from this sunday's ny times.
The Things They Wrote
One year ago today, America suffered its first casualties of the war in Iraq: a helicopter crashed in the desert near Kuwait City, killing four marines, while two others died from small-arms fire.
Last fall the Op-Ed pages published excerpts from letters home of some of the men and women who died in Iraq. Since then, 176 more soldiers have been killed, according to the Pentagon, bringing the total number of military casualties to 570. Below are excerpts from among the last letters that some Army soldiers had sent home to their families.
Excerpts from letters to his wife from Second Lt. Todd J. Bryant, 23, of Riverside, Calif. Lieutenant Bryant was killed on Oct. 31 by a homemade bomb while on patrol near Fallujah.
Friday, Sept. 19, 2003
I lack the words to express the whirlwind of emotions I am going through right now. We are still in Iraq, one day from getting to our base camp. So far the road has been safe, but tomorrow we get into Indian country: there have been numerous attacks along our route and frankly I am scared. Tomorrow I may see if four years at West Point and $250,000 of taxpayer money has produced an effective leader. I don't know if I will sleep tonight but I will try.
The image that keeps appearing in my mind is of you at the end of that aisle as your dad put your hand in mine. All I think about is that — and how we have joined together for life. That is why I must do my best and come home safe to you. Your family entrusted you to me, and I can't take care of you if I don't take care of myself. I love you with all my heart.
Monday, Sept. 22
Today things did not go so well. We rolled out on a mission in the early afternoon. Right before we were supposed to turn around and come back we got shot at. I'm O.K. . . . These armored Humvees are pretty good but I'd rather have my tanks. We had one other guy wounded but thank God neither were serious.
Thursday, Sept. 25
Well, today we got in all kinds of contact and thank God nobody was hurt. I keep pressing the commander to try and find out how long we will be here. He doesn't know of course and says he can only speculate. The thing is if he says six months and it turns out to be 12, that will kill morale. Morale is already very low here, as you might have guessed. No mail, lots of work, the heat and bad chow will do that to a unit.
Tuesday, Sept. 30
Today was fairly uneventful. We had a mission in the morning with no incidents, thank God. Then I went to church when I got back, which was nice. Being here has made me appreciate so many things, it's funny — little things like going to Wal-Mart or IHOP. I love you so much, Jen, and I miss you more than anything. I really don't want to spend another day away from you as long as I live. I guess when I get out in three years and nine months I'll have to find a job with no business trips ever.
Monday, Oct. 20
This place is scary. It is awful to be so young and wonder every day if you will see tomorrow. Any day we don't have a mission, like today, is a good day. I try and think how much longer it is until I go home but realize any time I roll out the gate is dangerous. As far as I know we are still only scheduled to be here until March.
Saturday, Oct. 25
Today was quite disturbing. We were doing our usual route clearance when we got the call on the radio that a civilian convoy had been attacked about eight kilometers in front of us. We sped up and secured the area so we could begin giving medical assistance. There were already a couple of Bradleys there by the time we got there. So we dropped off our medic and began to pull security and had one of the Bradleys call for a medevac and we secured a landing zone for the helicopter to come in.
Well, one Suburban had been hit by a bomb and they ruptured the gas tank, causing it to catch fire. Two people died and one got rushed to the hospital before we got there. Everyone else was huddled behind one of the two remaining vans. One guy was an American contractor and he had some British bodyguards. The second van had three bodies in it, one of which was pretty gruesome because the guy's spine was severed and his head just hung there. They died as a result of small-arms fire, probably AK-47's. Made me feel good to be in an armored truck.
Thursday, Oct. 30
Today we woke up early for a mission. Went and did a route recon and came back. Right before I lay down to take a nap we got the call that there was a protest at the front gate and we had to go pull security. That lasted for 4 1/2 hours. So by the time we got back from that we had other stuff to do, so no napping for me.
But every cloud has a silver lining and mine was when the mail came! Six letters and a package! Wahoo! I have the best wife in the world. . . . All your letters were wonderful and totally made my whole week and will probably carry into November.
Excerpts from a letter to his mother and stepfather from Capt. Pierre E. Piché, 29, of Starksboro, Vt. Captain Piché was killed on Nov. 15 when his helicopter crashed near Mosul.
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2003
I can say that I will be home by early February. . . . I am definitely looking forward to being out of the military. It was good for what it did for me, I don't regret it, but it is time to go. I see the future holding a lot more deployments. . . . I am proud to defend my country but I don't want to be defending it constantly for the next 10-15 years.
I am looking into both teaching and law enforcement when I get out. Either way, I still want to be doing a job that has a positive impact on the world. I am not some idealist who thinks I can change the world but I can still be doing some sort of good. I want to be able to believe in what I am doing. I prefer the teaching route because it has a more predictable schedule and I can blab about politics and history all day long (something I enjoy anyway). I had some good teachers growing up and I think it would be pretty cool if I could do what they did.
Excerpts from an e-mail message to her family from Pfc. Holly J. McGeogh, 19, of Taylor, Mich. Private McGeogh was killed on Jan. 31 near Kirkuk by an I.E.D., military parlance for an improvised explosive device.
