Written Mar 28 2005
I had the colored stones shaped like Easter eggs all ready, only a few days until the celebration of the event that has greatly affected and changed the world for the last two thousand years arrives.
Then the horrible news began to surface. The news was that four of our soldiers from out brigade were totally obliterated by a tank mine as they traveled over the wet terrain in a non-tactical vehicle. I initially heard the vehicle was a cargo hummer, and something about Bagram. I was on this day supposed to have gone on a trip to Bagram in that same type of vehicle. I wasn’t sure if those who were going on the trip went or not. The terrifying thought that I may have escaped death went through my mind. I had been on many trips this week mostly in the much safer up armored hummer. As the details unfolded I was relieved yet still aware of the reality of the living threat we have every time we exit our base camp. Our whole base camp family was shaken by the news. While going through a puddle an up armored humvee triggered an old Russian anti-tank mine which delayed just long enough to destroy the SUV following. The recent rain had washed the mine from its hiding onto the road still unnoticeable underneath the water. This tragic event was unavoidable.
Easter had seemed to slip by unnoticed while we mentally prepared for the Monday morning memorial ceremony. This morning I woke up and formally dressed in my DCU’s along with all the other militants serving here at Camp Phoenix who could possibly attend. We all gathered by the flagpole, which had only four American flags flying at half staff. There were four pictures and a memorial complete with four pair of boots, four m-4 rifles with the bayonets fixed to the muzzles which pointed toward the soil, and a helmet resting on the butt of each rifle.
When I arrived there was already a horseshoe shaped formation surrounding the flags, so I added myself to the formation. We all stood there waiting for the ceremony to begin, and then we were welcomed by an officer to the Camp Phoenix Memorial Ceremony. Following this the Chaplain led in a prayer, we also had a moment of silence. I don’t remember every detail of the ceremony but one part stood out in my mind and will for the rest of my life. A first sergeant called out various names and ranks as they replied with “here first sergeant.” Then he called out captain Fiskes, one of the ones who had died. I couldn’t believe it, I certainly wasn’t expecting this. No answer. The first sergeant called the name again adding the first name, then a third time with the first and middle name. No answer. The drama almost forced tears from my eyes and does as I write this. The first sergeant persisted calling the names of the three other individuals, not one but three times. Each time adding the first name, then the middle name, and then finally adding the last name. The reality became clear to me as if I had just taken someone else’s glasses from my own eyes. These four, although I didn’t personally know them, were here with us at other events, and if there name was called out then it would have been echoed with yes first sergeant as well. Yet there was no answer, none at all. All of us felt the emptiness of the absence of their presence. I stood there realizing that these men came over here just like me or one of my close comrades and had detailed plans for when he returned home. I stood hearing their character described as I wondered what the man at the microphone would say to describe my existence if I were the absent one. Finally row by row we passed by the pictures and the display, saluting as we passed.
I salute not only to the ones who have fallen, but even more so, to their heavy hearted families. So many close relatives will be directly affected. That sobering thought still brings tears to the brink of their expulsion from my eyes as I type this. I feel as though the sorrow and heaviness of those families and friends here and at home has spilled over and without knowing the individuals, I can feel the loss, I can feel the sorrow, I can feel the heaviness. This ceremony has been repeated throughout the history of our country, but it has for the first time stamped its impression of that awful reality.
I wrote the following poem on March 27th
Easter; a time to celebrate victory
But not this time around
It’s a time to reflect on the greatest man from history
But no joy here can be found
We give our respects with mournful grief
Because our own has felt the pain
We comfort each other to bring relief
But what we lost we cannot regain
Four of our own have slipped away
As we face what is cruel and real
We live to fight another day
While we slowly began to heal
Much we can learned from this tragic scare
As we serve and continue to defend
Our freighted mind is more aware
Of the reality of a tragic end
Our eyes are opened just a little more
As our missions are carried out
We check again just to make sure
So we can serve without a doubt
We thank our God for each breath of airThough we share the hurt and the empty painOur families, loved ones, and friends that careThank God for the lives of those who remain
March 27, 2005