Death and Mayhem Revisit Corregidor

October 08, 2006  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

You never have to wait too long around here for another casualty report. A few days before I arrived, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Monsoor, one of the 19 SEALs I linked up with on my first firefight out here, was killed by small arms fire in the same district (the Mulaab) where I first saw him. I may have photos of him on my website; friends and relatives will inform me soon enough.

Monsoor's death came not long after that of his teammate, Marc Lee. Lee became the first SEAL to die in Iraq; Monsoor is now the second. I've made the point repeatedly in blogs and my New Band of Brothers article that while Americans can theoretically be killed anywhere in this country, when it comes to being up close and personal this is the place to be.

Three members of Delta Company, 1/506th found that out last night, too. They were driving through the Mulaab last night when somebody with amazing aim tossed a hand grenade apparently from a house that dropped right down the vehicle's open turret. Fortunately, it landed between the radio and another hard piece of metal or there would have been fatalities. As is, two of the men were slightly wounded while one took a fairly serious leg wound that I've been asked not to describe. Suffice to say, it sounds nasty but there's good reason to believe he'll keep the limb. He also lost a pinkie finger. Sadly, he and the other two were scheduled to go home soon anyway. 1/506th is rotating back home during November.

I first heard of the attack when I was uploading Blog Three, Back to Ramadi, and suddenly all the computers and phones went dead. Having waited a long time to get a computer only to find the connection is as slow as frozen molasses, I was ticked. The soldier in charge of the section announced casualties in the Mulaab and told everybody to go home. I didn't see the point until somebody informed me that this is a precaution to make sure word of attacks doesn't get out before next of kin are notified.

Although I was in my fiercest firefight in what's called the Industrial District, which includes OP (outpost) Hotel, it seems the Mulaab is by far the best area of operation covered by the troops in Corregidor to meet up with the Grim Reaper. (Marc Lee was also killed there.)

The soldiers and SEALs never really make peace with the deaths and serious injuries of their comrades. They will be haunted for a long time, maybe forever.

Interestingly, however, they seem to make peace with the possibility of their own deaths. Minutes ago, I was walking near the edge of the camp and suddenly "Pop!" (You have no idea how much time I spend trying to come up with the right words to describe sounds around here. I even once got an email explaining to me that outgoing howitzer rounds go "Thump" while incoming ones go "Whump," or perhaps it was the other way around.)

Said the soldier, "If it does, it does."

There's no arguing that this was not a good explanation and that neither soldier should have been anywhere near that close. I only approached it to talk to them and quickly left. But it's an interesting example of fatalism in action. This might make you question if it hurts their ability to conduct operations, but not from what I've seen.

Apparently even as they readily accept the possibility of their own deaths, on operations their professionalism and determination to keep their buddies in one piece is what drives them. These are very special men, indeed.

Here they were just lying around the house, valued obviously for some reason but definitely not for protection unless you're into bayonet thrusts. And yes, they were allowed to keep them. Each house is allowed one AK-47 automatic rifle for self-defense. Anything beyond that is confiscated.

Other squads had more luck. Of the list of nine suspects, five were nabbed but only one kept. Meanwhile, though, three other men were grabbed and upon interrogation appeared to be "dirty," as the GIs put it. So in all, four men were taken into custody.

I earned another Purple Heart when I slipped on one of the many little sand mounds that surround brush and cut my hand. As I said previously, the sand here is really dust. That makes it quite slippery.

One GI joked that I still needed to acquire my sea legs, but I corrected him that I need to acquire my sand legs.

Fortunately, I should be out of here before we get our first heavy rainshower.

I still can't talk about my next patrol but I've just learned of the one I'll go on after. The Mulaab.