria, studying accounting.

    "Eventually, I want to own my own business, either a bar or an apartment complex, something like that," he says.


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  7. #7
    Posted on Wed, Apr. 23, 2003

    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Corey Rogers
    Hometown: Loda, Ill.
    Age: 23
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Corporal
    Job: Combat engineer


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Cpl. Corey Rogers keeps track of the missions on his T-shirt.

    On his shoulder it says, "Convoy Club: 13." After every convoy, he adds another mark with a pen.

    "We pretty much got told we will be security on all the convoys, all of them, anywhere," he says.

    In a two-week period, he has driven 790 miles through Iraq.

    Some are quick, three-hour trips, but others last up to 10 hours as he stands watch behind a massive machine gun.

    "There is a lot of desert," he says and smiles. "I had a different image of what we would be doing. I didn't know we'd be traveling like this."

    Rogers mans a 240 Gulf, an accurate, powerful machine gun, but after a few weeks in the desert he hadn't fired it, so he went to a firing range. He found out it's not as accurate as he thought when shot from the top of the Humvee.

    "We have it jerry-rigged, on a tripod mounted on the top of the Hummer," he says. "We have to put up a better platform, because when you lean into it, you can move it all around the target. It's just sitting on the canvas. It's not sturdy."

    Rogers joined the Marines in May 1999 on the advice of his grandfather, J.R. Herriott.

    "My grandpa always told me that he thought it was everybody's duty to serve their country," Rogers says. "Everybody in my family has been in the Air Force: both my grandfathers, my dad, my brother, my great-grandpa. They didn't pressure me into it. He just told me that everybody should serve their country. My grandpas told me some stories, but they never told me the day-to-day routine."

    So why did he join the Marines?

    "I wanted to do it right," he says. "The Marines have given me some pretty good leadership and discipline. I've been in some pretty crappy situations here. You eat crappy food and it's hard work and you are expected to do the job. It's like construction. When I was roofing, I did the same thing."

    Rogers is a combat engineer with Charlie Company Engineers, 6th Engineer Support Battalion. "I just like to build stuff and go out shooting sometimes," he says. "And I like to blow stuff up. It's a new experience."

    Roberts recently graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in construction management, but he wants to become a police officer.

    He's pretty sure he'll be able to land a job, being a veteran and having a college degree. He was trying to land a job in Madison, Wis., when he was activated.

    "I was supposed to take the physical test the day after we got activated," he says. "I had to call them and tell them that I wasn't going to take it. They said it's fine. They said the written test score will stand, but I have to fill out the application. They said I did pretty good on it."


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  8. #8
    Wed, Apr. 23, 2003

    MATT ORME - St. Joseph, Mich.
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Lt. Cmdr. Matt Orme lets out a smile.

    "We just showered for the first time in 10 days," he says. "It was a big deal. It was awesome. If I had three layers of grit, I probably got two of them off."

    Orme is an emergency room physician in charge of the shock, stabilization and triage area for a Navy surgical hospital in Iraq. He runs a staff of four doctors, four nurses and 16 corpsmen.

    "It's like a mini emergency department,' he says. " The hardest stuff is working on the Iraqi kids, those who are caught in the crossfire or used as a human shield. We've seen some pretty horrific injuries to small children."

    Orme, 33, from St. Joseph, Mich., has a child, Ali Orme, 20 months old, about the same age as some of the children he has treated.

    "Last night, we had a child with a penetrating wound to the skull, with a brain injury," he says. "Last week, we were down at Camp Anderson and there was a child whose face, nose and mouth had pretty much been blown off. It was pretty shaking to everybody involved.

    "That evening, we had the combat stress people - the psychologists and psychiatrists - come and talk to people and tell them that it's OK to talk about it among yourselves. It's OK to be upset by that. We have a good working relationship. Since we are the first ones to see things, we usually see the goriest stuff. We have a good relationship with our combat stress folks. They are available anytime, as an individual or as a group."

    Orme joined the Navy on its medical school scholarship program, graduating from Indiana University Medical School.

    "The Navy paid for med school, and I've been in for eight years," he says. "I'll be out in about another year. This is my last stop with the Navy. I got selected, invited, whatever you call it, to come out here."

    He plans to become an emergency room doctor when he leaves the military.

    He sleeps in a tent on a cot, about 18 inches from the next person. He goes running to get rid of stress, but the thing that makes him happy is when he gets letters from his wife, Kate.

