I've been thinking about writing this entry for a week and I only just now had the opportunity to sit down and write it. So a lot of what I've written about were the dark times and the fear. That was only a small part of my time in Iraq. Today I'm going to talk about a day that wasn't so bad.
|Victory Base Complex|
It was late May or early June 2008 in Baghdad. I was lucky that on my second tour I was stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. For anyone that's been to Iraq, Liberty was the lap of luxury compared to most locations. Unfortunately, my time there was short because I was forward deployed about a month month later.
Mission to Justice
We made a visit to our information officer (he sometimes gave us missions) and he informed us that we would be heading to Joint Security Station (JSS) Justice, a tiny post in the middle of the city. On our way out the door, we got a "by the way, you'll be making a stop en route". That "stop en route" would be one of my most interesting and uncomfortable days during my second tour.
We arrived at our pick up location and I just didn't feel well. My stomach felt Sick
and I just wanted to go lie down. Standing on a curb in the blazing heat wearing full armor and a 20 lb. 3-day pack was the last thing I wanted to do. About an hour later we were making our "stop en route" and I was
|Al Sarafiya bridge before it was rebuilt|
surprised to find out we were covering a bridge opening in a town named Sarafiya. Apparently this particular bridge had been blown up multiple times and it was an important enough route to travel that they bothered to rebuild it.
We waited by our humvees waiting on word of where we would Shoot
from and what areas to stay away from. About 10 minutes later we found out that we weren't even invited to the ceremony. We'd shown up uninvited. There were no U.S. Forces present, nor were they invited. AWESOME. Not only were we NOT invited but they would only allow one person to go in. We had 4 people that needed to go in and shoot, 2 Army public affairs soldiers, myself and my partner.
That wasn't the only stipulation. Whoever did go in would be going in with no armor and no weapons. So we were given about 2 minutes to decide who would go and apparently no one wanted to shoot video. It was settled quickly, I would be the one going in. Not only did I feel sick, but I was now expected to shoot video and photos and I had to go in without security. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous. It was so hot (120-125) that I was just happy I could take my armor off.
|Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki taken by me.|
This photo was published all over Iraq and to be honest,
it's a pretty terrible photograph...haha
So in I went with an interpreter who stayed with me for roughly 5 minutes and left. This left me with very little ability to communicate with anyone without having to resort to hand gestures, although you'd be surprised to find out that this has worked well for me on more than one occasion during my travels. There was only 1 open space for me to shoot, directly behind the master of ceremonies. This meant the entire crowd would see me standing behind the speaker. There really wasn't any other option and I had to get it no matter what.
Keep it together Jess!
I started shooting video and taking photos and about 10 minutes in, I started feeling nauseous and faint. Not just a little sick to my stomach, but that undeniable feeling when your mouth starts watering and you feel a pressure under your chin. I thought maybe I could tough it out, I had to shoot, I didn't have time to vomit or drop dead. Directly in front of me was the Prime Minister Of Iraq and some other government officials.
Look of death
|This is the best I could find...a photo of someone|
vomiting but that's even to gross for me.
I'm not going to lie, Maliki (Prime Minister) looked like he wished I would die. He was staring right through me. I've seen that look 1000 times during both of my tours and if looks could kill, I would've died a million times already. That sick feeling was getting worse and I knew that I was going to vomit and/or drop if I didn't sit down. Sitting down wasn't an option and vomiting directly in front of the PM of Iraq and government officials wasn't an option, I managed to slither out unnoticed. Can you imagine the press photos of U.S. military vomiting in front of thousands of ceremony attendees? I'd never live it down...haha
|I will never eat another Hooah bar again.|
It took everything I had to make it back to the others without passing out or vomiting in the street. I was so disappointed in myself and I damn sure wasn't going to puke and pass out in front of everyone. Luckily one of the other guys was up for going in, so we were able to get what we needed to accomplish our mission. It was an epic fail for me personally to get sick and have to duck out of something important. I thought that maybe I was dehydrated, but once we got to Justice I went to the medics.
I wasn't dehydrated after all. It was my blood sugar dropping because I hadn't eaten enough. So it was my own fault I got so sick. The medics gave me Ceralyte Packets
and sent me on my way. For those who've never had the pleasure of drinking water infused with a Ceralyte packet, it tastes like stale crunch berries from Captain Crunch. If you don't drink it fast enough or it gets too warm it begins to smell like hot garbage. If it didn't help so much I never would've drank it. That summer I lived off Ceralyte packets and Hooah bars, both of which I will never