Ten years ago today, I was the lead driver on a scout element crew in Iraq. It was around 11:30 pm when we were stopped in the city of Fallujah for a downed humvee. While they managed to get the humvee on the back of the tow truck, a car approached our position. We were right off the cloverleaf ramp leading into Fallujah. My gunner, Lcpl Grossman, fired a flare and the vehicle turned around.
Now this was after hours and curfew was in effect so we got on the alert. Once the downed humvee was on the tow, we proceeded to advance through the city. Three hundred meters from the George Washington Bridge, we spotted a small object on the road. It was the size of a cellphone box. I slowed and as the wind blew, a long copper wire became visible.
Quickly, I threw the humvee into reverse, keeping an eye on my side mirror to see if I was going to run into Scout 2 who was approaching. Luckily, Lcpl Zuccaro was an excellent driver and he could read my moves. He threw his vehicle into reverse and started moving. Fifteen feet from the object, it detonated. Our quick actions and keen observation allowed us to not be killed that night. After we were disabled, two enemy combatants commenced to firing at us from elevated positions.
Now in the rules of combat, the battle normally swings to those in the elevated position, but these men were trying to kill Marines and we take that personal. With the help of our surrounding vehicles who came to our aid after the explosion, we managed to dispatch both insurgents to the other side of this life.
Lcpl Grossman and I were awarded the purple heart for wounds received during the explosion and looking back now, it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. Amazing.
So there is a picture of me holding an AK in Iraq on this blog and I want to explain it. A short time before Ipods became the norm, we had little devices called CD players. For you youngsters out there, it’s like a big Ipod but you have to change the disk to change the music, and it wasn’t touch screen.
So that morning I had been messing around with the CD player because it wasn’t acting right. I had a best of Pantera CD in and was really wanting to listen to it on the convoys that morning. The battle of Fallujah was over at this point and we were parked at VCP (Vehicle Check Point) 5. So everyone is talking to the Iraqi National Guard or each other when I spotted a Colonel of the ING holding an ASP. An ASP is the hard metal stick that extends and cops use it instead of nightsticks now.
Anyways, so I wanted one to take back home and figured I could maybe buy it off of him or trade him. So carrying my CD player, I approached the Colonel and asked if he wouldn’t mind trading. The man took one look at the CD player, thrust his AK rifle at me, and took the CD player. Then he commenced to walk off, stripping out of his uniform as he did so. I couldn’t believe my eyes and neither could the Marines around me.
For the price of a busted CD player, I had myself an AK. Truthfully, I still believe it was the Pantera CD which sold the deal but that’s neither here nor there. Being the good Marine I am, I inspected the rifle, clearing it and making sure it was good to go before we started to take pictures with it.
I thought this was the coolest thing in the world but my excitement was short lived as the Colonel came walking back with some Marine Officer I did not know, fixing his uniform and sulking. He handed me an ASP and took back his AK looking like a child who had just gotten in trouble for giving away his father’s baseball card collection. I didn’t mind. I still got the ASP and pictures with a cool story.
Life is strange sometimes.
I know most vets are this way, but sometimes I miss being in Iraq. Sure it was extremely cold in the winter with no windows on the seven tons and really hot in the summer with an inch thick layer of glass, but there was something about it that I simply miss. Maybe it was hanging with the guys, the thrill of adventure, or the craziness of being in a war zone and not knowing where the enemy was going to come from.
A lot of people always ask me if it was hard and sure, it was. Was I scared? You had to be, but you became used to it. It was simply a part of life. I miss the endless card games and long nights driving across the country, from one end to the other. I miss it all. I miss carrying an M16 and a shotgun.
I guess missing it makes it easy for me to write about it because it stays in my mind. I miss my friends and even though our lives have gone in different directions, I love them all and wish nothing but a peaceful life, from here to eternity. They earned that. Semper Fi.
Great things come to those who wait. I don’t believe that. I believe great things come to those who get off their backside and get going, roll up them sleeves, and push forward. My Drill Instructor in boot camp use to say to me and the rest of the recruits, “Keep moving forward.” By say, I mean screamed and spit in our faces.
I took this statement to heart and it has become one of my life’s mottos. When you’re beaten down and you feel like you have no way out and all the world is weighing in on your shoulders, don’t give up, keep moving forward. Keep driving on and pushing, never surrender. The brightest star is among the darkest sky.
To achieve greatness or get what you want out of this life, you have to push for it. You have to work for it because no one will simply give you your dreams. You want a better body, a better job, a better life, you have to work for it. Great things have started to come to my household because we have worked so hard for it. For years now, my wife and I have worked hard with this writing project and I am so proud to say I have been given a contract with a literary agent to represent our work.
This is something I have dreamed about and worked for. Not only that but on the day I signed the contract, we got to bring home our new baby boy from the hospital. He is healthy and happy and I forgot how small a newborn really is. Life is looking great and I owe it all to hard work and the drive. Keep Moving Forward.