Iraq: What I remember

Cheers to The Valiant Dead By: Michael Xavier Ortiz

A cold, unyielding and paralyzing fear can trickle down your neck and engulf your spine to overwhelm you with indecision and internal chaos. It is the actions you take at this point that portray you in that unflattering light most of us avoid. These choices and the people you affect are the only memories you can hope to take with you when you pass. How you react to this fear is undetermined, so you have to own it and seed a positive experience. For me, losing the people I love is terrifying, and in combat, losing my friends by an unseen enemy can unsettle an anger in me with a gullet forever parched and longing. My transgressions and accomplishments used to be the only aspects of myself I would address whenever I felt introspective. As I continue on to these devastating brushes with fear, I can only watch as I change for the better, or worse.

The first time I came home from a long absence, I noticed that the smells had changed and the colors seemed more vivid. After I had enough rest, I realized; I was the one who had changed and seemed dull. Nothing would ever taste quite the same and sounds would never carry the same depth as they used to. In November; I had returned home from fifteen months of hell on earth, feet sore, skin worn, and emotion misplaced. It was cold in Kentucky when we landed. Fort Campbell never looked so gloomily beautiful. I was tired and starving, yet in seconds, my tears welled up and the scorched soles of my feet rushed me over to my overwrought mother. I knew the son she once sent away never came home per se, instead I did, a shell of a man. I always wondered how hard I would have laughed if she asked, “ How did it go?” “Did you have fun?” As we drove away to annihilate the first Big Mac we spotted, I looked back at the airplane that brought me home, full of sand-covered seats, wishing we could have left this new “me” behind. It was just the rush of enjoyment and relief that harbored my pain. I never fully understood how much the extra recognitive baggage I carried with me weighed.

It is too easy to slump into a deep dejection from this experience, but not fair to the friends I made and the good times I had, even with those who never made it home. There was Steven Christofferson, a small, determined man and a good friend. Then there was Adam Kohlhaas, my best friend, nothing more and never less. Both Steven and Adam were killed in action during an attack in northern Iraq on a dusty April morning. Sorry, it seems too easy to focus on the affliction. Every time I try to forget, I remember Steven’s mangled body, or Adam’s fading breath as we hopelessly struggled to revive him. I thought that in the moments after the helicopters snatched them from us it would be done with and I would never feel this gaping, deep and painful sadness. Fear had an effect on me that I could not recognize right away. I always had too much pride to allow proper sensibility. When this much emotion needed to be processed, I just filed it away with the lesser of my issues, like not shaving or leaving the toilet seat up. I have had my entire life to create a void in my subconscious. Now I have these calamitous memories to repress and with great success… at first, I did.


Lo and behold, I could not help but feel guilt and remorse, anger and sadness whenever I relive that day, even now. You see, that day started off innocently enough, although it never entirely ended for some of us. We had a mission in a nearly desolate sector of the desert to clean house and simmer down any potential threats to the safety of allied military forces in our area. Naturally, none of us really cared about some crude village full of goats and dried up farmland. However, there was always that chance we might see some action and that always seemed to get our blood pumping something fierce. So we suited up and strapped down to drive out south to this barren oasis. We arrived early in the day to find some questionable males attempting to elude us in our stealthy 17-ton armored vehicles, so we swiftly questioned and detained them. With “enemies of the state” in our trucks and the rest of the day ahead of us, we headed east toward the main road to sneak up on some more goats and small children. Silence, then an explosion with such a force I could not react quickly enough to catch my footing and turn to see that one of our trucks was engulfed in smoke and dust.

There was not even time for a full sentence when I jumped out of the truck and ran toward the dust. Out of the smoke came the driver of the tossed truck, distraught and crying for help, he settled at the rear of another vehicle. I made it to the first body I could see, Steven, and he was the furthest from everything, surrounded by tons of twisted metal and kicked up sand. He rested there, eyes opened, dead and honestly, that is all I really care to recall. Almost immediately I ran into our platoon sergeant, limping out of the smoke and leaning on the truck. It seemed he had been severely wounded on one entire side of his body, so I walked him over to sit and had the driver tend to his wounds. Then I rushed over to help with an interpreter whose calves were torn from his legs. Even our medic, hemorrhaging and fingers broken, still tried to help with the wounded until we had to relocate him to a safer area. I stopped, turned and saw that

Adam was laying about fifteen feet from me; so I rushed over, leaving the interpreter with his handler. I slid my hand under Adam’s head to only feel fragments of sand and blood. All I can really choose to remember is trying to find a sign, if any at all, that he was alive. Adam’s lip would quiver, his chest would rise, and the attack helicopters, that could not land, hovered over us teasing with hope. Never in my life have I ever wanted someone to just say one word to me than when I cradled Adam in my hands. Fear birthed a new value to me that was not worth the cost. Time slowed as we carried him to the helicopter and felt the wind scrape our backs as it took off with the injured, and Adam. Then there was a silence; it was the most painful silence ever heard and I could not scream loud enough to extinguish it. Adam died; Steven was bagged and tagged along with the interpreter. There were ceremonies and condolences whispered. Then we prepared for the next ten months of our deployment. It was fear that created the silence that day. The same fear kept us alive the rest of our time there.

I always assumed good people go to a better place when they die, and the lesser go to some version of hell. Well, I doubt it matters what we do if everyone is going to die at some point, right? If I was going to find a purpose in what men like Adam and Steven died for, maybe I could sleep at night, but even sleepless, I reap this blessing; The fear that once ruled over me subsided and although the memories etch at my heart, it means I get to keep these men alive. Sometimes the hard choices are easy because we ignore the possibility of other options. No one ever “finds themselves,”What you really mean to ask is what it is everyone else wants you to be. “The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, Their courage nerves a thousand living men”. (Minot J. Savage).

310 thoughts on “Iraq: What I remember

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  8. Your photos will inspire a thousand people.
    The children in an environment like that are like light bulbs amidst the darkness. Something we should embrace and preserve.

    • hola vitall, in a few years , what will this kids will say about this military intervention, wich will be the usa history answer, wich will be the citizens of irak answers?

      • Vitali your comment make sense, how do they manage to remain kids, can they forget that their brothers and sisters or their parents got killed by an invading army, won’t this sense inflict in them a passion for revenge and then those suicide bombs (thats how they are born) but hardly people understand.

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  12. I thank God you are alive and I pray, healing. Mother Mary “pondered these things in her heart” and that included the sword that pierced it. Artists often paint that sword covered with flowers. I hope that will be so for you and those you honor by your love and life. They are still being blessed by your love. Shalom.

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  15. Its nice to see that you have an audience, praising your ‘noble’ work of butchering innocent people in Iraq for oil, you beggers, you and the dogs that went with you. Surely, everyone will have a taste of death. Some will die like dogs, like your friends, and eventually you, and otherwise will die like martyrs- those that you have murdered in Iraq, and then now post about, unashamed of saying that you were only ‘helping them’. May people come and equally ‘help you and your perverted country’. Your time will come soon
    When you come out of your lucid interval, please do realize that on wordpress you got a platform for hyenas like yourself to praise you, but never has it or will it change the truth of who you are, a mass murderer. You know it. We know it. And God knows it the best, as He watches you.

    • if you read the earlier post i believe this noble soldier stated he did not personally kill any INNOCENT people. How dare you spew such hatred to a man who has risked his life for our survival, and take into consideration that if you knew anything as to what is going on in iraq, these men and women are there to protect the INNOCENT iraqians from the evil doers trying to take thier freedom and their rights, and their land, Our country could have easily chosen to not get involved and let them just kill eachother off but you are obviously just another uneducated civilian the knows nothing in regards to the morals and ethics of us americans and canadians. Our soliders have chosen to risk their lives to attend a foreign country to protect these innocent people whom are being treated unfairly. And secondly if you have done any research you would have knowledge of the partnership and friendship of the US military and the iraqians, like he stated previoulsy to another uneducated civilian like yourself which I highly doubt you took the time to scroll down and read the entire feed….oh here let me refresh your memory… Mike stated; “I don’t see a destroyed country. I see destroyed buildings that can be rebuilt. I didn’t destroy anything, i helped keep villages like the ones you see here safe from radical suni -shia rivalries were people were executed and exploited. I remember training along side Iraqi army soldiers trying to stop the selling of oil on the black market so the country can prosper. Regardless of our reasons for invasion, we helped train a powerful military force to help police the crime and corruption in the major cities and save the defenseless villages in between.” And lest we forget his interpreters he bunked with, they sure looked upset at the fact of our soliders being there didnt they? I dont see fear in these children I see hapiness and a friendship, and trust, and the feeling of security having these soliders in their presence, they are playing together with smiles for gods sakes. Look into the facts before you cock your toungue and spew such hateful words, and mabye educate yourself so next time you dont look like such a fool. I’m sorry mike that you have to deal with such ignorance as what I see here, you deserve so much more gratitude. I got your back as well as thousand of others.

