Ten years ago today and the images are so clear…like it happened yesterday. The 3rd ID..the 3rd Infantry Division with heavy armor rolling across the desert floor in living color on the ABC Television Network. The late Peter Jennings, sitting in the anchor chair talking to Ted Koppel as the war against Iraq officially began. Ted was there, dressed in army camo reporting on history in the making.
I think all Americans felt a slight shudder in their chests that night. We expected the war, but silently hoped there would be a change in plans at the midnight hour. There were new words to add to our every day conversations….WMD’s, weapons of mass destruction;chem suits, gas masks and IED’s…all bad words with bad outcomes.
Leroy’s army credential is clipped to his military dog tags, the silver strip of metal with his name, social security number and blood type clearly etched on both sides. It hangs here, near the computer. He was there too. His media ID has an issue date of February 28, 2003 because he went to Kuwait early for training. He learned what the alerts for a chemical scare could mean. He learned to put on his gas mask in 8 seconds…anything longer than 8 seconds could mean death. He was issued his chemical suit and I’m not sure to this day, if there had been a chemical threat, what the suit would have protected him from, but he would wear it for weeks, just in case. His gas mask was belted to his waist too.
I remember the lead-up to his leaving for Kuwait. We got our wills in order, medical powers of attorney were drawn up…this was like no other assignment he’d ever been on and you know he’d been to every hell hole in the world, covering the worse of what human kind had to offer. This was war from a different point of view.
When the camera turned to catch the tanks and Humvee’s in huge clouds of dust moving across the sand for as far as the eye could see, the 6-foot 5-inch image of a man stood out in the foreground. I knew that posture. I was so glad to see him and so worried too.
There would be real “war stories” shared over short phone conversations during his time in Iraq….more when he returned home. The experience changed him as a man too. He lost friends there and saw life through the eyes of young soldiers fighting for their country.
“Come Home Soon”..three little words engraved on a gold disc. My gift to Leroy before he left on that journey ten years ago.
After he died I found it in his wallet…right where he put it on the day he left for the war.
Today, it rests near a picture of him, taken somewhere near Baghdad.