A Search for the Missing

A couple of weeks ago, a terrible accident occurred just outside the wire of Al Asad. A convoy was crossing a wash and one of the seven-ton trucks fell victim to the rushing waters, causing all of the Marines and one Navy corpsman inside to go missing. CW4 Phil Brashear, a fellow pilot, was one member of the many crews that launched in support of the Marines and sailors on that truck. I asked him if he share his account of the first day of the mission. In light of the situation and out of respect for the fallen and their families, Phil and I have delayed posting this entry. -- Bert

I am awakened by one of my fellow pilots at 03:30 in the morning telling me that an emergency mission has come up. I gather myself and get to the briefing room with little time to spare. We are briefed that a convoy has lost a vehicle at a bridge site during a flash flood and that there are people missing.

My blood started pumping as the details were given to us. We were told that one service member was immediately rescued and brought back to our location, but did not survive. (Later, we learned that he lived.) We thought of as many contingencies as we could, given the short brief, but this was an emergency. One of the crew chiefs grabbed some blankets to offer survivors and some body bags, just in case the worst was in store. We launched on time and proceeded to our objective area.

Upon arrival, I could see the overturned truck and scattered debris in the water. We landed briefly to coordinate with the ground commander and were quickly given the order to launch and start looking for evidence and Marines. Just after takeoff we saw our first casualty. We called in the coordinates for pickup over the radio to the ground forces. Not believing what I was seeing, we flew a short distance further and saw another dead Marine. My tears for these guys started rolling down my face as the mission continued.

Minutes later, I heard the radio call from the ground commander asking us to pick up the bodies we'd spotted. For a split moment, I thought of how vulnerable the aircraft would be if we landed and started recovery operations along the bank. Though not in the friendliest part of Iraq, we doubled back to our first sighting. I could see everything clearly and noticed as the crew chiefs walked toward the body that the thick mud was going to be a problem. I immediately told my copilot to grab the controls as I exited the aircraft to assist. We walked up on the Marine and all my thoughts were about getting the remains back respectfully.

After I got back into the aircraft, I started crying as I realized what I had done. We moved to the second body and with dignity and respect, we cared for the remains of the fallen comrades. We found our third one down stream in almost a sleeping posture. How I prayed that he was actually asleep, but as we flew closer, it was evident that the rocks in the river had taken their toll. We departed the aircraft and again went on our duty to reclaim the body from the river. We struggled against the deep mud and the larger size of this individual. We were able to get him onboard and then resumed our search.

We worked for the rest of the day. With several hours in the air and the next shift of pilots ready to take over the mission, we returned to Al Asad and debriefed with our Chaplain. I was so thankful for his caring explanation of the necessity of what we had done, but it did not stop my tears. We had not found all of the missing and, before retreating for some rest, prepared the aircraft to start again the next day.

-- Written 4/24/2006, by CW4 Phil Brashear

By Bert Stover |  May 1, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Work
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

This is very moving. Was this the first time you had seen US casualties? I ask because this reminded me of the rare (and precious) instances when my grandfather would allow himself to talk about his experiences in Europe in WWII. He once told how the sight of numerous dead German soldiers upon his arrival in France didn't really bother him, but that he will never forget the first time he saw "a body in brown" (the color of the US uniform).

Have you or others had a similar experience?

Posted by: David | May 1, 2006 02:05 PM

Just about the only reaction on the part of Brashir that shows there have been some healthy cultural changes since my upbringing (I am 87 years old) is that he was apparently able to cry without feeling unmasculine about doing so. I can't remember my husband ever crying during our almost 60 years of marrage, even though he often had sufficient reason to do so.

Posted by: Babette Whipple | May 1, 2006 02:38 PM

My heart goes out to each and every one of the families who suffered a loss during this tragedy. Thank God for Phil and the rest of the pilots and crews called upon to do this duty. We at home cannot imagine what you have to go through on a daily basis and the many types of missions you are called to complete. We are proud of all of you and support you completely.

A Mom

Posted by: | May 1, 2006 02:55 PM

My prayers go out to the families of those men. Tragic.

Posted by: CW3 Gordon Cimoli | May 1, 2006 04:21 PM

thank you for doing your difficult duty. your efforts gave the parents some peace of mind in spite of the terrible news they were going to have to absorb. may the rest of your tour be a safe one.


Posted by: tom | May 1, 2006 04:21 PM

My hope is that all of you are comforted by our prayers, meditations, and thoughts here in your homeland. Know that you are loved and that not one of you fall without this heart skipping a beat. My heart goes out to all of you there, and I feel ashamed that I am not there with you serving Our Country. Every night the candles are lit in honor of your love and service for this great country that we share! God's speed.

Posted by: Alan C. Jenkins | May 1, 2006 05:41 PM

In Korea, I jumped into a foxhole which belonged to another infantryman. A few minutes later a mortar landed about a foot from our hole. He fell on top of me with blood coming out of the side of his head and his mouth. I dragged him back up the hill to the trench. I do not know whether he lived or died. I had to go back down to the outpost. I do not know his name or anything about him.
Every time I vote, I look for a black man or woman running for office and vote for him/her. I owe it to that young infantryman.

Posted by: Frank McGill | May 1, 2006 09:19 PM

I'm sure the families of those Marines appreciate the respect you gave to them. You are hero in my eyes for doing such a difficult task.

Good luck to you and God bless.

Posted by: Cali_Girl | May 1, 2006 09:32 PM

I hope our elected leaders read this particular blog posting. Maybe then it will dawn on them that Americans are dying for no very good reason.