    He closes every letter to his wife by writing: "We are doing a good job. I miss you guys. And hopefully I'll be home soon."

    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  9. #9
    Tue, Apr. 22, 2003

    MIKE NACE - Hemet, CA
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Mike Nace
    Hometown: Hemet, Calif.
    Age: 42
    Branch: Navy
    Rank:Lieutenant commander
    Job: Nurse


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Lt. Cmdr. Mike Nace gets off the helicopter and faces the ambulances, holding up four fingers.

    "Four injured?" the ambulance driver asks.

    No, Nace gestures. "Four ambulances," he says.

    Three of the injured walk down the helicopter ramp with their arms in slings. One man is limping so badly that another Marine has to help him to the ambulance.

    Nace disappears into the helicopter and comes off with a Marine on a stretcher. The Marine is rushed to the Navy surgical hospital in the back of an ambulance. At the same time, another helicopter unloads a string of enemy prisoners of war.

    Thirteen patients show up at once. The medics and doctors work quickly, trying to figure out who should be treated first. Two Marines lie side by side on stretchers. They punch hands, giving each other encouragement.

    Nace stays with a Marine who was injured about 18 hours earlier in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. The major battles of this war appear over, and Nace believes the danger now will come from terrorist attacks.

    "We had four or five Marines and eight to 10 civilians who had shrapnel injuries from a terrorist," Nace says. "They were getting ready to set up a defensive perimeter. A bunch of people were hollering and waving, happy to see the guys. Somebody broke through, and they said he had a bomb on his back, detonated it and took all these people out with the Marines."

    Nace has been up all night, working on the injured at a trauma unit about 7 miles from Baghdad. It's about a 40-minute flight to this surgical hospital.

    This is Nace's fifth deployment to another country. He was part of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and he was in Bosnia and Beirut, Lebanon.

    "We are moving faster as far as the medical part," he says. "During Desert Storm, we set up right behind the breach. We were about 6 miles back. We saw 750 patients in five days, and we were a big group.

    "In the last five days, we've seen 132 patients. Yesterday, we had 13 operating room cases."

    And that's at a small trauma unit.

    "We've seen a lot of kids," he says. "We didn't think we would see a lot of kids."

    Nace has three children of his own. As much as he wants to see his family, he thinks he'll be in Iraq for a while.


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  10. #10
    Mon, Apr. 21, 2003

    PAUL SAILER - Pekin, IL
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Paul Sailer
    Hometown: Pekin, Ill.
    Age: 22
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Lance Corporal
    Job:Combat engineer


    CAMP VIPER, southern Iraq - Marine Lance Cpl. Paul Sailer is on watch, late at night, trying to stay alert. He won't fall asleep, no way, not after what happened last time.

    "I fell asleep on watch a long time ago and learned my lesson,"

    Sailer says. "They made me dig a grave for myself, 6 foot by 6 foot. Took me all day. I was sweating big time when I was done, and it taught me a lesson."

    Sailer, 22, of Pekin, Ill., is a combat engineer for Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion.

    "This ain't so bad," he says. "There's not much to it. I get up, stand guard duty or fill sandbags and go to bed."

    He is stationed in Iraq, facing miserable conditions from 100-degree heat to sandstorms. The Marines sleep in two-man pup tents or bivy bags, which are basically large, fancy sleeping bags. "That's pretty comfortable as long as you dig up the sand under the tent before you go to bed," he says.

    They eat meals-ready-to-eat, prepackaged meals that include everything from a main course to fruit.

    "I've hated MREs since boot camp," Sailer says. "They are horrible. They all taste exactly the same, either bland or Tabasco sauce, there's no difference."

    Sailer said one other thing that bothers him is what he calls "the hurry up and wait."

    "They say, `We are gonna leave in five minutes. We are gonna leave in five minutes,' and then 10 hours later you still aren't gone," he says. "Everything gets fumbled. Everything gets packed in the wrong place. When they want you to find something in a hurry, it's like, man, where did I put that?"

    Sailer joined the Marines in 1999 after high school. "I was bored," he says. "I was just about to graduate from high school and I had nothing to do. A recruiter called and I said, `Sure, I'll come down.' "

    Less than a month later, he was in the delayed entry program for the Marine Reserves.

    "At the time, it was my parents' influence," he says. "If I had to do it over, I would have gone active, not reserves. My dad was all for it, but my mom wanted me to stay home and go to college."

    He studies prelaw at Illinois Central College. He plans to transfer to Illinois State University when he returns home.