      • Well thats what seems to be the problem with you guys, you are fed with some stuff and you take that deep in you without even trying to contemplate over the facts. I guess you have not had a look at one of my replies to this moronic solider of yours where I have mentioned that you perceive to have been bestowed with correcting Nations at the behest of Killing 6 Million people- what an ignorant person you must be to claim that you have a moral obligation to do so. Moreover, in another comment I have replied to that idiotic comment of Micheal that he sees only the buildings destroyed to which you also seem to agree, what an awful crisis of your state of reasoning. Let be phrase this again- if people of Iraq had any problems with Saddam Hussain, they could have dethroned him by themselves like people did in Egypt. And can we justify the military intervention of Britain In america to remove Obama- certainly not in the rationale sense. Let me enlighten you that America did not invade Iraq because of Saddam but officially because of Weapons of Mass destruction which we know never existed and was just a rhetoric to invade a Sovereign country, and now these butchers are using the same with Iran, after all how much can you justify, how many wars that America is culprit of- Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. You have already destroyed so many nations. When will people like you come out of ignorance and shun this idiotic over patriotic behavior.

    • After learning of Mike’s character…I am sure you will be thanked for visiting this blog, regardless of your opinion. You should read all his comments before assuming who he is.

      We are not his audience or his hyenas, we are simply people who appreciate this brave man for keeping us safe from people who have a negative view of our country, from people who have already killed thousands of our innocent ones.

      Again, if you will read, he has never taken a life of an innocent victim. Throwing out words of hate is easy, keeping his and other countries safe is not. I’ll take his side, any day of the week. He is the one keeping you safe, not the other way around.

      • I wonder if I should laugh or cry for your so called keeping you safe, tell me who came to kill you or any other American for that matter in your home, wasn’t it the other way round that Americans went and killed Iraqis and Afhanis in their home and when they retaliate you losse your sense, isnt it. When you kick hornet’s nest you should expect bees stinging you. Your so called brave solider was a part of army that killed 6 million people in Iraq alone and you you assuming that for keeping you safe ah,,,as if saddam hussain was launching an invasion on America. What is happened to your sense of reason. Better pray to God that the orphans left in Iraq do not come for a revenge.

  16. Beautiful photos and thanks for sharing. War is always a tragedy and don’t let people like Mendaxxx get to you, in no way is you at fault for innocent people dying. This is/was your job and I respect you for it, politics aside.

    • Its nice to see that you have an audience, praising your ‘noble’ work of butchering innocent people in Iraq for oil, you beggers, you and the dogs that went with you. Surely, everyone will have a taste of death. Some will die like dogs, like your friends, and eventually you, and otherwise will die like martyrs- those that you have murdered in Iraq, and then now post about, unashamed of saying that you were only ‘helping them’. May people come and equally ‘help you and your perverted country’. Your time will come soon 🙂
      When you come out of your lucid interval, please do realize that on wordpress you got a platform for hyenas like yourself to praise you, but never has it or will it change the truth of who you are, a mass murderer. You know it. We know it. And God knows it the best, as He watches you.

  17. Your pretentious expression of the ‘suffering’ you have experienced because two of your friends died is disgusting. And so is your pretentious portrayal of yourself as a hero.

    How can you, you self-righteous hypocrite, pretend to love and to feel when you have killed people and supported the killing of innocent people? Someone else’s Adam died by your hands; someone else’s best friend died because of you. I dare you to approve this comment, you coward; how dare you talk about bravery when all you have shown is cowardice- you unjust invader of a land that is not yours and that is none of your business. Can your mother really ask you whether you had fun in your ‘legal’ murdering spree- the one you had just returned from? I do not know how a person like you can live with themselves, or sleep at night. Shame on you.

    • what a disgraceful thing to write! Are you insane? Are you happy for the dictators of the world to destroy their own people? Would you have felt the same way if Hitler had been around now? How dare you speak of the armed forces that way. It is not they who are the cowards in my opinion. Sadam was murdering his own people as well as stealing everything he could from them. Were you happy for that to continue. Or is it ok as long as it isn’t happening to you! It is a war none of us should have been involved in, but whilst there are people like Ceausescu, Sadam, Pol Pot etc in the, armies will need to do what they do. If you don’t like it, keep your disgraceful comments to yourself.

      • Mr Gay person, it is no secret that the beggars of America came to Iraq to ‘liberate’ themselves by robbing the Iraqis of their oil. We didnt ask you to come to our country to help us get rid of Saddam. Iraq has not seen a worse day then when your pigs stepped into our country. You sit there behind a laptop writing what you feel so passionate about. If it were your mother, or sister, or father or brother that had died, or been raped- innocent of anything but belonging to a country that has oil- which you SOBS stole, I dont think you;d have the same opinion. And if you do, what a pity it is for your family.

      • Dear s493s,
        beggars? really? I thought the oil was sold by iraq. Wasn’t it this money which was used by Sadam to build palaces and buy weapons. Remember his gold gun? If you are going to be angry, be angry and the people in charge of Iraq. If you would prefer to have continued life under a regime headed by Sadam, that says much more about you than it does about me, or the gentleman who wrote this blog. Frankly I’d have been happy to leave you to it while most of the middle eastern leaders stole from their own people. Nothing was stolen from you by the west, it was bought and paid for. Sadly those facts don’t seem to fit your hysterical view. And good luck to you!

    • @ mendaxxx – Hello stranger, thank you for your time and energy. I am just a man that lives and breathes just like the rest and I know that sometimes I make mistakes like forgetting to brush my teeth or walk the dog… Poor dog. Although your enthusiasm toward hating me and my post seems so positive and energetic, I urge you to consider the possibility that you are wrong sir or ma’am . I myself have never killed and innocent person ever in my life and there is nothing better than a day without conflict for me. In short, I am glad you let your frustrations out on here and I hope and pray for you and your loved ones happiness . God bless

      • Watch this, and look at what you and your murderer-buddies have done. Some of them have repented from their evil; may God Guide them because they accepted their fault. Ameen.

        What is your criteria of ‘innocent’, Mr. Ortiz? You say you have not killed any ‘innocent’ people?

        And supposing you have not killed anyone at all there, you are still a criminal because you support and work for those who killed innocent people. You worked with those demons- you are of them, and they are of you. You were paid blood-money, and you ate from it. You know in your soul what the truth is, and the truth stands clear from falsehood.

        What use is your prayer to me when you do not even believe? How deluded are the unbelievers.

    • Shame on all of you who have not been in this man’s shoes yet think you have the right to judge his actions. Also, you must have a heart full of hate to say these things to someone who has suffered through a war which he says was hell on earth for him. No matter your opinion on the war, belittling someones service for their country is wrong. Go look in the mirror and see if you even have half as much courage or purpose.

  18. Your pretentious expression of the ‘suffering’ you have experienced because two of your friends died is disgusting. And so is your pretentious portrayal of yourself as a hero.

    How can you, you self-righteous hypocrite, pretend to love and to feel when you have killed people and supported the killing of innocent people? Someone else’s Adam died by your hands; someone else’s best friend died because of you. I dare you to approve this comment, you coward; how dare you talk about bravery when all you have shown is cowardice- you unjust invader of a land that is not yours and that is none of your business. Can your mother really ask you whether you had fun in your ‘legal’ murdering spree- the one you had just returned from? I do not know how a person like you can live with themselves, or sleep at night. Shame on you.

    • Mendaxxx you gutless moron. You should perhaps have removed your previous comment if you are going to leave the same thing but without your name. My comments are as above. It is not those in the armed forces who are gutless cowards, it is you.

      Just so you can’t remove your comment with your name on it, here is is reposted


      Mendaxxx on January 3, 2012 at 5:04 am said:

      Your pretentious expression of the ‘suffering’ you have experienced because two of your friends died is disgusting. And so is your pretentious portrayal of yourself as a hero.

