Sunday, March 14, 2010

Very bad luck

There is no fighting fate.  How else can you explain this?

Three army soldiers were walking to the chow hall in a base north of here.  They walked toward the tent to receive their food, and mortar rained with a few feet of where they were standing.  They were all knocked to the ground.  One soldier had a bruised back from a piece of random shrapnel, and another had a piece of molten metal sorn into the soft tissue of his neck, but centimeters away from all of the many important anatomic structures in the neck.  Stunned, they both rose, shellshocked, but conscious, and otherwise, unscathed.  The third soldier remained on the ground, I imagine, gasping for air that could not travel from her nose to her lungs as her trachea no longer connected the two.  She was tended to quickly, and rapidly lost blood from a severed carotid artery.  She was recussitated as well as possible in a helicopter in route here, and after 40 minutes of aggressive support she and her comrades arrived.  She was unconscious and ashen.  Her monitor indicated asystole - flat line.  Her pupils were dilated and fixed. This was determined after 5 minutes of additional CPR in the emergency department, while the other victims, destined for purple hearts and trips out of the sand, sat with catotonic glazes as they watched their friend and sister in arms slip away.

The Commander and chaplain led a respectful quick memorial in the ER prior to sending remains out on another flight.  But then came questions:  How did one soldier die, and two other escape nearly unscathed?  What if they left for chow five minutes later?  Why did they stop and talk to that other soldier, delaying their walk?  Where would that mortar have landed if the wind weren't blowing that night?  These questions run through the minds of the surviving soldiers, undoubtedly, and will haunt them.  A palpable sadness accompanies this type of tragedy, much as if a person walks into a hold up at a 7-11 or is struck by lightening.  But as with these other examples, the randomness of this strikes me most poignantly. It makes you wonder as to how preventable this was, and how much it was destined.  Unlike the other examples, however, it was fated only when this soldier volunteered to come to Iraq, at the tail end of an absurd war which has a beginning we cannot see.  

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic writing, Mick. I know what everyone means when they say you're "doing important work," but as a journalist of 20+ years, I think you're doing another kind of important work. Sharing your experiences of the aptly described absurd war, and the drama of working as a medic, combined with your natural writing ability = important work. Keep it up!