    "I miss music and alcohol," he says. "I miss vodka. That's the way to go. And I miss hanging out with my friends, just normal life, so I don't have to worry about anybody shooting my butt."

    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  11. #11
    Mon, Apr. 21, 2003

    JACOB EMMONS - Tremont, IL
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Jacob Emmons
    Hometown: Tremont, Ill
    Age: 19
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Private first class
    Job: Combat engineer


    CAMP CHESTY, Iraq - Pfc. Jacob Emmons digs into a pile of dirt, building a bunker. Wearing sandy-brown boots, his feet hurt and they feel as if they're bleeding, but it helps to keep working, to keep his mind off the pain.

    He digs into the dirt again and smells something familiar, something far away.

    "You know what that smells like?" he asks, putting his face close to the soil. "It smells like baseball."

    For several weeks, Emmons was based at a Marine camp in the middle of the Iraqi desert. There was nothing but sand in every direction. No sign of life, nothing but a big sweeping sky and an occasional sandstorm. Now he has moved forward, to a camp about 80 miles from Baghdad. The dirt is rich, the weather seems 20 degrees cooler and the horizon is full of life - palm trees and long grass.

    "Baseball," he says, and smiles.

    Emmons, 19, a Marine Reserve from Tremont, Ill., is a combat engineer for Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion. He had a baseball scholarship to Spoon River College in Canton, Ill., but he had to turn it down when he was activated.

    "I called up the baseball coach and I told him that I thought we were gonna get activated," Emmons says. "He said, `That's cool. We'll re-up your scholarship for next year.' "

    Emmons grew up a Marine brat. He was born in Guantanamo Bay, where his father, Rod Emmons, was stationed.

    "I have pictures of me as a kid, sitting on howitzers and on big arty (artillery)," he says. "It was pretty cool. My dad got discharged from the Marines because he hurt his back. I've always heard stories about the Marines, and I wanted to join. My dad said that he didn't want me to join the Marine Corps unless I got an education out of it too."

    So Emmons joined the reserves.

    He went through boot camp last summer, and he's been in the Middle East for two months.

    When the United States invaded Iraq, the Marines wore bio-chem suits and rubber boots in case Iraq launched a biological or chemical attack. Emmons wore the rubber boots, over his leather boots, for more than 30 hours straight without changing his socks. His feet were drenched with sweat.

    "My feet couldn't breathe," he says. "After that, my feet started hurting a little bit."

    A few days later, he noticed a little red patch on his left foot.

    "I wasn't going to complain to the corpsman about that," Emmons says. "He would say, `Just suck it up.' From there, we started working, laying wire, setting up trip flares. We had to work dusk to dawn, every day."

    He let his feet air out at night, but he didn't change his socks and he didn't use any foot powder; all rookie mistakes.

    "You don't want to waste all your socks, because you don't know when you are going to wash them next," he says.

    The little red patch started to grow, creeping across the middle of his foot. It worked its way to the side and up and around his heel.

    Then his heel turned white. It got so bad he could barely walk.

    But he was so busy, in so many dangerous situations, he didn't bother to think about his feet. On one convoy, he was involved in his first combat.

    "We had tracers coming at us, about 40 yards off the road," Emmons says. "We just unloaded. It was dark out and we could just see flashes, and that's what we shot at. There were tracers behind us. Tracers in front of us. Tracers coming at us in every direction. Nobody was scared. That's what I was so impressed with. Nobody was ducking their head or anything. We were all keeping low, right? But that's when I felt good about my squad."

    His feet kept getting worse. When he put them into the air, they started throbbing. When he put them down, it felt as if they were on fire; when he walked, it felt as if they were bleeding.

    A few days ago, a doctor stopped by Camp Chesty and asked if anybody had any medical problems.

    Several Marines took off their boots.

    "That's just heat rash," the doctor said to one Marine.

    "Oh, those are just calluses," he told another.

    Then he looked at Emmons' feet. They were blood red.

    "Your feet gotta be killing you," the doc said.

    "Yeah, a little bit," he said.

    "You know what this is?"


    "Right there, that's swamp foot," the doctor said, pointing at Emmons' heel. Then he motioned to the rest of it. "That's the start of cellulitis," he said. "I can see it going up your foot."

    Emmons got a 10-day course of antibiotics and a big lecture.

    "They told me that I'm a private first class and I don't know the tricks of the trade," Emmons says.

    He was ordered to wash his feet twice a day, change his socks every chance he gets and use foot powder.

