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Thread: In Humanity and War

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    Default In Humanity and War

    In Humanity and War


    They could have called him Captain Larrey back in 2003, but the horror known as Baghdad brought soldiers closer, and rank almost always took a back seat to informality; they simply called him Rich. Iraq was a battlefield like no other in history. Unyielding pressure, fear, brutality - these were all beyond the realm of imaginable human experience. We were attempting to defeat an enemy that embraced the very thing we feared most - death.

    Captain Richard Larrey never pretended to be immune to the horror, but the Arkansas bred 26 year-old was an anomaly. Tactically, he may have been a genius. His instinctive command of combat strategy saved us from extinction on numerous occasions.

    I know this because I was there. I saw it and often wondered what it was like to be him. As a correspondent embedded with the 5th Division’s infantry unit informally known simply as “B,” I had a front row seat.

    August 12, 2003 started out like any other day. “B” had orders to implement a search of the sector. Searches were characterized by chronic confusion. We rarely knew what to expect and we could never be sure who the enemy was. Shiites, Sunnis, insurgents, suicide bombers; they all came in disguise and there was no limit to their thirst for brutality. Killing was never enough for them. Unspeakable horrors almost always accompanied the package. In mid-July, we had just exited a building when a baby’s head landed at my feet. I looked up and saw a bearded man leaning out of a third floor window, smiling. That was what we were up against. How do you fight that?

    Sergeant Teddy Homeister kicked open the door to a crumbling shell of a building. An Iraqi family was huddled in the corner of the room. They looked frightened. Who wouldn’t be? Innocent civilians were killed every day. Teddy had his rifle raised and aimed at them. Larrey put his hand on the barrel and made him lower the weapon.

    “They’re not the enemy,” Larrey said. He noticed blood on the young boy’s shoulder. The boy may have been nine or ten years old. “Let’s make sure he’s okay.” He approached slowly, palms out, in a posture as non-threatening as he could make it. When he got close enough, he saw that it was a sizable flesh wound; perhaps a result of a stray bullet - it wasn’t life threatening but it must have been painful. The boy was doing his best to be brave and not cry.

    “I’ll bet you’re a tough little kid,” Rich said. The boy stared at Rich, eyes wide with amazement. He probably knew more than a child his age should about this war and the Americans. He had every right to be frightened by this strange man dressed in the clothing of death, but I think this child...who had seen so much horror, knew instinctively that the man was not there to kill his family; that this American was different from the others.

    Rich pulled out his emergency kit and carefully cleaned the wound; then bandaged it and made a makeshift sling for the boy. The family watched, silently.

    “He should be okay,” Rich said. I‘m sure he knew they didn’t understand his words but that didn’t seem to matter. The older man, who appeared to be the father, said something then that transcended language, because we could see tears in his eyes. Rich gently patted him on the shoulder and gave him four Tylenol 3’s, trying as best as he could using hand gestures to explain that he should use only one at a time. As he rose to leave, the father tugged on Rich’s sleeve. He was trying to thank him.

    “I know,” Rich said, “you have a wonderful boy there.” Larrey had an instinctive awareness of something that most people could not comprehend. Communication was not a function of intellect; it was the universal language of emotion and humanity. The words didn’t matter. Tone, inflection, rhythm, eye contact and body posture communicated everything. The man smiled. Rich smiled. Two men, molded by cultures that were polar opposites, had just bonded. That brief connection might have been one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I did what any human would do in that moment - I cried.

    Rich turned away and started toward the door, then stopped abruptly. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, staring at the floor. There were tears running down his cheeks. The silence in the room spoke volumes about what had just occurred. When he looked up we made eye contact. Rather suddenly, I’d say, he closed one window and opened another - to rage. He kicked the floor with so much force that dust and gravel sprayed across the room.

    “I hate this goddamned war!” I saw the tears in his eyes and I imagined he was on the edge emotionally. I was too, but maybe his edge was different than mine. It really didn’t matter, I thought - I was overwhelmed with admiration for this man who had shown so much kindness and sacrificed his own need for self preservation to help that boy. Could I be like Rich someday? I didn’t think so. He was everything I wasn’t.

    We left, returning to the streets and the chaos. Rich was relatively young for a Captain and already on his second tour. Teddy, our Sergeant, was in his mid-thirties. He referred to himself as a “lifer,” and we could see that he had been hardened by the war.

    Regardless of their differences, people had an instinctive need to connect, even with the enemy. On a day when everything that could go wrong did, I witnessed an American soldier being reprimanded for sharing photos with a captive. What was it? Thoughts and questions like this haunted me. We were missing something in Iraq - a lost key that opened doors no one dared to go near. We were so busy being Americans; we forgot that we were human beings. Amidst all the killing and hatred, there was another pulse beating in Iraq. I wanted to put my finger on it…feel its rhythm, but like a distant drum beat that seemed to echo from every direction, I couldn’t find it.

    Rich knew he had at best a fifty-fifty chance of making it out of Iraq alive, and even if he did make it, he feared something would be lost. He saw it in the hard eyes of most of the soldiers, and he prayed that wouldn’t happen to him. He wanted to return to his wife, Anna, and his beautiful three-year old daughter Marie - as the same loving husband and father they knew.

    “God, how I miss them,” he told me as he pulled out his wallet. I looked at the pictures - superficially, there was nothing remarkable about the photos. I had seen many just like them. The soldiers that had shared them with me always smiled with pride. I handed the wallet back to Rich and noticed that instead of the beaming smile I expected, there were only tears. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. What does one say to a man who’s entire reason for being is in his wallet?

