Friday June 8th, 2007
Last night we went on a security patrol to help guard the dam that is along the small village of QAM and to patrol Long Island (one of the roads we used had been called Long Island road by either American or Coalition forces). I had a little scare yesterday morning. I woke up and went to the bathroom like I always do. Yet to much of my discomfort I couldn’t “go to the bathroom”. It hurt badly. I know that I had to go but nothing happened. The pain was excruciating. I went and let our Corpsman, “Doc” know about me and not being able to urinate. He asked for my symptoms and then gave me his diagnosis. “Well my friend, it is either one of these things. Does your family have a history of kidney stones?”
I swallowed hard as my eyes got really wide. All of the kidney stone wars that I can remember my Father going through came to mind. I had never seen my Father in more pain than when he was trying to pass a kidney stone. I’ll never forget his first attack. I was around 13 or 14 years old, riding with my father back to the house from somewhere. All of a sudden he started to breathe heavy while slumping over the wheel of the car. “Zack, if I pass out you are going to have to grab the wheel, I am going to see if I can’t get us home” my father painfully whispered. I’ll never forget that scary moment. “It could be a kidney stone or next, it could be that your body is so dehydrated that the bladder is contracting but there is nothing in it to expel” said Doc. “Or it could be I’m afraid, syphilis.” I looked at Doc with a crazy look, “Doc, I don’t have syphilis, that is impossible.” Doc cracked a grin, “I know, I just kidding.” “Very funny Doc” I replied sarcastically. He then told me to drink lots of water and to let him know if the pain gets worse. I thought the worse, I can’t believe it, I have a kidney stone.” I told our Squad Leader that I was fine and O.K. to go with everyone on the mission. As soon as we got outside the wire, I was finally able to go. “Woo hoo!” I yelled “I can pee! I can pee!” I stood on the side of the weapons loading berm with my fists raised in the air in jubilation. Thank goodness, no kidney stone, no more pain.
As we approached the dam on Lake Habiniyah, I noticed that there were several locals around guarding the dam as well. They were entirely way too young to be guarding anything. The two that I met could not have been a day older than 13. Yet they looked grizzled, no sign of innocence left in them. They seemed to like us and were in awe of all of our gear. It was extremely humid being so close to the lake. I was sweating in places that I didn’t know could sweat. Being a Georgia boy, that is a rare development. Several local kids from the village came up to us while playing with each other. They asked and wanted everything from water to Pepsi, from food to chocolate. They were nice but there was too many of them to be around. They were a distraction and plus many of us felt that it was just too dangerous for them to be in the area. We were relieved two hours later by an Army unit so we continued with our patrol down Long Island.
For the rest of the night we set up a few observation points, looked around for anything suspicious and after our time was drawing near for the mission to end we began to head back to our compound at Camp TQ. While we were driving back on Lyman road sometime around 0245 in the morning, my Sergeant and I were discussing about going down to Georgia on the first 96 hour leave that we would get when we got back to the states. I was looking down the dark road at the amber haze of our truck’s headlights when something happened. I was instantly shoved back and to the left of the passenger side of the vehicle, the shockwave pinning me to my seat, unable to move, all of my hearing was gone. I couldn’t even hear them ringing. The truck in the blink of an eye was filled with black smoke and sand as I saw a bright light and fire illuminate everything around me making everything look white. My eyes closed involuntarily and the only thing through my mind at that moment was that I was dead. My eyes almost instantly opened as soon as they had closed and that’s when I heard a faint pop. When the truck came down on all four wheels I could tell that we were still moving. Still not being able to hear a thing, I tried to move but I couldn’t. Slowly, the first sound came to my ears, it was my breathing. But it sounded like as if I had my hands pressed hard against my ears creating a muffled sound of each breath. I slowly reached down between my legs, unknown to me at the time if they were even still there. I felt around for a minute and when I realized “all of me” was still present and accounted for I started to breathe a bit easier.