      How can you, you self-righteous hypocrite, pretend to love and to feel when you have killed people and supported the killing of innocent people? Someone else’s Adam died by your hands; someone else’s best friend died because of you. I dare you to approve this comment, you coward; how dare you talk about bravery when all you have shown is cowardice- you unjust invader of a land that is not yours and that is none of your business. Can your mother really ask you whether you had fun in your ‘legal’ murdering spree- the one you had just returned from? I do not know how a person like you can live with themselves, or sleep at night. Shame on you.

    • Mendax, I’m glad at least someone else who was unfortunate enough to come across this piece of crap ‘pity’ note that he wrote has commented. Yes, Shame on you Michael.

  19. I wish more Americans could read this and gain a better understanding of the cost of military service, the toll it takes on us, and those around us. Even reading isn’t being there. I remember being transported back and forth through the “Iron Curtain,” and distinctly different way of life on the “other” side. I also remember hearing and feeling the same questions during Nam. What’s the point? and the layers of guilt and fear … It does get better for most of us. The parts of us that go numb there do eventually come alive again and life goes on.

    Thank you for your honorable service, and I wish you PEACE!

  20. All things brutal, all things sane, courage and madness all in man. fear reigns high with doubt, reactions made in times unknowable leave consciousnesses in turmoil. We run from those things we think are not just, we pray they are not real. We refuse to face them and they devour us inside out. Yet the light that allows life to be is in us through all things.
    Life a whisper on the wind, salt mingled with dust and sunshine, water to congeal and bond it, death a whisper on the wind, salt separated from dust and sunshine, water loosed bonds freed. Love gives birth to both, love to allow one to replace the other.

  21. To live a life is an experience of painting a picture where many mistakes cannot be erased.

    We all go throw tough times,but to continue our life we have to put bad things behind and start new begining with heart full of love and faith.

  22. Your right about coming back a different person, I saw thus in my Son. He was ny Son but different, somber, drawn inside himself. He was him but different. I pray for you, the original you & the present you. I will tell you that slowly my Son has found pieces of his original self. It takes a long time and the strength you obviously have. You will find original you, a piece at a time. You are just starting over and that’s right. Keep writing, nurture your creativity and it will nurture you.

  23. hi there, I just want to say to you that all these civilians that find it neccesary to blindly judge you on the choices you have made in your life, have not been where you have been, or felt the fear of arriving somewhere like that and knowing there is no turning back. You took an oath and you stuck with your word and your beliefs/morals, and thats a true man in my eyes. I am a 27yr old female and my sons father is in the canadian military, my son was born in 07 and his father just met him over this past xmas holiday, I went 4 years without any contact not knowing if he was dead or alive or what to tell our 4yr old son as to who and where his daddy is. Keeping in mind that in the begining of his training I will be the first to admit i did not understand as to why he was doing what he was doing, and leaving his family, and most of all me, but as I in the last year obtained my own career in law enforcement I only now know why he chose to do what he did. Over the last week he has met his son for the first time, and everytime we meet I look at him with such respect, admioration, and love for what he has done for our country and for civilians similar to the ones on your forum having no problem throwing in their opinion and disrespecting your couragous choices, but….you ask these such people to step up and do what you and others such as my sons father have done, and I can garuntee you that they would be terrified and refuse, and yet they can throw such judgement on those who have risked their own lifes to save theirs. It sickens me. My sons fathers whole persona is so different from the last time I saw him in 07, and I only wish that I stuck at his side over the last 4 years instead of running based on my own fear of him making the wrong choice and “abandoning” us so to speak. He has told me stories similar to yours and i see the pain and fear in his eyes as he sits across the table from me holding our son for the first time, and my heart melts not only for him but for all of you. I still love him very very much but 4 years is a big gap to fill in two weeks holidays and he is off again. What I am trying to say is not everyone will understand why you guys are out there, and they may never will, but never forget that behind one uneducated close minded civilian, follows thousands that stand tall behind all of you and for what you stand for. The lack of respect from these people makes me wish we could take them and throw them out on the front line and see how fast they coward. The saying stands true “If you dont stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart to you, my sons father, and all other brothers and sisters that stand together…thank you for risking your life for us civilans who actually care and respect what you are doing….and for the ignorant, mindless, self centred civilians such as those I have read on your forum…I will thank you for them….because one day they will see….and they to will be educated when situations such as the ones in iraq come knocking at their door, they will be begging for superior, couragous, selfless, soliders..MEN..such as yourself and my sons father. And Kudos to you for replying to these negative comments in such a calm, mature, respectful manner, once again in my opinion you are demonstrating the difference between a MAN and a manchild, is what we call them here 🙂 God bless to you and your family and friends .

  24. Such a touching, poignant telling of your memories. Thank you for sharing what is unfathomably painful to hear. The cost of war is higher than most people even think about. I cannot begin to imagine, even through your telling, what it must be like to have lived through your experiences and retain those memories. God bless you as you process all you’ve lived through. Thank you for serving your country, even when the purpose is questionable at times.

  25. I just wanted to let you know your sharing touched me very deeply.
    Truly are we as humans all connected as One Soul.
    I gladly and willingly consciously share in carrying the energy of this burden for you and all others in need.
    I gladly and willingly offer to you and all others, the energy of healing and peace of the Divine One Spirit that is the ribbon of Love that connects us All as One.

    Bless you Michael,

    In Lak’ech Ala K’in

  26. those pictures are really sad, but they’re beautiful in a way. war is terrible, but it’s beautiful as well. it shows the heart of those who dedicate their lives. it’s amazing what you’ve done for our country, and in honesty, i owe my life to you for your sacrifices. god bless you and happy new year.


  27. Beautiful work… did an incredible job at showing us life behind the war; children with smiles on their faces, pets rolling around and playing on the floor. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us and most importantly, thank you for your service in the military, your dedication, and your bravery. Stay safe and God Bless!

  28. What a beautifully written piece and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for sharing that deeply vulnerable part of yourself with us and for the sacrifices you made for all of us during your service. I hope that writing and sharing your story brings you some small measure of peace.

    This is precisely the types of stories that I hope to produce for 365Vets. If there are any veterans reading this who would be interested in participating in the 364 Vets Project please feel free to contact me.

    I am going to add your blog to our blogroll. Thank you for sharing so many beautiful images and moments.


  29. Thank you for your courage and sacrifice my Brother in Arms and for sharing your experience with others. Only time heals the mental wounds from combat, but the scarring leaves us changed for life. I pray daily for the physical and mental well being of all our Armed Forces, and today I pray you find healing from your experience.

    SSG David Yochim
    USA (Retired)

  30. besides i like ur pix…i ll go witth tika! m normal! i do love ppl! i do go to school! i do play tennis! i do watch tv! i do write poetry! but m a Muslim nt jst by religion bt by faith also! plz dnt drag discriminations among such beautiful n touchy memories1 🙂 regardz

  31. These pictures were magnificent. What the HELL kind of spider was that?! And I loved the two dogs. As for the writing – a totally brilliant post 🙂

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  33. “Man runs from death while death is inevitable. One sees minor faults of others, but overlooks his own major faults. When there is any defect to one’s cattle he tries to cure it, but does not cure his own defects.”

    [Umar Ibn Khattab – RadiAllahu anhu]

    I am a Muslim and I do not like the hard-line muslim (ekstrimist) because they make other people think Islam is a religion that taught his people to war, it is not true…
    Islam does not teach his followers to fight against people of different beliefs, people who do not follow the teachings of Muhammad SAW, etc.
    Beliefs is something that can not be imposed

    Honestly, i do not like war
    I do not know what is right and what is actually happening in Iraq
    What I know is just we have our own responsibility to God for what we’ve done in this world

    *Thanks for sharing that pics… I’m surprised there are American soldiers who love photography

    • Munafiq. People like you deserve to be governed by the Kuffar. Bend over to those people that kill and rape your people. Great going. You are not a representative for muslims- hardly a representative of a noble human being.

  34. Words are not enough to express the feelings of myself and my family to you and other soldiers like you who have served and returned after witnessing life at its worst. Bless you and thank you are very meager, but I offer them anyway. I pray that, though you may be changed forever, your heart will find peace once more.