Posted by: E. Etage | May 2, 2006 09:32 AM

Letters From Home

By John Michael Montgomery

My Dear Son, it is almost June,
I hope this letter catches up to you, and finds you well
Its been dry but they're calling for rain,
And everything's the same ol' same in Johnsonville
Your stubborn 'ol Daddy ain't said too much,
But I'm sure you know he sends his love,
And she goes on,
In a letter from home

I hold it up and show my buddies,
Like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy, and they all laugh,
Like there's something funny bout' the way I talk,
When I say: "Mama sends her best y'all"
I fold it up an' put it in my shirt,
Pick up my gun an' get back to work
An' it keeps me driving me on,
Waiting on letters from home

My Dearest Love, its almost dawn
I've been lying here all night long wondering where you might be
I saw your Mama and I showed her the ring
Man on the television said something so I couldn't sleep
But I'll be all right, I'm just missing you
An' this is me kissing you
XX's and OO's,
In a letter from home

I hold it up and show my buddies,
Like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy, and they all laugh,
'Cause she calls me "Honey", but they take it hard,
'Cause I don't read the good parts
I fold it up an' put it in my shirt,
Pick up my gun an' get back to work
An' it keeps me driving me on,
Waiting on letters from home

Dear Son, I know I ain't written,
But sittin' here tonight, alone in the kitchen, it occurs to me,
I might not have said, so I'll say it now
Son, you make me proud

I hold it up and show my buddies,
Like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy, but no one laughs,
'Cause there ain't nothing funny when a soldier cries
An' I just wipe me eyes
I fold it up an' put it in my shirt,
Pick up my gun an' get back to work
An' it keeps me driving me on,
Waiting on letters from home

Posted by: love country | May 2, 2006 09:53 AM

Dear CW4 Phil Brashear, you honor your country as well as your comrades with your actions. Your task was one that I do not envy. Its so very easy to talk trash when you're a few thousand miles from where all of this is happening. I have no doubt that someone somewhere, probably on this blog, will try to lay a guilt trip on you guys (and gals) and maybe even blame you and your fellow service men and woman for this terrible tragedy. But rest assured that most of us recognize the value of your service as well as your sacrifice, even when we may not necessarily agree with the mission that has been placed on your collective laps. May God bless all of you and watch over you. I sincerely hope that our prayers will somehow comfort you and please know that you are not alone.

Posted by: Santiago | May 2, 2006 09:54 AM

God bless you, for your gentle, respectful care of the fallen soldiers, their loved ones can take comfort in your gesture.

Posted by: Maureen | May 2, 2006 10:24 AM

This really touched me because my niece is in the Marine Mortuary Affairs unit at Al Asad. Once those bodies were recovered they were sent on to her unit for processing. I asked her if she'd been involved and she told me yes, but clearly didn't want to talk about it. MA's one of the hardest assignments in the military. Most of the time they're the ones going out to recover the dead. They have to take and catalog all personal effects, take down all personal information, clean and prepare the dead for the return home. My 20 year old niece, who's on her second tour, has seen more death than even many military veterans three times her age. Many times they've had to try to match body parts after an IED explosion. Sometimes they have to wait for hours or even days before they can effect a recovery. When they go out to pick up the dead they have to worry about being attacked themselves, about ambushes and booby traps. Back at their base they have to go through all the pockets and packs of the deceased -- pulling out letters from home, seeing pictures of their families, finding their good luck charms and religious medals. The MA's motto is "No One Left Behind" and they process all the dead with extraordinary reverence and dignity. They call them "angels", never the deceased.

So I salute CW4 Brashear, who hopefully will never have to go through this experience again, and ask all who read this blog to pause a moment to thank those whose job it is to do repeatedly what CW4 Brashear had to do, and to give thought to the comfort their actions have brought to the bereaved families of their angels.

Posted by: Carla | May 2, 2006 11:18 AM

Hey there Allen C. Jenkins and Carla... By the time I finished your post, Allen, I had tears on my cheeks. Very moving, very appropriate, and well said... I wish I could have written it.

And Carla... your thoughts on your USMC niece working with our 'Angels' was beautiful. Certainly not what I would have expected.

You guys made my day.

Posted by: ElkGrover | May 2, 2006 12:51 PM

Mr. Brashear; From a former marine (over 50 years ago) my heartfelt thanks for your effort and your tears. My God bless you ,keep you safe, and grant you His peace.

Posted by: Bill j` | May 2, 2006 03:20 PM

From what I gather, my wife was the medic flying with you guys on this mission.

Posted by: Ken | May 2, 2006 04:46 PM

Why don't they end this war and bring those brave soldiers home?

Posted by: Liliana R. S. Goldberger | May 2, 2006 10:28 PM


Phil, it makes us 2/224 wives here at home proud to know that our men are over there doing the job well. My heart goes out to the Marines families. Thank you for posting this and enduring such a difficult task. I can't imagine what you felt. The respect that you showed the deceased is what they deserved. All of you deserve it!! Thank you to each and everyone of you there.

God Bless you and the rest of the 2/224th! You all are in my thoughts and prayers daily! We miss you!!

Posted by: av8ryf | May 3, 2006 09:13 AM

Apologies to all.

If anyone at the WaPost is monitoring this, please delete my last post.

Posted by: Jay Cline | May 3, 2006 11:21 AM

God Bless these you heroes, we continue to
remember to fufill or promises made before
we ever went into combat,"leave no one behind". I brought back hundreds of green
bags from the hills and rice fields of Korea, some filled with a complete body, many that were less than half filled, each
received the honors they deserved. I can
remember trying to hide my tears the first
time we loaded our C-119 with 24 body bags,
I had been told grown men don't cry, but
I did and continued each time I was assigned this duty. I praise and pray for
our young men each day and know they are
fighting for a just cause. Thank you.

