Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Road To Hell

The DOD has officially announced the deaths of our guys. This is the post I mentioned earlier: written on the 8th and held until the brief came out.

I reported this morning for guard duty at 1115. The sergeant of the guard told us that someone had been hurt in Falluja, and taken to the Falluja Surgical Center. Falluja. My thoughts ran wild: is it my guys, or another platoon? Who was in front today? Who was it? Right before we leave for the towers, the sergeant comes back outside and tells us that the wounded man didn't make it. I know the name- shit- it's my guys. The tip of my cigarette is glowing, but it doesn't seem to ash. Time is supposed to slow down when you're in the moment, not when you're hearing of it.

The next four hours are glacial- slower and colder than I could have thought. The 1st Sergeant comes out to the tower to update us: It's not just one guy, it's three, and another in bad shape. The news is like a punch in the stomach.The lead truck took a hit from a massive bomb. Two of my friends died instantaneously. A third passed away on the helicopter flight back to the base medical center, and a fourth man lies badly wounded but stable at the FSC.

The guard shift change comes with directions to go find the 1st SGT again- something has changed. I make my way to the company operations center, and find the entire staff and the few members of my platoon who stayed behind gathered around the big screen that shows the positions of vehicles on the ground. Another truck has taken a hit, and they've medevaced another wounded soldier by helicopter.

I learn that the mission they were on was clearing the route to the site of an American helicopter that crashed the day before. The previous night they had cleared a path out so that the bodies of the crew could be recovered. Today, they had gone back to clear a path home for the Marines left to guard the airframe until arrangements could be made for its recovery and/or destruction. After the the first truck had been hit, they had pressed on to reach the Marines at the crash site, only to turn back when the second truck was hit. A Marine route clearance unit is diverted to the site, and eventually clears through. Meanwhile, we all sit and watch the screen track our platoons slow and painful progress back towards safety. I take my leave again, and go with a few friends. We sit, and begin to speak of the dead.

One of the dead men had been a friend of mine as long as I'd been in the unit. We'd laughed together, drank together, and talked about the future. He'd got me started smoking at NTC at the same time that he was trying to quit. Tonight, I'm helping organize the things he left behind. His girlfriend of a year meets me at his room to give me another box. She's from another company; they met just prior to our deployment alert, and have struggled to build their relationship through the midst of war. She looks smaller than I've ever seen her, as if she's lost a physical part of herself.

Under a sky streaked blood-red and angry with sunset, I carry my friends belongings from his room. In my head I can already see another sun setting over the memorial to come; the breeze twisting dogtags around a rifle like a devils windchime, and carrying once again the plaintive notes of the bagpipe playing Amazing Grace.

Rest in peace
SGT Holtom
SGT Clevenger
PFC Werner


  1. I'm so sorry for the losses your platoon suffered. Continued prayers for the families and the rest of the men in your platoon.

    I'm so sorry. There are no words.

  2. Tracy said it best...the only words are that there are none...our prayers are with you.

  3. NO words...just to let you know we're watching and reading and praying. This is so very sad.

  4. Anonymous12/2/07 23:49

    TD, so very, very sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to all of you. You're in my prayers.

  5. Anonymous13/2/07 00:03

    Oh wow, I didn't really realize it was them. I'm so sorry. I think your tribute would have pleased them. I love you.

  6. Oh man TD, I'm sorry to hear that.

  7. Anonymous13/2/07 05:35

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your friends. May God bless each one of you and help to ease your pain at this time.

  8. TD, may God hold you in the palm of His hand and grant you comfort. A huge amount of prayers are being sent your way, for you and your fellow soldiers. We will help the families of these heroes on the homefront.

  9. Sad, so sad, no words can make it better. Rest with the assurance you have our love and support.

  10. God bless the fallen and those injured, and god bless you and your fellow soldiers for the work that you have been doing.

    Not all of us back here state side have forgotten the value of your mission and the sacrifices you make in order to protect us and many other innocents trapped in the middle of this ideological conflict.