In my mouth was this grimy taste of black powder and sand. I slowly looked over at my Sergeant and I could see him slumped over the wheel still driving through the black cloud of smoke that was around us. As sand and smoke was still pelting me in the face I turned around even further to check on our gunner who was in the 240 Golf turret. All I could see through the smoke was the bottom of his legs. My mouth opened and I could feel my vocal chords vibrate and hum like they always have whenever I have yelled at the top of my lungs before, but this time I could not hear myself scream His name or anything else at all. Then my ears began to ring slowly and I tried yelling at our gunner again. This time it sounded as if I was just faintly whispering. He wasn’t moving.
I immediately thought the worst and that he had been blown up in the explosion. I can remember thinking, “Oh, dear God no! I’ve lost him! I’ve lost Him!!” Finally everything sped up at once back to normal speed from what seemed like nothing but slow motion. “Hey! Are you ok!?” I finally heard myself scream. He looked groggily down at me, his face covered with black soot. “Yeah, I’m all right!” he yelled. “Sergeant! Are you all right?!” I yelled. Our Sergeant gave me a thumbs up and yelled that he was all right and pushing through the kill zone. When the truck finally came to a stop and after all of us asking each other numerous times if the other was ok, that is when it hit me. I had just been blown up by an IED.
I heard the radio alive with everyone screaming at each other that we had just been hit. I grabbed the radio out of breath and radioed back that we were all ok. Not waiting for an answer, I opened my door and stumbled out of the truck and on to the road. I tried to walk but everything was numb. My legs buckled and I almost fell, my equilibrium had been thrown out of whack. Still in disbelief of the whole thing, one emotion came flooding through me, an intense and uncontrollable rage. I had never experienced this kind of hate and anger before. Adrenaline flowed through my body as if a dam inside of me had just burst. I began yelling obscenities into the dark night at whoever did this, to come out and fight me face to face.
Finally getting my balance, I looked behind me to see several Marines running up to me. “ Are you guys ok?!” one of them yelled. “Yeah we are all ok, just a little dizzy and banged up that’s all.” I hollered back. We started to sweep the area for secondary’s and anyone watching us. Most hadjis like to view their handiwork. We waited on EOD to roll out and do their post blast analysis on the IED that hit us.
After they swept the area they told us what had happened. It was a pressure plate IED. The pressure plate had been loosely wrapped in black electrical tape making it utterly invisible in the night on top of the road. The explosion came from two 1.22 mm artillery rounds that had been buried underneath a road repair and accidently on top of a culvert pipe. When the blast went off, most of the explosion and shrapnel went through the pipe and not up and out at us like it had been meant to do. All three of us were told that we were lucky to be alive. I went back to look at the hole that the IED had created in the road. The hole was as wide as our truck and was almost 4 ½ feet deep. The right rear side of our truck had been damaged and blew a tire. Fortunately, it was still able to drive with a new tire. When we got back to TQ everyone came up to us and hugged us. A lot of the squad thought that we had been killed. “Welcome to the big boy club” was said to us by several Marines who had been hit by IED’s in previous tours. Over and over people kept saying how lucky we were. I made it clear to everyone what my belief was. “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was God protecting us and that reason alone was why we were alive and unscathed”. We didn’t even get touched by the shrapnel of the bomb, our truck’s armor had held up, absorbing the blast. It was as if God reached down and wrapped his hands around us as the blast went off. He has been so faithful to me out here and I will be thanking him for all of my life for his protection. I need to draw closer to Him, and to discover His reason for sparing me out here. I know that in order to find the direction that He has for my life, that I will need to closer to Him than I am. Only He will help me get out of the spiritual valley that I have been in. I am now ready to ask for His help in doing so.
Fast forward to today, March 12, 2015: I find comfort and peace and rest in knowing that it was God who was drawing me closer to Him. When I thought it was up to me to draw closer to God, it was God who was doing the drawing. Because of who Jesus is and what He has done…God has always been by my side. Because of Christ, even in my worst moments, He has been faithful to me and has never left me because of my mistakes or unfaithfulness to him. When I was walking through my spiritual valley, God was walking through it with me as well. I have always had access to God’s help, it does not hinge on what I need to do but has been secured because of what Jesus has done. I still thank God always for His protection and for bringing me back home. I thank God for using this and many other moments like it to let me know that He loves me and that He will never leave me. No matter how good or bad I am, God’s love for me is forever fixed because of Christ.