Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Update from a soldier serving in Iraq

Note: 1st Lieutenant Micah J. Garrison has been serving in Iraq for nine months. He and his unit hope to be home by the end of May. He came to my attention through a piece he wrote for, in response to comments by Senator Hillary Clinton about body armour.

Hello everyone. I hope all of you have had a happy Valentine's Day. I'm sure Hallmark has had a pleasant February 14. Today marks our 14th month away from home and our 9th month in Iraq. It's hard to comprehend how much time that is. My wife Tara put it into perspective in a recent conversation. We bought a house in May of 2004 and in September bought a Boston Terrier puppy to keep her company while I was deployed. Tara recently said, "It's sad that Bailey (our dog) has lived in our new house longer than you have." It's kind of funny to me when I look at it like that. We're definitely looking forward to coming home, but we still have a lot of work to do here.

At times it is very rewarding and we feel great about what we do and at other times it is extremely frustrating and makes you angry. I and two of my men were on a recent three day mission (yes, it was extremely cold) to try to catch insurgents putting in IEDs (roadside bombs) in an IED heavy area. We watched in frustration and anger when, less than twelve hours apart, two different patrols were blown up right in front of us because they wouldn't listen to what we told them on the radio. We were less than 400 meters (about 1 1/3 football fields) away from them when they blew up.

The two IEDs resulted in three casualties, one of which was fatal. It was frustrating because the IEDs had already been put in before we got there and we missed our chance to take out the bad guys. It was also frustrating for us because the patrols didn't listen to what we tried to tell them and we had to watch as they got blown up. We did help call in security and medical assets on the radio, so we did what we could to help afterward. This makes several IEDs we've been very close to when they exploded. The explosions were quite large and very loud. At least now I'll have something to blame my selective hearing (oops, I mean hearing loss) on when I get home.

The reason I've been sending these e-mails is because the most common question I get is "what is it like to be there?" While I'll never be able to fully put into words or express what it has been like, I have tried to explain and describe some of the things Infantry soldiers experience over here and what it takes to insure the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. I hope that I have portrayed some of these feelings and experiences to all of you. Tara said that at least I'll have some new stories to tell when I get home, but I'm sure she'll get tired of them soon enough. We're not exactly sure when we're coming home yet, but we're fairly confident that we're down to a double digit number. We've already started some of the initial work required before we can return (equipment accountability, countless inventories, etc), so we know we're finally getting close.

Our lives have been changed forever by everything we have seen, done, and experienced here. We also realize that we will never take so many things in our lives for granted ever again. It is hard to explain to people how truly blessed we are as Americans to live in the states and enjoy the freedoms we have. If everyone in the states could have walked in our shoes for the last year they would definitely to some re-prioritizing in their lives and wouldn't take so many things, both large and small, for granted.

A quote I read and shared with some of you earlier in my deployment says it best. It says, "You've never lived until you've almost died. For those who fight for it life has a flavor the protected will never know." I hope all of you have a great spring, I'm looking forward to seeing all of you when I return home. Take care, and don't work to hard. Micah.

Update/correction: Several people have asked if the patrols we saw get hit were from our unit. No they weren't. Also, the best way I can describe how it felt would be if you had a front row seat to a train wreck back home and could do nothing about it. We were 300-400 meters away. Obviously that is 3-4 football fields, not 1 1/3 football fields like I said. As a teacher I had in high school used to say, I was just seeing if y'all were paying attention.

1LT Micah J. Garrison
HHC TF 2-130 Infantry
Recon Platoon
APO AE 09381

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