Friday, May 27, 2005

My Thoughts on Monsters

There is a place where the skys are blue, the water is clean, and life is good. This place can not be found where I am at. Over here almost every single morning begins with violence, explosions, and people being killed. Over here the locals can't make enough money because it is so unsafe to be out and working. Over here things are different. Down is often up and up isn't down but sideways. In Iraq there are some who want only to see their children grow up, to grow old with their loved ones.

There are also monsters here. "Monsters?" you say, "those can't be real." I tell you that they are. I have seen with my own eye that they are. The worst part is that they look just like people. They aren't though. They think that the way to do things is to violently end their lives. Most of the time they end up destroying and devastating those regular people who love their families. People who work honestly, those who have hearts. The monsters however, are hard to spot because like I said, they look like regular people.

I have spoken with these monsters, seen their eyes. I wonder how you can fit so much hate in there. Maybe that is why they blow themselves up. They just can't contain all that hate...

Want to know what it is like to be one? I have come close before. Close, because I wanted to kill so badly, to destroy those same monsters, but I realized something. You are only a monster if you let yourself become one.

So now I dream not about monsters but about that place. It is so very far away that it doesn't seem like it is real any more. That place is called home. I just hope that I make it back there.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Deathly Afraid

It was March 20, 2003 just hours before we crossed the border into Iraq. My teammates were all doing different things. One of them was on guard duty around our two trucks, one was working in the back of our HMMWV (or Hummer as they are called in the civilian world) which we simply called "the system". The system was our operations vehicle with lots of various equipment that we used as Arabic translators. I had just finished shaving. You can't imagine how painful it is to shave with a dust caked razor and only cold water...

Our other vehicle we called our "chase" vehicle. The reason for the chase vehicle is that if we had been over run with enemies we were to destroy all the equipment in our "system" with our thermal grenades and high tail it out in our chase vehicle (a regular un-armored HMMWV).

There we were minding our own business when up drove 2 marines. They were honking and screaming, "SCUD!!!" They were also wearing full chemical gear (a suit, mask, gloves, and boots to protect from a chemical attack). We had never moved so fast in our whole lives. Mask, suit, boots, gloves we de-contaminated our exposed skin with our packets of powdered charcoal (the charcoal is supposed to absorb any chemicals which may have gotten on your skin).

We called in that we had been slimed and got in the back of our chase vehicle. The SCUD hit pretty far away, and we heard the explosion but couldn't see where it had hit. So we sat there, scared out of our minds. I spoke first, "OH, SH**! My face is burning, I just dry shaved but maybe it is chem. How do you guys feel?!?" One of my friends answered, "holy crap, I feel it too! I just shaved about an hour ago, maybe it is just the charcoal on my cuts?"

Then we opened the back flap of our HMMWV and saw how hazy it was out there. "OH F***! Look at how hazy it is, is that dust or chem?" Asked my other friend. The three of us just kept sitting there scaring each other even more with every observation.

The fourth team member was all suited up in the back of our system. We sat there scared stupid and then we got the call over the radio that it was a false alarm. No chem! We were so very relieved, sitting there covered in black charcoal and sweat. Happy and hugging each other and shouting because we were alive. Yeah, back with the rest of our platoon we got the snot teased out of us, but hey, they weren't there with us, they didn't know...

To this very day when the four of us get together we still laugh at how scared we were. Turns that yes, my face was just burning because I had nicked it only about a million times with my razor, and no it wasn't VX gas or chem, it was only a small dust storm. Just one of the "good" memories from the war...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Still Alive, guess it is another good day.

The mortars hit us
I'm glad that I didn't die
Guess it's a good day

A haiku about my morning

Friday, May 20, 2005

My wife

my wife at work3
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

Here is the mother of my children and my best friend. My wife Tara.

My son

My son
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

Here is my wonderful son Jacob

My daughter

my daughter
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

My beautiful daughter Linnea.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Deals with the Devil

It is hard to disagree with "THE NATION" when they state that Senator Norm Coleman is an idiot.

Not an ideological idiot, not a partisan idiot, but a plain old-fashioned, drool-on-his-tie idiot.

Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota started raising a fuss about the UN and their "Oil for Food" program. He pointed his finger and shook it with all of his might, however, he didn't realize that in doing so it showed just HOW MUCH U.S. energy companies have gained from their deals with the Devil (Saddam Hussein). In fact it turns out that the MAJORITY of illegal kickbacks have come not from the UN but the U.S.

Here is what our own Senate says about it.