    He's been on light duty for the last three days. He sits in a bunker, with his socks off, wearing sandals.

    Emmons has been on antibiotics for a few days, and he's improved. His feet are getting better. Now they are pink, purple, red and yellow. But the color seems to be fading and the pain is almost all gone. "I can walk. Every now and then, when they get sweaty, it starts to hurt again," he says.

    He senses that the war is starting to come to a close, and it makes him think about going home even more.

    "On post, there is nothing out there, and you just gaze off and say, `I wish I was back home playing baseball.' "

    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  12. #12
    Mon, Apr. 21, 2003

    SARAH CADE - Detroit, Michigan
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Sarah Cade
    Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
    Age: 27
    Branch: Navy
    Rank: Corpsman


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Number 220 sits under a camouflaged net, at the U.S. Navy surgical hospital, looking absolutely harmless.

    She wears a pink and orange dress and has long black hair braided down her back. She has a shrapnel wound in her side.

    Sarah Cade, a Navy corpsman from Detroit, treats the injury, which isn't life-threatening.

    Number 221 sits on the same cot. The woman, probably in her mid-30s, is wrapped in a silver blanket. She wears a purple and gold dress and her head is covered with a scarf. Cade puts a bandage on her right foot.

    The woman starts to cry, holding her face in her hands, wiping tears from her eyes.

    "Your family is in the back," Cade says. "They are all right."

    The women say they are Iraqi civilians. Cade treats them with respect, giving them warmth and compassion, but she doesn't trust them.

    "They came in, and they said their car was all shot up," Cade says. "They came in with two males, and the women said the males are their brothers. But you don't know if the males are civilian or military, and the women could be in on it, too. . . . The way this is going, the military folks are dressing up in civilian clothing. We don't know who is who. The females could be in on it, as you'd say."

    No matter who comes to this hospital - Marines, Iraqi civilians or enemy prisoners of war (EPWs) - they are all treated the same. They are tracked by numbers written on their hands.

    "The thing that's really hard for corpsman is we are here to take care of our Marines," Cade says. "But we have to take care of somebody who is trying to hurt us. And that's very, very hard for me to see. I don't want to see the EPWs. I don't want to give them any water, but it's my job and I do it. And I take pride in taking care of them."

    She says it comes by instinct.

    "It's a mother thing," she says. "If you see a baby fall and scrape their knee, your instinct is to pick that child back up."

    As she treats the patients, she is protected by a Marine security detail, armed with M16 rifles.

    "My Marines take care of me," Cade says. "If I say, `Get them down,' they get them down. . . . They don't leave my side."

    Cade, 27, was born and raised in Detroit, in a family with five brothers and sisters. She graduated from McKenzie High School. While attending Wayne County Community College, she had a daughter, Marcia Black, now 7. Cade tried to work, go to school and raise a child as a single parent, but it was too hard.

    "It didn't seem like I had enough time to be with her," Cade says.

    Six years ago, she joined the Navy. She is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and works with the 2nd Medical Battalion.

    "It's fun," she says. "It's a good experience. I'm glad I joined. I'm going to re-enlist for three years and then get out."

    This is Cade's first time in a combat zone, and she has seen several gruesome injuries.

    "Some dude got shot three times in the head," Cade says. "One came out his eye. He was also shot in the back."

    She also treated a major in the Iraqi Republican Guard.

    "You know he was up there in the military," she says. "He was clean. Had a nice shave. Hair cut and everything. He had a bullet in his arm."

    While she's extremely careful around the prisoners, she opens up with the Marines.

    "You sit and talk to them," Cade says. "They are very grateful that you even sit and talk to them. I ask them: `How you doing? Where are you from? Everything is going to be OK.' "

    Her unit has moved several times, going north through Iraq, from Breach Point West to Camp Viper to Camp Anderson to Camp Chesty.

    She's been in the Middle East for more than two months, and she's ready to go home. She plans to go to Jacksonville, N.C., near Camp Lejeune, for a few days before heading to Detroit to pick up her daughter, who is staying with Cade's mother, Valencia Grier.

    "I'm going to go and relax for two or three days. . . . I don't want to bring that home. Those days are gonna be quiet. No helicopters. No generators. Real running water. Nice. I'm just gonna sit and relax," she says. "I'm ready now. I'm ready to go home. I've been here too long. But we can't go home until the war is over, and I'm fine with that."

