I met with a close friend of mine from High School last week.
Mark is a captain in a Marine Corps artillery unit; second in command of 7 howitzers. He was directly involved in the battle of Fallujah delivering shells into the war torn town during the battle. He recalled some incidents.
One day, he was walking across the base when he heard a rocket. He took a knee as the rocket hissed over his head. "It makes a sound like sizzling bacon," he described. It landed with a boom about 100 meters away. He made his way toward a building and as he entered it, he heard another rocket approach and detonate just outside, where he had just took a knee. The explosion rocked the building. Quickly he ran outside and saw a large metal door blown into pieces by the rocket. An injured Marine lay bleeding in front of him. He quickly ran over, and along with another soldier, assessed the injured man's wounds. A puddle of blood pooled around the marine's head. As they lifted his head to look at the wound, they noticed the blood coming from his ears, nose and side of his face. He unbuttoned the injured man's shirt and ran his hands over his body, checking for blood. He found a shrapnel wound on the man's side. Just then medics and other soldiers ran over and took the injured man to the infirmary. They were sure he didn't make it.
Another close call came when they were travelling between Fallujah and Mosul in a mile long convoy one night. Watching the road through the green glow of his night vision goggles, he rode in the third Humvee from the front of the convoy, sitting shotgun. Suddenly, he heard a pop, followed by a flash of red. The car didn't get blown upward, but was engulfed in a fireball. Flames shot across the front and side of the car, and the sound like someone throwing handfuls of rocks at the side of the car. The explosion blew out a tire and smashed the headlights but, the armored Humvee was intact. The driver slammed on the gas and continued on. Immediately Mark thought the engine had blown up, but when a call from the rear of the convoy reported a large explosion and requested a casualty report, he knew he had been a victim of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Later, an unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle spotted a white pickup truck rapidly leaving the area. A while later the Marines raided the house where the pickup stopped and found evidence such as detonators, and explosives and arrested the suspect. He later inspected the damage on his armored Humvee. Besides the blown wheel, the car was marked up from shrapnel, some of it still sticking out of the armor. Had the Humvee not been armored, he surely would have been hit by shrapnel.
Capt. Mark will be returning to Iraq in September to complete his second tour.