Anniversaries of traumatic events are often very significant in our battle to live with PTSD. For many people, the memories and emotions associated with the anniversary can be just as traumatic as the original event. Here is my story. What is yours?
My anniversary is January 26, 2006; a day I will never forget. My old truck crew calls it Crash Day. It was seven years ago. Sometimes, it feels like yesterday. Other times, it feels like it was decades ago. Either way, my battle with PTSD is even harder on January 26.
The day started like just about every other day in Baghdad; IED’s, drive-bys and snipers. That morning, we chased a car that was doing drive bys on Iraqi Army checkpoints across the western part of the city.We played cat and mouse all over the city, them shooting up a check point, us arriving just a few minutes too late. We always found a checkpoint in chaos. Two or three soldiers were dead and a few more wounded with conflicting report on the color of car doing the shooting. We must have searched over a hundred blue, green, and silver BMWs that morning.
After several hours of fruitless searching, we responded to a call saying an American convoy had hit an IED and had disabled vehicles. Only minutes after our arrival, we became the victims of the drive by. One of my Soldiers was on the ground, shot through the ass (as we were loading him onto the helicopter later, he vehemently denied having been shot in the ass) before we even heard the shooting, but the rest of the section hit the dirt with him. From my vantage point, I thought my entire B Section had just been gunned down.
Immediately after the radio call every veteran dreads, “Contact!”, my wing man called out, “I see the shooter.”
Our 10 ton hummvees began to follow the black Acura. They stopped a block away, on the side of a school, giving eachother terrorist hi fives and congratulating themselves on a jihad well done, until they saw my wingman and I come around the corner. Then they did what every reasonable terrorist would do, and opened fire into the crowd of kids who were at recess, hoping the distract us so they could get away.
My gunner immediately opened fire with our ma deuce, and with my commander giving sit reps on the radio from the back of the truck, the ride of our lives began.
We chased that car for what seemed like hours, trading bursts of machine gun fire, us from our turret, and them from the PKM sticking out of their blown out back window.
From the front seat of the humvee, I watched the muzzle flash and then the bullets bury themselves deeper and deeper in the armored windshield, like deadly bugs on the highway.
Somewhere along the way, the turret broke, causing my gunner to spin around in the turret every time we took a turn, in what was the most masterful bit of driving I have ever seen; a high speed chase through the narrow streets of Baghdad. We never went below 50 mph.
After what seems like hours, but was probably at most two minutes, the 50 ran dry and my gunner couldn’t safely reload at those speeds, so he began to engage with his rifle. They were getting away.
A few seconds later, our opportunity presented itself, the car slowed to a stop at a crowded intersection. As if by group consensus, everyone in my truck at the same time yelled to the driver, ” Ram them!” That is exactly what my country boy driver did.
When the haze of the impact cleared, my driver and sniper from the back seat were already moving to secure the occupants of the car, who were also making ready, and grabbing grenades. I tried to open my door to join them, but it was pinned shut by the wrecked car. I opened the window and used my pistol to shoot the two passengers of the car, as my sniper put his foot on the bumper of the car and split the front passenger’s head in half with an M14 in what would become the worlds shortest range sniper kill, splattering all of us with terrorist goo.
When the dust settled, we’d had a bystander threaten to sue us because his back hurt, replaced truck tires under sniper fire, and watched a cat eat a chunk of brain belonging to one of the dead terrorists.
We returned to base triumphant, four terrorists in body bags and a captured weapons tagged for processing. We did our debriefs and chuckled a little bit when we turned our bullet riddled trucks in for maintenance and ended our day. As I lay down in my cot that night and closed my eyes, the real fight began.
*I have omitted the names of my band of brothers who were with me that day because I do not want to put their names into this arena if they do not choose. Suffice to say they are all great Americans and my brothers, who were there with me on my St Crispin’s Day. *
Please help someone else out and share your anniversary.