Sunday, June 20, 2010

The real story

I remember nothing. This story was related to me tonight by the very young soldier who rescued me.

We left Camp Altimur, in Logar Province south of Kabul, for Camp Chark and the beginning of "Chark Week", an operation by the U.S. military to route out bomb makers.

Minutes before we rolled out, the soldiers in the first vehicle asked me if I wanted to join them, instead of riding in the MRAP behind. I agreed, but asked them which vehicle was safer. A soldier told me, "it depends which vehicle gets hit".

The driver of my new vehicle, who now claims our ASV (Armored Security Vehicle) "should never have been outside the wire", has just called me. It is the first time he's been able to talk to me because of the PTSD he is suffering from. He remembers a blast, the smell of smoke, oil and blood. He remembers ammo "cooking off". He lost consciousness.

When he woke up he screamed at the soldier in the passenger seat to come to. The driver then jumped out of the vehicle, realizing it had completely rolled over to an upright position, all of the windows and doors were blown out. Still, he climbed in the back. The ammo rounds were exploding. The smoke was so thick he couldn't see anything.

But he found his gunner, Wheeler, dead. There was a pole through his head and jaw. The ammo rounds had penetrated his brain and lung. He died instantly.

I was screaming "somebody get me out of here" and remarkably complaining I needed to pee. The driver and the other soldier worked to free me. They yelled at me to pee where I was. No one would care. My legs and body were "jello". They found a stretcher and tried to figure out how to get me on it. My limbs were everywhere. I was surrounded by ammo cans and the driver said he couldn't believe they hadn't crushed my body or exploded, incinerating me.

Helicopters were called in. I was flown, with the driver and other soldier, to FOB Shank. There, I was isolated. Someone came in to the room where the driver was being treated and said the journalist is screaming for the blond haired, blue eyed soldier. He came to me and I asked him, "are my legs still there?" The medics wouldn't tell me. He told me "yes, they are, but there are steel rods in them". He had come to me with pen and paper and I told him to write everything down. It would be months later before I found his note in my bag explaining, briefly, what had happened. "You were hit by in ied August 28, 2009. Spc. Wheeler was killed. I pulled your body from the vehicle".

We were NOT hit past FOB Shank as I remember from my coma, but 50 meters beyond the gates of Camp Altimur. The bomb was NOT an 80 pounder as the military told CBS and my family but a 300 POUNDER that left a "massive crater", according to driver, who also said EOD told him they couldn't believe anyone survived. The ASV was banned by the US military after our hit. We should have never been in it.

As we left for our mission, my driver was told by an Army Major Moore (10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum) that we were going to travel through an area heavy with ieds and to "have fun". My driver and Spc. Wheeler (who was killed) prayed before we rolled out, sensing something horrible was about to happen. Delta Force and Route Clearance troops were supposed to be on the road ahead of us. Delta was out TWO HOURS before. Route Clearance stayed on base for "maintenance".

And now we know the story...which I've just begun to re-live, factually.


Emmy said...

Oh my god, Moonpie! You have got to be one of the bravest people I know...That story was terrifying; I was crying by the time I finished it. The fact that you survived something like that and are still able to get up every day and to tell us all about it makes you so much braver. Please don't give up, Moonpie! The fact that you survived this far means that you still have so much more to acomplish in life! Hang in there!

sugargirl said...

This is truly remarkable. All I can say is how very thankful I am that you DID survive this horrendous event and are still not only surviving, but quickly moving toward recovery. Your tenacity and courage are outstanding, you are loved, respected and cared for by so many people... including me, and bottom line... YOU are what's remarkable about this whole ordeal.

Paradox13VA said...

Thank you for sharing that. It's so important that we hear these stories, accurately, first-hand. You do us all an amazing service with this blog.

Keep going!