The Senate investigation that Coleman sought regarding the Oil-for-Food program has already revealed that the Bush administration failed to crack down on widespread abuse of the oil-for-food program by U.S. energy companies, and that U.S. oil purchases accounted for the majority of the kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime in return for sales of impensive oil. Indeed, the report concludes, "The United States (government) was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions. On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales."

Senator Coleman's accusations brought even the wrath of our greatest ally the United Kingdom. In a visit from Galloway (a member of British parliament) to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Galloway states:

"Mr Chairman, I am not now, nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone been on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." He accused Coleman of being "remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice" and pointed out error after error in the report the senator had brandished against him.

He also goes on to point out:

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning."

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."

Every day over here in Iraq I get up and put my uniform and body armor on. I wear the U.S. Flag on my right shoulder next to my combat patch. I earned the right to wear this uniform and I "earned" that combat patch during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each day that goes by it gets harder to hold my head high while wearing that uniform over here in Iraq. It gets harder and harder as we learn more of the truth behind this war. How many died because of these "lies" as Mr. Galloway calls them. How many have I killed because of them?

Monday, May 16, 2005


Today I would like to talk about something very personal. When I returned from Iraq the first time I couldn't sleep. I had this crazy lurking fear that something would happen to my family. Without a weapon I felt naked. After I came back I began carrying a knife on me at all times day or night. It was because I was so paranoid that something bad was going to happen to my children or wife. Tara my wife never called me crazy, ever. She would just talk with me about my fears. She would catch me sometimes, crying or just sitting there for a very long time staring with unfocused eyes because I was lost in one of my war memories. She never pried but waited until I was ready to talk.

When she would see me totally break down she never judged me. Instead she would sit on the floor next to me and just hold me until it passed. I felt so ashamed because I knew that none of my friends from combat were weak like that. They held it together. I told my wife this and she told me how one of her best friends' (a wife who's husband had been in Iraq with me) husband was going through the same thing as me. He and I never talked about it, but just knowing that he was dealing with it like me made me feel better inside. It made me less of a freak.

I drank a lot. I would drink to make myself pass out so that my nightmares would go away for a while. My wife never judged me; she would only stand by my side and tell me how it worried her that I was keeping it all in and drinking so much. After a while I stopped drinking like that and would instead talk with her about my thoughts and memories.

She has heard every gory bloody detail about the war as I saw it through my eyes. I told her of the worst things I had seen. I hated myself and was sick with war. Even after hearing the most horrible things she told me how much she loved me, and I began to love myself again.

I had tried talking to a doctor about those feelings and memories and how they had affected me. He told me that it couldn't possibly be PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because he had seen some soldiers come home and they had attacked people or had done illegal things. He said that since I didn't do those things that I had a sound mind and was ok. I guess I went to him for the wrong reasons, it wasn't a crazy mind that I was suffering from, it was my shattered soul.

There were things that I had seen and participated in that I could never take back. My wife was there for me every step of the way. I don't know what else to say but that she is the best friend I have ever had. She is a damn fine woman and a strong and wonderful mother. My wife has never been over here in Iraq, but in her own way she has seen war. She has helped me put those shattered pieces of myself back together, and I love her for it.

I love you Tara

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Iraqi Fish

Iraqi Fish
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

The fish from the lake in front of the house here in Tikrit Iraq.


Some people have told me that others would be judged for the blood on our hands. I don't believe that because they are OUR hands not theirs.

I remember how just after crossing the Euphrates River during the 'Shock and Awe' campaign and seeing 2 columns of bodies, one row on each side of the road. They were in various states of undress from their Iraqi military uniforms because they had been trying to quickly change into civilian clothing and would have run home to their families or some may have been planning to escape so that they could ambush us later. Well, they were all dead, blood everywhere from all the holes in the bodies. So many bodies all lined up. I can still remember the last body on the left side of the road because his hand was still twitching as we drove past.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Soldiers Die

We had done it. We made it to Baghdad. I was thinking this when we pulled into the field near the Saddam (now Baghdad) International Airport. During the beginning of the war I had traveled with an infantry unit, but for the last week or so of the war I was with an artillery unit. That artillery unit had taken very good care of us.

When we first arrived at that field we noticed that near one of the paladins (a very large artillery piece, looks like a tank...) lay the body of a dead Iraqi soldier. We didn't bother him and he didn't bother us. We had become friends with the soldiers who's paladin was parked near the body, so we would usually visit them at least once a day or so. After that first day I found out that the guys in that paladin had made friends with that dead Iraqi soldier, and they had given him a name as well. His name was Fred. When the guys at the paladin had guard duty (one of them manned the hatch gun at all times) they would talk about Fred (or sometimes to Fred) to pass the long hours of guard duty. Fred didn't have the best of manners though. He didn't shower and was very lazy (he spent his days just laying there in the grass).

