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The Alamo
Blown Up!
In Memory of Fallen
Infidel Strong

 

“So this is what it’s like to get blown up.”

Introduction

 

 

4th Alabama
4th Alabama artwork at StMike.
Carl "Bad Medicine"  Aka "Anger Medic"
Spc Carl Jackson, 108th Armor attached to Alpha Company,
4th Alabama, 3rd Platoon.
FOB St Michael
Back Seat
View from the Hummer's back seat

Abrams Tank
Abrams Tank

Fatboy Bridge
Fatboy bridge and checkpoint manned by the Iraqi Army (IA)

Fatboy Bridge
Crater in Fatboy bridge left by a suicide bomber.
Sgt Putman, Truck Gunner
Sgt Putman, truck gunner
IED Detonation
IED being detonated
Hummer Burning
2nd Platoon truck burning after
it was hit with an IED.
Spc Freeman, the truck's gunner
Spc Freeman, the truck's gunner
Truck Crew
Typical truck crew. From left to right: Ballanger,  Jackson, Putman, Freeman, Grund.
Ellett's Hummer
Hummer hit in the front by IED
Sgt Rusk and Putman
Sgt Rusk and Putman
Hummer hit in rear by IED
Hummer hit in rear by IED
BAS
Battalion Aid Station
Medivac
Blackhawk Medivac
Blackhawk Medivac
Blackhawk Medivac
Carl's body armor
Carl's body armor showing the hole where fragments exited the armor and entered his side.
Body Armor
Carl's Body Armor showing the fabric that extruded into his side.
Carl's Kevlar
Carl's Kevlar
Kevlar without the cover
Carl's Kevlar with the cover removed.
Carl in Walter Reed ICU
Carl in Walter Reed, ICU, Washington, DC.
Recovering at Walter Reed
A few weeks later, still at Walter Reed.
4 inch diameter hole in Carl's side
Bandage changing time for the hole in Carl's side.
Carl's door on the Hummer
Carl's Door.  Held shut with a boot, and displaying multiple penetrations through 2- 1/4 inch
steel plates.
Holes through the Hummers armored door.
Close up of the holes in the door, from the outside.

 

May 15, 2006  Carl is Back from Iraq!  ..in one piece this time.  Our son Carl, volunteered to serve as a Combat Medic in Iraq along with a courageous group of soldiers from the 4th Alabama.  His motivation was to help save the injured in a fight to bring freedom, sanity, and tolerance to a small part of the world.  On Tuesday August 9th, 2005 someone who wishes the insanity and death to continue, set off a road side bomb that tore open the vehicle he was in and cut through his body. Two days latter the Army called to inform us that he was in very serious condition in Germany and was being moved to Walter Reed in DC.  We joined him there and I was able to stay with him for the next month, changing bandages, helping with paper work, keeping him company, and helping him transition back into a world that does not explode. The story below is part of that process.

During that time at Walter Reed Army Hospital, I changed too; growing even more appreciative of the sacrifice that our soldiers make.  I wish each of you had to opportunity to walk the halls of Water Reed and look into the faces of the men and women who have sacrificed flesh and bone for each of us. Please show your support for these soldiers and especially for the families who will never again see their heroes in this life.

We share Carl's story to help everyone remember that we are a country at war. Carl is proof of that. He's not a number at the end of the newscast. He's a face and a smile and a laugh. So is each one of our soldiers.  Carl is not a "hero", and this is not a "hero" story.  Like so many, Carl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We use the word as a term of endearment.  Carl is "our hero".  --Doug Jackson

“So this is what it’s like to get blown up.”
by Carl and Doug Jackson.  8/28/2005

 

Tuesday morning, Aug 9th, 2005, third platoon rolled out of Saint Michael’s on what was now a routine patrol of the rural roads around Mahmudiya (Mom-Ma-Dee-A) Iraq.

As our four hummers, or gun trucks passed through gate 3 the tires of our heavily armored vehicles sank easily through fine talcum powder like dust.

The clouds quickly engulfed the trucks and drifted in through the open gun turret, and joined with the dust from our previous patrols and the dust collected by soldiers from the 10th Mountain who had passed the truck on to us.  The dust had become part of our good luck charm because you don’t change what works, and cleaning it out is pointless.

