American Idol: What's our priority anyway?
Editor's note: With every email that i open, I wrestle with god and the devil over what to print, what to omit. In this one, I took out the call signs and one reference to a specific individual that, in my opinion, was more than needed. Otherwise, let the chips fall where they may. Mea culpa. ~ Critt Jarvis
17 Mar 2004, 1550 hours.
Bad news is always bad news. It's the wait that makes it devastating. Today is an off day for my section. I was asleep on my cot when SGT Baldwin, no relation to Alec or Billy, entered my cell. He woke me up, I was dead tired and did not want to loose my grip on REM. It was on the tip of my tongue, that old saying that could have caused me to bite my tongue. "Someone better have died". SGT Baldwin told me that the 1SG just grabbed my Platoon Leader and headed out to the KBR site (where Bravo Section was conducting mission today) with two M88 Recovery vehicles. A Bradley flipped over and needed to be recovered. He also added that information he overheard led him to believe that a soldier from the Outlaw Platoon, us, was killed in the accident. I immediately went to the TOC, Tactical Operations Center, to get a Sitrep. The TOC NCOIC told me that a vehicle of ours has rolled over and that a Medivac was called in. He also whispered that an Outlaw was killed, but added that the 1SG does not want anyone talking about it. Wonderful. The KBR site is about a 30 minute drive from here in a HUmmer, it has been over 3 hours since I got the message. Still no word on the facts. We are hoping for the best. My roommate, SSG Biehl, is the only NCO in the platoon that I get along with on a personal level. He is the Bravo section leader. There are two people in any section that are at highest risk for injury if a BFV rolls over, the Bradley Commanders. SFC Travis, Platoon Daddy, and SSG Biehl, my battle buddy, were the TC's. Corporal Reams and I are sitting here waiting, standing up and walking out the door every time we hear a vehicle approach. I have never, in over ten years of service, mistook the shit truck for a M88 until today. About 15 minutes ago, I saw three Blackhawks fly over FOB Lancer at about 100m altitude then turn towards the KBR site in a wide wedge. My gut tells me that the Brigade or higher Task Force Commander just arrived at the scene. My Platoon is organic to the 1/18 Infantry, Vanguards. We have been detached to the 1/7 Field Artillery, Lightning during our trip to the desert. Anyway, I got a little agitated at being left in the dark and turned on a radio of a Hummer parked outside my cell. I heard the TOC here, report to the Lightning Task Force Commander, that the Vanguard Battalion has been given all of the information that Lightning has about whatever happened at the KBR site. As long as I have been in the Army, I can tell you that it is never a good thing when the unit you are detached to has to contact the unit you came from and they do not give you the message to deliver yourself. [rant edited out] I turned the radio off. As I sit here, helpless, wanting to care about someone, but not knowing who, I care about everyone. God speed to my soldiers. More to follow. I hear a Bradley approaching. False call. It was a 1/26 Infantry bradley rolling to the North gate. Four of our soldiers who went on a convoy security mission to Camp Speicher just returned. They brought word that 2 soldiers were injured, that came from the Steel Knight Executive Officer. I am hopeful to hear that it was only injuries, but first reports tend to be inaccurate. All we can do is wait for the report from my Platoon Leader.
