A few days ago I posted a video on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kscovets) of a disgusting car wreck. It takes place in the desert, on a highway, surrounded by dust and Middle Eastern people watching along. This car turns sideways and eventually starts doing barrel rolls across the road and dust. Eventually you lose sight of the vehicle in the massive growing dust cloud but catch sight of a body being flung through the air. After the first body, a second one is tossed and makes an epic landing on the hardball. What you see next to him is the instigation for this story… it’s an arm. After re-watching the video I realized the first dude who was ejected is missing an arm. The vehicle has no sun roof and the windows are secured. After the first roll, if you look close you can see and understand exactly how dude lost his arm. What does it say about me that I laughed a lot watching this video…?

One day out of the blue, which is the beginning to most of my stories, we got a call for a truck load of casualties coming to our clinic. The majority of trauma we saw came from Iraqi civilians, police, military, and TCN’s. This day we had a handful of Iraqi military casualties and accompanying them was more uniformed troops and family members of the injured. Why the fuck the family was there is beyond me… We did what we do, we fixed the broken people. A suicide bomber had ran up to a patrol of Iraqi troops and let him/herself go, attempting to take as many lives as possible. The people in the AO gathered the casualties and body parts and made tracks for our clinic. When they arrived, we had to do a little bit of “sorting” through the chaos. Most professionals call it triage… whatever. Bottom line up from is that we sustained as much life as possible and transported the critically injured to a higher echelon of medical care. Those that didn’t make it went into the expectant pile, the place around the corner that no one should have direct eye sight of, the place where the dying circle the drain, the place where the bodies wait to be traditionally dealt with.

After the madness, my Squad Leader told me to grab some biohazard bags to start clean up. Bio bags? No big deal, we used them all the time to dispose of saturated and infectious materials. Ramos, grab a bio bag and some chux. Roger, got it. Wait… chux? Just do it Ramos.

We went out to the sally port where we receive casualties. He pointed out to the field behind the drive and said to clean up. I walked out about 30 yards to find an arm. Alone. In the middle of the freaking field. With no freaking body attached to it. Just an arm, torn off of the body from about the upper bicep area. I think it was the right arm… I picked it up, wrapped it in the chux and placed it in the bio bag. I walked my happy ass over to the expectant pile and laid it down and went on the continue cleaning the aftermath. I looked back at the pile to see an Iraqi officer find the arm. He unwrapped it. He grabbed it by the wrist. He walked to the end of the drive. And the dude threw the damn arm as hard as he could!! WTF…? Okay, let’s do this again… I went back out, I wrapped it, I bagged it, I turned around and was about to head back to the EP when I spotted the officer pointing at me, walking sternly toward me, and yelling in his native tongue. I froze. Where the fuck is my rifle…? First thought. I heard my SL yelling for me to just put the arms down, we’ll deal with it later. Roger, got it.

Come to find out, the arm belonged to the asshole that blew themselves up, taking this dude’s troops along to the afterlife. He wanted that arm and anything from the murderer to be as far from his troops as possible. I don’t blame him. After we wrapped up, we watched the officer and his troops pile into their vehicles and head out. They were pissed. They were hurt. They were angry and upset. I am almost positive they killed in retaliation that night. I would have…

I asked one of our doc’s if I could take a picture of the arm. Good thing I asked… This was not one of those situations where forgiveness is better than permission. He looked at me like I ate a kitten raw. Nope… No amputation pictures for Ramos.

 

More times that I would care to admit I have wondered what my father would say at my funeral. From years prior on a life changing day, students arriving to my high school were subject to a mock car wreck conveniently displayed in plain sight of nearly every student and staff member to come on campus that morning. Two cars were involved in what appeared to be a high speed head-on collision, fueled by alcohol and inexperience. The aftermath of the collision lay motionless in the field. Smashed glass, twisted metal, and debris created an outline of two vehicles that framed the lifeless bodies of our classmate passengers. Makeup created gore that covered heads, chests, arms and legs. Red soaked jackets and backpacks left smeared trails over the vehicles. Our friends were hanging out of windows and draped over hoods with evidence of alcohol everywhere.