As our patrol cleared the gate word came over the company radio that the Blue element had been hit with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).  The Blue element consists of two Abrams main battle tanks, and most IED’s pose little threat, except to the commander and driver that might be exposed.

 
View Larger Map
FOB (Forward Operating Base) St Michael, Iraq

The tankers had identified and fired on a car that had dropped the IED and relayed the direction it fled.  Sgt Rusk in the first truck led third platoon north up the canal road to Fatboy.  Three years earlier the roads around Mahmudiya had taken on new names from the invading forces.  The map now read like a subdivision that had been planned by a group of thirty year olds with roads like Harley, Softail, Metallica, and Vader.  Third Platoon’s intention was to intercept the blue 4-door sedan that was now sporting 50 caliber holes courtesy of the Blue element. 

The gun trucks slowed on the approach to Fatboy bridge so they could carefully cross between the guard rail and the 15 by 30 foot crater that opened up to the water 35 feet below.  Fatboy bridge was a check point now manned by the IA (Iraqi Army) and a favorite target for suicide bombers.  Sgt Enlow called clear as his truck in the last position reached the far side of the bridge, and the patrol accelerated west on Fatboy across Sue and toward the remains of a Republican Guard compound that was destroyed during the war. The countryside is dotted with mud huts in various states of disrepair, clumps of brush and concrete houses separated by small fields of wheat and barley. It is primarily an agricultural area within a maze of irrigation canals that bring water from the Tigress River.  Fatboy road is not untypical as a main road.  It is paved with asphalt and runs parallel to a foot path and large canal.  Chasing after an insurgent fleeing an attack was not new to third platoon.  I was riding in the number three truck and I was not optimistic about our chances of intercepting the blue sedan.  Listening in on the radio traffic we knew that lots was already going wrong.  One of the Abrams was loosing its engine, their 50 caliber gun had jammed, and they had lost sight of the sedan.

The IED’s had recently become more lethal.  No longer were they just 155 mm arterially rounds.  Intelligence was advising us that Iran was supplying the capability of building shape charges.  Now IED’s were about the size of a one gallon paint can with one concaved side and lined with a copper plate.  When detonated the shape of the charge would focus the energy into the copper plate, warping it into ball and propelling it toward the passing vehicle.  On impact the inertia of the copper would burn through the armor plating and spray fragments into the vehicle.  The triggering device for an IED could be as simple as a telephone wire and a 9 volt battery or some remote device such as a cell phone, car alarm, garage door opener, or remote door bell.  In addition to armor plating the platoon also carried a Warlock system that was designed to jam cell phones and other remote devices, but the insurgents had simply switched back to using det cord or detonating cord, commonly used for explosives and impervious to electronic jamming.  The best defense against an IED is speed.  The IED still requires a Haji sitting in a mud hut or behind a bush to time the explosion as the truck passes, but with practice comes perfection, and this day Haji got it right.

