- Mosul, Iraq, 2004
While securing the area, the soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard (ing) started pulling out the dead bodies one by one from the mosque—one of which was covered in a blanket and set next to my gun position. A curious ing soldier came by and shifted the blanket so you could see the guy’s face; he was young, about my age, and his eyes and mouth were wide open as he lay there, face up, dead.
Hundreds of empty brass shell casings were splashed all around me, tow missile cords littered the streets, and the aftermath of detonated car bombs was visible in every direction.
It was one of those days when a series of car bombs was being detonated around town. Insurgents had attacked and completely taken over the neighboring police station. We arrived on the scene just in time to take fire from the neighboring mosque. The fighting lasted for several hours, and when it was over a cease-fire was called so the ings could go inside and kill whomever was left, as well as remove the dead bodies.
An older Iraqi lady appeared from around a street corner, surprising me. Dressed in traditional Arab attire, she appeared calm as she carried several plastic bags filled with groceries in one hand and led a little boy by the hand with the other. She began speaking to me in Arabic and with her hands gestured that she lived on the street and how she just wanted to go home.
Between the two of them and their front door lay another dead body. Other than that, I saw no reason not to grant her request. I nodded a yes to her and allowed her to go on by.
Curious, I watched them as they casually made their way to the body, in unison the two of them looking down, seeing it, and then simultaneously looking back up as if it were nothing—and with no outward change in emotion whatsoever continued on their way to their doorstep. [End Page 94]
Colby Buzzell was a US Army infantryman in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, where he blogged from the front lines. He is the author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq and Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey. His work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, Daily Beast, Washington Post, Penthouse, and on This American Life.