18 Mar 2004, 0156 hours.
At about 1700 hours yesterday my impatience and concern reached intolerable levels. I went to the Battalion TOC. I explained that I was the senior ranking Outlaw present on FOB Lancer and that my Platoon was holding vigil for four and half hours. Rumors were beginning to spin and we needed to know what happened. My heart sank as he told me the situation. He read the official notice verbatim and unedited. The facts were undeniable and my fears materialized into a gut wrenching pain. I went back to my Platoon and informed them that 1 Outlaw has fallen and 2 were taken to FOB Speicher with serious injuries. I did not release the names immediately, I was not prepared for to be able to provide adequate support for any soldiers who might have been overwhelmed from the news. Another hour passed, then the first wave of the mission's soldiers returned. It was time to tell the few who did not know. I do not want to ever have to do that again. Every day that Alpha Section goes out on mission, I greet them upon closure to the motorpool. I always give every soldier a smile and thumbs up for a job well done. But this time was different. The crew for B18 was on foot, they returned in the back of a Hummer. B18, the Bradley, will have to be blown in place. I was relieved to hear from the S-3 that SSG Biehl was not injured, but that meant that someone else was gone. Catch 22. I felt guilty for the relief that came over me as I laid eyes on SSG Biehl, my closest friend here. I got the story from the horses mouth. B18, his Bradley, was the lead vehicle. They were driving on a dirt road on the edge of a 200 foot cliff. The road gave way. The vehicle began to roll, so SSG Biehl gave the order to get out. The driver, PFC Middlebrook, hit the gas and tried in vain to keep the vehicle from falling. SSG Biehl, the Bradley Commander, and SPC Jeans, the Bradley Gunner, were able to climb out of the turret and jump free from the vehicle at the last second. SSG Biehl said he looked up and saw Middlebrook open his drivers hatch just as the vehicle began to roll. The Bradley fell and rolled two and a half times, landing turret down in the Tigris river. SSG Biehl jumped and fell down the cliff to get to his vehicle. He was the first to reach the drivers hatch. He said that he fought furiously to get the hatch open, but it was upside down, under water. He realized that it was futile and moved to the rear of the vehicle. Suddenly he saw a soldier splashing in the water near him, then Middlebrook broke the surface. Middlebrook does not know how he got out, but he said he knows he "cheated death". The troop door in the rear was accessible. There were three soldiers in the back of the track. None were concious. CPL Gomez, promoted 3 days ago, was the first removed. He is now in stable condition on FOB Speicher. He suffered severe head trauma. SPC Matthews, known as "Pops", has two broken legs. As of 2130 hours last night, his prognosis is not good. He has weak vitals and is not expected to survive the night. That man is tough as a junkyard dog. PFC Laramore drowned in the vehicle. It took too long to get to him. There is a bar back in Schweinfurt called The Rock Corner, crawling distance from my apartment. Thats my dive. He and Pops meandered in there on several occasions, we tossed back a few cold ones getting ready for Iraq. I was not ready for this. I have the feeling that I am going to be an old man after this chapter of my life is complete. I may as well tell you the rest of the story. When Matthews was pulled from the vehicle, he was not breathing. Two soldiers performed CPR until the Medivac arrived. Matthews vomited in the mouths of both rescuers as they worked on saving him. An unnamed civilian medic told the two soldiers to stop CPR because he said the Matthews was allready gone. But they did not stop. At 1700, we recieved word that both Gomez and Pops were stable. I approached Gavin and thanked him for not giving up on Pops. He was angry that someone had the audacity to tell him to stop trying to save him. He was relieved to know that Pops was going to make it. Then we got the update at 2130, more bad news. I pray that Pops makes it.
You know what the made the news headlines on TV while we ate chow two days ago? It was a debate over who should win American Idol. Who gives a fuck. Has America forgotten that soldiers are still dying in Iraq? Sorry about that. I made a rule for myself, once I write an idea, it stays.
Today is a day of reflection for our Platoon. Hopefully some of us will be able to convoy to FOB Speicher to visit Gomez and Pops. Have a good day.
18 Mar 2004 1427 hours
Whenever a soldier is killed or seriously wounded in sector, phones and internet are turned off until the next of kin is notified. I will keep updating this until that time. At 1200 hours, 1SG Jacobs notified us that CPL Gomez's neck was broken in two places and is paralyzed from the neck down. Pops has still not regained consciousness and is on life support. His squad leader and our Platoon Sergeant have not returned to FOB Lancer yet, they are holding vigil by Pops.Life goes on for us. My spades partner, CPL Reams, and I won our 10th consecutive spades game. When I say win, I mean spanked the shit out of the opposition. We are unbeatable. Middlebrook wanted to play spades last night. The guys in the rollover have determined that Middlebrook was thrown from the Bradley while it was rolling and he landed in the water. His hatch was sealed closed in the river, he had to have been out of the hatch before the Brad impacted the bottom. Talk about luck. But he has no luck against Reams and me when throwing spades. The LT came by our cell at about 2200 hours. We watched School of Rock on my laptop. That movie made me laugh so hard. It is a wierd feeling to grieve and laugh at the same time. As you walk around the Outlaw Territory, if you are not one of us, you would never know the difference. Soldiers are doing laundry, watching movies, listening to music, going to the Hadji store, playing games, etc... But there is a difference. We stop to notice each other, make a gesture or comment to let each other know we acknowledge we are a band of brothers. There is an unspoken mutual understanding of respect and loyalty that did not exist until yesterday.