On a serious side though I think that the reason we made light of the situation was because we lived next to a dead and sun bloated body who had been killed violently. I mean, if we didn't laugh we would probably have been loosing it. We had just fought a bloody war and now we were living IN the blood and violence of it all. I am glad though. Glad that Fred was a soldier. We understood that. Soldiers die. Us, them... soldiers die. If it had been a civilian I don't know what we would have done. Civilians should be safe. At least that is the way it is supposed to be, but Iraqi civilians did die and still do every day...

Lake Reflection

Lake Reflection
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

From the window of my house you can see the lake here in Tikrit at the palace complex. What kinds of things can you see from your windows? I wish I could see home from mine here...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I was reading the news when I came upon this!. It is an article about how the defense contracting company Halliburton has received $72 million dollars in BONUSES for it's work in Iraq. So when you wonder where all that money we send to Iraq is going lets just make sure we are on the same page. This money given to Halliburton is in addition to the money it makes for its defense contract in Iraq. WHY IS ALL THIS MONEY GOING TO GIANT US CORPORATIONS? Shouldn't it be going to Iraqi businesses to help rebuild their devastated economy and war torn land? Why do the BIG MONEY people of the United States get to smear our good name and continue to prosper when the Iraqi people who have had suffered many many civilian casualties and other numerous hardships continue to get the short end of the stick? I just hope that someone decides that enough is enough. Either invest that money we had set aside in a good way for the Iraqis or give it to someone who will!

Sunday, May 08, 2005


It's amazing how the human body is so very resilient and strong yet so very fragile. You hear stories like how 2 teenagers survived being lost at sea for 7 days. Then that same day you also see people blown to bits, and I can't help but wonder, how?

A few days ago on my way across the base we had to drive under an overpass. This overpass runs right through our FOB (forward operations base) and is open to Iraqi civilian traffic. That traffic must pass through multiple checkpoints to even get on this overpass.

We were driving under this overpass and the first thing we felt was the shockwave shake our entire vehicle. Then came the sound of the explosion. It happened about 300 meters from us. Great black clouds were billowing forth from the violent end to a human life. My driver and I were lucky not to be one of the dead and wounded, but it reminded me again of how very fragile we are, humanity...

I wonder how many parents back home will never see their sons and daughters, how many wives and husbands will become widows waiting for loved ones who will never be coming home, and how many children will have only a folded American flag to remind them of their mother or father? Every day I pray to God that my son Jacob, my daughter Linnea, and my wife Tara will have more than just a piece of folded cloth. I pray that I make it home.

In closing I say only this. REMEMBER! Remember your daughter's smile, your son's laugh, and the way your wife or husband looks at you just before they kiss you. KISS them! Tell them how much you care! Don't ever take them for granted, because life is so very fragile.

Tara, I love you. I love you with every bit of my heart. You are my beautiful wife and such a strong and wonderful mother. Tell the kids that I love them, and Tara? I promise I will come home to you.

My Family

my family
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

Happy Mother's Day Tara. I love you!

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Originally uploaded by nevadog.

A picture of a dried out well in Tikrit Iraq.

Gated Compound

Gated Compound
Originally uploaded by nevadog.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


It was still dark. I got dressed in that darkness. When I was ready I grabbed an MRE (meal ready to eat) and got in the truck. I was going to go line the truck up in preparation for the raid we were about to go on. The targets were three houses where RPG attacks had come from a few days prior. Sitting there in that darkness listening to the briefing on how we were to execute the mission, I let my mind wander from the briefing and said a prayer. "Just one more day God, let me live one more day and we will go from there..." It was the same prayer I said every day because every day I did the same thing. I left the base. With a small team I would go out each day on different missions. I was their translator.

There were different people to meet each day. There were some who would kill you if they could. They would look at you and you could see the hate in their eyes. I also met with people who would have given me everything they owned. People, that were so thankful to us because we had rid them of Saddam. Well, this day was not really much different from all those other days so far. After the briefing we all got into our assigned seats and convoyed out to the raid site. I was to go in directly after the military police that would clear the building.