    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  13. #13
    Fri, Apr. 18, 2003

    TIFFANY CARLSON - Vancouver, WA.
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Tiffany Carlson
    Hometown: Vancouver, Wash
    Age: 21
    Branch: Marine reservist
    Rank: Corporal
    Job: Security detail for Lt. Col. Roger Machut, 6th Engineer Support Battalion


    ON THE ROAD TO BAGHDAD, central Iraq - Cpl. Tiffany Carlson doesn't want the war to end. She's having too much fun, riding around the desert with a powerful machine gun, sitting on a box of grenades.

    "I don't want to go home," Carlson says. "I like it here. I'm having fun."

    She volunteered to be part of the personal security team for Lt. Col. Roger Machut, who is in charge of 6th Engineer Support Battalion.

    Carlson handles the M240 Gulf machine gun, the biggest weapon on the six-person security team.

    "I asked for it," she says. "I wanted a big gun. I just like to fire it."

    Carlson sits on a box of grenades when she rides in a Humvee so she can see over the roof. The machine gun is mounted on a tripod.

    "When it has the tripod on it, there's not that much of a kick to it," she says. "But it's pretty hard."

    Her shoulder gets bruised after about 100 shots.

    "With the tripod on it, it's very accurate," she says. "I get a lot of adrenaline rushes when I think something is gonna happen, whenever I see a truck of Iraqis."

    Traveling north toward Baghdad, the route is lined with Iraqi children. But Carlson has to keep the gun pointed near them.

    "I always aim in," she says. "I got a brief that they could have grenades or stuff like that. I'm at war. I don't want to shoot kids, but I think it's better them than me."

    Carlson, from Vancouver, Wash., has a pair of sisters in the Army: Shauna Carlson and Taunya Carlson, who are 25-year-old twins.

    "I don't know where they are," Carlson says. "One, I believe, is in Kuwait. The other, I believe, is in Germany. I haven't talked to them in a while."

    Carlson joined the Marines 2 years ago because she didn't want to just stay home after high school.

    "I decided to join the Marine Corps," she says. "Plus, I wanted to stay in shape and have a challenge. I wanted to get stuff done. I heard other branches are kinda lazy."

    Carlson was not receiving a lot of letters during the first part of her stay in the region, but that all changed after word of her empty mail box got back to Portland, Ore., radio personality Lars Larson, who mentioned her name on the air. Since then, she has received mail just about every other day.

    "I've gotten about 20 letters in the last two weeks," she says. "They say they are glad that I'm helping out."

    Carlson, a Marine reservist, manages a retail store in Portland and wants to become a dress designer. "I'm thinking I want to go to school as soon as I get back," she says. "I want to design my own clothes."

    She plans to go to Clark College in Vancouver and then transfer to the University of Washington. She's pretty sure she has a boyfriend back home.

    "As far as I know, I think I do," she says. "But I haven't gotten a letter, so I have no idea what's going on."

    But she has a new perspective on men as the only female in her squad.

    "You learn how to live how guys live," she says. "When I first joined the Marine Corps, it was kinda tough because of the things they say, but now I'm one of the guys. I see how they think pretty much now. They like to play. Everybody in my squad is like a family now. We've gotten really close, and I don't want it to end."

    Sgt. Chris Dahle, 28, her squad leader, says Carlson is "extremely motivated."

    "She's having a good time. I never have to worry about her not doing her job or not being motivated. . . . I have no doubts she can do her job on the machine gun," he says. ". . . She's got a huge heart. I view her as something of a little sister, as I would view the other squad members as brothers."

    The only negative comes from the reaction of some other Marines or soldiers.

    "She gets a lot of attention from other men," Dahle says. "They'll come up and say, `Hey, wow, that's a pretty big gun. You know how to handle that thing?' I think it's a little insulting to her and a little insulting to the squad. She wouldn't be on that thing if she couldn't handle it."

    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  14. #14
    Thu, Apr. 17, 2003

    JOEY COLEMAN - Panama City, FL
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Joey Coleman
    Hometown: Panama City, Fla.
    Age: 20
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Lance Corporal
    Job: Heavy equipment operator


    CAMP CHESTY, central Iraq - Lance Cpl. Joey Coleman waits outside a Navy surgical hospital. His right hand hangs limp, swollen to twice its normal size.

    "My right hand is my life," says Coleman, who is right handed. "It's my biggest fear, if anything happens to my right hand. I just don't want any scar tissue."

    Coleman, 20, a Marine reserve, is studying to become a cartoonist. He smashed his hand into a rock six days earlier when he jumped into a hole after a mortar shell landed about 10 meters from him.

