During President G.W. Bush's Iraq War a unit from Maine had to deal with a suicide bomber attack.
It was 11 years ago on December 21 when 22 people were killed in the attack, including two members the Jason White's unit. This is Lt. White's book about the attack and his deployment, as a 2nd Lieutenant in Maine's 133rd National Guard Engineer Battalion.
"As a true leader, Jason understood the importance of telling his unit's story. He's built a bridge for communication that is sorely needed. ... Many would like to express themselves better about their tour of duty but might be hesitant, not willing to risk misunderstandings. After all, where do they begin the conversation? This journal could be a great start."
-from the introduction by Former Maine Governor John E. Baldacci.
Journal of a 2nd Lieutenant in Iraq with the 133rd Battalion was published in 2014, and the conversation has begun. Now their sacrifices, and the work they did with the people of Iraq will not be forgotten.
The 133rd was deployed to build schools, bridges and buildings to help move Iraq and her people forward. They ended up doing so much more, yet there story is seldom told. Jason's book puts their record straight with stories from his personal journal.
Hopefully the members of our armed services, and their families are beginning to heal. We owe it to them never to forget and to honor them for their service.
"Lt. White did all of those things. He challenged incompetence, celebrated outstanding performance, and kept his eyes on the mission, even while others basked in its limelight. He understood the therapeutic value of a good cheerleader, repeatedly putting finger to keyboard to sing his company's and platoon's praises in one newsletter after another. All of this while accepting that rank and timing had conspired to deprive him of close friendships - one of the few real havens in a war zone. Lonely by his own candid admission, he nevertheless performed his duty well and with honor."
- by Bill Nemitz writer for the Portland Press Herald, who was embeded in Iraq with Lt. White
At the age of nineteen, Jason joined the US Army as an armor crewman. He served the first year of his military career in South Korea along the DMZ. After the one-year tour, he spent the next three years at Fort Carson, Colorado, and later transferred to the Maine Army National Guard (MEARNG). Jason worked at the Regional Training Institute in Augusta, Maine, as a traditional Guard soldier, where he eventually attended the Officer Candidate School and was commissioned. Shortly after commissioning, he was sent to serve as an engineer platoon leader in Iraq. Jason has served in a multitude of positions since returning from Iraq that include company commander and engineer plans officer. He retired from the MEARNG in 2014.
In civilian life, Jason is employed as the executive director of Maine Behavioral Health Organization, a nonprofit that provides mental-health and substance-abuse services throughout Maine. Jason currently resides in Rockland, Maine, with his loving and supportive wife, Jessica, and their four children.
This is some of the survivors of the bombings story, from an excerpt from an article in the Portland Press Herald article:
Living with memories
Five survivors talked to Bill Nemitz about the bombing on Dec. 21, 2004, and the two Maine soldiers killed in the explosion. Bill Nemitz and Photographer Greg Rec, were embedded with the 133rd at the time.This is from Bill's article:
“I try to keep as busy as I can – with not as many people around,” said Sivret, the former chaplain for the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion. “If I keep busy, then I don’t have to think about it.”
But today, the shortest day followed by the longest night of the year, will be different.
On this day, Dec. 21, Sivret and hundreds like him will stop, close their eyes and travel back to Mosul, Iraq, back to the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Marez, back to the suicide bomber who in a single instant turned the week before Christmas into a living hell for anyone who bore witness to the attack and its grisly aftermath.
The bomber, dispatched by the terrorist Army of Ansar al-Islam and disguised as an Iraqi National Guard soldier, killed 14 U.S. soldiers, four American civilians and four Iraqi soldiers. Shrapnel from his explosive vest wounded 72 others, including six soldiers from Maine.
The massive explosion would go down as the deadliest single suicide attack on U.S. forces throughout the entire Iraq war. Its aftershocks, both physical and psychological, reverberate to this day.
It was a Tuesday, just four days before Christmas. Holiday decorations and cheery music filled the DFAC, or dining facility, at FOB Marez as soldiers streamed in for lunch, lined up at the food stations manned by civilian contractors and then fanned out among the plastic chairs and tables that could accommodate up to 600 personnel at a time.
Chaplain Sivret, accompanied by Maj. John Nelson, the 133rd’s chief medical officer, hungrily filled his plate with roast beef. Nelson opted for a chili cheese dog. Taking their seats about 20 feet from the food stations, Nelson dug in while Sivret lowered his head to say grace. He looked up just in time to see a bright flash directly behind his buddy.
“This isn’t the white light they talk about, when you die,” Sivret thought to himself as he and Nelson catapulted through the air. Then everything went black.
Staff Sgt. Harold “Butch” Freeman of Gorham had just filled his tray, grabbed his silverware and was turning to make a wisecrack to a soldier from West Virginia he recognized from lifting weights at the base gym. The next thing Freeman knew, he was flying backward as a wall of smoke and debris, seemingly in slow motion, came directly at him.
Landing on his back, Freeman quickly did a digital inventory: One, two, three … nine, 10 fingers. One, two, three … nine, 10 toes.
“Whew … that was close,” he told himself.
Nearby, Freeman saw a young soldier, gravely wounded, writhing in silence on the cement floor.
“Don’t give up,” Freeman implored the kid. “Hang on! Help is coming!”
But it was too late. Within seconds, the young man lay still.
Freeman tried to get up. Only then did he realize that he was awash in his own blood – the blast had shattered his right femur, ripped through his pelvis and severed an artery. He, too, was well on his way to bleeding out.
Suddenly, Freeman’s entire squad from the 133rd’s Bravo Company – they proudly called themselves the “Black Sheep” – surrounded him. One soldier grabbed a napkin dispenser, emptied it and stuffed the napkins into the gaping hole in Freeman’s thigh. The others got hold of a litter – only weeks earlier, “Doc” Nelson had placed them strategically throughout the DFAC along with emergency first-aid kits – and carried their stricken squad leader to a triage area just outside the mess hall.
“Mother (expletive)! You rotten bastards!” screamed Freeman at whoever had done this to him. “I’m not dying in this (expletive) hole! No way! It’s just not going to happen!”
Back inside, Sivret regained consciousness. The blast had thrown both him and Nelson more than 20 feet through the air. Nelson, who’d already come to, had quickly checked Sivret to see that he was breathing and then moved on to help others.
At Sivret’s side lay a soldier from another unit who, just seconds earlier, had sat quietly eating his lunch next to the chaplain. Now the soldier’s head and shoulders were covered by the tablecloth and his legs were twitching with uncontrolled spasms.
“Oh, my God,” thought Sivret, quickly reaching over to remove the tablecloth. “We’ve got to get this guy some help.”
But one look at the soldier’s upper torso and Sivret knew there was nothing anyone could do.
Slowly, the spasms subsided and Sivret performed the first of what would be many last rites. He couldn’t hear his own prayers – the explosion had ruptured one of his eardrums and seriously damaged the other...
For the entire article please go HERE.