The first sensation was of the truck being lifted and moving sideways.  I was thrown forward from my seat into the back of the front seat where Sgt Ballenger, the Truck Commander was.  It was all quite confusing for a little while, but the first thing to register was screaming.  Someone was screaming and the truck was filled with dirt as it rolled to a stop.  “So this is what it’s like to get blown up.” In the following moments I recognized that we had been hit and that the screaming was Ballenger just forward of me.  Finally after months of patrols and worrying about how well I would perform as the platoon medic the opportunity was here.  My medic bag was sitting beside me and Ballenger was obviously wounded, but I could not move.  My legs only responded with flailing kicks and a fog blurred my mind.  I pulled the chin strap from my Kevlar helmet and kicked my Kevlar off into the floor.  Ballenger's screaming was punctuated with “I’m burning, I’m burning!”  Spc Freeman, the truck's gunner, dropped from the turret to help pull Ballenger from his seat and onto the transfer case that runs down the center of the truck.  Molten metal fragments had passes through the truck's battery and the fragments along with battery acid where now imbedded in Ballenger's leg.  Freeman turned to recover his CLS (Combat Life Saver) bag, and saw the blank expression on my face.  He asked “Are you hit?”  “Yea, I’m hit” was my reply.  It was clear to me now that it was not shock holding me in my seat.  “Where?” was Freeman’s next question, and I answered honestly “I don’t know, help Ballenger”.  How fucked up is this?  I’m the medic, I can’t move and I don’t even know how bad I am.  Freeman’s attention was back on Ballenger and he went to work applying a tourniquet to the injured leg.  The fog continued to lift and I began to assess my injuries.  I had use of both my arms even though my left hand was bloody.  My legs were numb and responding poorly but they were both still clearly attached and unscarred.  My right side, closest to the door was the source of the most pain and it was difficult to breath.  “You’re the medic.” I thought to myself.  “You’re in one piece, so do your job, move, move.”  I reached forward to grab the back of Ballenger’s seat and pulled, but there was no response from my legs.  I continued to try to get my body to move but had little success.  All I could do was focus on my breathing.  Sgt Lawrence and Sgt Enlow from the rear truck had reached my door and they were working on opening it.  I watched through the window beside me, that was now opaque from spider web like cracks in the acrylic. When the door opened Lawrence asked “How bad are you hit?” and this time I knew the right answer “Bad”.  “All right, we're going to get you out of here” and with that he began pulling me from the truck, but my legs hung up inside the truck until Enlow grabbed them and helped Lawrence lower me to the ground.  My 9 mm fell from my holster about the same time I recognized that the platoon was engaging every possible hiding place with every piece of weaponry at our disposal. Spc Walker was moving back from the second truck and firing his M16 as he moved.  It was standard operating procedure to put holes in any obstacle that might be concealing our Haji.  We wanted him dead and if there was a secondary device we did not want anyone around to set it off.  I considered retrieving the 9 and joining in the mêlée but reconsidered since I was not in the best of positions or condition to return fire and shooting one of my buddies in the leg would not be helpful.

While lying on the ground I looked up at my truck.  It was in better condition than I thought it would be, but there were holes in my door.  Sgt Rusk, the TC in the lead truck had his truck swing around and pull up beside me. Quickly he exited and helped load me into the rear of his truck.  Spc Wilson, the trucks gunner is a Rambo protégée but without the calmness under pressure. Along with a steady steam of rounds from the 240 Bravo (machine gun), he also delivered a stinging array of insults. Wilson left the gun, and shouting excitedly he grabbed my legs and pulled me inside, and fought to drag my waist over the transfer case. In frustration Rusk shouted “Shut the fuck up. Focus!”, and with that Wilson managed to lift me on inside. Wilson then returned to Rambo mode and while shell casings rained down, Rusk shouted over the gun fire, “We are leaving!”  With that Spc Johnson the truck driver gunned the engine and we headed back toward Saint Michaels. Rusk got on the radio “Bama Exray, Bama Exray this is 32. We are currently in route to FOB with casualties.  Tell SOG to open Gate 1 now!”  Johnson again approached Fatboy bridge but this time the truck did not slow. It bounced hard as it jumped the curb. One tire rode had to ride on the sidewalk, so the other would miss the crater. The though of drowning in the water below pass through my mind.  What a day that would be; but once clear Johnson apologized for the rough ride.  Wilson still in the gun turret had retrieved his M4 and was clearing traffic by discharging a generous number of warning shots and shouting “Get the fuck out of the way!”. Occasionally he would drop down and ask “You doing alright?” to which a nod would suffice. Rusk the TC is a big ol’country boy who once served with the 101st Airborne Division and he had been in the shit before.  He turned in his seat, took my hand, squeezed it, and told me I was going to be alright but I could see tears in his eyes, and that was a bad sign. The big badass is getting teary-eyed. For the first time I thought I might die.

The pain was starting to set in and I had time to consider what it meant not to be able to move my legs.  I told Rusk “I think I broke some ribs” and he said, “It looks like you have something protruding from you man”.  Less than 10 minutes had elapsed since the explosion and I knew I was only minutes away from medical care.  I was calm, conscious, and able to breath.  My training and experience as a medic on an ambulance crew told me I was not doing too poorly.