Posted by: Dave | May 4, 2006 10:07 AM

"I praise and pray for
our young men each day and know they are
fighting for a just cause. Thank you."

Dave, appreciate your comments, but don't forget the young women. My niece is doing the job you used to do, just as other women in her unit have done. And unfortunately, some of those body bags contain young women who also have died for their country. I guess there really is no rear echelon in this war. There may be more or less danger depending on your station, but IEDs don't distinguish between combat and non-combat units, and neither do mortars.

That said, thank you for your service in returning our honored dead to their homeland from Korea. I know the families were grateful to be able to receive them and give them a proper burial.

Posted by: Carla | May 4, 2006 10:37 AM

Is there some way to get Che to stop posting stuff that isn't even remotely on topic? Che, there are other blogs and forums which would be happy to receive your thoughts or information on voting fraud and RFID implantation, but this isn't one of them.

Posted by: Carla | May 4, 2006 10:41 AM

"I praise and pray for
our young men each day and know they are
fighting for a just cause. Thank you."

No they arent, and this recent post shows that they are dying for an unjust cause, too.

no one deserves that, not the dead, not Bert and Phil, not the Iraqi's and not the future generations of Americans that will have to live with the legacy of this immoral war.

Bert, Phil, stay safe and get home soon

Posted by: dave | May 4, 2006 12:31 PM

As a son of a former marine sniper from Viet Nam, I am thankful for our dedicated soldiers and support personnel...I just wished we would send Mr. Bush to spend two tours of duty in Iraq...He dodged his military duty but has no problem sending not only young men and women but even those who are in their fifties to an uncertain future...Maybe we should really blame the press for not really supporting the country by real news coverage...Just continuing the Rove mud slinging and lying...Maybe when they will get sent down to prison they will get to review each and every person they sent to their death with their lies and agendas...God bless all of you and protect you...

Posted by: bdphillips | May 4, 2006 01:01 PM

Phil, I am very proud of what you have accomplished within the unit. I still remember the day we talked about you going to flight school. Continue the fight, keep the faith and thanks for your continued service as I am there with you guys while I serve in Kosovo.

Posted by: Stumper | May 5, 2006 09:33 AM

BDPhillips, great posting. I would love to send the president or his twins to do what my husband is doing in Afghanistan. How would he like to leave his family for 12 - 18 months? How would he like to look death in the eye? I love to read the postings here. They help me make it through each day. I pray for my husband and all the men and women that are put in this terrible position.

Posted by: Julie | May 5, 2006 12:05 PM

Che... stop the needless chatter! Find another site. This is not for you!

Posted by: Julie | May 5, 2006 12:07 PM

CW4 Brashear...trememdous effort! You and your crew demonstrated what is great about America. "Life has a special meaning for the soldier that the protected will never know!" This was posted over the entrance door of a flight ops hooch in Nam. Thank God for our military...for we are the ones who preserve the freedoms ALL American's enjoy...to include the freedom of speech, regardless of how totally rediculous it is presented at times by those who voice comments...unfortunately, knowing obviously nothing of what they say!


Posted by: Comanchero 26 | May 5, 2006 12:26 PM

sorry, Comanchero, whats great about America?

that freedom is maintained from a gun?

that folks who dont thank "god" for your armed forces dont know squat? am i correct that according to you, the "freedoms ALL American's enjoy" come at the expense of other country's misery?

many people outside America would argue thats precisely the problem with America

You sound like a cross between Mao Tse Tung and bin Laden


Posted by: dave | May 5, 2006 12:35 PM

Phil, keep up the great work! Passed on your story here to your "family" at DSCR, so you'll probably be hearing from some other folks soon also! Looking forward to your return!

Posted by: CW4 (Ret) Scottie Hill | May 5, 2006 02:22 PM

Please block che from posting on this site!!

Posted by: a supporter | May 5, 2006 02:45 PM

Dont worry about che.

I know he posts stuff that's not directly associated with Bert, but it does have a bearing on the corrupt, imperial US policies of which the Iraq war is a large part.

Dont like it? dont read it, but it certainly isnt offensive, unless you hate reading dissenting views regarding the imperialist American policies (which i know a lot here do ;)

there are way more offensive posts to this site directed towards those of us who object to the Iraq war, so deal with it... you live in a (ahem) democracy

Posted by: dave | May 5, 2006 03:02 PM

Those Marines and Sailor gave everything they had to give.

Those lost men would have preferred Phil's tears to the Medal of Honor. You see, there is no greater honor than to have a brave man weep for you.

Nuby Kite, Hanna, Wyoming

Posted by: Nuby Kite | May 6, 2006 11:21 AM

Dave, you and Che should get together and have a tea party, you know with your little pinkies sticking out while you hold the tea cup. "There are way more offensive posts to this site directed towards those of us who object to the Iraq war" Don't like it? don't read it. Oh and by the way I remember the "offensive post" that ruffled your little feathers, how quickly you have recovered.Where are you from Dave, G.B., France, Austrailia ? Doesn't any of those counrties have a web site that you can go spew your trash against your own government. Or do you just enjoy our freedom of speech more ?

Posted by: Hey I have an idea | May 7, 2006 06:30 AM

hey, "Hey, I have an idea"... you illustrate my point precisely

thank you

Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 09:53 AM


What's great about America is that you have the right to say all that crap without being arrested by your government. Idiot.

