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Operation Homecoming V3

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"Operation Homecoming: Roadwork" Director: Richard Robbins USA War is a passage, whether you live or whether you die. If you undergo a change that significant, it's a story you feel like you have to tell, in a way. I'm not psychologically trained or even inclined, but, you know, maybe that was my therapy in a way. The way to give some of this away. ROADWORK by U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jack Lewis I never heard the "boom-crunch." Only imagined it later. There was strong breaking, followed by a great deal of shouting. Our striker mowed through it's monstrous air brakes and then bumped, heaved and finally ground itself to a halt. "6-7's in the ditch. Did they roll it?" "No. They're out ... Colonel's vehicle okay?" The major said that we would need a combat lifesaver. It wasn't combat. There were no lives left to save. But, we dug out the CLS bag--because you never know, do you? And walked across a pitch-dark highway. Somebody was wailing in Arabic. Hypnotically. Repetitiously. A single car headlight was burning, a single shaft of light beaming across the road, like an accusing finger. When tactical spotlights suddenly illuminated the little car, we found the source of the wailing. He was an older man wearing a silver beard, a monumental red-veined nose and a big, thick wool overcoat.. He was hopping, like a dervish, bowing rapidly from the waist and throwing his arms to the sky. Then to his knees, over and over again, in a kind of elaborate dance of grief. It's hard to describe the contents of the car. They had been a man only moments earlier, that night. A cop or a fireman or a soldier would have simply said, "It's a mess in there." I used to be a fireman. I'm a soldier now. It was as bad a mess as I've seen. I squeezed into the crumpled passenger area, sat on the shattered glass and tried to take the pulse from his passenger's side arm. Nothing. And his neck. Nothing. I thought about CPR, but only for a moment. His left arm was mostly torn off and the left side of his head was flattened. Up on the highway, GI's walked around, gave and took orders. And by the car, the victim's father still capered, madly, throwing his arms around, crying out to God or anyone. I asked him, in my own language, to come with me, to calm down, to let me help him. We moved him into the striker, assuring him that, no, weren't arresting him, but he didn't care. Whenever he started to calm down, he would look toward the car, break into wails. Forty minutes later a medic arrived. While the medic worked on him, the Colonel's interpreter came over, fired a few questions at the man. It sounded like an interrogation. They'd been on their way back to Sinjar, just a few miles away. The younger man had been taking his father back from shopping. They were minutes from home. The young man had been a student. Engineering. With honors. The pride of the family. What we like to think of as Iraq's future. Finally, I had to ask, "What does he keep saying?" The 'terp' looked at me, disgusted, resigned. Or maybe, just plain tired. "He says to kill him, now." I walked away and lit a Gauloises. A sergeant came up next to me, smoking. I didn't say anything. After a few moments in the black quiet, I overheard him say, "Wasn't anyone's fault." "It was just an accident." "I know." Inhale. Cherry glow. Long exhale. Why we gotta drive in blackout here, I don't get. If 6-7 turned their lights on a couple seconds earlier... Yeah. I know. Then he went to go help carry the young man's remains into the sudden light show of ambulances and police jeeps surrounded by young Arabic men with steely eyes. I went and sat on the back gate of the striker. I felt the cold creep into me. The old man sat next to me, perhaps too tired to continue his tirade against cruel fate careless Americans, war and its accidents. I haven't lost a full grown son, just a little daughter, a baby. And she wasn't torn from me in a terror of rending steel, stamped out by a sudden monster roaring out of the night. She went so quietly that her passing never woke her mother. I'd like to think she kissed her on the way out. On her way home. But still, sitting on the steel tail of the monster that killed his son I think, maybe, I knew just how one Iraqi man felt. Just kill me now. We sat, and looked straight into the lights.

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 26 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 200
Posted by: zad on Jul 7, 2008

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