  35. Michael,
    Your essay was well written, poignant, and gives us all a glimpse of a reality we know nothing about while living our selfish, greedy everyday lives we feel we are entitled to. It makes me ill to read some of the posts written by people who have no clue how privileged they are to live in a country where you can go about your everyday lives without hunger, fear of being the next target of a roadside bomb or suicide bomber, or fear of being an ethnicity targeted by their own government for extermination, such as the Kurdish people were in Iraq. The people who are posting their opinions and slamming you for serving your country should go live in one of those countries before judging whether going into Iraq was wrong or right. No one can look into a crystal ball and see where the world would be if USA had not invaded Iraq. Would the U.N. still exist? If so, would anything the U.N. imposes be taken seriously by any country? If we just lay down and let dictators like Saddam Hussein thumb his nose at us, where would we be now?
    I’m proud to live in a country that will act when mass murder such as 9/11 happens, will go into a country that is defiant and will not follow U.N. Resolutions, and assist an oppressed people in forming their own democracy. Most of all, I am proud of soldiers like you, who have made sacrifices that will forever change lives for the better.
    Adam and Steven were blessed to have you as a brother. You are the one who has to live on with your memories and your life being changed forever. I salute you.
    Blessings to you as you continue to heal, and thank you for your service.

  36. You’ve put into words and pictures what the majority of us cannot imagine. You shared with us the devastating details of the deaths of those so close and the life that you have only physically left behind. Bless you so very much for your bravery, your commitment to preserving freedom, your endless soul and reminding us what you and those along with you endured. Thank you just doesn’t begin to express all that should be expressed. May angels guide you and bring you comfort in your dark times.

  37. to you and all the other soldiers who keep us free to have our little, quiet lives and varied opinions… thank you. your story and photographs touched me quite deeply and i can’t even imagine having to come back to a so-called “normal” life and how hard that must be…

  38. beautifully written and very evocative. the photos speak a thousand words. sorry you lost your friends and had to experience such horrors. I doubt anyone can understand what you and your fellow soldiers went through, nor can we understand what the Iraqi’s went through. War is such a waste, may it one day become something of the past. I truly hope you find peace and the strength for the future. all the very best.

  39. The images (both posted and described in vivid detail) are impossible to forget. It’s posts like these that remind me that the Marlboro Man’s publicity singles him out solely in terms of public knowledge. The pain experienced by soldiers is by no means limited to a few good men.

    Thank you for serving our country. Let us hope that there will come a day when no new memories such as these need to be created.

  40. Dear Sir. I grieve for the part of you that no longer exists because of your experience. I grieve for the loss of your friends, fellow soldiers, and their family and friends. I grieve for the innocence lost. I grieve for your broken heart and bruised soul. However; for every action, there is an opposite and just as strong reaction. So I therefore celebrate you, your life, your courage and bravery. I thank your for your service to the country that we call home. Without you, we would not feel safe. I often take the security I feel for granted. Shame on me. My apologies to you and this great nation.
    Human beings are not expected to be unaffected by their experiences…in fact, I believe it to be impossible. It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings, and by posting these photos, I think that is what you are doing. Whether you realize it or not. You’ve seen ugly and the ugly is holed up in your memory. It is so ugly that you don’t want to burden others because it is so ugly. The fact that you will burden yourself with such ugly images, and not us tells me how much compassion you have. You would rather share pictures of children, because all children are beautiful. You’re sharing images of the camaraderie between brothers and sisters. Do yourself a favor, and share the ugly with those equipped to handle it. A therapist, a clergyman, or a fellow soldier. Start a journal, join a group…but unburden your ugly demons, and let them go. Don’t let them define who you are…like so many of our sons and daughters are doing. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right. My protectors deserve better. My hero deserves peace. Love you.

  41. Michael,
    You are a great writer and brave soldier. Thank you for sharing. You shared your heart and soul and do not have to justify a thing to anyone. Don’t let the voice of a few let you forget that there are many, many who truly do understand the good that you and Adam and Steven were doing over there. Thank you for sharing their story and Thank you for your service. I pray God will give you peace and hope and restore your Joy.
    Thank you again.

  42. wow this is really touching. but i still want to join the army, become a soldier. only God saves. but i like your act of bravery.

  43. Aah, there is no need to say sorry, you know i understand that you are not the President of US but you surely are a human, and i am sure God must not have concealed the sense of reason and the logic of right and wrong from you. In one of your comments you have mentioned that you see buildings of Iraq destroyed which can be reconstructed but what you have failed to see is that Iraq has been pushed 10 years back, economically, manually and socially. There have been phosphorus bombs used in Iraq which have phenomenal effect on the progeny of the survivors besides the mental trauma. And more-over, Mr Ortiz, there is no justification to invade a Nation so as to change the regime. There where Iraqis who could have done that, we can’t justify the military intervention of Britain to remove Obama, for example. The Americans themselves would do so if they want it that way. So I see no one deserving to be killed in that war of Yours – leaving everyone killed innocent, they where the ones fighting a foreign army, saving and serving their Nation.

  44. It surely is an account by the ones who claim to have been bestowed with a sense and moral obligation of correcting Nations to their own selfish ideologies, sending troops to a Sovereign Nation, Killing over 6 million people on the pathetic rhetoric- Weapons of mass destruction, which all of us know never existed. You mentioned the account of death of three of your colleagues, what about the death of those 6 million Iraqis who you and your fellow war mongers and invaders killed, of those millions of mothers who could never see their sons again. This whole war that you claim to be your service to your Nation was against the Humanity, it was more-of an invasion co-related to the colonial periods-colonialism marking the neocolonistic foreign policy approach of the US.

    • Again, personally I have never killed an innocent person and I am not the president of the united states to make decisions about invading other countries. I really appreciate your outlook on the post and I understand if somehow Iv’e hurt your feelings and I am so sorry. The good some of us did out there apparently has no place in your comment, there must have been a typo right? God willing your life turns out amazing and you have a wonderful life.

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  46. This story as well as the many other stories shared by warriors such as yourself truly touch my heart. Your recognition of the days that have passed on the calendar but not I your heart sent an earthquake of emotion through my body and soul. In 2009 I was going to marry a man that came back from Iraq but sadly at the time I believed most of the man I fell in love with was lost in the sand that covered what he only called hell, Iraq. We over came many obstacles in our warmer days of love but sadly, this was something we couldn’t over come. He was a changed man and for so long there has been this fire of hatred for him since he shattered our relationship. I am thanking you, not only for posting this and serving our country, you will always be in prayers. I am thanking you more so for letting me see the perspective of what is seen. What I am thanking you the most for though, is helping me put the pieces of my heart back together that have been laying on the cold floor for years, bitter, stubborn and selfish. I now can say, I wish not only the best for this man but I wish him peace. Thank you.

    You will always be in my prayers and thoughts, I am wishing you peace throughout your days to come. Please, find happiness in your heart & soul. God is good, he knows the way to heal & mend, he has proven it just now.

    God bless. Many hugs.

  47. Okay to all you haters out there…This man and his fellow soldiers did not destroy Iraq. It was already falling apart. Read your history before you blame someone for destroying a nation. He simply gave an account of what happened to him when he saw three people die in front of him.

    If you have ever seen someone die you would not be saying such hateful things to him. It is not something you can forget. You can’t take it out of your mind. No matter how hard you try. You could drink, get high, but short of actually physically damaging your brain, you can not forget someone dying in front of you.

    Like he said, seeing death changes you. Seeing a violent death changes how you experience everything else. It’s a visceral adaptation of hell on Earth (watching someone die that is).

  48. Thanks for sharing and your service and sacrifice. Wishing you peace.
    There is a blog I follow, Off The Base, that has a lot of info and help for Veterans.
    God bless You!

  49. Your images and words sent earthquakes through me to my very core. It sickens me that war is such a foreign concept to most Americans despite our country being at war for so many years. Much like the plight of inner city children that suffer in impoverished schools right here on our soil, the plight of our soldiers is disgraced by the fodder that blankets the evening news. Your pain and horror is depicted here in a way that I can almost taste the blood you saw. Perhaps if more people, especially those in positions of power, could hear your voice and feel just an ounce of you pain, things could change.

    I wish you all of the hope and healing that you need. Keep writing and photographing, it will keep you honoring those who have passed and your light within.

  50. This is a very poignant post and I know of someone in the army who is in service. He’s my brother’s cousin and I think that he just safely returned back from Iraq. I’m glad that you have safely returned and appreciate what you’ve done for our country. Your story and especially the picture of you and your mom together will definitely stay with me.