Posted by: HD | May 8, 2006 01:00 PM

well, in my country, i wouldnt get arrested for saying it either (im sure you'd love to bust me though, HD!)

BUT my country doesnt go around the planet, starting wars based on lies

Thats whats great about my country

Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 01:33 PM

Ok,Ok...Lets get back to the real business...Our people are over there dying...We still don't have an exit strategy and if you think Viet Nam messed up our guys in uniform you ain't seen anything yet...Lets get behind our troops and push them out of Iraq...Before we send them into Syria..Iran...Or Venezuela...

Posted by: bdphillips | May 8, 2006 01:55 PM

very good point, bdphillips.

despite America's huge militia (which pretty much dwarfs the rest of the planet's armed forces combined), there still aint enough to have them in Iran and Iraq at the same time, so as the march into Iran picks up speed, i imagine Rummy and the boys will have to withdraw troops from Iraq to drop into Iran.

Bring em on!

Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 02:04 PM

This original article was about the heroic deeds of American military personnel. "Dave" is desecrating this account with his venemous onslaught on America and the great values and life we have come to enjoy. I have experienced similar values and enjoyment in countries other than the US... to include Christian, Catholic, Islamic, and Hindu faith based countries. It is clear to me that "Dave" has a much deeper emotional problem that thrives on being "fed" from comments posted by others. Ergo, after this last comment, I will no longer give "Dave" words on which he can spew forth views that desecrate the original story of these American heros.


Posted by: Comanchero 26 | May 8, 2006 02:04 PM

"""Dave" is desecrating this account with his venemous onslaught on America and the great values and life we have come to enjoy:

Comanchero, as long as your 'great values and life' rely on destroying entire countries and killing countless people, i'll continue my 'venemous onslaught' (thats rich) of reminding you of the way the rest of the world views you, and how your fearless leaders suckered your great counrty into this.

stange... you find 'venom' more offensive than killing.


Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 02:15 PM

tears of frustration are worst than tears of pain.....

Posted by: Dr.Q | May 8, 2006 06:18 PM

Hi Readers,
I actually read a little of Che's nonsense today. Wow, I imagine he wraps tin foil around his head to keep the CIA out of his mind. I hope that "real news" site is working out for you, because it pretty much sounds like crap to rest of us. You clog up this blog with your cut and paste nonsense. Free speech? I don't like garbage, regardless of what the bill of rights said. Some points of view are just to stupid to ignore, but I will keep right on trying to do so. I would ask you to stop posting them here, but your mean spirit and anger would prevent this. Oh well, just wipe the chocolate of your hands and face, Che and find another evil empire article. The rest of us who are not a ward of the state in a mental institution will just keep in scrolling down. Enough about Che the idiot, lets talk about Dave the idiot. Hi Dave, how ya doin? I am fine, back from a war that you know NOTHING AT ALL ABOUT. I can say this, you can't, you have not been there. All I saw in Iraq was nation building and a budding democracy. I know, I know, there are people getting hurt and killed there every minute. Saddam killed and hurt a lot of them too, so the moral high ground is not really in question regarding Saddam at least. Did our president have the right to invade that country? I don't know, but it seems that the WMD argument has been settled for a while. Don't worry liberal lefties, the next election will result in a Democrat gaining that office. Then the other side and it's pundits will bash him (or her). All I know is that WHY we are there is no longer relevant, we have to finish gaining those brave Iraqis their freedom. Their democracy will not look like ours, nor should it. It will work for them in their own way. The insurgency is already starting to figure this out, they are getting involved with the government more and more. The rules we soldiers operate under prevent us from excessive acts of violence. We would never hurt an innocent person on purpose. Anthing else you say is a damn stupid lie, I know. War sucks, and it is a horrible thing. We must not let this new nation fall victim to defeatism or the "get out now" policies so many suggest. The Iraqi people have a real shot at a better life. They line up every day to become soldiers or police to do just that, at great personal risk. They are working with our military and their own to defeat the terror. Dave, you dare call us murderers and killers. The enemy kills the innocent and the helpless. They kill for effect and headlines, to break our will. If snivilling fools like you had their way, they would have already won. Do you all hate Goerge Bush so badly that you ACTUALLY WANT A NEW DEMOCRACY TO FAIL?? If so, then you are a mudering thug in your own right, and part of the problem. Your protests and division get a soldier and a marine killed every day. If the insurgent thugs saw a united front againt them, this might already be over. The enemy loves your words, he hopes they keep coming. The thug says to himself "build another IED, they will quit soon". Forget how we got there, we ARE there. Let none of the American, Allied, or Iraqi lives be spent in vain. Ask General Giap and Ho Cho Mihn through their writings if their strategy was based on the protest movement. It sure was, in a big way. You "pull out now" folks really need to hit the history books and figure out how an isurgency fights. I realize I have wasted much time on you, you won't listen. That being said, God bless the freedom loving peoples of the world, God bless America, God bless Iraq, and God bless the men and women in my unit. I will be reading your responses, I look forward to it. Bring it on indeed.

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 8, 2006 06:31 PM

You go CW2 Hill! Excellent post!

Posted by: military wife | May 8, 2006 08:05 PM

Well that was a rather hysterical bit of bloggage there, CW2 Hill, and so absurd in its assumptions and allegations that i will refrain from responding and let it hang in the e-air here... it speaks for itself. I am sure the other war-loving, "America rules, man" crowd will pile on as well, shortly, so hooya, or whatever you say.