19 Mar 2004, 1256 hours
We had a company formation this morning. It was a PAI, Personal Accountability Inspection to make sure we still are present and have our ID cards and dog tags. The 1SG used the opportunity to inform the rest of the company of the events that occured. He forced us to form a horseshoe around him. It was an uncomfortable moment for the Outlaws. As the 1SG told the story, the other soldiers looked at us with what felt like false sincerety and compassion. They shook thier heads at all the right moments of the story and looked at us like, "you poor little boys, we are so sorry". We are detached from our parent unit, and the Steel Knights are trying thier best to make us feel welcome. 1SG said twice that the result of the accident was 1 KIA, and 2 wounded. Every time he said that, you feel our platoon flinch. I think it was because he is not one of us, and to hear someone talk about the incident, and not be an Outlaw is blasphemy. Anyway, right in the middle of the 1SG's speech, the CO walked up. He stepped in and began to speak. He seemed unprepared and definately had no business talking to the company without having some notes to read from. He started to talk about Gomez, Matthews, and Laramore. He said that, "Gomez acted like he was a SSG, Laramore a SGT, and Matthews was just a hard charger. All of them were good men. I am refering to them in the past tense because Gomez and Matthews died last night. All three are dead". That was not the forum to inform my soldiers about the one guy we all expected to make it. Then the CO continued to chew on his boot by saying that he will always make sure that the company stays informed of deaths. And how he hopes there are no more accidents but he knows that someone else will fall and that once again he will stand in front of the company. Whatever, I understand he is grieving, but if you don't know what to say, Shut the fuck up. The Outlaws are ready to leave the wire again. We want to get out into sector and do our jobs. I want to roll out in my Bradley and tear some shit up. I hate being confined to the FOB, like some kind of rat. It's time to get out and show the Iraqis that we are professionals. Also, our platoon is tired of being petted by everybody. Just leave us alone and give us a damn mission. Tomorrow is the memorial ceremony, that dark cloud is hanging over us. Once that is over, we will be able to move on faster.
19 Mar 2220 hours
Internet is back up, I am going to head over in a few minutes. At 2100 hours, the Command group walked from cell to cell and informed the Outlaws that CPL Gomez did not die, in fact he having surgery performed as we speak. That was a huge mistake by Division that I am sure someones head will roll for. We needed some good news. I have gone through most of the seven stages of grieving in the past hours. I believe that I am close to acceptance. The hardest step was not to access blame. I wanted to point the finger at someone, anyone who I could vent my rage on. But I have come to realize that no one willed it. No one wanted the Bradley to fall of the cliff. Shit Happens. The mission was completed, at a high cost, but it was a success. We will continue our dangerous job with the conviction and professionalism expected of an American soldier. Bad things have to happen to good people in order to create true heroes. A lot of ordinary men did heroic deeds that morning. Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, through baptism my fire, that I am surrounded by extraordinary men. Middlebrook stayed behind the wheel of a falling 45 ton Bradley until he saw his crew jump free. Then he fell 200 feet into river and was pinned underneath that vehicle. Then he got out and performed CPR on his fallen brothers. He is only one of many true heros that earned that title that fateful morning.
[editor's note: The following is a chronology of the first 13 days at Camp Lancer ]
7 Mar 2004 Outlaws mounted section arrives FOB Lancer, dismounts conduct first night raid, no injuries
10 Mar 2004 Outlaws A Sec. conducts its 1st patrol, detains 3 Iraqis, thier car gets jacked in less than 20 minutes
11 Mar 2004 Outlaws B Sec. recieve small arms fire, seize 1 AK-47, no injuries
12 Mar 2004 Rocket Attack on FOB Lancer lands 250m from A Sec. AAR in progress, no injuries
13 Mar 2004 IED Attack in Tikrit, CPT Kurth and SPC Ford killed, SGT Kalous's foot amputated, SPC Press injured, SPC Lovell shrapnel to the face
15 Mar 2004 Memorial Service held on FOB Omaha for CPT Kurth and SPC Ford
17 Mar 2004 B18 rolls off cliff, SPC Laramore killed, CPL Gomez and SPC Matthews Medevac'd to FOB Speicher
18 Mar 2004 CPL Gomez Medivac'd to Bagdad, paralyzed from neck down, doctor says he won't walk again, probably get use of arms, he responded to questions by blinking; SPC Matthews unconcious on life support at FOB Speicher, report says he is brain dead; All Outlaw missions cancelled
19 Mar 2004 CPT Holbrook untactfully informs Outlaws in front of a Company formation that Pops and Gomez died last night; The wait is over, 3 Outlaws dead; at 2100 hours, 1SG and CO inform Platoon that Division severely screwed up the message this morning. CPL Gomez did not die, his brain is recieving enough oxygen to allow doctors to perform thier first surgery on his neck and spine.