  51. Nice to see personal photos from a former soldier, instead of all these official and stock images 🙂

    I have a great respect for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere)! 🙂

  52. “Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations; ” – Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002,[1] Pub.L. 107-243, 116 Stat. 1498, enacted October 16, 2002, passed by a Democratic Party controlled Senate,

    “Recognizing the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security.” – UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002), Adopted by the Security Council at its 4644th meeting, on 8 November 2002,

    “Good evening.
    Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

    Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

    Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons. ” – President William J. Clinton, December 16, 1998, televised public speech from the Whitehouse Oval Office,

    I don’t understand why some wish to disagree with so many others from all sides of politics that Iraq was not a threat. It’s like there are terrorists in our own nation wanting to desperately try to defend their comrades, no matter what. Perhaps too many common citizens are just kept too ignorant.

    Michael, have you heard Luke Stricklin’s song about his OIF tour? I particularly love his 3rd stanza on all of this:

    You want to talk about it, you better keep it short
    cause I got a lot of lost time I gotta make up for.
    Really don’t care why Bush went in to Iraq
    I know what I’ve done there and I’m damn sure proud of that.
    You got somethin’ bad to say about the USA
    you better save it for different ears ‘less you want to crawl away.
    And I’ll laugh in your face when you say you’ve got it bad
    and tell you to spend some time on the streets of Baghdad.

    Never forget you are in the ranks of the Protectors now. You’ve earned it and will continue to earn it through your grief. The Protected may not always understand. But you will always find understanding and love by those whom do. Your sharing helps continue to heal and bind all of our wounds. Thank you.

    – Joel

  53. You are not the reason there is war..I do not undermine your experience nor do I envy your journey……Stay safe… .The photos of the children are dear….as is the photo of the two dogs playing….
    War, also gunless, occurs via verbal abuse, mental abuse, and oppression…these elements are at times, just as deadly as bullets.

  54. A Deep thank you for sharing all of yourself- in your service, in your word, in these pictures. I deeply wish that any of my words and the posts of all these people could help quell the pain for you. Sending you much love.

  55. I am deeply grateful for your sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all who serve and at the same time, so sorry that anyone, on either side, would have to experience such pain. I appreciate your sharing this small glimpse of such an overwhelming experience. God bless you with peace.

  56. I’m not from US but I thank you for saving lives from evil doers…you are not just obeying the command of your commander in charges…but you save many lives….Keep your faith in God…. God bless you all soldiers…

  57. its a nice attempt but I am afraid you do not see it from both sides; if you lost a few lives you must have taken a few as well…… who were they? why they died the unknown death from unknown reason?………????
    apart from that, you ask about how important it is what we do when we all have to die….death would come definitely but it would never be the same for everyone because everyone is not making the same choices.

    • In life, a person only ever has one side to see from. The essay is not about it not being fair or just that we lost men, it was about a situation I witnessed and the way it effected me. I have never taken the life of an innocent person period. I thank you for taking your precious time to critique and evaluate my post. I hope you have a wonderful day. God Bless

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  60. Great post, you have an amazing gift for words. I was drawn right in, tasted dust and ash and sorrow.. Thank you for sharing your experiences. God bless you and keep you in His love.

  61. Your images are at the same time beautiful, touching and heartbreaking. I cannot begin to imagine your pain. Although I’ve never served, I have many friends and family who have and I can only thank you and them for your service and sacrifice.

    I wish you peace, strength and happiness.

  62. Wow. What a sad and emotional entry. I am in work so I was able to choke the tears back…. I am so sorry for you and your friends and every single soldier over there.
    God Bless all of you.
    Great pictures. I especially like the Spider Picture.

  63. Please click this link, its a game and if you click it I’ll get free cash in the game. Also amazing photos, most touching one was the man walking his.. sister? ROBLOX

  64. If I were you, I would dedicate part of my life from that point forward to communicating calmly and rationally…the way it is …say it….the way it is….so the world will be a better place….and a smarter place….realizing what the war was really like…everyday…and write about it whenever I felt depressed so other depressed people could read it and I would not go crazy. Pretty soon….i would get so alleviated of the burden i felt…that others should also have to carry….to help me carry this burden…too…that it would be gone…in time…or else i would keep telling them…more and more…until i felt they understood and knew…and really understood why I was disgusted by the war.

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  66. Thanks for sharing this experience. This post shows people that war is a very human thing, not some glorified action packed story that is told in the cinemas. The sacrifice that a soldier make is unparalleled and as a force for good in this war-torn country, I think you have help rebuild and save the lives of the many that still believes in peace. Thanks for the service and sacrifice that contribute to defending the world’s way of life.

  67. All politics aside, this was a very lovely, very human, very poignant bit of sharing on your part. That’s what I’m thanking you for. It’s a difficult thing to put so much honesty out into the world, knowing all the while that there will be some who will come along to pick at the scabs over things and attempt to draw a bit of blood for the benefit of their own beliefs. They have the right, but it may not be the right thing to do. There are other targets more deserving of that. You deserve a bit of comforting and for someone to point out to you that you have a mad eye for photography. So there you go 🙂

  68. I have a friend who’s husband has been sent to Iraq several times, and I’ve still never seen a photo from him.

    The photos that you’ve taken are an incredible glimpse into what life really is and is not for those in Iraq. In a way, you can see a mix of happiness and sadness in the children’s eyes. It also shows us what you guys endured for us.

    All I can say is thank you for your service and God Bless.

  69. En verdad las imágenes son por si solas un reflejo de la cituacion mas la narración que nos deja anonadado, pero me siguen surgiendo preguntas o dudas.No entiendo ni nunca entendí, que tenían que hacer en un territorio que no es suyo ni tenia alguna amenaza a su nación. Nunca entendí siendo que fue parte del ejercito de mi país, la libertad que se toma EEUU en meterse em territorios donde nadie los llamo y luego decir que defienden su propia Libertad.o son los dueños del mundo???

  70. Hi. I am very curious about an issue. This is by no means for attacking you, US, or anybody else for that matter. I just want to know what the psychology behind shooting innocent civilians on reflex was? I mean there are a lot of documentaries showing scenes where a civilian is forced to get out of his car and just shot because he is thought to pose a minor threat…I kind of think it even became a reflex, perhaps because there was too much fear felt by the US soldiers in the premises?

    Another question is whether it’s true that the first time US troops went there there were mile long aligned local people welcoming the soldiers?

    On a last note, just because I am curious to know your opinion on the issue as someone who spent so much time there, do you think the presence of US in the region aggravated attack on innocent civilians by terrorist groups?

    Maybe another question. Do you think the presence of US was absolutely necessary and what do you think would have happened if US invasion did not take place?

    I really honestly want to know your opinion there is no aggression behind any of the above posed questions.

      • I am sorry I did not mean any offense whatsoever. I just wanted to hear your views on the story since you were there. It’s easy to blame people after all for things that they’ve not done. I understand that you do not want to express any further thoughts in the issue (on whether it was really necessary for US to go to Iraq in the first place) for obvious reasons, but I do believe you were there with no intention of harming anybody. I am glad you are back home safe and sound. Good luck with your life, now that you’ve left a difficult period of it behind.

  71. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into that world…

    Part of me feels that I ought not want to know that place… but you see I met and fell deeply in love with someone who was involved in an IED accident in Iraq… also in November around Thanksgiving… a few years ago. I did not know the man that took his body over there only the man that came back with it.

    He is the most moral, rational, kind, caring, funny, loving person I have ever met and the way I see him sink away inside himself… the pain radiates from his body… the way he breathes and squeezes my hand when we walk down a busy street or sit in a busy restaurant… the discomfort of knowing he won’t sleep through the night, ever… the ache that I feel when I run my fingers over his many, many scars… those things make me wonder about what happened… not just physically – but what happened to his insides. I wonder with a sort of morbid curiosity what that tastes like. I wonder because for some reason… I want to know all of him…

    I don’t press the issue. I rarely ask questions. Before he knew me, I guess he talked about it more and others have judged him harshly for it… so I understand his hesitation. I only tell him that I wasn’t there, in that situation, nor have I ever been in a similar one, therefore I can’t know what I would have done and I have no room to place judgement.