    Eight days later, I made a short trip to visit a friend who was stuck in the medical unit with a nasty hip wound. While I was gone, Rich Larrey died. Just like that. He was gone…forever. I got the story from Loretta, a Corporal in our unit…sniper trained and emotionless…I thought.

    “Suicide bomber. I was 50 yards away when it happened. I saw the creep. He was dressed like a cleric, but even from that distance, I saw death written all over his face. I know, I could have been wrong, but I didn’t give a damn. I nailed him in the back of his head. I got him good - the top of his head was gone, but he was still running toward Rich like an insect, you know? He must have been wrapped up pretty good, because the whole block tilted when he blew.”
    “Did Rich see him coming?”
    “He had his rifle up, but he didn’t fire. I don’t know why.” I knew.
    “Anyway, by the time I saw the guy and fired, he was only maybe 30 yards from…I saw Rich go airborne. The wall of the building stopped him. His leg was blown away, and he had a hole in his chest that was spouting blood like a geyser. I knew he was a goner.”
    “So that was it, huh?”
    “No. It was horrible. He was trying to crawl. Right after the guy blew, insurgents attacked. The whole thing was planned. RPG’s, mortars, incendiaries, you name it; they were throwing it all at us. Then these two guys - Iraqi civilians, dragged Rich inside their building. I followed them. They turned out to be the same people with the kid Rich patched up last week, remember?”
    “Yeah.” I was starting to feel sick and thought I might have to ask Loretta to stop.

    “Rich was in bad shape and he was in a lot of pain…I could see that. The older guy went and got some opium and stuck the pipe in Rich’s mouth, but the big guy, the brother I think, had to push hard on a towel over the chest wound so Rich could inhale. He finally got it, and then he was gone. The weird thing, though, was this Iraqi family...all of them, crying like it had been one of their own. I never saw anything like that. Tell you the truth, I cried with them. It really hurt bad.”
    “Yeah.” I felt dead inside.
    “He was such a good man. Those people loved him, Mikey. You don’t see stuff like that here too often. I mean if you did, why would we need to keep fighting?”

    I wound up sobbing right there, in front of Loretta, the one person I would have least expected to show any emotion at all. She even placed her hand on my shoulder.

    How complex can war be? In the midst of all the brutality, humanity and compassion survive. There is a message in that, but I am afraid no one hears it. ©

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Moved from thread to appropriate forum...

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Wow. That's a nice graphic...the actual flame being thrown. Hey, can you switch that thing on and off? If you can, turn it off - it's getting warm in here.

    So, according to the blurb I just read, I can start a new thread. Okay.

    What about those new IED helmets? About 1100 men will wear them - blast test dummies; as if no one knew how instant scrambled brains are made. The science guys haven't been blinded yet. Twenty years from now soldiers will look like they work at Chernobyl.

    Well, so much for that topic. Okay, you can turn the flame back on. Thanks.

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quote Originally Posted by William Levine View Post
    Wow. That's a nice graphic...the actual flame being thrown. Hey, can you switch that thing on and off? If you can, turn it off - it's getting warm in here.
    Never mind, I got a certain feeling you won't have to endure it much longer.
    Last edited by flamethrowerguy; 09-22-2009 at 04:44 PM.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quote: "...a certain feeling..."

    Why hedge? Either you are certain, or you just have a feeling. Either way you're pipe dreaming...unless you're leaving town.

    War is hell, isn't it?

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quote Originally Posted by William Levine View Post
    Wow. That's a nice graphic...the actual flame being thrown. Hey, can you switch that thing on and off? If you can, turn it off - it's getting warm in here.

    So, according to the blurb I just read, I can start a new thread. Okay.

    What about those new IED helmets? About 1100 men will wear them - blast test dummies; as if no one knew how instant scrambled brains are made. The science guys haven't been blinded yet. Twenty years from now soldiers will look like they work at Chernobyl.

    Well, so much for that topic. Okay, you can turn the flame back on. Thanks.
    Yes. You can post unattributed, off-topic posts in your own threads, please...

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quote Originally Posted by William Levine View Post
    Quote: "...a certain feeling..."

    Why hedge? Either you are certain, or you just have a feeling. Either way you're pipe dreaming...unless you're leaving town.
    If you're going to try to be pedantic, you'd look like less of a knob if you knew the difference between inhumanity and In Humanity.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quotes from non-fiction sources should show links or other sources.

    Quotes from pulp fiction, like the first post, should also show their sources, like this: http://www.scribd.com/doc/8488560/In-Humanity-and-War

    Where members would see that it is described as "Description:
    Finding humanity amidst the horrors of war. The measure of a man's character may best be seen in his responses to adversity. This short story is a fictionalized version of actual events and focuses on the character and bravery of one man...a man who brought humanity to hell on earth."

    WTF was (a) the point of posting this poor piece of not very creative writing here, and (b) without attribution?
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    The point is obvious now. Just flame-bait from a troll twat...

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    Never mind, I got a certain feeling you won't have to endure it much longer.
    You kill me Flame!...I had to laugh when I read your comment LOL....Good comeback!!!
    Wiki is ok. History Channel is ok.
    But WW2 Forum is the BEST!


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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Another six-pence for the Headsman,,,
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Default Re: In Humanity and War

    Very cool guys.



    What you do in life, echoes in eternity!!!

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