We pulled into Saint Michael’s up to the BAS (Battalion Aid Station) and were met by Sgt Batt.  As they lifted me from the truck I could see the blood that covered the rear seat. With my fingers I reached under the lower edge of my body armor and felt the hole, surprised at how deep my fingers could enter my side.  Once inside the BAS the job of stabilizing my condition ran quickly. I sat up on the table as my armor was removed, an IV was inserted, morphine was injected, an x-ray was done, and bandages were applied.  Ballenger was soon on the table next door and I remember a discussion regarding his tourniquet.  An officer standing near by was only giving me passive responses to my inquires about Ballenger's condition, and I soon lost composure. “Look mother fucker that guy was on my truck he is one of my boys.  I want to know how he is doing.”   It's not every day you can address an officer in this fashion but today I was allowed and it brought forth the informative answers I wanted. 

The BAS is only a temporary stop in the causality pipeline.  Serious wounds are treated at a CSH pronounced "Cash" or Combat Surgical Hospital .  The nearest CSH is in Baghdad.  Five minutes by air and about thirty minutes by road.  Sgt Batt knew this and was arguing with someone on the other end of the phone who was refusing to send a bird.  Dust storms are not rare in Iraq and one was blowing in quickly. When it arrived, all flights would be grounded and even the roads would become difficult to travel.  Finally the bird, “Eagle Dustoff” agreed to make the run and in less than five minutes I was being loaded into the back of a Blackhawk courtesy of the 101st Airborne. Five minutes after that I was on the ground in Baghdad at the 86th CSH.   If the Army can ever find my camera I have some great shots taken by the staff at the CSH and a movie of being entubated just before going into surgery.   It took less than 50 minutes from injury to surgery.

After surgery everything is fuzzier.  The surgeons at the 86th CSH removed the right kidney, and sewed up a laceration to the liver, removed shrapnel and added a chest tube to prevent my lung from collapsing.  Other injuries included a damaged pancreas, a fractured L1 vertebra and a couple of fractured ribs, a palm sized chunk of flesh missing from my right arm and another from my side where the shrapnel entered.  There were a number of smaller cuts mainly on the left hand, a Forest Gump wound (aka: hit in the ass), and a small laceration in front of the right ear.

Twenty four hours later I was on a hospital flight to Landstuhl in Germany where they repaired some bleeding from my liver.  Another twenty four hours later I was back on a hospital flight heading to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC where I would be transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  After a week I was released from ICU and three weeks later I am scheduled be released as an outpatient for a week or so at the Mologne House where outpatients can stay with their families before they are discharged for convalescent leave.

While recovering Sgt Batt sent some photos of my body armor and Kevlar.  It is pretty obvious that the Kevlar saved my life. The Kevlar was dented inward and partially torn open by a large piece of shrapnel that bounced off and then exited through the steel roof of the hummer.  The photos also show that the shrapnel which entered my side, first went through my body armor dragging the lower edge of the material into my side so that it appeared to Rusk that something was protruding.

I have received the finest medical care that can be offered from the BAS, the 86th CSH, Landstuhl, Walter Reed and the flights in between.  I am not cared for by a doctor, but by several teams of doctors, each specialized in their fields. Cpt Hueman (He-Man) my primary surgeon at Walter Reed exemplifies the level of skill and dedication. Always concerned about my pancreas we learned that he pays attention to the numbers but he treats the patient and lives by a simple set of rules for life as a surgeon; “Sleep when you can. Eat when you can. And don’t fuck with the pancreas”.

No doubt I was lucky to be alive.  Lucky my Kevlar prevented my brains from being splattered on the roof of the hummer; lucky the fragments were slowed by the armor on my hummer and my body armor so that more of my guts were not damaged and lucky that my spine was only fractured and not severed.  I was lucky to be serving with an experienced and dedicated crew that knew that minutes counted and did everything to expedite my evacuation, lucky that the sand storm was not 5 minutes earlier, and lucky to have the medical services required. 

All of this luck was underscored when I was able to get out of bed and walk around Walter Reed.  It is not long before you meet a soldier who is missing a leg or an arm.  The PT (physical therapy) room is filled with soldiers learning to walk and others that will never walk again.  In four more months my wounds will be completely healed and these events will only remain as memories and scars as I return to duty and possibly my crew in Iraq.  For so many others a completely new life is ahead of them with many more obstacles in their path.

