Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"He Didn't Need To Be Here."

I have intentionally not mentioned other people's names in my posts. There are privacy issues, security concerns, and the simple fact that I am writing about my experiences, and I don't think it is appropriate for me to be splashing names all over the Internet. With that in mind, I still would like to tell you about Joe. He is my "bunk mate." He has got the top bunk, and I am on the bottom. Soon after we all got settled here at McCrady, we talked, and I asked him where he was going; Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. He told me that he was headed to Patuxent River Naval Air Station. I followed up with asking where he was going after that, and he told me that that was it. He was doing an IA at Pax River. "Then what the heck are you doing here?" I asked. He replied that he didn't know, only that his orders sent him here for basic combat training. With a comical, grandiose gesture I said, "On behalf of the government of the United States, and the Department of Defense, let me be the first one to apologize to you for wasting the next two and half weeks of you life." He didn't need to be here.

People complain, and people here complain a lot. I have tried to not complain, and for the most part have been successful. But I still find myself griping about trifle things every now and then. There are others here who do nothing but bitch and moan all day long about everything. Not Joe, though. If anyone has a right to complain, it would be him. But he never does. He didn't need to be here

This morning we had formation after breakfast and the plan was to road march about two miles with all of our weapons and battle armor to the urban training area, where we would spend the entire day outdoors going through training on check point operations, unexploded ordnance, room clearing techniques, and getting familiarized with armored vehicles. During the march, Joe fell a little behind and some of the drill sergeants asked him if he wanted to get in the van following us. Joe said no, and caught up. He didn't need to be here.

Once we got to the training site, I was standing around talking with classmates, waiting for the drill sergeants to start the days activities, when I heard a commotion behind me. I turned around and noticed someone laying on the ground with two or three people bent over them waving and screaming for help. I ran over to see what was wrong and found Joe on the ground gasping for breath, foaming at the mouth and his eyes rolling around in the back of his head. Luckily, one the people nearest him when he went down was a corpsman. Those helping him were already in the process of stripping off his body armor, so I started taking off his knee pads, untying his boots and elevating his legs. By this time the two navy nurses and all of the corpsmen in our class were there, so I retreated. He didn't need to be here.

The drill sergeants eventually came over to investigate. They radioed in the situation, called the base fire department, and followed up with a 911 call. Minutes passed and the situation deteriorated. The nurses and corpsmen began rescue breathing and chest compressions. Where was the god damn ambulance. After what seemed like an eternity, the ambulance arrived and whisked Joe away. He didn't need to be here

Joe was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

I was pulled from training a while later and told to report back to our barracks. Since I was his bunk mate, they wanted me there when they inventoried and packed up his personal effects.

They have finished with his things in the barracks, and I am now looking out the window watching them repeat the process with his truck. There is a single thought that keeps running through my mind, and you probably already know what it is.


  1. I'm sorry Dan, I hope Joe's family knows that someone has him in mind and it that it wasn't unnoticed.

  2. How awful. Poor kid. I hope you get to talk to his family. They'd love knowing that someone around him cared about him and he didn't die alone. I'm sorry for you too, for having your first encounter with death so early in this 1-year tour. Be careful and take care of yourself. Linda

  3. As I am just reading this on Wednesday, 2.18, and you have "gone dark" - I am so sorry. You, all those that are with you, the families of those who are with you, and in a special way, Joe are and will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers, and those of many, many more.

    Love you!

    Your Favorite 9and only!) Aunt