Know this, life is fragile; live every day like it is your last
Editor's Postscript: I am a fan of, and advocate for American Idol. But it is a matter of priorities, you know?
Posted by Critt Jarvis at 09:56 AM | Permalink
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I read Philip's words as though they have come from my own child.
His one phone call home did not include the descriptions and events detailed, nor did I ask.
Why? I don't really know.
I could hear a detachment in my son's voice, which just somehow told me, that for him to tell me of such things would somehow belittle them, because How could I possibly understand.
So, I spoke quickly of Motherly things, about "are you eating?" , "Sleeping", etc,
That must have sounded so trivial to him in those few moments we spoke...
Where is he now, somewhere with the "Golden Lions", where ever that may be..
He spent 3 years at Schwienfurt and most probably knows the lost and hurt soldiers mentioned.
In the 5 years he has been in the Army, 4 1/2 has been spent overseas. It has cost him a wife, and a young daughter he has seen only 3 times since he left.
Why did he enlist? He had always wanted to back in high school, but we talked him out of it. Later after starting a family , he saw it as a to have a steady job and college credits to try and make a better living. He was a man then,how can you argue with that?
But, would he do it again.. probably..There is a lot I don't know about my son, but I do know he is proud of serving in the Army.
So, where ever you are Mike, I love you and miss you and hope you are well.
Posted by: | Mar 20, 2004 2:41:13 PM
I do not know how I am going to get through this next year. How can my 22 year old son, who has only been enlisted for 1 1/2 years, get through this and return home? I am totally torn in half; I hate the fact that we are there, and that our soldiers, including my son, are seen as the enemy. Yet I support our troops and want them to know how proud of them we all are. Jonathan, I prayed for you last night that you would be carried up high on wings of eagles, and that you would be able to see everything around you, and know what you have to do to stay safe. Phillip, I will pray the same for you. May God hold you close to His heart and give you peace and comfort.
Posted by: Kim, PFC John's Mom | Mar 20, 2004 7:00:42 PM
My boyfriend left Germany 1 1/2 months ago (Bamberg). Not knowing how this year is going to be he had to go. Every day I hear so many bad news about Iraq a.s.o. When I read the comments above I'm so touched by the words I read.
I know that they are thousands of families missing their sons and husbands. But somehow everybody feels kind of lonely.
There is no day where we don't think of our heros and no day not being worried.
It's always a bad sign if you don't get a call or e-mails are not answered. I hate it.
The uncertainty is the worst as well as the fear to loose the people we love.
Philipp thank you so much for the words you wrote. It let me understand it better what my boyfriend has to go through.
Phone calls are not possible too often and when we call he just wanna tell me good things.
But you made it possible for me to get more information about the situation in Camp Lancer and how you guys feel down there.
I hope you'll keep on giving us so many information - God bless you!
Whenever I talked to Vince he didn't describe the whole situation like you do. I guess he doesn't want to talk about this. Philipp you don't know how much this means to us! Take care of you!!
Vincent, I think about you all the time!
I hope you are alright! Life has changed so much since you are gone. The days are not as bright anymore and everything isn't as funny anymore.
Every day I'm wondering if you are o.k. and if you don't feel to alone down there.
I pray for you every day.
I don't know if you'll ever read this lines but I want to tell you that I love you and I can't wait to see again and to finally hold you close again!
I wait for you, honey!
I hope that nothing has happened during the last week. I sent an e-mail to you and it came back.
The same happened to your mom and aunt.
Your family loves and misses you like crazy.
I'm still writing e-mails to your mom every day.
She is so wonderful! Vince I hope you can call soon that I know you are alright.
I love you!!!
To everybody out there: They will come home safely! And I hope you have enough strength to make this year! It's hard and I didn't expect it to be as hard. But we are like a little family.
And talking about it always helps.
I pray for everybody in this terrible situation!
Take care of you.
Posted by: Fränzi, PFC Contreras' girlfrien | Mar 25, 2004 9:34:13 AM
I'm the Mom of Vincent Contreras, a soldier in
D1/33 FABN. He is a Romeo 13 at Camp Lancer.
There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about him, pray for him, and mentaly send
him good, positive thoughts.
I would like to truly say "Thank You" to all
of you men and women. Sometimes I wonder why.
Why are you really there? Then I turn on the
news and I'm reminded of the crazy world we
live in. I think about 9/11 and remember. And
I know why.
Please, please be as safe as you can. Be
strong, be there for each other, cover each
others back. Sorry, it's the Mom thing. My
thoughts and prayers are with you and your
And to my son, Vincent, I love and miss you
terribly. I hope to hear from you soon.
