Letters From a Soldier

Several weeks ago, I got a letter from a fellow who had been corresponding with an US Army soldier stationed in Iraq. He and the soldier got into a conversation and my name came up. The soldier asked if the letters could be forwarded to me. They were sent. I read them and asked if I could post them. We worked it out and here they are. The soldier is typing this from one of those cyber cafes on base, during one of his breaks, so there's some typos and they're just one young person's views on what he's going through so please just take it for what it is. Thanks for reading. --Henry (Rollins)

It isn't that my job here is really important, it is just kind of surviving. The conditions are pretty much s**t. I live in a space about 8x8. I am on 24 hr a day call and have to be out the hooch (room) and out the front gate in 15 minutes. I sleep fully clothed and armed at all times. I started wearing my biker shorts so my pistol holster doesn't rub my leg raw. I have one day a week off, and its not like you can go to McDonalds or the bar when you are off. So I end up spending my day off doing laundry or whatever else I may be able to get myself into. We have a gym in a tent, but it doesn't have very much equipment. Overall this base is pretty lame.

Insurgents almost everyday mortar us. They might take a couple of days off until some Muslim cleric starts wailing over the loud speakers to attack Americans. Thatís when they get all wound up and start to fight. They hate us here. The only thing that they understand is violence.

The town of Ramadi has a population of about 300,000 people of which nearly 100% are Sunni. Ramadi is one of the most dangerous places to be stationed in Iraq. Our latest battle was just in the news. The press reported that we only killed 2 insurgents, but we whacked 15 of those bastards. The fight lasted about 45-60 minutes. f**king crazy. I always seem to end up in the middle of s**t. They initiated the ambush with rockets. I could see, hear, and feel the rocket wiz about a foot from my shoulder, then the bullets started coming. One rocket hit the Humvee, bounced up hit the gun shield and then hit the 50 cal right in its side but it never detonated. The stupid f**ks don't know that they have to pull the safety pin on the rockets before they shoot them. Thank god they are bad shots. The gunner came out of the turret and hit the ground behind the hummer. I kept yelling at him to look at me. I had to run over to his hummer and check him out. He was dusted by something but was ok. You could tell he thought that he didn't have a face left. That was when I started shooting. I got one f**k for sure and maybe another one, but a grenade round detonated behind him right when I was shooting. We ran out of ammo. It was a hell of a fight. I am not sure if my dick got hard during the fight but was hard for 4 hours afterwards. It was like the scene in Blackhawk Down when the RPG blows up near that one guy. He gets covered in dirt and is unable to hear anything all awhile bullets are hitting all around him, which is exactly what this fight reminded me of. We had one guy who was hit in the ankle.
I try not to think too much of the future these days.

Dude, we are taking a beating here. Politics is what is getting us killed. If only we could keep going with things instead of trying to appease the populace back there. People back home need to get a backbone and realize we have to fight the only way they know how. And that way it isn't very nice. War isn't nice and it isn't pretty. I have a mission that I have to go on to give medical attention to some families. It is an attempt for us to win the Iraqís hearts. I hate the mere thought of it. These people know the insurgents and they are afraid, that I can understand. They wonít give us information because they fear that the insurgents will think they are helping the Americans. At the same time they fail to understand that if they do help us we could assist them in industrializing their society.

Their average income is around 250 dollars a year. The insurgents offer them $500 to plant an IED or a mine in the road. We have found some people in raids with American money on them. The mosques are funded by the insurgents and are used as a tool to disseminate American messages and propaganda. It is a static war. We are unable take any ground and hold it. The Iraqi army gets into firefights and they drop their weapons and run. It is crazy over here. I just worked on one insurgent who was shot in the chest. Sometimes I feel like just letting them die. They are worthless. It is like the Wild West here.
I start to think about my plans for when I get back home. Then I think, Ďwell, lets first make it backí. And then I try not to think of home. I see so much death and pain here. It isnít anything that I canít handle, it just seems senseless to keep fighting this way. When it comes down to it, it is about the men you are with. That is all you have here.
Bill out.

I try to give you the details from my eyes of my surroundings and from my ears from the things we hear and what our Iraqi interpreter tells us. There is so much that I am probably missing or don't have the time to write because we are limited on the computers here. It is hard for me to break away from my hooch and get to the internet cafe. I am on a QRF (Quick Response Force) team and we are on 24 hour alert if the s**t hits the fan.

We got shot at again today and the Iraq army guys just sat there and didn't do a f**king thing. Then there were some people in the alley who watched the whole thing go down. I pointed my weapon in their direction and said a few words in Arabic that I have picked up from the interpreter. These stupid asses canít even fight for there own town. When I get back there we will have to sit and talk about this for some time. Things are always going to be there after this. Maybe we could tape it and keep it for historical purposes.

