A Soldier's Death on a Stunning Day in Iraq
The soldier has been hit by a deadly roadside bomb known as an EFP (explosively formed projectile), increasingly common here, fired with fuel or occasionally plasma that propels the bomb with deadly force and makes it easier to penetrate even armored vehicles. The EFPs are often aimed from the road at an angle, in order to hit their targets at head level.
Another young soldier is hobbling out of the seat behind the driver, his leg injured but intact as American and Iraqi soldiers help him to an Iraqi vehicle in our convoy, which then speeds toward Forward Operating Base Warhorse, the main U.S. military camp in Baqubah.
The young injured driver, on the other hand, is bleeding badly and semiconscious. The soldiers pull him into our humvee and lay him out in the back as I get out to make room. Medic Jones, whom everyone calls Doc, is cradling the young wounded soldier's head and keeping it tilted to the side as he convulses and vomits.
The convoy speeds off to the forward operating base. There is another explosion on the way back, but this time no one is hit.
The sky is streaked with redwhat we'd earlier in the drive agreed was a stunning sunsetas we make it back to Warhorse.
"You just never think something like that is going to happen on a day like this," says our driver, Pvt. Jonathan Glasscock. All of the soldiers in the team are pacing in front of the crisis care unit, some are crying, having just delivered the young driver to the doctor here, where the helicopter will soon arrive to medevac him out.
The doctor comes out to tell Jones, the medic, that he has done a good job, and that the soldier is stabilized. They have made it here in the "platinum 10 minutes," Jones explainswhich is even better than the "golden hour," he adds. The soldiers are exhausted, shaken up, but hopeful. He is stabilized. "For now," Jones says. "You always think you can do more." The rest of his team assures him that he has done everything he can do and more. It is the third head injury he has treated so far in the war.
We get back into the humvee to drive across town to the site of the explosion and pick up Lieutenant Colonel Karcher, who had been riding in the passenger seat of the hit humvee and had stayed behind at the scene with Iraqi Army soldiers to secure the area and guard the damaged humvee. After picking Karcher up, the plan is to drive on to the training team's forward operating base, just down the road from the base of their Iraqi counterparts, where we had begun our trip.
As we pile into the car, the soldiers are silent, thinking, one later says, about what it's like to hold life in your hands. Our gunner, Captain Whitten, recalls holding the soldier's head as he threw up, helping the medic change the soaked head dressings as they sped back to the base.