I would like to add, that as a casualty of this conflict that I have 100% conviction that the fight and my injuries are worth the cause and I wish to return to the fight in Iraq. My other wish is that every citizen of this nation takes the time to think of the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and know that they did it for them. I would also like every parent and teenager to think about the price they would be willing to pay for their freedom. Would you be willing to let your child go to war so that your wife could walk down the street with the freedom of not having to wear a veil or be covered in black? Would you be willing to stand by your brothers in arms and take a bullet so that they may return home to their families? Every answer varies from person to person, but if it is anything less then yes, I ask one question: Why do you let someone else make that sacrifice? You may have a good reason, and I respect those reasons, but take some time and answer these questions. I appreciate all your support for the soldiers of this country, you have no idea how much it means to us that the people of this nation are behind us. Thank you and God Bless.

 

Follow-Up
by Doug Jackson.  12/20/2005

On December 5, Carl returned to Iraq and rejoined his unit at their new post in Scania. Convoy Support Center (CSC) Scania is a truck stop along a road the military calls Main Supply Route (MSR) Tampa.  It is near the village of Nippur, about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad along Highway 1.  It's a safe zone - they don't have to wear body armor all the time, no mortaring, etc. In fact, the guys there call it "Club Med". 

The last time Scania was mortared, the local Imam rounded up the guilty parties, had them beheaded and their bodies put on display in front of the FOB.  So who says the Iraqis can not control their own country?

Carl also ran down and sent back some photos of his truck.  After Sgt Rusk's truck left with Carl, the remaining trucks loaded up Ballenger, and tossed an incendiary grenade into the abandoned truck.  The remains were later hauled back.  There are multiple penetrations thought the armor including holes that pass through two plates of quarter inch steel.  Carl sill has small bits of copper that pop to the surface of his skin from time to time as his body continues to heal and clean up house.

Finally a letter from Carl to a friend explains his feelings about retuning to Iraq.
 

 

 

GoofHello! I'm the son of the crazy guy building the submarine.  My father sent me a copy of your email and the one he sent back to you.  I just wanted to add a few things.  My father has pressured and interrogated me as to "why?", every time I have thought of doing something for the Army.  I have never been exactly the aggressive kind, tried being a pacifist for a while (succeeded sometimes) before I lost patience with trying to deal with people and joined the army (but as a medic, wasn't sure if I was ready to make my main job killing just yet).

I know very well that this war is political and benefits men who will never experience hardship in their lives beyond choosing between a BMW or Lexus this year.  But if in order to save lives of the children I helped vaccinate, the woman who’s husband we jailed for betting her nearly to death, or the husband we rescued from men who kidnapped him to cut his head off, I will gladly pay for their BMW for them.  To steal great quote “With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Utopia is an idea for people who have never known or seen suffering.  We will never be able to make this country perfect, but we do have the power to help those who we watch get massacred, thrown into mass graves, raped, ethnically cleansed, or any of the other nasty words that I can think of that I’ve seen on television.  We have the power and duty to try to save them.  We owe the world that much. 

For the people who say “Well look at all the suffering we’ve caused”.  Yes, we have caused suffering, but as Sun Tzu said “no society or country may evolve unless conflict, in the form of social change or war, will grow”.  We are providing the grounds for Iraq to become a better country, without this war they would have continued to be raped, shot, tortured, etc, and for how many years before we gained the courage to say what Saddam was doing to his “people”  was not right.  "Evil triumphs only when good men do nothing”.

Man will never change; war will always be political, misunderstood, and in its own way evil.  But if this is the price I must pay for the future of a child in a country I do not call my own, then will I gladly pay it. 

Though I do not agree with your opinions, I respect them.  As a soldier I fight for your right to say what I do is wrong.  At least unlike many of your fellow citizens you are willing to express your opinion, and that is courage in its own way.

The warmongers son,
Carl

The Stars and Strips articles below were done after Carl's return to Iraq in December of 2005.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006
 
48th BCT’s free clinic aiding burn victims in southern Iraq
Facility at Camp Scania well-known, appreciated by locals

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, March 20, 2006

CAMP SCANIA, Iraq — The first patient was a 3-year-old boy who tumbled into the machinery of a water pump and lost his right forearm days ago. The boy’s cries were heart-wrenching as medics worked to replace the soiled dressing that covered the coarsely sutured stump.