    We stand with you, will always be thinking of you, and look forward to the day when you are able to come home because it is time and the mission is fulfilled, not because those of us who remain safe and sound here have lost focus or context or would rather watch American Idol and forget because it is easier than accepting the guilt deep down that we live our normal lives while you willingly, despite families and personal needs, volunteer to put yourself into harms way to keep evil in check and all of us safe.

  11. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/13/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  12. sadly all i have are tears, i wish i had more to give you...


  13. This post must have been the hardest thing for you to write, TD. Thank you for doing so.

    My condolences and prayers to/for you and your unit.

  14. Anonymous13/2/07 11:50

    Just wanted to let you know that as today the PGR have posted as pending mission rides for Sgt. Holtom and PFC Werner. It means that if families request their escort PGRiders will stand for your friends to show respect.
    I'm a member of the PGR in CO. I'm also a junkie supporter. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.

  15. Anonymous13/2/07 12:58

    Baruch Dayan Emet. An ancient Jewish prayer that translates as: "G-d is the righteous Judge." We say this to those who are in mourning. Just wanted you to know that we are with you.

  16. As stated above, words mean nothing at a time like this. My deepest sympathies go out to you and to the families of our fallen heros.

    My God bless you all.

  17. Anonymous13/2/07 18:10

    TD, I'm so very sorry, there's not much more I can say except I'm sorry. Ya'll stay strong, from a lot of people that care.

  18. I thank the soldiers for their service and sacrifice. I think of their families. I wish for your safe return.

    Take care and be safe.

  19. Rest in Peace brave soldiers.

    Praying for the safety of all our brave men and wome

  20. Anonymous13/2/07 22:47

    Kill as many of these motherfuckers as you can and cut the heads off thier religous leaders and shit in thier necks. They all have to die

  21. Words fail. I and my family pray for you and the families of the fallen.

  22. Anonymous14/2/07 17:12

    In 1971 i right after JF Kerry (3 opurple hearts in 100days and no scars) made his famous speach in the senate a fellow unit of ours got ambushed by NVA -taking heavy losses.
    At least know we care and would not let that SOB be president.

  23. Anonymous15/2/07 07:31

    Bravery doesn't mean you are not afraid. It means you go anyway.

    I offer my sympathy and prayers for your fellow warriors who fell attempting to aid others, and support for you and those that soldier on.

    Semper Fi

  24. Anonymous15/2/07 07:46

    I'm sure you are just as upset about the 500,000 Iraqis murdered by the Coalition, scumbag.

    Death to the crusaders

    Glory to the lions of the Iraqi Resistance

  25. ((((((HUGS))))))) I am so very sorry for your loss... (((more hugs))) you are always in our hearts and prayers.....

  26. Anonymous15/2/07 10:05

    I'm sorry for what you must endure to keep us at home from experiencing such acts. You have our condolences and our thanks.

    "the devil's windchimes" - Indeed.

  27. i'm really sorry to hear about your friends. no words could express how we feel for you. all i can do is encourage you to stay strong and brave.

  28. Anonymous15/2/07 13:51

    My deepest condolences to all their friends and family.

  29. Anonymous18/2/07 00:10

    1st Lt Jared Landaker, co-pilot of ch-46,is also to be remembered today,17/2/07 at his memorial service in Big Bear Lake, CA. An estamated 1000 attended in this small mountain community. His loss as are the rest of the crew is great. He belived that this was his calling to fly the wounded. A really great guy!

  30. Anonymous18/2/07 15:32

    You read about these things from the safety of a sofa or chair, protected by distance and the safety of home. Then you read a fave blog and discover the losses are, once again, very personal.

    Deepest condolenscences to their families, loved ones and friends.

  31. Anonymous24/2/07 11:43


    I'm so very sorry for your loss. Those of us at home can never understand how badly you're hurting. Rest assured, I will do my best to honor their sacrifice in the way I raise my children and nephews.

  32. Anonymous5/9/07 07:10

    No disrespect, but I dont like to refer to Jim's last trip as "a road to hell". war is "hell" as we may know it. It's what men do and have been doing since Cain and Able. No big deal...just dont like the title.