However, CW2 Hill...God this, and God that... when will you learn god isnt going to do you any good and that God, in his or her many interpretations, is what got you Americans mired in this in the first place?

peace, brother, and stay safe

Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 09:04 PM

Dave is speechless. Who says God is not involved with us. For him to have nothing to say is truly a miracle......and very refreshing. Peace is the objective, brother. I thought you said George Bush got us in this? You sound so very confused, but we already knew that did we not. My points about how the enemy works were worthy of debate. Do you have no clever or intelligent retorts? Nope, just more drivel. You are not a daisy at all (name the movie). See Ya, your hysterical and absurd friend

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 8, 2006 09:16 PM

Well, Bush drove the bus, yes (invoking the name if God all the while), but all the duped, god and oil fearing American passengers made it a reality.

as you so ably demonstrate.

Posted by: dave | May 8, 2006 09:24 PM

Very weak response my friend, I am done with you. You simply are not worth this Americans time any longer. Roger-Out
And, by the way, it's Hoo-Rah, get it right. Time will tell the tale. Peace be upon us all

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 8, 2006 10:17 PM

Hey dave "Thats whats great about my country" I noticed you haven't the metal (metal:lack of a certain male appendage) to offer up what country you are from. If you are embarassed of it say so, if not lets hear the wonderful things your country is doing. I am truley interested as to where you call home.You said; "hey, "Hey, I have an idea"... you illustrate my point precisely" What exactly is your point? I have searched your posts to no avail to see if I missed something. I have to agree with CW2 "Mittens" Hill , you have no intelligent retorts, just more drivel. Come on man, hang them out there, tell us what great country your from. My hats off to CW2 Hill, for I know these men well, and they wheel their's out to the aircraft in a wheel barrow.

Posted by: Hey I have an idea | May 9, 2006 01:30 AM

canada, baby!

'metal' enough for you?

Posted by: dave | May 9, 2006 08:37 AM

French Canadian, apparently.

Posted by: | May 9, 2006 11:12 AM

26...this is 666...Brashear and crew performed in manner that makes all combat pilots proud...even us old Nam chopper drivers (assuming UR the 26 I flew with at the Hideout. WRT...Dave, I don't understand all the attention he is being afforded. The real attention and salutations belong to those brave pilots and crew Bert describes in his article. Reminds me of some CCN missions & LS 719. I'm sorry Dave mentioned Canada. If you've ever flown with our compadres from Canada, you know their espirit and professionalism is awesome. I'm sure Dave is an embarrassment to them all. Another group of awesome pilots we flew with in Nam were the Aussies. Just like Brashear & crew, the Canadians and Aussies would do the same thing. Hey...gotta go. Keep your rotor in the green! You gotta love those soldiers who care enough to give their very best...even if it means giving their ultimate for the sake of freedom. With regard to a few of the comments I've read here, you just can't talk sense to the senseless...however, no doubt they enjoy the freedoms that their military men and women protect!


Posted by: Comanchero 666 | May 9, 2006 03:45 PM

I'm curious CW2 Hill, are you saying that you now realize this is a big mistake and will vote differently next time? Will you be more critical the next time your President asks for your patriotism?

>Do you all hate Goerge Bush so badly that you ...

It's true, as a liberal lefty I also sometimes fall into the trap of secretly wanting it to fail just to be right (God forgive me). My biggest fear is that this mess will clear itself up, and people-in-power like Bush et al. will simply believe that God has ordained them with golden righteousness, and they will consider ever greater foreign blunders in the future. Please don't let him forget his mistakes when this is all done! And ask yourself, do you really hate liberals so much that you won't begin asking them for their help by at least revealing your own humility?

>Forget how we got there ...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Bush admitted that he went there for the entirely wrong reason, resigned, and then we could all pursue the rebuilding of Iraq together without all the disent? If you want to get help, then consider convincing your all-knowing leader to step aside because it is his disastrous presidency which is getting in the way (according to 70% of your fellow citizens). Yeah, I also don't think he has the guts to do what is right. In the meantime, stop insulting and bullying people, and be more honest about your own failings. People there in this mess do need your help.

>Who says God is not involved with us

Jesus Christ for one. I don't think that he would have been all that happy with Bush's "crusade". What would JC do now that the milk has been spilt? I'm sure he'd sacrifice alot more than most of us are willing to consider. Of course, he wasn't so concerned with his own life or those of his fellow soldiers.

Thank you for writing this blog Bert and giving us a chance to debate with each other.

Posted by: Canuck | May 9, 2006 05:22 PM

And by the way, soldiers do not defend the freedom of speech. They preserve a country's existence and allow it to pursue international interests. It's the citizens who protest, who complain, who argue amongst themselves, who tell their politicians to butt out, who speak out when told to be quiet, that defend the freedom of speech. And that citizen may of course be a soldier too.

It's in this light that Mr. Stover is in fact defending free speech - by posting this blog and allowing us to say whatever we want. Thank-you again Bert!!!

Posted by: Canuck | May 9, 2006 05:51 PM

God bless you Dave/Canuck: God even had an intended role for Judas...perhaps he has one for you.

Thank you Bert for the informative on heros...the serpent squirms in horrow that your message is believed! The bread that I break...is it not the body of Christ? The cup of blessing that I bless...is it not the blood of Christ?

