Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Email from Iraq

The Obama administration is shifting focus on Afghanistan, and it appears that things have settled down in Iraq. We don't hear much about Iraq in the media these days. (The exception being the recent bombings, as I posted below.) But what is it like for the GI on the ground? Peter King, the excellent football writer for Sports Illustrated, has had an ongoing email correspondence with a trooper on his third tour over there, and he posts updates in his Monday Morning Quarterback column. The dispatch this week is disturbing:

I think one of the reactions I get from people two, three, four times a month, every month, is about Mike McGuire, the Army First Sergeant heading a platoon dismantling improvised explosive devices in Iraq. That's why this news, from his last e-mail, sent just after I posted last week's column, is going to hit you hard.

"Peter: We lost another good man on 26, Feb. 2009, Corporal Brian Connelly from Long Beach, N.J. His vehicle was struck by an EFP [an explosively formed penetrator, designed to cut through armor-plated vehicles], killing him instantly. Again, getting so close to the end and tragedy. He is survived by his wife of four months. He just got married while on leave and changed his name from Blonske to Connelly to honor his mom, who was always there for him. The memorial ceremony here in Taji is tomorrow.

"The hardest thing was zipping him up and saying goodbye, then we put him on a flight back to the States for his family. The soldiers here are doing as well as can be expected. Three others were injured in the blast -- Staff Sergeant Miller, Specialist Iverson and Specialist Davis all were not injured too badly and actually went out on mission in less than eight hours.

"The streets of Sadr City are so freakin' dangerous. Every minute of being out there is constant holding breath and scanning. Hard to believe that any day could be our last. Proof with Corporal Connelly. I am holding up well, staying busy. One day all this madness will hit me, I am sure. I don't know how I will react but it is building up. Hard to be tough and the First Sergeant when really all I want to do is see my family and grieve our fallen men. I guess when I return home and sitting alone in the dark on my porch I will remember them all and make peace with all this.''

Hard not to get choked up reading that.

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