    I feel lucky to be able to deeply love and care for one of our veterans… and I feel special that a soldier loves and cares for me…

    Tears and sadness for those who clearly don’t know a soldier well enough to know that they are all humans, doing a job, and depending on who you ask being sold the same lies that the rest of us are sold by those with power…

    At least have the decency to show respect…

    • Just such a sharp final paragraph which articulates it all. The majority can not be held responsible of the ulterior motives of a few. I just hope for all of us, wherever we may be in the world, to be able to stand up to those in power, if we do not agree on a certain way to go. I hope for all of us to realize that in politics (at home or international), there is no such thing called “good intentions”, “for the protection of citizens” etc., and that while we make our judgements, we should keep that very fact in mind. Nobody in power really cares for the citizens….Without people, there is no country, and yet being in power is considered much more important than human life. We are human, and our lives have value. We have to shout that out loud.

  72. your blog is amazing. it’s hard for most of us to grasp what goes on over there so it’s always good to be reminded from a soldiers perspective. we appreciate everything you’ve done. and your story is touching. thanks for sharing!

  73. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Your photos are real, gritty and human. I feel sad that there are so many personal attacking comments about the politics of war, and did anyone read the essay!? I’m so sorry for your loss. Please continue photographing and writing- it will help you heal those wounds. Aloha.

  74. Being a soldier is the best profession in the whole world. But it brings along with it, a dead weight & immense responsibilities. Reading your post has been like watching the episode with my own eyes. May god give you the strength to bear with the losses & sacrifice you made!!

  75. The words “thank you” don’t seem to be enough for sharing the depth of your experience. I and most others can never imagine what that must’ve been like, but that was an honest glimpse of reality. So I must say, Thank you…..thank you for the photos, for sharing truth, and most importantly, thank you for your sacrifice. God Bless.

  76. Words are rarely enough, but thank you–for serving, for remember your fallen comrades, and for allowing their lives to further impact us through your memories.
    “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16

  77. Imagez are everything and journalists in all forms are informed people. Thanks for the share. Please share any more photographic memories and have a fruitful 2012

    Reply ↓

  78. From one veteran to another I say Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It’s easy for me to write off my service as no big deal since I saw no action, and then I read something like this and thank God that I saw no action. Your pictures brought back my time in Somalia where so many children were looking to us with hope. The innocent have no place in war, but it always seems to surround them. God bless you sir, and thank you for a great read.

  79. Michael, Thank you for all you have done to keep us safe. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your story and amazing photos as well. It was heartbreaking to read but also insightful. I am so very sorry for all you have had to endure over seas and for the loss of your dear friends. God bless you and I am glad you are safe.

  80. Thank you so very much for sharing your story, your words mean far more than any photograph. Your writing is powerful and moving. I’m so sorry that so many had to go through these events, and come back changed people, different people.
    Thank you for standing up for your country while others stand aside.

  81. We appreciate the sacrifices you all have made, I thank you for fighting for our freedom and i pray that the Lord helps you to find comfort. Although those memories will not die, always know that your friends are in a better place with God. You are a strong person, to take the time to share with us your experience, your life in the military and afterwards. When I read your blog its like I can visualize everything that I am reading, and the tears start rolling down my face. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless

  82. Your photos are beautiful. Those of us who haven’t been there can’t possibly understand your experiences, but I appreciate you sharing your story. I know the pain is still raw, but hopefully you can take comfort in the good memories with your friend and fellow soldiers. You are a richer person for having had them in your life. God bless and thank you for your service to our country.

  83. thank you for sharing this very personal glimpse into your life and experience. Your photos and story are moving. I am humbly grateful for your service, thank you. May God bless.

  84. I can’t believe that after reading this some of you would post these negative remarks… I am for world peace. I believe that nations should not be torn apart but work together. This man went through some traumatic expiriences, and you are bashing him for ruining a country?? I’m sorry. But they ruined themselves. NOT the U.S Troops

  85. My son, a Marine Gunny Srgt. has been there three times. He doesn’t talk about it much, but he would sometimes send pictures like “Hi Mom” written in the dust on a piece of equipment. I’m not just proud of him but you and every soldier who put the American people first. Thank you for this terrific post.

  86. Your pictures and story were very heartfelt. I seem to hear so many people talking about the war over there, but the thing is… none of us here actually get to see what people like you and all the other soldiers are risking their lives for. People i find dont like the truth and they dont like realism because we live in a world today polliuted with fantasy every where we turn… I for one am so very thankful for your bravery to share your story and your pictures. It’s aweful that there are some people who let the smallest thing offend them so that they have to stir up trouble, but you seem to handle it all very graciously. Politics and war is never an easy topic to bring up because we all have so many different opinions and views of what our world and our country should be like. As a mom, I find your pictures not as threatening, but as eye opening and realisticly heartfelt. your pictures are as much a part of you as you are them. I dont see any prejudices, I see memories captured. Dont let anyone discredit you or get you down because of their negativity. You and all our other troops are a blessing and are hero’s in your own ways, dont let anyone tell you otherwise. I have former vets in my family and I appreciate them everyday.
    Continue writing and sharing!

  87. As I read this post and cry over your stories, my sons are fighting while one cries over losing at his video game. I want to tell them to shut up because their pain seems so insignificant in the big picture, especially compared to your stories. Then I remember what a wise friend of mine once said: “Your pain is your pain, no matter what it comes from. It’s real. Honor it and move on.” God bless and good luck in your journey.

  88. Awesome story. Amazing. My family, amd I Thank You for your service, and sacrafice, and we thank your family as well. God Bless You, and yours!!!

  89. Thank you for sharing your journey through photos. Hope you have a flickr account! Your Airborne patch is actually one of my faves. Screaming Eagles. Fort Benning’s been my second home lately…

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  91. Thank you for sharing a bit of your incredible journey. Thank you for all you have done, for your courage and bravery. My heart is with you as a read. Peace and blessings. patrice

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  93. thank you for the positive comments and thank you for all the blame some of you have bestowed on me , it has made me reflect somewhat. I took some picture that I have had on my hard drive for quite some time and put them on here to share without prejudice and I am glad to see you all expressing your feelings about them. God bless

  94. nice shots… I spent almost 8 years there… its nice to see a wide varity of pictures and not just the cr@p they show on the news…. by the way where were you when you saw that camel spider… i never got the pleasure of seeing one… (sarcasim) he he he he

  95. Beautiful pictures! It brings back many memories of my ToD in Iraq. However, I would definitely not have got that close to a Camel Spider… would have been running hard and fast in the opposite direction! Thanks for the memories! x

  96. What a great post! You showed the human side of war, the details the established media CHOOSES to leave out. You captured history for the next generation coming up. Your photos are haunting, especially the ones with children. Thank you very much for your service.

  97. You should put together experience military and more pictures, so the history remains you gringos what you must not repit ever!!!!

    great testimony..

  98. Propaganda gloryfing war, yes buildings are destroyed and and can be rebuilt but families and genetic lines can not. I hope one day that we all experience truth and peace and that no army invades another country ‘ regardless of our reasons for invasion’ Who in the long term profits from war? Will it be the Iraqi children, the goat shepherd, army men / women or the entities that who have no soul.?
    I hope future generations will peace.

  99. Man. I wish I had taken more pictures during my deployments. But truth be told they would probably just be painful reminders for me. Being away from family, friends, all that I knew. Seeing people from all walks of life that I had learned to call ‘brother’ and truly mean it, see them be torn apart and killed at too young of an age. These photos truly took me back to those days. Not focusing on the negative things though. We did alot of good for the people of Baghdad. I wouldn’t change a thing that we did while we were deployed. In more ways than people can imagine, it made us all the men we are today. And we are better for it.

  100. What a profound essay of photos. It brought tears to my eyes, both of grief and happiness. Thank you for giving the world eyes. i hope you life is blessed, that any hurt you faced will be healed, and that you know that you did more than serve in the military–you showed us the face of your life, there.

    Thank you.

  101. Nice white wash job.

    Did you happen to notice the:

    (1)destruction of priceless, irreplaceable ancient artefacts bombed to bits in the Baghdad Museum,
    (2)several hundred thousand innocent Iraqi civilians killed by Americans, dismissed as
    mere “collateral damage”?
    (3)the civil war set off by the America-induced insurgency?
    (4) thousands of smashed homes of poverty-ridden Iraqi citizens now turned out into the streets to live?
    (5) total destruction of infrastructure by American bombing, leaving civilians without basic necessities like potable water, sanitary sewer system and electricity?
    (6)hideous torture used on “prisoners of war” in Hell holes like Abu Ghraib?
    (7)total lack of any clear purpose for your being there?
    (8) your sick-o psychopathic Commander In Chief?