Posted by: 666 | May 9, 2006 07:56 PM


Posted by: dave | May 9, 2006 08:02 PM

To Canuck, that is a great retort. Thought provoking and meaningful. Well done. I don't suppose you and I would agree on many things, but you do have my respect for your thoughtful insight. Free speech and debate are a good thing for all involved. Give Dave a lesson on presentation without insulting an entire nation of good, well meaning people. Mr Bush is not going away till it's his time. Regarding my choice of party, I will evaluate that when the candidates appear. I promise to keep an open mind. I still believe that this war needs to be won, for the benifit of all involved. Regardless of any right or wrong war argument, thugs should loose, freedom should win. The insugency is brutal and pointless, an evil that needs stamped out. I think we all may agree on this point. Canada is a great nation full of wonderful people, you guys are great. My thanks also to Bert, he knows how much I like this blog. We are in the same unit and flew together once. He is a great pilot and officer. I look foward to reading the various responses. I just hope Che's cut and paste stuff has been blocked. See Ya

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 9, 2006 09:42 PM

CW2 Hill

>but you do have my respect for your thoughtful insight

And you have certainly earned mine for giving me such an open and honest chance to communicate with you. I really want to tell you how great it is to agree to disagree on alot of this, and avoid turning this blog into a tit-for-tat exchange of hostilities.

I'm sure the families that come here to get information about soldiers don't mind so much the debate, as long as it's civil and respectful.

Posted by: | May 10, 2006 07:59 PM

The previous post was from me.

Posted by: Canuck | May 10, 2006 08:00 PM

ref your article on the Marines lost in a flash flood. this story brought back the feelings we shared in Nam when some of our brothers died at the mercy of sharks in the South China Sea while participating in a little relaxation in the surf. I have never been able to get out of my mind the loss of those men in a combat zone due to the hazards of nature, and wonder what their CO's wrote home to their families concerning their non-combat related deaths. A Marine dying in combat is a normal order of things, but to die of disease or at the mercy of predators of nature is very hard to absorb.
Fmr Sgt. of Marines
RVN 66-67

Posted by: Gilmour | May 11, 2006 10:49 AM

If you are reading this in english take time to thank a serviceman/woman.

Posted by: Bill j` | May 11, 2006 11:09 AM

Canada Dave you can kiss the ass of America!

Bert, thanks for keeping us up to speed on some of the goings on there at Al Asad, my boy is there. God Speed baby!

A fed up pissed off brokenhearted soldiers mom.

Posted by: Mom | May 11, 2006 03:43 PM

well, with our new 'conservative' prime minister ensconsed in Ottawa, Canada kisses America's ass every day!

now dont be so mean, or i'll open the gate and flood your country with a herd of mad cows!

Posted by: dave | May 11, 2006 04:10 PM

hey, guys, you know they can't end the war until Bush stops drinking the kool-aid, so lay off him, ok? Yeah, it's a dumb war, yeah, we should be in Pakistan using extreme prejudice, yeah, we should be cutting Saudi supply lines so that al-Qaeda runs out of funds and volunteers, but he's just an air jock, and like my USAF dad and granddad, show him some respect.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 11, 2006 05:37 PM

No that this has anything to do with the heroes that were talked about above, but since we have gotten off the subject anyway.....Got this in an email. Please read because I think it speaks volumes....even if it is a cut and paste...

You gotta love Robin Williams......
Even if he's nuts! Leave it to Robin
Williams to come up with the perfect
plan. What we need now is for our
UN Ambassador to stand up and
repeat this message.

Robin Williams' plan...(Hard to
argue with this logic!)

"I see a lot of people yelling for peace
but I have not heard of a plan for
peace. So, here's one plan."

1) "The US will apologize to the world for our "interference" in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those "good ole boys", we will never "interfere" again.

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany, South Korea, the Middle East, and the Philippines. They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are. They're illegal!!! France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need
any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign "students" over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they! don't attend classes, they get a "D" and it's back home baby.

6) The US will make a strong effort
to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing nonpolluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not "interfere." They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given
to their army. The people who need
it most get very little, if anything.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us "Ugly Americans" any longer. The Language we speak is ENGLISH...learn it...or LEAVE...Now, isn't that a winner of a plan?

"The Statue of Liberty is no longer
saying "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses." She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'you want a piece of me?' "

If you agree with the above forward it to friends...If not, and I would be amazed

Posted by: BK | May 11, 2006 08:55 PM

I appreciate the efforts of your aircrew and the Mortuary Affairs Marine mentioned above. When a serviceperson falls, their buddies, combat medics, medevac, field hospital, mortuary affairs do everthing they can to bring them home. The Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA), and Central Identification Lab (CILHI) still search for those who fell 60 or more years ago.

Posted by: | May 12, 2006 01:09 PM

Dear Phil,
As a Marine, Viet Nam, I know the truth behind the statement that "war is hell." But take comfort in knowing that your recovery of the fallen gave the fallen comfort. It was always comforting knowing that if one fell, he or she would be returned home. While not one hundred per cent certain, it was enough to provide some comfort when going into combat. If those recovered heroes could speak, I know they would say thank you. As heart breaking as the task is, be proud, for you too are a hero. I wish I could be there with you once again, but time has taken its toll. Godspeed, and His blessings be upon you and all servicemen and women serving this great country.