Monday, Jan. 5, 2004
Hi, you guys, what's going on on that side of the world? Things are O.K. over here. Today when my section rolled out of the gate we saw someone drop a can on the ground, and we thought it was an I.E.D. So I stopped right away and backed up. We got out and pulled security. Then we called Charlie Company out to take a look.
Well, it ended up not being an I.E.D. I felt a little embarrassed, but at the same time I knew that we had done the right thing. And I have full confidence in the people I work with — if they felt if anybody's life was in danger, they would do everything in their power not to let anything happen.
Anyway, that was the most exciting thing that happened today — so far. Everything here is good and I'm doing good. . . . I am very thankful for having such a caring and loving family! I really can't wait to get home. I can't wait to see everyone, I really miss you all soooooo much — if it weren't for you guys, I would have never been able to make it through all this.
Excerpts from letters to his mother from Specialist Robert A. Wise, 21, of Tallahassee, Fla. Specialist Wise was killed on Nov. 12 by a homemade bomb while on patrol in Baghdad.
Monday, Feb. 24, 2003
So far I've been in a sandstorm (twice), I'm working on my third one as I speak (or write). I've also had the pleasure of experiencing a "sand-bomb." It's not what you think, but it is very interesting. When the wind is blowing really strong, it fills the tents, but when the wind stops, all the air rushes out of the tent and causes the sand to literally explode into the air and covers everything in a fine coat of dust. Yeah!
Every morning I wake up, and it's like a scene out of the movie "The Mummy." I get to shake the dirt out of everything, including my face and hair. One day I'll get a hold of a camera and I'll send you some cool pictures.
P.S.: You will be proud to know I have finished reading "The Hobbit" and "Halo." I've started on "The Lord of the Rings." That book is a workout both physically and mentally.
Wednesday, April 2
In case you were wondering, I stink. The kind of stink that you can only find in the desert. We call it "the scent of the Desert Rose." It's what you get when you haven't had a shower in over 20 days. Thank God for baby wipes. I had to get a filling replaced. I was chewing some gum and crack! — I don't know how, but it broke and started to splinter in my mouth.
On to more positive news. Since I left Fort Stewart, I've read: "The Hobbit," "Halo," "The Lord of the Rings" ("The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers,") "Aliens vs. Predator: War" and "Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, Volume II." Nothin' like a little boredom to get ya in a readin' mood.
Well, I hope everything back at Fort Living Room is going well.
Thursday, May 8
Rumor has it that we'll be on a plane home June 22, so keep your fingers crossed. I'm really going to need your help setting up a budget when I get home and making sure I stick to it. I know the only way I'll complete my goals of paying off my car and getting all of that furniture for our house by the end of the year is by paying attention to what I spend my money on.
Well, I'm runnin' out of things to write about. I love you and I miss you. Tell everyone I said hi, and one day I'll get home.
P.S.: There's no place like home (click)
There's no place like home (click)
There's no place like home (click)
Damn, it didn't work again!
Excerpt from a letter and e-mail message to his family from Sgt. Michael A. DiRaimondo, 22, of Simi Valley, Calif. Sergeant DiRaimondo, who planned to be a paramedic firefighter, was killed on Jan. 8 when his helicopter was shot down while on a medical evacuation mission near Fallujah.
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2003
Life is so precious. Living day by day in good health or just happiness is probably what makes me happy right now. I try not to think that what I do makes me happy. Just being alive, having a wonderful family, good friends, watching the sunrise morning after morning — that's what makes me feel good. I think people take their lives for granted. Some just haven't hit that part of their lives where they stop and say, "I am such a lucky person to have the life that I have."
Sunday, Jan. 4, 2004
New Year's Day was very busy for me. It started at 5 a.m. and went on for hours. Mission after mission. I had eight patients that day. I lost one of them, but there was no helping him when I got to him. That was sad, but we all must move on. It's sad to think that I can see that and then just go to lunch like it never happened. I'll always remember that soldier, though.
Most guys don't like it because you see a lot of gory stuff. But I see it as training for the future. I've been thinking about my future a lot lately. Who knows what's gonna happen, right?
... and here's some comments from me. Fuck George Bush and his war. i hope he fucking rots in hell and has to soak in a pool of his own burning shit. I hope every one of these dead soldiers, who are braver than I will EVER be, haunts his fucking ass until he goes insane and claws out his own eyeballs. I hope his children get cancer and die. I hope the same for every single person in that administration. And while I'm at it, fuck the New York Times, specifically Judith "I'm in bed with Ahmed Chalabi; hey, where'd that movile bio-lab go?" Miller; David "I sound increasingly desperate and unhinged on the Lehrer Hour" Brooks; William "Still flogging the Czech connection" Safire; and of course, Elizabeth "I heart Bush" Bumiller. True, the glorious New York Times is against this lousy war-- but look at the record. Stifling coverage of massive antiwar rallies all during last year; ridiculing Blix and the UN inspectors; giving plenty of press to the pro-war crowd, and precious little to those of us who believed from day one this whole adventure was a big fucking scam.