Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Her Name Is Paula...Al Rasheed Revisted

The other night I spent several hours in a "duck and cover!" It was my first time in one. There were no such safe-havens in 2003. I had my mattress and my Brent! (SrA Brent Skeen)

Inside the duck and cover, my home away from home, I met several new friends. You'd be amazed what people want to talk about when mortars are falling from the sky. One Soldier's wife called...He had to hung up on her. Others where talking about how close they were falling, or where they were last time. A few of them were talking about the injuries and deaths they've seen caused by mortars.

Someone asked me what I did, so I told them I was the morning show host on Freedom Radio, 107.7 Baghdad, 107.3 Balad....My story continued as I told them about the original crew who set AFN Iraq up in 2003. From there...Al Rasheed...October 26th. I get chills to this day when I think of the horrifying events of the day. As I told my story a man chimed in..."You helped Paula didn't you?" I sad who is Paula. He replied, "The civilian that was injured!" I asked if she had blond hair, and if she was the one who had her arm blown off. The answer...YES! "Her name is Paula, and because of all of those who provided medical attention to her...she has her arm today." Turns out, the doctors were able to reattach Paula's arm.

I visited the Al Rasheed yesterday. Many of the merchants who set up shop in 2003 are still there, but other than that, the Rasheed is a shell of itself. I too was a shell of my former self...until now. Today, I know who the lady was I helped in her time of need...Paula. Little did I know my actions would have such an impact on someones life. Little does Puala know that her story has also changed mine.


MSgt (ret) Sandra Brown said...

I felt a disturbing sadness the day I said, "goodbye" to my friends at the Al Rasheed in October 2005. In all my world-wide travels I still say it has the most beautiful water fountain I have ever seen. I always imagined what it would look like with water flowing through all those urns and the mesmerizing eyes of the "genie," especially at night.
I also remember my first introduction to the Al Rasheed. It was a day in October 2003 when a babbling SSgt Chris Eder called me in Germany to tell me of the horrors of his day and how he had helped with the rescue of a lady who had her arm blown off. Now, that lady has a name, an identity. Things change so drastically when the faces of destruction mean more than just a report.
My first time hovering with strangers was spent with 3 other kevlar-clad ladies in the "sit-and-wait" positon in April 2005. My thoughts immediately regressed to the phone call I had received from Chris shortly after being shaken to the core when he happened to be in the building targeted because a DV (distinguished visitor) was also sharing the space.
Meanwhile, my newfound "bunker-mates" were speaking with one another in Spanish. This being the first time I had been awakened by a blasting siren, donned my vest and helmet and run for cover I decided to strike up a meaningful conversation with the only relevant news of the hour. I told them I had heard a young Soldier had been killed the day before by an errant mortar while shopping at the BX (base exchange.) Like Chris' story, this report did not fall as mere bunker trivia. This trio had just returned from the memorial service of their friend...the one killed while shopping at the BX.
Every face affected by this war...American, British, Sunni, Shiite, or Kurdish has a story, a name, a family, an identity. Too often they are simply tallied as another political number in the blame-game.
Stay safe Chris, and keep reminding us of the reality behind the numbers.

mom said...

These two stories have made me stop and take notice of the true dangers that you all are facing. Sure, we hear stories about the war and we just sit and say "Wow" " I just could not do that" however there are so many of you that risk your lives every day to protect those of us who sit and say "not me" "I could never do what the military does for us". Chris I had never heard this story told before so again, I am very proud of you for helping Paula.
By you and some of the others that have been there, these stories really bring things closer to home. Your a brave man and I am so glad you belong to me.
I Love You, mom

AFN Broadcaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AFN Broadcaster said... the rest of the story. I think I may have made it sound like "I" Chris Eder saved Paula's arm. It wasn't just me. There were four others on scene. A Soldier and three civilians.

Thanks Mom for your kind words. Truth is as I read your reply...George and I once again had to run to our duck and cover. It is 100 degrees right now. It's still not too hot for the mosquitos. When you don your vest and helmet in this heat...It wears you down. Combine that with your senses working over time and you have a difficult situation. You can see the first responders. Is that where one of your co-workers lives? You hear people yell out two injuries, two rooms destroyed. You left hopeless, because you can't move, you can't call, you can't text...You must wait. Then the next five minutes are either joyful or full of tears. AFN IRAQ is 100%.

Sandra...You're right! Every face has a story...and you know me, I try to meet as many as I can.

Chris said...

I don't know if it's still the case, but when I was over in the Great Sandbox, they shut down the chow hall in the Al-Rasheed and the CPIC First Sergeant would bring Mermite meals over. No fun. I used to eat the biggest breakfasts over there.

Hope you're doing ok over there, stay safe and you're in my prayers.

AFN Broadcaster said...

Thanks Chris...Yes we still get those great lunches. I went to get it for the first time the other day. You got to eat early before all of the flies get to it.

T-hoe Family said...

WOW.. Are you sure you're not going to publish a book with all these stories. See we (I) have and advantage, I get to read them here.. Man I think about you every day.. Keep your A _ _ in the duck & cover if you need.. I keep telling our guys here (to make light of their vacation in Iraq) that to come home with a Purple Heart is NOT a requirement nor was it on the outprocessing checklist..
Anyway..Stay safe Bro. Thanks for all the stories.