Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homeless Veterans

Thursday, October 28, 2010


An email from Major Vincent Heintz, a leader and a friend came my way this morning!


Six years ago today the enemy killed SPC Segun Frederick Akintade at ASR Boa. Time passes. Grief, anger and survivor’s guilt remain. We think about a family that has been shattered forever.

I will always carry a debt of gratitude to the men in that patrol who fought so selflessly to save him. As a company, we remain deeply grateful to the intrepid aviators and docs who rushed forward to keep him alive. As Akintade began to pass, these rescuers defied not just risk but policies and protocols by taking him from the battlefield in the most respectful, decent way possible under hard circumstances.

After we came home, I learned that Akintade was not completely sold on the war in Iraq. Was his exceptional performance just the swagger of a young man trying to be a tough guy, politics be damned? Hardly. The men of first platoon in particular will remember Akintade as a modest, steady, centered man who knew his job and did his job. He superbly met the high oath that he took as a Soldier upon enlistment in 2001. He far surpassed the one he took as a new US citizen at Fort Drum in January 2004. Given the ambiguity of the war and his own views, and his humility, how and why did Akintade serve so consistently, so bravely?

After six years, the only reason that I can see is that he served, fought and died to protect his brothers.

Men, stay as safe as you can given your obligations, and stay focused. I thank you for passing this on to other members of A/2-108 IN (OIF II).

-MAJ Heintz

“There are still men out there... When I go home, people ask me, ‘Hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? You some kind of war junkie? I won’t say a God-damned word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand. It’s about the man next to you. And that’s it. That’s all it is... Hey, don’t even think about it, alright? I am better on my own. Hey, we started a whole new week. It’s Monday.”

-Hoot, Blackhawk Down

Monday, September 12, 2005


18 March 0600

It’s six in the AM, and I’m sitting in my hummer, let me tell
you about my night: No shit there I was, standing completely
naked in the shower, toweling myself dry. The company XO (think
Riker on Star Trek) pokes his head round the door and says:
“Get your gear on I think there’s a raid on, you’re prob’ly goin!”
So I grab my shit and the CO confirms, we’re going out. We prep,
issue an order and roll out at midnight. We’re hunting for two
Iranians and a local sheik with RPG’s who are going to rocket the
largest US camp in our region. Finally a real mission.

It seems some E4 intel, from Baghdad weenie has a CI-snitch who can lead us
right in. So our S2(our own intel weenie, Captain type) calls us
in and w e roll down the main highway doing 100 kph, with these 3
on point. We roll right past the turn-off as described, and in
towards a different village then the one we were shown on the map.
We drive down a dirt road/dyke along side a canal, and then un-
ass our vehicles about three hundred meters up from some little
hamlet. We make a lot more noise than we should as we try to
organize our forces as we move out from the vehicles. About 100
meters along we’re finally straightened out when, SNAP Crackle and
POP!!!!!! Guys are hugging the dirt. Hey some motherf—cker down
there is shooting. More rounds. SSG Yap unloads about 20 rounds
downrange, the CO throws a few down. Some guys are paralyzed


And then we’re taking rounds from the flanks, so SSG Hunt
yells for everyone to get in the canal. Our S2 is so scared he’s
trying to dig through the canal and screaming something about
getting out of here. F---ing REMF! This guy tried to tell the
Col that intel guys are worth 20-40 grunts. Not in a gunfight you
ain’t! Now canal may be an exaggeration. It’s a concrete trench
about two and half feet deep. So now I’m sitting in dirty fucking
water getting shot at from three directions. So glad I just
f—cking showered for this!

“POP SMOKE! Haas move your platoon to the objective. Support by
fire. Byrnes pop an HE round out at the fire on the right flank.


Yours truly lets a 40 mm high explosive round fly from the
launcher below his weapon. The rounds stop flying from the
right. All the rounds stop flying.

“Get ready to move out men!”
“I pissed in my pants.”
“IT’S OK!”

SSG Cross and some other guys think we’re being mortared. Sgt Hallinan has
disclocated his shoulder, but popped it back in himself on the side
of the canal. Guys are crazy. It’s five minutes of total chaos.
We move up I’m standing up chasing the CO down the center of
the trench/canal, nice targets and he’s shorter. We get up on the
town. I pop another HE round, to cover movement and we’re doing
CQB, taking buildings.

In a couple of hours we clear all 7 buildings. We find some AKs and ammo a few women and children huddled in fear in the dark, and no men. SOme men, though, are watching
us from the field, with night vision goggles no less. The S2
pulls himself together (he was “a little shaken up”) and comes up
to search. The snitch and the MI weenie are long gone. The women
tell us they thought we were cattle thieves. A couple of Apache’s
fly overhead cover; after the raid! We get no Iranians, no Sheik,
no rockets! The adrenaline is wearing off and I need to get some

Post Script, 20 March:

All concerned from civilians to Iraqi Soldiers tell us we really were
mistaken for cattle thieves. They’re very sorry!

Sunday, September 11, 2005


The gray ash cloud rises sadly,
In place of the silver spires,
A drab, ephemeral monument
To fallen saints,
Irish sinners most of them,
Saints today, and evermore.

