Skip to comments.My Independence Day 2009 (True story from the front line)
Posted on 07/06/2009 4:13:51 AM PDT by ICE-FLYER
The crew of our aircraft awoke late afternoon on July 4, 2009 to find the camp decorated in red, white and blue ribbons, balloons, and posters in preparation for scheduled 4th of July events. I began my day a couple of hours earlier. I dressed in a digital camouflaged kilt and went about the camp to honor those working. I played God Bless America in front of Operations. My aircraft commander went with me to maintenance to thank them for the hard work they do in keeping our planes in the air. It was the Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force Song) for maintenance followed by a heartfelt thank you. Anchors Aweigh at the Navy tent. On to the Marine Corp hut where a Colonel stood at attention for the Marine Corp Hymn. Time was running out and we had to get ready for work. Back to the hut and change into my flight suit.
The rest of the crew had been alerted we dressed and walked to the DFAC (dining facility) for your 4th of July BBQ, to go of course. We piled our Styrofoam clamshells high with ribs, chicken, prime rib, sausage, potato salad, and macaroni salad. I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie to satisfy my sweet tooth and ate it on the way back to the operations building. Some one said, my plate looks just like the one I would make back home. We filled the silence with thoughts of our family and friends celebrating the 4th; in what I hoped would be a great day for them. In to briefing room for our Intel brief.
Not so fast, 2 crews are leaving at the same time. We are briefing in the Intel Office. Now it is really like a crowded picnic back home, dinner on our laps. Our mission had changed 3 times in the past hour. Our first leg would now be to FOB Sharana. Well drop off a few pallets of cargo and pick up 19 passengers plus 2 HR. Here HR stands not for Human Resources, but for human remains. HR on the 4th of July! Not the way we wanted to remember today. The enlisted crew grabbed our gear and left to get our plane ready and loaded, while the officers flight planned. The sun was setting by the time we took off.
The short flight was fairly busy as we transitioned to NVG (night vision goggles) for the remainder of the night. We fly without lights to darkened runways, illuminated only with infrared lighting. Winds had shifted and picked up at the camp. As a crew we discussed our options are we within limits to land; should we hold and wait; will be able to take off? We notified the tower and began our approach. We asked the tower, do crews shut down engines (not normally done at FOB) to load HR? Yes was the reply. Under the cloak of darkness, aided by NVGs we descended on FOB Sharana for a 4th of July we wont soon forget.
Our arrival was just the way we like it. No small arms fire or missile warnings, no TIC (troops-in-contact) in the vicinity. We notified the tower of our parking intentions. Be careful of the vehicles and troops in formation she told us. We saw what looked like a couple hundred troops but there were probably less than a hundred in-formation. We parked our aircraft and shutdown.
Our Cargo was quickly offloaded and 19 passengers boarded, but none sat down. Someone boarded (a chaplains representative?) and told us of the Fallen Comrade Ceremony to take place. I asked if I could play Amazing Grace as the bodies were brought on board. That would be great I was told. I grabbed my pipes and out the cargo door I went. By the light of several vehicles I saw more soldiers in formation extending beyond the loading ramp. I found a spot were I could see and stood at parade rest. The rest of the crew either stood across from me or in the aircraft with the other passengers. And then I saw the approaching Humvees pallbearers sitting inside.
My mouth began to dry; I began to notice the 35knot gusting winds. My eyes shifted looking at everyone. ATTEN-SHUN came the call, everyone snapped to attention. Here they come I thought dont mess up. Its the 4th of July for crying out loud this shouldnt be. The pallbearers jumped down wait, those arent caskets there litters. Forget about it start playing I told myself. Slow down, take your time show your respect. I played the wind blew, take deep breathes, play, play. Four maybe five men fell in behind the litters, slowly they marched past me up the ramp and into the plane. A General, Sergeant Major, Colonel I couldnt see all of them. The litters were placed on the floor. I finished playing. The General knelt others followed, the chaplain prayed. I couldnt hear it, that darn wind. My mouth was dry, tasted dusty. I felt congested, something in my eye. Wait dont cry. I bet theyre younger than MY son I thought. Just like that it was over. The command staff turned and marched out. The formation began to disperse. The Sergeant Major came back up the ramp knelt before the fallen, prayed and placed a unit coin on the chest. Feeling helpless, selfishly, my way of honoring the fallen was to play. I hope I sounded OK to others I thought.
I turned to walk away and noticed someone was taking a picture, so I tried to get out of the way. It was me they were trying to get a photo of. The General came over to thank me, followed by the Sergeant Major and the Chaplain, another Lieutenant. It was time to go. I walked past the fallen and couldnt help but think of the heroes they were. Like Jesus on the cross they died for myself, and others. Earlier I learned that a vehicle attempted to breach the gates of the base only to be shot at by the 2 heroes now in our plane. The resulted explosion killed both of them. Caught in the action of kill or be killed, no greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for another.
I will never forget Independence Day 2009. Henceforth on every 4th of July, I shall remember these 2 heroes and others like them. I will remember the high cost of freedom. I will not take the rights and freedoms afforded me lightly. I ask that all you do the same.
As we in Georgia await the return of yet another fallen hero, a Marine from Adairsville, GA, we thank those of you on the other end who send these heroes off with honor and dignity. God bless America!
My prayerful thanks goe out to all who are giving their time, strength, energy, and lives to preserve our liberty. Let us live our lives accordingly.
Everyone needs a reminder of why we have to fight here.
God Bless these Patriots and Heroes.
Thanks for the post. My wonderful DH spent July 2006 in Iraq. And he spent July 2007 in Iraq. And he spent July 2008 in Iraq. But this year, he came home in June ... and got to spend his first July 4 stateside in years.
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