You know me too, I definitely wonít take any s**t from these hajji's. So far I only have two kills, but I may have more. The insurgents are like cockroaches, they pop up from nowhere, attack you and then they try to run away. An IED (improvised explosive device) disabled a tank the other night and we had to go out and pull security for the recovery vehicle. I like this job and what I do here because it is always different. Sometimes we have to pull security for the signal jamming vehicles and the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) guys as they clear a MSR (main supply route) We had small arms fire the other night on one of the OP's (outpost) and we got called in to support the towers in the fight. We got stuck in the mud for a bit and when we got there the insurgents had already ran away. We had to go out and look for bodies to see if any were killed or wounded. We had a chopper go down and had to pull perimeter security until it could be destroyed and all sensitive items and equipment could be removed. Some things I will have to talk about when I get back there.

It always seems like I am in the middle of the worse situations in life. I may have to sit back and reflect on that one. There may be days or even a week or two that go by and not hear from me. It all just depends on how busy I get. We are the Brigades bitches. I am trying to get a video of us all getting ready as soon as we get the mission call. I want to see if I can take pics and video through my night vision too. Explosions are bright through them. It is pretty bad when you get accustomed to being shot at, bullets hitting the doors of the Humvee, almost being hit by explosions and shrapnel smacking the windshield. There is a God.

Anyway, I must jet for now, but will talk to ya soon. You watch your six and stay safe back there. Rest assured, that while I am here, by my hand these terrorist bastards will not have time to concentrate on harming any Americans. Ok man. I will talk to you later.

Good to hear from you again. Try to keep my stories to yourself. I shouldn't be talking about a lot of this.

I am good on things I need as far as personal stuff. My space is only about 6x6 so you canít fit all that much in there.

We are putting together some videos of the pictures that we have taken here and adding music. I will try to send it to you, but I don't know how long it will take for me to upload with satellite internet. It will kind of give you a story from out training up to where we are now. It still wonít do justice to the feeling you get here and the smells.

A lot of people here on the base don't go outside the wire into the city and they are the ones telling our story. I just found out the other day that another unit was taking credit for our battle along the Euphrates. About 35 insurgents ambushed us there, and 15 were killed. I don't know if I told you about that fight or not. All the battles start to become the same. But that fight was a big one because it lasted about 45 minutes to an hour. I think back to that one and I canít remember the sounds of the battle. There were explosions and bullets hitting everywhere, but I just canít seem to remember the explosions, the noise of them. You become so focused on fighting. Normal people have the flight mechanism kick in, but you want your buddies to be safe and you do what ever it takes to lay down fire with them. I have started to have dreams as well. I usually don't dream.

Right now I am trying to hook up with a civilian contractor so I can do some bodyguard work over here. He is operating out of Turkey and running VIP's all over Iraq. I guess I always have to have that edge.

As far as the body armor goes, I guess mine is fine. We had a guy hit in the chest the other day. The bullet fragmented and hit him in the arm. So his armor worked. The first time I almost got whacked was by a rocket anyway. Body armor wouldn't have helped. It flew past twelve inches from my left shoulder. Those twelve inches seem like a mile to me now. f**k Ďem.

Well, you keep your head down and I look forward to the next e-mail. If something should happen to me Mark will know. My mother has instructions to call him. He is supposed to throw a party if I get it. So it is when you hear from him that something has happened. You stay safe too.

God was with me again today. Got a purple heart today. Took some shrapnel in the right calf. I will have a few days off. It is nothing that stitches canít handle. I am ok. We had some UN officials that we escorted to a government center for a meeting and an IED on the way back hit us. There was a report of the attack was on yahoo news. It gave credit to the Marines and reported that no one was hurt. No leaks on the story. I will fill you in when I get back. A lot of security issues on this one. Got to run for now, it is late
Talk to you soon

Been getting busy as the weather warms up. The natives get restless. We seem to be pushing the insurgents back further in the cit of Tamin but in Ramadi they are still hitting the main drag. They just had two suicide car bombs breach the walls of an Iraqi police station. No one inside got hurt but two tower guards, Americans down the road had a rocket go through both of them. We had a rocket hit the base here and hurt like 20 some and 15 badly. I will sit down with you and talk about there tactics when I get back. I have my laptop here now and have hooked up to a pc to phone service and I have a web cam coming, so maybe I could do a little conference to the kids if you have the capabilities. Thanks for the oatmeal and reading material. I do read a lot. I like a lot of Henry Miller stuff. The Book of Five Rings, The art of War, a lot of military motivational stuff around here. Moving Mountains by some General in the first gulf war. Lately I have been exhausted. They have us running all the time and I just want to come back to the hooch and crash. When the pucker factor is up and the adrenaline is constantly pumping it wears you down. I am trying to do two weeks in the med station so I can get some education credits and I need to get some clinical time in a hospital so I figured why not do it while I can get paid for it. I do have DVD and CD capabilities for my laptop. Haven't seen any new movies at all. Hell I don't even know what is out there that is new. Well thanks again for the box of goodies and I will be in touch.