The next patient was a lanky, 15-year-old boy who sucked air between clenched teeth as the medics cleaned his badly scalded face before applying new dressings to the injury. Cleaning the waxy wound was a painful and deliberate process, and the boy squeezed one of the medic’s hands as they picked debris from his brow.

“Sorry, got to do this, bro,” Spc. Carl Jackson said as the teen grimaced in pain. “Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze,” the 20-year-old Tulsa, Okla., native said, coaching the youth through the process.

The two cases Friday were among hundreds and hundreds of visits local Iraqis have made to Camp Scania’s free clinic — a service offered by the 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team.

The clinic, which operates three days a week, has become widely known as a premier location for the treatment of burn injuries, and some patients travel up to 75 miles to visit the small, trailer-housed aid center in southern Iraq.

“This is a very important service,” said Dr. Firas Egal, 29, a local Iraqi physician who helps operate the clinic along with two army medics. “Burned children and adults get very good care here, much better than at the local hospitals … Our treatment here is the best in the country.”

While medics like Jackson expected to be treating locals who were suffering war-related injuries, most of the wounds they are treating are burns Iraqis received at home or at work. Many have been caused by stoves, hot cooking oils, open flames and kerosene heaters.

“At first I was wondering — what’s going on here?” said Spc. Chris Barron, 30, of Seale, Ala. “I’ve never seen this many burns in one place,” the medic said.

In many cases, Iraqi hospitals lack the supply of painkillers and antibiotics and other equipment that the clinic offers, Egal said.

“We have painkillers for small children, who cry more, and that’s what’s made us famous,” Egal said.

On a typical day, the clinic will see between 40 and 60 patients, who suffer from everything from a common cold to rare diseases. The clinic, however, is limited in what it can treat, and critical cases are evacuated to a local military aid station or to larger facilities in Baghdad or Balad.

“The Americans are very generous,” said Thamer Mohammed, 40, an Iraqi father who brought his son to the clinic on Friday. His son, Gaith, 15, suffered severe burns to the backs of his legs and his right hand in a gasoline fire two weeks ago. “One of our neighbors told us to come here. They said it was the best thing to do, because the American soldiers will take care of it.”

As Thamer Mohammed spoke, his son winced and writhed as medics cleaned his burned hand and applied new bandages to the burns. When they were done, the teen received a handful of Tootsie Roll candies, like all the other young patients. In some cases, youngsters received a new pair of shoes.

The 48th BCT is a Georgia-based Army National Guard unit, and in civilian life, both Jackson and Barron work in emergency medicine. Barron is a paramedic and a firefighter, while Jackson is an emergency medical technician.

They both said they enjoyed working at the clinic, mostly because it was a change of pace from their usual duties.

“It’s a little different from going out and busting in houses and doing room searches,” Barron said.

For Jackson, the clinic offered him an opportunity to polish his beside manner.

“I wasn’t really good at hands-on patient care before now,” he said. “This gives me a chance to work with kids and have fun with them. It’s a good chance for me to learn.”

© 2006 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved.






 

 

 


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

War Stories: Medics recall their own close brushes with death in Iraq
National Guardsmen survived attacks in ‘Triangle of Death’

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 



Monte Morin / S&S
Spc. Carl Jackson and Spc. Chris Barron treat an Iraqi teen at a free clinic at Camp Scania in Southern Iraq on Friday.
 

CAMP SCANIA, Iraq — As a combat medic, Spc. Chris Barron never imagined he’d have to fire his rifle in Iraq. His buddy, Spc. Carl Jackson, figured he’d never get “blowed up.”

At least that’s what the two Army National Guardsmen were thinking right up until August, when they found themselves in the thick of two separate attacks just three days apart in Iraq’s notorious “Triangle of Death.”

Barron, of 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team, was one of many Georgia guardsmen who were initially deployed to the violent insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad — an area that includes Mahmudiyah, Latifiyah and Yusufiyah, otherwise known as “The Fiyahs.”

Three months into his first overseas tour, the 30-year-old father of three was attached to a platoon at a small outpost by a Euphrates River bridge dubbed JSB. Barron drew guard duty the evening of Aug. 12.