The steel groans with Satan’s voice
Echoing howls of rage
As the ovens and fires of a deep, dark hell
Offer up burnt remains to the sky gods,
Father and punisher alike
Myrmidons scurry and crawl,
Scavenging amid the carrion for
The hope of resurrection
And its obverse.

The angry hermit

Children of the giant,
Heroes all,
Forge their iron.

John Byrnes
17 September, 2001
6th day at Ground Zero.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Anatomy of An IED


So a little before midnight I found myself rolling north up Highway 1 in the open bed of a tiny unarmored pickup truck overcrowded with six American soldiers in the bed and an Iraqi driver who’s understanding of the word “safety” was shaky at best. The captain had to caution the lead
vehicle to slow down twice, because we were pretty precariously placed back there with all our gear. So in the nature of soldiers everywhere, we were joking about the truck, Iraqi drivers etc., and after riding MSR Tampa (Highway 1, aka IED alley) in this truck Chris :
“If I hear any of those 243 Quartermaster faggots crying about un-armored humvees in person, I’ll punch that motherfucker in the mouth.
We all laughed and ..


When I say boom, I mean louder than any boom you’ve ever heard. The ground shook, the air quivered. Reality broke in two and slammed back together again. The driver stood on the brakes. The sound and blast had come from our front. We all looked at each other, frozen for a microsecond and then instinctively, we covered up.
We “un-assed” the vehicle, three of us grabbing for our radios. We ran for the side of the road and got down and
“Another fuckin one!”
“Let’s go!”
“Hunter Xray, Hunter Xray, this is Alpha 6Romeo!” This is me on the radio, calling in to the Battalion HQ. which is after all my primary job.
“A6R, this in Hunter Xray.” After a few tries they answer.
“Hunter Xray, A6R, we have two IED detonations at the intersection of Tampa and Canal, Over!” I say this with a voice edgy with excitement, breathless while running.

“A6R, this is Hunter XRay, we have no report of that at this time.” Comes the reply.

I stop and stare at the handset for a half a second.

“This IS the FUCKING REPORT! It JUST Happened!” I shout.
Fucking Idiot.
I start running again.
“BYRNES!” This is the Captain shouting from about 100 meters away. His voice tells me I’m going to need my aid bag, it’s in the same ruck as the radio.
“ROGER! ENROUTE!” And I’m running up the road towards his voice.
“Byrnes over here, Sgt. Olin’s hit.”
“OK, where? How bad?” “His arm is bleeding!”
“Put him over there, under that tree guys.
Byrnes take care of him, and check out Restifo too.”
“OK Lay him Down. Awright man! You’re gonna be okay! Let me see!”
I cut away his sleeve. His right forearm had a nasty piece of shrapnel about the size of a .30 caliber bullet. I found surprisingly little bleeding, so I slapped a dressing on it. Then I cut away his IBA(armored vest) and clothes looking for other wounds.. Just about then our guys started launching 40 mm grenades into the treeline to try and pin down the enemy triggerman.
Boom. Boom. Boom. For a change I wasn’t part of this effort.
I was focused on Olin. He was in pain and going into shock. I started setting up an IV with some help from Cornall, Restifo, and Seeman.
“Restifo you were hit too? Where?” I remembered to ask.
“Just a scratch.” He pointed to his neck. It was just a scratch.
“OK hold this light for me.
“It really hurts man!” From my patient.
“Ok, you’re gonna be OK!”


You know in the movies when the medic throws himself across
the wounded soldier? Well that’s what you do! Instinctively. I’m not a medic, but when that third IED went off I knew it was a 155 mm artillery round, and I threw myself over the kid.. After that little wake up, we really started throwing grenades at the woods. Boom. Boom. BaBoom! The mortars even shot a couple of 60 mm rounds out there.
“Can you maybe, like put his IBA back over him?” Sgt Grimble asked.
“Yeah as soon as I get an IV in him,”
“I’m really thirsty. Can I have a drink?” Olin pleaded.
“Yeah just give him a little sip. I’m going to get some fluids in you.”
I got the needle for the IV in Olin’s arm. I popped in the IV tube. I reached for the tape.
“It came out!’”
“Byrnes it came out!”
I rummaged through my bag. I had extra needles for this.
“Look in my bag!” I checked in Cornall’s bag” I pulled one
out, opened it up, and it fell apart.
“Fuck!” I KNOW, but in combat, you use that word a lot.
I turned back to my bag, and grabbed the needle from the second IV set. I grabbed his arm. Seeman, helping out pinched and patted a vein
to the surface.
“Don’t shake man just shove it in!”
“Shut up!” I slid it in clean despite the adrenaline fueled tremor in my
hand. I popped the tube in and taped it down quick.
“Where’s Funk anyway?” I asked about the company medic?
“He’s treating Abousaid.”
What’s with Abou?”
“It’s just a scratch, I think.”
We got most of a 500 ml bag of Ringer’s Lactate into him in
the next ten minutes, got his feet elevated, checked his vitals and were
treating for shock and talking to him. Then the Cas-Evac unit, with our battalion
medics, showed upin an FLA (a field ambulance on a hummvee body). They adjusted
the dressing and helped splint the arm. I switched him to a second bag
of Ringer’s and slowed the drip. He was still in pain, asking for some pain
relief, but he was holding together. And even though we had to help him up, he
walked into the ambulance on his own power. They took off with him. The Captain
reappeared. The firing had stopped.