Saturday, June 23, 2007


Lt. Colonel Dave McCarthy, USMC, sent me a photo essay he called “Bagdad Living,” thinking that it might take off in the magazine publishing world as a spin-off of “Country Living.” Please email me if you’d like to see the rest of the photos. Here is part of Dave’s narrative.

Our interpreter is called Ammar. He's Catholic, which means he is a target for al Qaida and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. To give you an idea of what Christians face here in Bagdad, Chaldean patriarchs Bishop Donamarding and Bishop Armanweli appealed to Prime Minister Maliki to intervene to protect Iraqi Christians from Muslim extremists. Pan-Arab and Iraqi media reported that many Baghdad Christians have been told to convert to Islam or be killed. Ammar is a trusted and highly valued asset of ours; I pray every day for his safety and that of his family.

During a tense moment in a bad neighborhood in Bagdad, out of the corner of my eye I noticed an Iraqi women huddled in a shallow ditch trying to shield her two small children. I turned and saw a combat cameraman take their photo, so when we returned to base I asked him to e-mail me a copy, which he did. I decided not to send it because it is too graphic and depressing. I keep the photo on my computer and look at it every so often because it illustrates to me what we're here for -- to protect innocent Iraqis. If you saw the fear on this poor woman's face then you could understand what the average Bagdad resident faces daily; it is absolutely heart-breaking.

I realize that America doesn't have infinite resources, but I wish we could fight every place innocent women and children are attacked. I wish the U.S. government would take volunteers and form up an Expeditionary Force to go to Darfur to protect the innocent people there from the Janjaweed (militia); I'd volunteer to go in a heartbeat.

I'll be in the International Zone (IZ) this week, hopefully for not more than 4 or 5 days, and then I head out West to Fallujah and Ramadi. One of the reasons I love to get out West is because the Marine Corps controls the West. I don't mean to knock the army, and I obviously have a bias towards Marines. It's not just the Warrior Brotherhood among Marines; a Knights of the Round Table sort of thing; it's also the more aggressive war fighting style that I like. I hear from a great many soldiers, sailors and airmen that they feel better, safer, when Marines are around. In 2001 I was in a remote area of Afghanistan when a very young airman, he couldn't have been more than 18 years old, looked at the U.S. MARINES tape on my uniform top and said “Man, I just breath so much easier when Marines are around.”

Greetings from Bagdad, yet again. Well, we were supposed to be wheels-up at 0930. At 0920 we received a radio call with the latest intel and we decided to postpone the mission for a week. So, I'm back at the Forward Operating Base for now. The photo of me above is by the cancelled-south-trip helo.

Today is shaping up to be a REALLY bad day: it's only noon and already we lost seven men. God, that hurts.

My time in the IZ wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. The Iraqis living there are not all good guys; there are good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods in the IZ. The part of the IZ where the US Embassy is located is like a strange dream: you can have Marines in full Battle Rattle side by side with civilians in suits or in Dockers and polo shirts, and in the evening there will be the occasional lady in a ball gown. One thing about the IZ - they get hit with a lot of indirect fire almost every day (mortars and rockets). Several nights I stayed in the IZ and one evening a 107 mm rocket destroyed a Shower trailer not 50 meters from the trailer where I was staying; yet another close call for yours truly.

Actually, that attack led to something interesting (for lack of a better word). Because that rocket landed so close I thought it wise for me to get into a bunker in case other rockets landed in the vicinity. As I was getting in the bunker another rocket landed close by. To this day I don't know if it was the concussion that threw me into the bunker or if it was that the sound of the explosion was enough for me to jump into the bunker, but in any event I slammed my foot into the concrete. It hurt like heck, but the attack ended and I did as I usually do when I'm injured: I sucked it up and marched on. Unfortunately my foot got worse, turning red and becoming increasingly painful. I could handle the pain, but after 10 days one of the toes and a toe nail had turned black.
Now I'm no medical expert, but I was fairly certain that flesh turning black is not a good thing, so I figured it was time to seek medical attention. The Doc at the Troop Medical Clinic aboard this Forward Operating Base had the medic just take a scalpel and cut off the entire nail. The next day it hurt really bad, and when I took my boot off out poured about 2 cups of blood. Yep, time to seek medical attention yet again. This time a different Doc took one look at it and said that I'd need to see a foot specialist. The podiatrist took one look at my foot and told the Medics to bring me into the Operating Room, where she proceeded to do her medical thing, including amputating half of one of my toes.

So, now I'm grounded for a while, in a soft cast and hobbling around on crutches. The worst part is that I will miss a mission tomorrow, and likely the next few missions. This is like déjà vu from my second tour in Iraq, when I slammed my leg during a direct fire attack and developed a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and had to be casevaced out. The funny thing is that with this injury, the guys are telling me that I rate a Purple Heart Medal since the injury was sustained as a result of enemy fire. Gimmee a break! There is NO WAY I would pull a John Kerry and put a Purple Heart medal on my chest for a little owwee and half a toe; not when soldiers and Marines are having limbs blown off in IED explosions.

Well, the stitches in my foot came out this morning, so I've been assigned a mission leaving tomorrow morning and wanted to just shoot off a quick message to say hello - or goodbye as the case may be - before I go. This should be a short one - maybe a few days, but as they say, “the best laid plans . . .” It's been a while since I've recited the chaplain's words to us, so I'll do so now: “You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good you can do.” All the good we can do is chock full of good intentions, and it doesn't sound like a path to hell, does it?

Well, I'd best get going so I can be sure my gear is all in order. Take care and be well.
Semper Fidelis,

My grandson, Sgt. John Walton, Army 82nd Airborne Division is scheduled to finish his second tour in Iraq next month. He volunteered to stay on until September so that a buddy whose wife had a baby could return home in Johnny’s place. Having spent his time in Iraq repairing helicopters and dodging rockets, I think Johnny wanted to get a taste of battle before his time was up. His offer was refused since it would take too much time to train him for combat. I’m glad and so is his mom.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brother Bill - I just got back a few hours ago and am composing another Greetings message but I had to reply to yours right away. GOD BLESS your grandson. What a noble and selfless thing for him to do to volunteer. That's the quintessential warrior ethos at work - looking out for one another, even laying down one's life for another when the situation warrants it. Sgt. Walton is an example and an inspiration for all service members. Please let him know that when I get home I have a Marine Corps Challenge Coin for him (and one for you). Let me know when he is home safe. He, and you and all of your family, are now and will always be in my thoughts and prayers.

Semper Fidelis,

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuff like this X 1000 should be 95% of the NEWS.

I'd like to see the other pics when it's convenient for you. Thanks. It's heartening to get a glimpse of a real right guy.

I worry for them all. I think about your Grandson and hope for the best.


9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William...Please send these photos to me. I have friends that SHOULD see them. It's not that I dislike Liberals, I just think they needed to be hit along side the head every so often.

Bill F. ( 9 + years in the corp)

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill.... the Colonel is a true "Great American"!


9:13 PM  

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