The raid began without a hitch. Inside one of the courtyards of one of the houses, talking to an Iraqi woman checking to see if her story correlated with what the detained men had said), I heard gunfire. It was automatic gunfire. Ducking next to the stone wall I yelled at the woman to get inside her house, and when the gunfire stopped I peeked my head around the front gate. I saw a soldier amongst the others who was pulling rear security by our vehicles. This soldier I saw was still aiming his M249 (a fully automatic belt fed machine gun) at a black truck off in the distance. His was the weapon I had heard.

I ran up near his position and overheard the Captain in charge of the raid asking what had happened and why had this soldier opened fire. The soldier kept his weapon aimed and answered that he was sure he had seen a man holding an AK-47 in the back of the black truck. I was amongst the four (along with the soldier who had fired on the black truck) who had been selected to go and see what was up with that truck.

We were out of breath when we got to the gun-truck nearest to the black civilian truck(a gun-truck is a HUMMWV or sometimes called a Hummer by civilians, with a .50 caliber machine gun on its roof). There was a group of four Iraqis walking towards us from the black truck. They were carrying a body. When I saw this I ran forward and began to speak (in Arabic) to the man holding the body but I couldn't say a word.

There right in front of me in the arms of one of the men I saw a small boy (no more than 3 years old). His head was cocked back at the wrong angle and there was blood. So much blood. How could all that blood be from that small boy? I heard crying too. All of the Iraqi men standing there were crying and sobbing and asking me WHY? Someone behind me started screaming for a medic, it was the young soldier (around my age) who had fired his weapon. He screamed and screamed for a medic until his voice was hoarse and a medic came just to tell us what I already knew. The boy was dead. I was so numb.

I stood there looking at that little child, someone's child (just like mine) and seeing how red the clean white shirt of the man holding the boy was turning. It was then that I realized that I had been speaking to them; speaking in a voice that sounded so very far away. I heard my voice telling them (in Arabic) how sorry we were. My mouth was saying this but all my mind could focus on was the hole in the child's head. The white shirt covered in bright red blood. Every color was so bright. There were other colors too. The glistening white pieces of the child's skull still splattered on that so very white shirt. I couldn't stop looking at them even as I continued telling them how sorry we were.

I can still see it all to this very day. The raid was over there were no weapons to be found and we had accomplished nothing except killing a child of some unknowing mother. Not wanting to leave yet, I stayed as long as I could, talking to the man holding the child. I couldn't leave because I needed to know who they were. I wanted to remember. The man was the brother of the child's father. He was the boy's uncle, and he was watching him for his father who had gone to the market. They were carpenters and the soldier who had fired upon the truck had seen someone holding a piece of wood and standing in the truck bed.

Before I left to go back to our base I saw the young soldier who had killed the boy. His eyes were unfocused and he was just standing there, staring off into the distance. My hand went to my canteen and I took a drink of water. That soldier looked so lost, so I offered him a drink from my canteen. In a hoarse voice he quietly thanked me and then gave me such a thankful look; like I had given him gold.

Later that day those of us who had been selected to go inspect the black truck were filling reports out about what we had witnessed for the investigation. The Captain who had led the raid entered the room we were in and you could see that he was angry. He said, "Well this is just great! Now we have to go and give that family bags of money to shut them up..." I wanted to kill him. I sat there trembling with my rage. Some family had just lost their beautiful baby boy and this man, this COMMISSIONED OFFICER in the United States Army is worried about trying to pay off the family's grief and sorrow. He must not have been a father, otherwise he would know that money doesn't even come close... I wanted to use my bare hands to kill him, but instead I just sat there and waited until the investigating officer called me into his office.

To this day I still think about that raid, that family, that boy. I wonder if they are making attacks on us now. I would be. If someone took the life of my son or my daughter nothing other than my own death would stop me from killing that person. I still cry too. I cry when the memory hits me. I cry when I think of how very far away I am from my family who needs me. I am not there just like the boy's father wasn't there. I pray every day for my family's safety and just that I was with them. I have served my time, I have my nightmares, I have enough blood on my hands. My contract with the Army has been involuntarily extended. I am not asking for medicine to help with the nightmares or for anything else, only that the Army would have held true to the contract I signed and let me be a father, a husband, a daddy again.


Sgt Zachary Scott-Singley


Originally uploaded by nevadog.

This palm tree is still standing even after a blast a while back from a mortar attack.

Monday, May 02, 2005

More Mortars

Another haiku about my day and the bombs that fell on us here in Tikrit.

Two times in one day
Alive until tomorrow
Drums of War play on


Originally uploaded by nevadog.

These are wells (I don't know why he has so many in the same spot) for Saddam's palaces