“As a medic you do everything everyone else does, that is until something goes wrong,” Barron said.

Barron, a civilian paramedic and firefighter, was standing on the roof of a building that served as the platoon’s quarters, observing the bridge, which was off-limits to traffic. The sun was just beginning to set when he noticed an approaching bongo truck.

“[It] came screaming down the road,” Barron said. After signaling for the vehicle to stop, he realized quickly that the driver wasn’t about to hit the brakes. “I got ready for him,” he said.

Barron watched the truck bear down on him and noticed that the driver appeared to be a young man. When the truck barreled over the concertina wire at the front gate, Barron began squeezing rounds off from his M-16, shattering the front windshield. The suicide bomber was trying to ram the building that contained his platoon.

“I blasted his windshield and I remember seeing his body jerk forward and then go back. Then I saw the truck blow up,” he said.

With black smoke in his eyes, Barron felt the shockwave from the explosion. “I’ll never forget that wave, that blast that comes over you. Once I realized I was still alive, I kept shooting,” he said.

Only one soldier suffered a minor injury in the explosion, and Barron himself escaped unharmed.

“Barron saved the lives of a lot of people that day,” said Spc. Todd Cole, a medic in the same unit. “It was a humungous explosion.”

Barron has since been nominated for a Bronze Star.

His fellow medic, Jackson, earned a different award three days prior to the bombing attempt. The 20-year-old Tulsa, Okla., native was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he suffered on Aug. 9.

Jackson was sitting in the rear, passenger side seat of his Humvee, with his nickname “Bad Medicine” scrawled on the door. He was among a group of soldiers picking up an insurgent who had bombed some of the 108th’s tanks earlier. On the way, they drove headlong into a roadside bomb ambush set up by the insurgents.

Jackson and the truck commander, or TC, suffered the brunt of the explosion. At the time however, Jackson didn’t realize it, because he had been knocked unconscious. A chunk of shrapnel had blown through the side of the vehicle, bounced off his helmet, and ricocheted up through the roof of the Humvee.

When Jackson regained consciousness, he knew things were bad.

“The truck was filled with dirt,” Jackson said. “I was wondering what just happened, and then I noticed I couldn’t breathe very well.”

Jackson, whose armor and uniform were covered in blood, was pulled from the truck. As medics worked on him, he realized he couldn’t move his legs below his knees. Meanwhile, the TC was “screaming bloody murder,” Jackson said. The explosion had ruptured the vehicle’s battery beneath the TC’s seat, severely burning him with acid.

It was at this moment that Jackson first feared he might die. The TC, “a big ol’ country boy” who once served with the 101st Airborne Division, grabbed Jackson’s hand and squeezed it. Jackson saw the TC had tears in his eyes.

“That was a bad sign,” Jackson said. “The big badass is getting teary-eyed.”

The next real scare, Jackson said, was when he was loaded into a Humvee and evacuated to a medical station. The Humvee was moving at 50 or 60 mph when it hit a river crossing soldiers call “Fat Boy Bridge.”

Fat Boy Bridge had been severely damaged by explosives, and huge chunks had been blown off its sides. “There’s just enough room to drive a Humvee across with about six or eight inches to spare on each side,” Jackson said. “It’s about 40-feet high over a canal and it’s a hell of a drop if you go off.”

“I said, ‘Damn, I just got hit by an IED and now I’m going into the canal,” Jackson said.

The Humvee made it though and Jackson was taken to a medical center. He’d lost a chunk of flesh from his right elbow — which now bears a wide dark scar — as well as his right kidney. He also suffered a broken back, broken ribs and a collapsed right lung.

After four months of treatment, Jackson was able to return to duty. The TC survived, but remains in medical care back in the States. Now, with the 48th BCT in more peaceful southern Iraq, Jackson and Barron find themselves treating local children and adults for burns, colds and other ailments at a free clinic, instead of treating the combat injuries they grew familiar with in the Triangle of Death.

Barron said he doesn’t miss his time up north, and fondly remembers stepping onto a helicopter in Yusufiyah and stepping off of it at Camp Scania.

“That night we all left in Chinooks — that was a nice feeling,” he said.

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