    Ya, it’s all so picturesque, isn’t it? Way to Go. Make war pretty!

    America……GOOOOOD.. War……… Gooooooood. ….Mmmmm

    • some pictures are good,
      I agree tottally with you, in fact I[m so glad that a gringo isnot blain (ciego),
      to see all the destruction they have made in all the world and only with the aim to have power

      God bless Irak

    • That’s life =). Pays to be powerful and free. And we didn’t get that way overnight or sacrifice-free. You should appreciate the fact that you have the right to bash on our nation’s government on the internet because in some countries you’d be dead before you could hit “post comment”.

      Be thankful for what you have and the price that it cost to put you there.

    • I have a lump in my throat as I can only imagine you reliving this over and over again as you share with us. My prayers are with you and although I do not know you, I admire you and send you and your family so much love. Thank you for your courage. If you ever need someone to talk to, I am very familiar with the after effects. Please stay strong.

      When you think of and honor the great men you lost, please always remind yourself of the millions here you kept alive. What a feeling that must be. You are one of the men our country prays for…an angel fighting for us. Thank you just doesn’t seem appropriate.

      Close your ears to the negativity you may hear and open them to the millions of positive ones who appreciate you and believe in you. You deserve more than a heartfelt thank you. You deserve peace.

      I am glad you are home for the holidays! Many blessings to you and your loved ones! Hug them EVERY DAY, that is where you will find your peace. 🙂 I appreciate my family being able to sleep at night while heros like you were dirty, sleepy, hungry, in pain, numb, and terrified… watching our backs. THAT is Gooood. God Bless!

  102. These photos are representative of imperialism and of a venture into a foreign land by what once would have been deemed ‘colonialism.’ The photos are a good representation of that concept and invading foreign lands should not be part of the twenty-first century, especially by developed nation-states.

    • What is “imperialism” and “colonialism” anyway? We did not go to Iraq to steal the natural resources of Iraq, Or to create an empire with subjugated Iraqis. We went because of the events of 9/11/2001, which naturally got us worried that Saddam and others like him would get nuclear bombs, give them to terrorists. etc. Read Dick Cheny’s book. Read George W Bushes book. Read other books. Don’t give the stupid rhetoric that indicates a brainless individual who follows the herd.

      • Oh brother! Don’t tell me you haven’t heard:

        Bush LIED about the entire Iraq-9/11-nuclear bombs connections.
        Cheney most certainly had his pig-eyes on the oil and post-confict rebuilding contracts to go to his former corporation, Haliburton.
        Where do you think oil from Iraq’a oilfields is being shipped to exclusively now? You get one guess: Did you guess A.m.e.r.i.c.a? Correct.
        How can you be so naive?

      • Heard of the snowball effect? We were worried that Saddam would get WMDs, so we attacked. Then Qaddafi. So we helped covertly overthrow his regime. And, of course, there were others. Now, we’re playing the same game with Ahmadinejad in Iran. When will it stop? When will we be safe from the “terrorists”? When will they be safe from us?

        Maybe we didn’t go to Iraq to steal resources from them, but we took them anyway. We didn’t go to create a subjugated empire, but we helped put a system in place that complies with our values. You’re right though.We went because of 9/11. Terrible how our leaders duped us into thinking they were related. Talk about following the herd…

      • Dearest William,

        If you’re having a spaz-isode over there about stealing resources and how unhappy and astonished you are that we could do such a thing, why don’t you look back to past modern operations. Particularly Overlord (WWII). Aside from the general term “war” there was killing of civilians (and let me remind you that at the time there was no such thing as a smart bomb). In WWII entire cities were carpet bombed to ashes with no second thought to your “collateral damage”. Fuel, factories, coal and munitions (all valuable resources not just for war) were destroyed with one push of a button. The difference from now is that back then the American people were grateful that the Department of Defense was putting their tax dollars to good use by vanquishing the oppressive tyranny over a foreign nations. And that’s when we had friendly nations to protect! Look at us now? We’re basically protecting everyone! the Islamic extremists do not discriminate between Democratic Republics, Monarchies, or Communist nations. They’re out to kill anyone who does not follow the teachings of Mohammed and that aren’t followers of Allah. So essentially we’re even doing our enemies a favor by ridding the Earth of terrorism. And all you care about is the oil and insist we’re they’re to harvest resources? Personally I’ve never seen a camouflaged oil tanker sailing out the harbor with big greedy smiles on their faces. You’re just an under-informed tree hugger in most people here’s opinion.

        Sensible freedom loving human beings

  103. I know a lot of US soldiers help the Iraqis to rebuild their country and protect the people from the sunni-syiah rivalries and also prevent IEDs from blowing up in public places which will kill the innocents. I also know that there are a lot of soldiers did bad things to Iraqis but I just glad that you are the one who care about people there especially children and elderly……thank you…

    • What “service”????
      The only “service” Bush’s illegal war did was to make America the Most Hated Country in the world!

      • Good thing he wasn’t thanking Bush’s “service,” but this blogger’s. Your antipathy is misplaced, misguided and misused.

      • It truely is a shame when others want to stir up crap all because of their own views. It’s fine you have your own views, but sharing them now is so rude and untimely. If you have a problem, blog about it, dont blast hateful objections after so many soldiers did a service to save your but and everyone elses from being a victim of more potential terrorism. I dont see you ready to sacrifice yourself, so please… be a bit more respectful of what our country and soldiers do DO for all of us and at least keep your opinions placed where they belong… your own blog.

      • They should be allowed to state what ever opinion they have. It matters not if those opinions are right, wrong, well timed, ill timed, in poor taste or well said. That’s a freedom folks like to say soldiers fought for right?

  104. Great pictures! I particularly like the kids. I’ve found wherever I’ve been that kids are always willing to talk to you, smile, ask questions, and hold very little prejudice against the strangers in their environments. My other favourite is of the helicopter kicking up dust and the contrast between that and the blue sky. Very striking. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ya, pointless death and destruction always is “just beautiful”!
      And soldiers aren’t brainwashed, de-humanized killing machines.
      And pigs DO fly!

      • You are alive. There hasn’t been another 9/11. Focus on that.

        If we handed out roses during a war, it wouldn’t be called a war. All wars are ugly.

        If soldiers didn’t suffer from post traumatic, it wouldn’t be called a war.

        This is not fun to the soldiers. They are not running around feeling as if they are doing something good, even when we know they are. Their sleep is not peaceful. Their days are not peaceful. Their bodies ache, their hearts and spirit are broken.

        They have to live with this, with more pain than your unkind remarks could ever cause.

        To every unkind remark you speak, they have a hundred more of us that you cause to love them even more. You only make our hearts and prayers for our amazing soldiers grow bigger with every word you speak.

  105. I was in Iraq in 2003 attached to the British forces and I must admit that what struck me the most was the people, especially the kids, they were always friendly and always gave us the thumbs up. The other thing that I remember was the huge camel spiders and the oppressive heat in the summer months.

    Great post mate, well done

  106. these photos are precious and have thousant of worth photos where people who goes there is still manor number of people as travellers. Well done and love the photos. I wish I can also go there to seek Iraqi children and land. Thank you.

  107. Very moving. Great to see how humans are in the center of your attention (and still often can not be coz they are shy and hiding or coz you are distant in a plane). Great to see how color changes moods (and often is there in real life, like in the sky or behing a tinted window).
    Thank you for bringing this to me in Europe via your blog. A wonderful insight.

    • Good question. No, hopeless as it may sound, I don’t think there’s a question of love in war. Kids would hardly understand why a war is on, and the person photographing them would hardly know what would happen to these kids in the long term. For that matter, many of these kids may not live to see the end of the uprisings in Iraq. If you’re a soldier, chances are you’d be acting on orders. A soldier is not commissioned to make value judgments in a war.
      I hope I don’t sound judgmental. I’m moved enough by these photos to make such a long winding comment. Great post!

  108. How dear you are man!! I wish I could do like you someday. It is my goal. I wanna visit all the countries around the world. Now I am pursuing journalism skills in Cambodia. I hope to take my time in Iraq, and other like you…
    I really appreciate your braveness,

  109. Thank you for your service and thank you for posting these photos. They’re beautiful. Dogs and children and interesting/beautiful scenery… what interesting times you have lived through.

    Thank you, again, for the service you have given. I appreciate the sacrifices you are making.