    "I'm starting to get some numbness in my fingers, but that's about it," Coleman says. "They don't know what's wrong with it. Now, they think it's more of an infection."

    Coleman, of Panama City, Fla., was guarding a Cobra helicopter at a base near Baghdad when the mortar round landed.

    "As soon as it hit, it was a reaction," he says. "I just dived into my hole. I think God saved my life. I had my sergeant check the back of my flak jacket to make sure I didn't have any shrapnel in there."

    After the explosion, he had to stay in the hole to make sure nobody was approaching his line.

    "It's war," he says. "You can't let things like that bother you. I just went right back to what I was doing. You can't stop what you are doing. You gotta keep moving."

    Coleman is a heavy equipment operator, but he's been used mainly for security. "Now, when I hear explosions or mortar rounds going off, I get weary about things," he says. "You start hearing noises, and you wonder if it's mortar or not."

    He hasn't fired his weapon, but he's faced fire from civilians.

    "With a lot of the pot shots we are taking, there are too many civilians around," he says. "They take a couple of pot shots, and they are gone. A lot of times you can't fire. They don't want you firing into a crowd because you want to keep peace with the civilians."

    Coleman is a student at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, Fla.

    "People say my stuff is like Garfield," he says. "It's definitely funny stuff. I'm not into the Japanese animation stuff."

    He wants to work for Nickelodeon and eventually become self-employed with his own cartoon.

    Coleman joined the Marine Corps when he was 19, following in the footsteps of his stepfather, Patrick McKenna.

    "To me, it's the best," Coleman says. "The fewer the people, the harder it is. I just figured I'd go Marine Corps."

    Coleman has been in Iraq for about three weeks. He's been in the Middle East for two months.

    "It's been a good experience for me because you'll appreciate America a lot more," he says. "It's an experience nobody should have to live through. It's never pretty, never a nice thing. But it's something we have to do. I think it's a good thing that all these locals are so happy. It makes me happy about what we are doing."


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



  15. #15
    Thu, Apr. 17, 2003

    CHARMAIN JONES - Houston, Tx.
    By Jeff Seidel
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    Name: Charmain Jones
    Hometown: Houston, Tx.
    Age: 27
    Branch: Marines
    Rank: Sergeant
    Job: Electrician


    CAMP VIPER, southern Iraq - Sgt. Charmain Jones is sure about one thing: Her children are getting spoiled rotten.

    Jones and her husband, Sgt. Terrance Jones, are Marines stationed in Iraq. Their three children - Demetrice, 4, Michael, 2, and Natasha, 6 months - are staying with their grandparents, Johnny and Melondy Jones, in Bradenton, Fla.

    "I don't think they miss me at all," Jones says, smiling. "They are with their grandparents. They are getting away with murder."

    Jones, 27, of Houston, is an electrician with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion. Her husband helps build runways with another unit. They met in the Marines in 1999.

    "He's at the Air Force base, like 35 minutes from Camp Coyote," she says. "I saw him once when I was at Coyote. I was happy. We had been separated for a month or a month and a half. I like playing with my kids and my husband. My husband and I are like two big kids."

    She has been in Iraq since Feb. 6.

    "Am I sick of it?" she says. "It's tolerable, but I can't wait to go home."

    Jones joined the Marines seven years ago, for a $2,000 bonus and a chance to go to school. She is scheduled to get out Dec. 2, and says she doesn't plan to re-enlist.

    This is her third deployment. She has been to Bolivia and Greece.

    She can't wait to see her children; her smile grows stronger as she talks about them.

    "Demetrice loves her grandpa," Jones says. "And their grandma loves children. I'm sure they are getting spoiled. But they are in good hands. Demetrice is sneaky. She tries to get away with everything. And my son, he is rough. He likes to pick with her, to make her mad, just because he knows he can do it. She'll start crying and go and tell my husband and me. My son thinks it's funny, and my husband thinks it's funny."

    Her smile fades. As much as she wants to see her children, she's prepared for a rough homecoming.

    "I think I'll be heartbroken when I see them," she says. "I know how my daughter was when I left her for the first time for three months. When I came back, she looked at me like, `Who is this lady, waking me up at 6 o'clock in the morning?' She didn't know who I was. So I kind of expect it."


    (Jeff Seidel writes for the Detroit Free Press. Send feedback to Seidel and Richard Johnson at portraitsofwar@freepress.com)



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