Hits Home Hard!!!
Today as I was laying asleep in my tent someone came in yelling for me to get up. I sat straight up in bed to see two individuals walking towards my bed. I had seen these two guys around the base before, but never really spoken with them. After I wake up enough to talk to them they tell me that Kevin is at the gate wanting to see me, so I threw on some clothes really quick and head out the door.
A little background: Most every base has a market that is run by Iraqi's. Most of them sell just basic electronic goods, dvds, and whatever we might need that we can't get at the PX (post exchange). Early in the deployment a good friend introduced me to one of these shop owners named Kevin. Kevin, who had a watch stand, spoke very good english and was very popular among the soldiers. Over the course of the deployment we have become good friends. I found myself spending time everyday in the "haji market", as we called it talking him. We would talk about religion, our family, Iraqi culture, and most of all America. I learned so much from talking to him all of those days, and in doing so learned that he wasn't all that different from me.
One morning I awoke to the sound of a huge blast. I woke right up and ran to the bunker sitting right outside of my tent. Throughout this deployment we have received several attacks on the base, and I shrugged this one off as another one. Later on that day I learned that a tractor, which was used on the base by local nationals to haul trash, had been lined with explosives and driven right to the gate here at our base. At the gate, along with soldiers and Iraqis, was Kevin. A fellow soldier later on in the day who know of my relationship with Kevin informed me that he was involved in the blast. When something like that happens you always assume that the worst has happened. A fellow soldier a couple of days later found out that he had survived, but not without being banged up pretty bad. Since we cannot leave the base at all I had written off the chance of ever seeing him again. Which brings me back to the story....
After not seeing him or knowing how he was for over two months now I was more than anxious to see him. Before I was totally dressed, to military standard, I was out the door. I stopped at my friends tent, who introduced me to him, so he could see him as well. Upon arriving to the gate I felt a huge load come off of my shoulders, but at the same time a heavier load being put on my heart. Seeing him in the condition he was in was the first time during this whole deployment made me realize how lucky I have been. Kevins injuries consisted of a broken arm, two broken legs, a removed kidney, and a removed spleen. The month prior to the blast Kevin had been working for the military as an interpreter, and he was here to pick up his check. Upon seeing Kevin I was extremely happy, but it pained me to see him sitting there in such pain. Not being able to walk yet he was sitting in a folding chair that doubles as his wheelchair. Wherever he had to go two people had to pick the chair up and move him because he cannot afford a proper wheelchair. We asked him if he needed anything, and his reply was that our friendship was all that he needed. My friend and I, David Macdonell, went to the PX and fixed him up with soap, shampoo, and toothpaste...the normal stuff. We exchanged emails and then he was on his way. It was probably the last time that I will get to see my Iraqi friend.
I said all of that to basically say that I am very lucky. Over the year my company hasn't had one war related incident. When this happened with Kevin it really hit home for me, and then upon seeing him in his condition it hit even harder. With all the mortars flying into this base this past year myself as well as my fellow soldiers could have easily been injured. I am now easily spooked and will probably be for years to come, but if that is all that I come away with from Iraq I will consider myself blessed.