And to Phillip, thank you for the opportunity
to express myself. God bless you and everyone
Posted by: Debbie Contreras | Mar 26, 2004 1:58:27 AM
Reading all this makes me wonder how my son who is only 20 years old right now is going to be like when he comes home. His name is Matt Copley and I love him and I am so worried about him. I just wish this could all be over. He just got into Camp Speicher a few weeks ago.. I can't get to the website about Camp Speicher because it keeps telling me the website is not responding. I so much want to know what is going on. I love my son so much and cannot stop myself from worrying. God Bless every one of our soldiers over there. And I agree, Our American Idols arent really on TV. My American Idol is our Solder's over there fighting for a country that hates us. I don't care who wins that crap on tv, let alone watch it. We don't get to see enough of what is really going on over there. When my son called me on March 18th. I could hear the bombs in the background where he also proceeded to tell me he hears them all the time. God please bring them all home safe. Twenty years old is too young to put up with that political crap. I pray for his morale. His Mother, Janice Bister
Posted by: Janice Bister | Mar 29, 2004 8:18:00 AM
My son is in Camp Speicher in BLO 216th. ENBN. FOB SPEICHER. Is there anyone else out there reading this that may know something that I dont. Or even there son is there too. I'm not sure what ENBN means and I would love to speak with someone who feels the way I do. I'm in Mansfield Ohio. I would like to know what their mission is over there. Thanks so much. My sons name is SPC Matt Copley.
Posted by: Janice Bister | Mar 29, 2004 8:31:26 AM
To all the families who have posted to this site. I am assigned to FOB Danger in Tikrit. Right down the road from FOB SPEICHER and FOB LANCER (now called FOB SOMMERALL). I want to let you all know that to the best of my knowledge all your sons and daughters are doing fine. Despite all the mortar attacks we are all doing fine and we will be home soon. Keep us all in your prayers.
Posted by: Lee Mish | Apr 10, 2004 9:22:13 AM
I thank the brave soldiers that befriended my nephew, Spc. Tracy Laramore.Know that he chose to go to Iraq with you because he felt like he belonged with you..as family, comrade, and friend. We miss him terribly and mourn our loss, but in his spirit, we support you and your mission. May God Bless You all and bring you home to your families soon. May the all important mission be accomplished and may Tracy and the others be proud to see a job well done. We thank you for meaning so much to Tracy Laramore. Take care.
Posted by: Sheryl Brown | Jul 13, 2004 2:09:02 AM
Why are there no current postings on this site? I am looking for information on Camp Speicher - have a sister attached to a medical company helping with our injured soldiers. Anybody have current information on the camp?
Posted by: Mary Reed | Sep 13, 2004 4:46:36 PM
I read the story of that fateful day in March 2004 with a lump in my throat, as I recall the day my son PFC Brandon Weintraub called us for the first time after arriving in Iraq. His news was grim - he had been in Iraq a very short time and had lost 4 good friends. I know he is forever changed by the experience. My thoughts & prayers go out to all our soldiers serving their country, and their families back home who hold their breath with each news story that says we've lost another soldier. May God Bless them all.
Posted by: Lynette Weintraub | Sep 24, 2004 9:10:06 PM
Just reading you all prayer comments and stories has open my heart i am a SSG on my wat over to Iraq and you know you never here the truth and full stories in most of the briefs people ask are you ready and i ask how you prepare for WAR somethong that you have never been in and really have no control of to begin with i am well trained knowlegele and have faith beyond measure i wil keep you all in my prayere as we prepare to come oer to Camp Speicher may we all be blessed
Posted by: vickie brown | Oct 31, 2004 7:38:45 AM
Posted by: R.E.MIDDLEBROOK | Jan 14, 2005 8:10:30 PM
The last posted comment I read is 1/14/05 - it is now 6/30/05. My husband is proudly serving his time in Iraq deployed at Camp Speicher - Sgt. Mickey A Scott - to no end, I love you dearly Babe.
As always my prayers go out to all military personnel and their families - endure with faith in all that is good.
Happy Independance Day to all our selfless service men and women! It is because of you we continue to celebrate. God Bless!
Monique Scott and boys, Timothy, Ryan and Brody
Posted by: Monique R Scott | Jun 30, 2005 5:57:44 PM
'HAPPY INDENPENDENCE DAY'
WE LIFT A GLASS IN HONOR OF YOU - OUR MILITARY - GOD BLESS AMERICA AND OUR TROOPS.
Posted by: Monique R Scott | Jul 3, 2005 11:06:47 AM