Posted by: Jim | May 12, 2006 09:18 PM

Men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war,but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate for our limited vision,but we must speak. Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And as I ponder the madness of Iraq and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of Iraq. They must see Americans as strange liberators. Our government felt then that the Iraqi people were ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. The only change that came from American liberation were increased troop commitments and support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Iraqis -- the real enemy. What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Iraqi we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones? I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives, property rights, and oil are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Posted by: beenthere | May 14, 2006 11:49 AM

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Iraq and justice throughout the world--a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight---GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Posted by: beenthere | May 14, 2006 01:01 PM

Cry. A real man can cry. Remember what those brave marines died for. Freedom, choice, peace, the hope that all countries could live together. It is a time in your life that will always be with you. Hold your head high with pride. Those marines would have done the same for you or any other soldier. God has more "Angles" now and they are safe in his arms. Thank you for the sacrifices that you guys are making. It never goes unnoticed. We are all so proud of all of you. You pilots cross the berm into danger all the time. And you do it with honor. All of you remain in my prayers. The light in mine and Thumpers window will not go out until all of you are home. We think of you and talk of you all the time. Know that all the pilots and crew chiefs are in our thoughts and prayers and conversation constantly. Be safe and come home. Tell all hello for us.

Posted by: Barbi "Baby" Hill | May 14, 2006 07:02 PM

Dear beenthere,
I agree with a lot of the nice things you said. You seem to have a kind heart, this is an admirable trait. I must, however, take exception to a few of your comments. First, comparing us to Nazis, Dr. Joseph Mengale and the SS is so cruel and untrue to defy imagination. Your words comparing us to them hurt and outrage me. My precedents fought that evil long ago, at great cost. Please, please don't say that to a soldier or a marine, they will not "agree" with you, to put it mildly. We are not conducting cruel experiments on the enemy, we are at war. A war fought with very tight constraints on what we can do and how we do it. Anything else you may read or hear is an ugly lie. (except for some notable exceptions, hopefully never to be repeated) Second, the Iraqi people do not "languish under our bombs". More the case is that they tremble from fear of the IED's and suicide bombers.....and WE DONT DO THOSE THINGS !!. Neither do we behead our POW's on Al Jazzera or kill our own countrymen for trying to get a job or drive to work. Trust me, if the ENEMY gets a bomb, they are the only ones who are the target, they have it coming, with as little damage as possible otherwise. To be blunt, the enemy does not even languish under the bombs, they are vaporized by them. Languishing is out of the question. Third, and last, is the nation building from MOST Iraqi citizens, fighting very bravely for their own freedom, right there with us. I respectfully submit this as a person who has seen it himself. Please don't believe everything you hear or read about this war. It may have a very good outcome if time and faith will allow it to do so. If we fail, the loosers will be a new, democratic society, struggling to survive. None of us should want that new world to fail. They have everything to gain, and much to lose. Thank you, though, for your American values and spirit, God bless us all. Thanks, a soldier in Bert's unit.

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 14, 2006 07:11 PM


Posted by: Frustrated Reader | May 15, 2006 08:56 AM

"To be blunt, the enemy does not even languish under the bombs, they are vaporized by them. Languishing is out of the question."

Since when did this blog turn into a remake of "Dr. Strangelove"?

Posted by: E. Etage | May 15, 2006 09:56 AM

Many have let the support of our troops and support of the politics become the same thing. Please understand. If we did not have these fine soldiers volonteering their services, there most certainly would be some sort of draft where many of us citizens, disgruntled or not, would have no choice but to serve. For that at least, they deserve our respect and support.

Posted by: Citizen | May 15, 2006 12:16 PM

Citizen..."If we did not have these fine soldiers volonteering their services, there most certainly would be some sort of draft where many of us citizens, disgruntled or not, would have no choice but to serve. For that at least, they deserve our respect and support."

So by that do you mean they deserve your support because America does not currently have a draft and Americans (war supporters and non-supporters alike) dont have to serve? While it reflects the cowardice of America's leadership, I'm afraid you are sadly correct. Indeed there is no sacrifice being paid by America as a whole (just enlisted soldiers ant their families), only tax breaks for the wealthy. Is that the America you cherish so dearly?

Bert and his comrades and their families deserve much, much more

Posted by: dave | May 15, 2006 12:55 PM

Bert, It's great hearing from you- and the others that write when you ask.
I've kept up with your articles from the beginning- gotten a laugh or two- shed a few tears- and really ****ed off by some of these bloggers.
It's a roller coaster ride for sure.
You guys take care. S-A-L-U-T-E

Posted by: Shirley Anne | May 15, 2006 03:11 PM

I think I agree with Robin Williams. I am tired of hearing of the tyrrany of the United States, even from FRANCE! Wouldn't they be speaking German over there in France if we hadn't saved their butts twice? And why is the United States seen as such a purveyor of senseless violence? These countries are blaming their problems on us, while at the same time begging for money, troops and other aid. I say bring our boys home and let them burn their own flag when they are not satisfied. Many of these groups cite "the removal of the infidels" as their sole goal. Well so be it then. What would they have left to fight over if our troops were gone? We should pull our troops out, and drop our financial aid to these countries too. We are in debt up to our eyeballs and speding billions on wars and international relief efforts. How about paying attention to our own economy and letting the arabs fight their own battles. If we could generate our own sources of energy, it wouldn't affect the US enough to care when these arab countries decide to revolt or kill each other. So let them. I enjoy my life here in the imperialist west, and I feel sorry for people who are not free to vote and to say what they want. But unless a country is invading one of our allies, or is attacking our borders, why are we involved? Afterall, Iraq did not attack us on 9/11, a few crazies did. There will always be a few crazies, you will never stop that. So let the crazies be crazy, lets make our own oil (regardless of the price) and let us end our dependence on crazy middle easterners for a secure economy. Quite frankly, after looking at first quarter profits of the petroleum companies, I am not so sure the war in Iraq is the real cause of such high gas prices anyway. So let's just get the heck out of there before more die, and if their government fails, then let it. Who came to our aid when we were forming a democracy? Just the aforementioned French, and with little impact. Our nation was formed by the people, and our brand of democracy won't work in EVERY country, so let them do what they want, and lets stop trade with all of them, let's just stop giving these countries money and helping them and lets just worry about ourselves. Perhaps that view is short sighted, but I am just tired of hearing of what horrible people the Americans are. Japan was a separatist country after world war 2, they guarded their domestic industry with huge tarrifs on imported goods, slipped into the worldwide automobile and electronice industries and without caring a bit about giving money to struggling countries. They built a government that is not in debt like ours, and their old people don't have to worry about whether or not they can afford their prescriptions. And even though they were so separatist, the world community buys their products. We don't need to be a world military power to be a world economic power. So lets just stop helping these people, all of them, and tend to our own. These kind of actions always go bad, and you end up with little improvement in the government if not making things worse. Have we not learned anything from Korea, or Vietnam? All our men died there, and for what? There was not significant change in either of those conflicts either, nor will there be in Iraq. For the Iraqi people, this is a religious and ethnic based war, the fundamental issues of which would exist whether we were there or not. So why are we there? Because of a few crazies who happenned to be holed up in Iraq? Because GW wanted to finish what his dad started? Because of the oil trade and creating stability in these countries or risking a crashing global economy? Why are we there? Why are US soldiers dying there? I suppose I don't get it.

