The third dead body I saw in the road during my second tour in Iraq was part of a pair and it happened one day in response to a Quick Reaction call made by our battalion. Our unit, a chemical company, worked under the direct supervision of a MLRS field artillery battalion. They had some cool tricks in their bag, to include a radar that could triangulate the origin of a detected aerial munition. During a recent rash of attacks, our FOB had been the target of routine mortar strikes. We lived in full battle rattle, body armor and kevlar helmet, around the clock. Sometimes it was hard to unwind between missions like that. But that wasn’t a worry on this day. We were some working mother feffers on QRF and we were hoping to catch the guys intent on killing us. For the days leading up, whenever the radar did its thing and gave us an origin, we’d drive to it and find nothing. They were quick, shoot and move. But their luck would run out sooner or later and we would know about it.

After a mortar hit the FOB, we were sent to the origin about 2 miles or so north of our position. We drove fast as hell with little regard for the other traffic. Smash through, if we must. As we approached the area, we saw a crowd building around what was the remnants of a little white Toyota pickup with rust colored doors. Beside it, two dead bodies. We edged our way in between the crowd and the scene and I talked my driver through not hitting anyone in the crowd. As I focused on them, I saw the look of horror in some of their faces. We rolled over one of the bodies trying to clear a lane. They were already a mangled mess. As we did our investigating, we realized that the two bastards that were laying there were the guys we’d been looking for. They died from a mortar that blew up in the mortar tube they had fixed to the bed of their Toyota. That’s how they were moving away so quickly. But not that day. That day they were just some more bodies in the road in the middle of Baghdad…

I wish the bodies from these three scenes were the only bodies I had to see. There were more, in more places. And they’re always there, in my sleep, when I’m anxious, when I fear… they don’t go away. When I think about them today, I sometimes get edgy that I see them at all. I get edgier about the bodies of our guys more, though. They’re all part of the wild west scenes from combat memories I can’t forget, shit I carried home packaged deep in my brain. But therapy helps and I’m writing about it. That’s a decent start…

by Rory Andes, Staff Sergeant, United States Army

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