Sunday, January 23, 2005


Normally it’s no problem for CID Agents to eat alone. Despite our winning ways and solicitous concern for our fellow soldiers, they tend to look at us with all the affection a mouse has for a cat. Poor PVT Woody didn’t have much choice, though; there just wasn’t anyplace else to sit, so he nervously laid his tray down in front of us and began eating without looking up. Now for those of you not familiar with the military, an E-2 Private has typically just gotten out of basic training, so with my incisive investigative instincts, I figured he hadn’t been in the Army long. Poor kid nearly spilled his plate when I spoke to him, and turns out I was right – he had just finished up his AIT (Advanced Individual Training) and shipped right out to Iraq. PVT Woody was all of 19, if that. Skinny and freckles, looked like he would have been out of his depth at a high school prom, and here he was just starting out his tour in Iraq, with a rifle slung over his shoulder that was nearly as big as he was. A man in a boy’s body. We didn’t have time to get into how he’d come to be in the Army, or what his plans were after the Army…or if he had a girlfriend, did anyone write him? As I picked up my tray and headed for the exit, I desperately hoped that PVT WOODY had a good platoon sergeant who would keep him alive long enough to grow up, and began to understand how good sergeants thought of their platoon as their kids.

One of the things that we get stuck with by default is taking fingerprints for immigration of the soldiers who have joined the army as a shortcut to becoming U.S. citizens. Actually, this is really something their S-2 shops are supposed to be doing, but they can’t be bothered with such details and give these poor guys the runaround until they finally wander, dazed and confused into our office. My theory is that if someone is willing to risk dying to earn his citizenship, I can find the time to take his fingerprints. Last week we had PFC Harry (real name changed) come into the office and ask if we could do his prints. He had immigrated to New York City from ….what, Nigeria? How quickly we forget. A quiet guy, and pleasant. He’d wound up with an infantry unit from New York state, and was a driver on an armored Humvee (M1114) when they went out on patrols. That was Monday, and I wished him luck as he left the office.

Wednesday I was checking the casualty reports and saw that there had been a traffic fatality, with an M1114 rolling into a canal and killing two soldiers who had been trapped inside – the doors were combat locked, which makes them harder to get open, and of course they had on about 40 lbs of body armor and ammo, and the canal was just narrow enough to keep the doors from opening at any rate. Two GI’s managed to find an air pocket and buy enough time to lose their gear and figure a way out, but PFC Harry wasn’t one of them. Their buddies went back for them and managed to get HARRY out, but he’d been under for too long by then and didn’t make it, although he revived briefly on the way to the hospital.

I looked over the sad file of paperwork we collect from the mortuary on incidents like this, and I didn’t see anything listing Harry's citizenship. I wonder if there’s some provision for a posthumous award of citizenship, or if it even matters. PFC HARRY didn’t die in combat, but he was a casualty of the war as surely as if he’d been shot, and paid the ultimate price to be an American.

I’ve seen just a bunch of death investigations since I’ve been here, since we were at one time working all the hostile fire deaths, but this was the first time where I could put a face and a voice to a soldier killed, and that made it a little harder. I’m glad there are people like PFC Harry who want to be Americans badly enough to put their life on the line, but it really makes me wonder how we came to that. Hard to say, but I’d guess that maybe 5% of the Army consists of people earning their citizenship in the military. Does that bother you? There is just something profoundly wrong when we become so soft, so fearful, that we have to look to others to fight our battles. Maybe I’m just misreading the situation, and I hope so. Lord knows there are a lot of American young men and women shouldering the burden.

Rumor has it that we may be returning to the States around the middle of February, and as usual, the rumor mill has been working overtime. All week we’ve heard that our relief had left the 21st, so we were expecting them…oh, say today. Then we hear from Battalion that no, that was all a mistake, they had to wait and come over with another unit, and maybe they’ll leave today. Sheesh. I’ll believe it when I walk through the door. Best case scenario, we could be on the Freedom Bird in about 20 days. Or so....

And another thing, we turned our ammo in this week in anticipation of the relief picking it up. Another classic example of bad judgment on my part. I’m grabbing up about a dozen loaded M16 mags, and this time they can have them back just before I get on the plane!


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