mercredi, février 23, 2005

Three Minnesotans

This is a letter home forwarded to me by a very upset co-worker who is from the area in Minnesota where Dan Day, Jesse Lothka and Jason Timmerman grew up.

Keep our soldiers in your thoughts and in your prayers.

Hey, I'm just letting you know that I'm OK. I don't know if you heard the bad news or not, but we lost three guys yesterday and another is in intensive care. They were on a convoy and one of the vehicles lost control and rolled over. It did a barrel roll over the guard rail and landed on the right hand side of the road. The hummer was upside down, resting on the side shields for the gunner turret, that's the only thing that saved the gunner's life. Cory Fennel was the gunner and he was under the vehicle after it rolled. Tijtong Vang was driving and Jesse Lohtka was the team leader in the passenger seat. Lohtka got out right away and pulled Vang and Fennel out.

They were both a little banged up, but were okay. Lohtka got the guys on stretchers and they waited for the medevac chopper to show up while everyone pulled security. Once the chopper showed up Lohtka, along with David Day, who was a team leader for another vehicle, and Lieutennant Jason Timmerman, who was a platoon leader, started helping Fennel and vang to the chopper. I guess Fennel walked to the chopper first, and then the guys started carrying Vang on a stretcher toward the chopper. The guys that helped Fennel went around the guard rail while the guys with Vang were going to step over it.

As soon as they got within about 15 feet of the rail there was an explosion right in front of them and they were all knocked to the ground. They think it was a roadside bomb buried there that went off. Day, Lohtka, and Timmerman were killed, and Vang was seriously injured. I guess the only reason Vang didn't die is because Day was carrying the front of the stretcher. Dan Perseke tried everything he could for them but there was nothing he could do. There were two other guys injured from other units that were helping with the crash, one lost his leg. Vang is in intensive care right now and he's improving, I went to see him yesterday in the hospital and gave some blood platelets for him. He had a lot of internal bleeding and had some liver damage. He's going to Germany sometime tonight, and then to the states for surgery. I think he'll be okay.

Yesterday was the worst day of my life. It was just like losing family members. I listened to the whole thing on the radio in our truck, and I heard the explosion in the distance when it happened.

When they came over and said they had three KIA (killed in action) I just about fainted. We were about to go on a mission when it started happening, but then it got cancelled. When they all came back I saw Dan Perseke get out of his truck and he was covered in blood and had a dazed look on his face. It was one of the worst things I've ever seen. Then I had to see the weapons and body armor of the guys that got hit and everything had holes in it and was ripped all to hell. I hope I never have to see what they saw, but I know all the gruesome details so the mental picture is bad enough. I've known Dave Day all through high school and we've always been good buddies. I was pretty close to Vang, too, we've been good friends since he joined our unit a couple of years ago. This really sucks, I thought we'd all come home in one piece, but these guys we're in the wrong place at the right time.

I think they got the guy responsible for the attack because one of the guys that were there said he saw soldiers pulling an Iraqi out of one of the houses. Don't worry about me, though, I'm still upset but we're still doing missions like we always have. I'll call as soon as I get time.

Love, J

You can forward this to others if you want.

The day the war started, I was driving to work. There was almost no traffic. I could not help but think to myself how amazing it is that something so fierce and intense and horrible was happening far away and yet very near while my day-to-day life was largely unchanged. I do not know anyone serving in Iraq, but I know and love people who have loved ones there. The war reached me today. It really reached me today when I saw my good friend hurting. I am sad and ashamed. Sad that wars happen and people die. Ashamed that it took seeing my grieving friend to make me really feel, to make me really understand.

Keep our soliders in your thoughts and prayers.