We stood dumbfounded, staring into a mangled mess of friends that no longer were. Hardly any words. Whimpers. Sobs. Nervous laughter. Unexpectedly, the fire department came and performed their duties to traumatic casualties. The Jaws of Life lived up to their name. The sole survivor was peeled out of the vehicle and transported to a helicopter that was waiting on our softball field. The cars and limp bodies were transported away from the scene. And that was the last we saw of them.

Later that morning I was abruptly removed from class by the Grim Reaper, who was being led from room to room by the school’s law official. The officer read aloud an obituary that described the unfortunate alcohol related accident that claimed my life. One by one, the reaper stalked from classroom to classroom, pulling out one student after another. No words. They just got up and left the room. No eye contact. Backpacks and sweaters were left behind. The officer said his piece and that was the last that was seen of them.

The next morning, the welcoming path of the school had a depressing reminder of yesterday’s events. Tombstones with the names of each classmate and teacher that was “killed by a drunk driver” were littered in the front field. Later that day we had an assembly of the upper classmen in the gymnasium. Awaiting the incoming students, opposite from the bleachers, stood a casket adorned with decorations and flowers. Behind the casket was each of the previous day’s victims lined up, silent, somber, detached. We were ghosts, still dead to everyone. During the assembly parents read letters to their dead children, children read letters from the grave, no one hid their tears. After, friends and family were reunited once again and embrace as if to really be holding someone back from the dead. It changed my life.

Nowadays I hate funerals. Not that I ever really liked them, I just never really minded them in the past. I have been to a fair amount of funerals before, during and after my time in the military and I would say that I have certainly grown to hate them. They make me very uncomfortable and anxious, I get fidgety and can’t sit still, hearing other people memories regurgitated, the lifeless body that has lost its animation, listening to other people’s emotions spill onto the floor… I don’t like it. One day I am going to have to suck it up. One day I’m going to have wear my blackest suit. One day I’m going to have to go to another funeral for family, friend, friend of a friend, acquaintance, or to go just as support. I won’t like it. I will have an anxiety attack. It may be big, it might go unnoticed, either way I can feel it brewing in my chest.

…fuck I need sleep…

Who’s Got Your Back?

       Thunder. Explosions. Cries of panic. You step outside to see men parachuting from the sky, thousands of them, all wearing a foreign uniform and heavily armed. Civilians are running in circles, not sure what to do. Vehicles clog the roadways to prevent anyone from coming in or going out of your neighborhood. You immediately take a mental accountability check of your family members and try to remember where they are all at. People are yelling and everything is a blur. Suddenly, a single gunshot cracks through the sky. For a moment, it seems like time stands still. In the distance you hear a faint scream and an elderly woman falls to the ground. Mayhem rushes back into reality and all hell breaks loose. Gunfire deafens everything. There is nothing you can do. Bullets rip through people and cars and buildings finding their mark. Fire sweeps the streets and catches on everything it touches. You hide. You watch. You wait. People are lead into the intersections and executed. Others are bound and gagged and collected. Those who try to run are gunned down like rabid animals. There is no one who does anything in opposition. There are no calls to action, no confident voices banding fighters together. No one knows what to do. This town falls under the control of the enemy because they treated their military veterans like subclass garbage.

Understanding Those Who Bleed

While driving through Monterey, I came to a stop light intersection that is frequented by vagabonds and vagrants. One man in particular was holding a sign that read something to the effect of "Anything Helps". Being the eternally optimistic helper that I am, I rolled down my window and handed the man some food. I happened to be in my Army Combat Uniform as I was driving home from work. He noticed my uniform and in the same breath, thanked me and said "So, you're a hippy killer huh?"