Posted by: Tom | May 15, 2006 05:44 PM

I am mighty glad to see this blog
from a man who is there and can
compile words and details of what
his fellow troops are reporting.

In the previous times I have lived thru, the troops had to
resort to all sort of means to
get some truth back to their friends and families. Many times there was no way to do so.
We can not depend on much truth
filtering back to us when the reporters and others who go out
to gather information for decades
have had all sorts of blocks in their way.
Thanks for opening this blog.
I hope some people who post here
will give some thought regarding doing some truth finding before attacking anyone who has a different slant on this national
imperious military misadventrure
of lies and phony rational for
killing our men & women and those of Iraq.
It is about oil and and power used
to steal that which we are short of. Nothing new there as one only needs to study the way other imperialistic nations have stolen
from other countries and abused and killed their people and the hopes of those people in order to
enrich the wealthy of the lands doing the stealing.
I am so sorry you men & women are caught up in this madness.
We need you home and building our
nation and teaching our people
and living lives of enriching our
My prayers are with you all. Also
my hopes that soon you will be home. I wish I could be there to
help care for and aid all of you.

Mean while I am in every protest
against war and in support of our troops that occurs.
Yes. Support or troops and bring them home. Blessing to all of you.
Old Man Dave

Posted by: Old Man Dave | May 15, 2006 09:06 PM

Washington Post, we have not seen anything new from WOC2 Stover in over two weeks. Is his blog still being updated?

Posted by: Concerned Reader | May 16, 2006 03:16 PM

My son, as Carla's niece, is assigned to a Mortuary Affairs (MA) unit with the Marine Corps. He recently finished a tour at Camp Taqaddum in Iraq. His experienced changed him. He finds it hard to talk about it - what he saw...what he felt. It is truly the hardest job anyone in the military will ever have to do but one that carries no greater honor.

During processing, MA Specialists are told not to look more than seconds at items they must remove from the "angels"....photos of loved ones, letters, good luck charms, etc. - it's hard to touch the hands....it's personal. My son would call home and try to talk about what he was experiencing. Many times, he would just cry - some days were unbearable for him....he learned to hate the sound of helicopters which sometimes meant incoming "angels" or injured who may not make it. He remembers the fear of his own death when he occasionally had to go "outside the wire" to retrieve "angels"...as Carla said MA's motto is "NO ONE LEFT BEHIND". My son's heart ached knowing sometimes that loved ones hadn't been notified - yet he was already processing the "angel" for the return home.

Earlier this year a friend lost her son in Iraq and at the service she said to me the one thing I dreaded hearing the most..."I've been wondering if your son took care of my son". It broke my heart to hear her say those words, but I understood it gave her some sense of comfort to know who may have taken care of her son after his death. Regardless of who took care of her son, I know he was treated with the greatest respect and honor by the MA unit.

I grieve each time I hear of another military death and I pray for each of them and their families. They will not be forgotten.

Posted by: MOM (mother of a Marine) | May 22, 2006 04:45 PM

This story was very moving. I could never imagine having to do what you did. I find it very brave of you that even though it was hard for you, you kept in mind to have respect for the men and their bodies. I'm sure it was very appreciated by their families. If you would like to respond to me please contact me at my teachers e-mail.

Posted by: Sarah | June 9, 2006 10:25 AM

This story was very moving. I could never imagine having to do what you did. I find it very brave of you that even though it was hard for you, you kept in mind to have respect for the men and their bodies. I'm sure it was very appreciated by their families. If you would like to respond to me please contact me at my teachers e-mail.

Posted by: Sarah | June 9, 2006 10:29 AM

i was there in the debriefing with the chaplain. i was there to see Mr. Brashear's tears. i assured him that any other reaction then the one he had would not have been a true one. riding in that bird for days upon days, looking for the fallen angels was something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Mr. Brashear is to be commended for his actions on that day and every day that followed. there are those of us that were there that day that will have to live the rest of our lives with demons inside of us. but i can assure you that the mission was accomplished with respect for the fallen and in the back of our minds we will always remember those 6 marines and 1 navy corpsman.
they were the true heroes. we could not fail them, it was our duty to bring them home to their families for a proper burial. it was the least any of us could do. i just wish we could have done more.

Posted by: army aviation medic | June 18, 2006 02:24 AM

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