  110. Pingback: Interesting creature « The Unstopreadable

  111. I admire how you were able to capture the smiles in a war torn country. The children’s smiles are inspiring. Despite the things they saw and experienced, their faces glowed in front of your camera. I hope that soon they will find peace …Happy Holidays.

    • But Free Delivery of death and destruction does come to the doors of foreign countries, courtesy of America!
      What narrow-minded hypocrisy, Phelps! Do you think Iraq is “free” now? NOT!

      Bush’s, evil, illegal war in Iraq wasn’t about Freedom. It wasn’t about ANYTHING (except his own delusional fantasies).

      • Do you think Iraq was ‘free’ before?

        Have you no decency? If you hate Bush and disagree so vehemently with decisions made under his leadership why don’t you write him a letter and stop harassing people you don’t even know.

        Did you even take the time to read Michael’s post? “If I was going to find a purpose in what men like Adam and Steven died for, maybe I could sleep at night.” That doesn’t sound like a thoughtless brainwashed killing machine to me. It sounds like a human being who’s grieving the loss of his best friend and more than a year of his life away from the family and friends he cares about back home; that he will never be the same person he was before he left; and that he was brave enough to make a post expressing the humanity of war, opening his thoughts and himself to others who could thoughtlessly and critically respond as easily as others could affirm.

        I don’t know Michael and had never heard of him before coming across his freshly pressed blog this morning, but I thank him for his service and for his willingness to open thoughtful dialogue and imagery regarding his service in Iraq.

        Will, if you’re sincerely trying to effect change for something you disagree with, your comments are misplaced on this blog. It’s not just Bush or the republicans who’ve kept American soldiers in the Middle East for the past decade – it takes an act of Congress to support a war or military action anywhere in the world. Write your representatives and stop attacking grieving families.

    • What??? Fighting for peace??????!!!! come on people!!! You can´t fight for peace with a gun in your hand…that isn´t logic, read about Gandhi and other REALLY peaceful people that “fought” for peace, but NO with guns or violence…not even anger…

      “There is no WAY to Peace, Peace is the way.” Ghandi

  112. Keep passing on your experiences, thoughts, deeds, on to the world.. be they good or bad. History will judge the politics of it all but no one can judge those that took part in it all. I’m a veteran from an era where they tried to blame those that fought. Let’s not ever let that happen again. If you want to know the truth about any conflict just ask the servicemen and women who took part in it. Politics and the press be damned. Thanks for your service, my friend.. and I hope the memories of your experiences don’t haunt you but rather make you a better person.

  113. You could get published in national geo if you try! they have a your shot page that I got a picture of mine published in. You should go to their website and you will see. very moving post, i love the shot of the helicopter and the dust. thanks for all you did over there! good luck getting published:)

  114. Brave brave man! I’m sure the Iraqis were grateful by and large. There were no doubt some who were not but the middle east (and africa) has dictators the likes of which we said would never happen again after WWII (dictator also applies to a regime such as the Taliban). I too wish for the days when armies and the good men and women in them can go home and stay home because there is no-one to fight. But until then we need brave souls to do what they do! Thank you so very much.

  115. Hope for the day there will be no army because there will be no enemy to fight against… for the day we realize we are all citizen of the Earth,,, that ‘we’ don’t have to take guns, invade other lands, and believe we do that to train military and police forces in the ‘other’ country… hope all our military men and woman change to farmers and, instead of killing people who revolt of hunger, start feeding them… hope for the day there will be no more military industries who would wish for wars so that their industry continue to prosper and their share in stock market go up at the prospect of war…. hope for the day when citizens of a country like the USA understand that if their government can find trillions to spend for wars, they can find billions to spend for peace and for health care and education… hope for the day we stop being stupid, if at all possible, and I am talking humanity in general, not a particular individual whom I respect.

    • what people seem to forget seems to be the training we provided, the lives we saved, the hope we gave. No one ever told me anything other than extinguish the threat. The threat was the terrorist cells, the exploiting government leaders and radical murderers. I never hurt an innocent man, I never cared about some political gain or profit. I cared about my brothers on my left or right and I cared about helping people out, even if it was one person or a million. I am proud and I believe this guy has a right to protest to the war and occupation. The one thing I ask, is for people to understand that is not the reason I went to war and i’m sure thousands agree with me. It is not fair to blanket shame on all of our hard working military forces . thank you for sharing this video. god bless

      • There is no any blame, from my part, directed to the innocent young soldiers of any side, not even of the Al Qaida side. I blame those politicians who lie, those greedy merchants happy there is a war to make profit, those old ancestral religious beliefs or extreme nationalistic feelings that push us against each other, as used by the greedy and the thirsty for power…

    • Take your own decisions, don´t let our government tells you what is right or wrong, choose no go to war, choose no to kill, we are a great family of 7000 millions, and borders and governments will never change that.

  116. Should submit some of those photographs to NatGeo. I guess they don’t take photographs unsolicited, though. Too bad. Your internal mood registers with each frame. Gritty, hardboiled realism. The sorts of visions most of us dare not welcome into our spheres. But we gladly watch them through the safety of your lens.

  117. My memories of Iraq are at Speicher and in Baghdad, and all I ever saw of the actual cities were just flying over in a Blackhawk. It’s crazy to look at pictures of people who were able to go outside the wire. We had people stay at our hospital for a few weeks, and they’d pull up all their pictures and show us on their computers. I get thanked when I wear my uniform out, and I feel so undeserving because I stayed safe the whole time and never saw anything but wounded soldiers or Iraqis. I also don’t feel like I deserve to be thanked for doing what I signed up for. Nice pictures… I’m sure they don’t even begin to capture the actual memories though.

    • wether you were in the cob doing operations or on the ground outside the wire, everyone had a piece of the puzzle we needed in order to help train the army and protect the people. peace to you and your family during these holidays. and thanks brother or sister

  118. as long as you cannot attach names to faces, in these pictures, I doubt that you remember much. For example, Have you asked anyone of the kids for their names, did you note it down, can you pronounce it correctly, can you memorize it for a single day? So few people in these photos, more dogs and animals than people…Where are the women? Good try anyway. Your next batch might give more insight on what you remembered in this desolate Iraq…

    • bless you, I am sorry if somehow i offended you. God forbid smiling children and dogs. I never took pictures of women because it offended their privacy and culture/customs and I was not there to do anymore than what I had to to help. Iraq is not desolate, there are beautiful forests and rivers all over and wonderful landmarks dating back thousands of years. I really appreciate the opinion you have of my post and I wish you the best.

  119. Thank you for your service. My son is a 2 time war Vet with the USMC. He serviced in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is hard for the public in general to understand your service, don’t bother trying…. Thanks for sharing you memories with the rest of the world.

  120. I ended my 12 year Army career with The 1st Cav in ’03. It’s nice to see someone else who was able to find the light through all the dark. The media gives the world enough of the ugly images. Welcome home!!

  121. You should put together somethng for our Journal of Military Experience. I’m the editor and a fellow Iraq War veteran. Check it out at and shoot me an email if you are interested.

    • i don’t see a destroyed country. I see destroyed buildings that can be rebuilt. I didn’t destroy anything, i helped keep villages like the ones you see here safe from radical suni -shia rivalries were people were executed and exploited. I remember training along side Iraqi army soldiers trying to stop the selling of oil on the black market so the country can prosper. Regardless of our reasons for invasion, we helped train a powerful military force to help police the crime and corruption in the major cities and save the defenseless villages in between.
      I do not mean to offend you if i did, maybe you are from that country and my pictures and service hurt your feelings in some way. Maybe it was the smiling interpreters that were my roommates, or the smiling children that hurt your feelings? Whatever it is I hope you feel better someday.

      • My brother;
        I see a mother burring her dreams to attend her daughter’s wedding,
        and a father who buried his elder son knowing he wont see his grandsons,
        I see misery and pain on every-door step, and a family with one or more died hopes,
        I see starving kids with sad eyes and I saw orphans who are afraid to dream because it might be stolen the way their parents have,
        I saw wives going to bed alone, with a tear on her eyes, no warm hugs,
        don’t get me wrong brother im not fighting or arguing with you, I dont want a family to go through that regardless of their religion or nationality or race.
        But we are in a jungle and power rules, no space for the weak. Good people die young and bad once live to see others suffer…

      • and im happy you returned back home safely to be with your family, share their laughter and warmth of hug in the winter. You can dream with them and see them grow up, and one day god will bless you with grandsons to fill your life with joy.

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