Appreciate all the s**t man. I like Rollins too. Never saw him live though. Me and another dude are looking at coming down to visit Steve and you around two weeks after we get back. They have a day trip free from Ft Lauderdale for vets to the Bahamas. I have a lot of pics so far, around 250 pics and about25 videos. I will send you one of an area that we get hit at all the time. It is a town called Tamin, it is like the suburbs of Ramadi. It would be like the ghettos in York, but 100 times worse.

The other day we had a suspected suicide bomber with a suspected explosive vest on. This was a new situation for us. He was shot three times I found out when we finally disrobed him. Took three hours to get close enough. He laid there for two hours and then got up tried to get away. Finally we said to hell with it and rushed him, held him down and just ripped his clothes of to see if he was strapped with explosives.

There are so many crazy stories to tell. I will not forget the good ones and the very bad ones.

I received e-mails from some of Markís friends, no one seems to know what to say to me when they write me though.

Hey man, good to hear from you. I donít know if you ever read any Henry Miller books or not, but if you havenít, grab some of his stuff. Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Stand Still Like a Hummingbird. He was banned in the US and moved to France. His life kind of reminds me of how I have lived.

I try to write you to give you, my perspective, attitude, and insight of life here. I have been pretty hardened through the years and I am accustomed to not having it easy. So this is a bit easier for me to handle than some around me. You can tell that the guys handle things in different ways. Some get very quiet, some laugh and joke about it, some just donít give a f**k, and some become angry. I think we all get angry when we are outside the wire, but some keep it when we are back here in the hooch. There is one thing you donít see here and that is sadness or sorrow. Even when our EOD tech had his head blown off, it was more disbelief than anything else. We are here talking about making a plaque with spurs on it to send to his parents. The spurs are a right of passage to the Calvary units. It goes back to the days of knights.

I myself have started to have dreams of things, but the death and misery here doesnít seem to get to you, openly that is. You do begin to hate these f**kers and look at them as objects and not even human beings. The area I am in is 100% Sunni. They are about 15% of the population and were in power forever. So now the insurgents use this fact to enlist their help. Life for them was good at one time, now they are pissed. They ruled with violence and this was how the minority maintained power.

Our interpreter is from a town south of Baghdad and told me of a small child they lit on fire because the father wouldnít give in or disagreed with them in some way. He is a Shiite. When we first invaded and the Sunnis had to pull back, on the way out of Baghdad they took all of the pregnant women from the hospitals, laid them in the streets, cut their babies out of them, placed them on the women's chests, and stabbed them. These f**kers are ruthless and if we want to make a difference here we have to be ruthless as well. They donít understand any other way. If people really want our soldiers to come home, then they have to quit tree hugging and start supporting violent acts towards these bastards and show the Iraqi populace that it is worse dealing with us than with the insurgents. We roll outside the wire and wait to be ambushed. f**k that. Let us mass and just tear the city apart. But instead we try the diplomatic approach. Win their hearts and minds, they do not understand this. And they play both sides. 90% are uneducated here and all they have is their religion. Other parts of the country are better, but here is probably the worst place in Iraq right now. We do have offensive missions, but only after intel has verified, without a doubt, that the target exists. By time that happens they have killed or wounded a few more of us.

We had a VBIED (vehicle borne IED) try to attack us today and we blew the f**ker up. They pack a car with explosives, by the way I am getting mortared as I write this, I can hear them exploding outside of the hooch, and they try to ram you with the vehicle and then detonate it. No one is supposed to get within 150 meters of us or we shoot. We had one stupid Haji f**k that rammed a vehicle and crashed the car, his legs became trapped in the VBIED and he couldnít get out. He tried to detonate the car, but his little button wasnít working and the stupid f**k was trapped. We moved the vehicle and he was pushing and pushing the button, but it still wouldnít detonate. We dropped a few pounds of C-4 on the bitch's lap, backed up an helped the f**ker out a little bit with our flawless detonation. Turned the stupid ass into a pink mist. That's what it looks like when you blow them up, grapefruit mist. I just came up with a new drink. Grapefruit and vodka, Haji Mist! Don't get these stories out into the public. I donít know what I am allowed to really say.

You can't win a war by slapping their faces.