One sunny day, I picked up my mail. Nothing special.
Then I came upon an unusual letter. Not entirely an ordinary letter.
My eyes opened wide as I grasped the envelope and read on... Then my hands started to shake and tremble almost uncontrollably.
The letter read like this...
Dear Mr. Burns:
As an US Army Ranger, it is my honor and duty to cordially invite you to join an elite combat patrol operation as an observer---a chance of a lifetime experience. You have been pre-selected to participate in this mission of missions.
Your participation may cost up to $50,000 and roughly 37 days off your calendar. Honestly, you may experience the shock and awe of real battle with insurgents, car-bombs, and danger will become your constant companion.
Conversely, you will have the awesome and one-of-a-kind experience of partaking in a mission of significant value in protecting and saving the lives of coalition soldiers. This mission is filled with danger, and having observers tag along during combat operations required special permission and clearance from the government.
Honestly, this special mission has never been attempted before but we are managing to get an exception. The Public Affairs folks thought that a hand picked small group of "observers" should experience the action and hopefully take a message home to tell others of the good things going on in our area of operations.
I will be your armed escort. During our combat patrol, you may experience the incredible sights, sounds, and smells of the battlespace with an elite unit called "EOD"- short for- Explosive Ordnance Detail, whose mission is to find, diffuse, and eliminate car bombs, and road side IEDs (that's short for Improvised Explosive Devices) that has already claimed about 510 casualties in almost the entire 2009.
According to a recent USA Today Article (and confirmed by the Pentagon), in almost all of 2009, nearly 25,208 IEDs were reported discovered in Iraq. During those same nine months, IEDs killed 510 coalition troops.
This is not for everyone for sure but I am inviting you to join me and fly half way across the world on military air transport over the Persian Gulf, into Baghdad where you will join an elite unit called to duty on the streets of Iraq as the Bomb Squad.
Among the experiences you may expect during this trip---the first ever allowing eye-witness observers---will be unit briefings, planning and preparation, and actual operations. Oh yes, we expect live enemy fire and explosions.
Due to the incredible interest and support of our benefactors, you and a few other observers will be "embedded" with an EOD unit. You will be an honored guest of US troops, their living areas, dining facilities, and their "normal" work day. You will also have the rare chance to interact with EOD members, hear their stories and their hurts. Remember, these are ordinary soldiers from ordinary places, thrown into the heat of battle and accomplishing incredible acts of bravery and heroism.
But before I continue with the mission's details, let me tell you more about the background and purpose of what we are trying to accomplish with this combat operation.
In agreeing to accept our incredible offer, you will also create your own legacy and achieve a lifetime milestone. While in Iraq you will receive a unit coin, a tradition among warriors, in recognition for their selfless service and dedication to each other's welfare. At that point, you will become a part of the Army family and its traditions. Your name may be permanently inscribed on the coin, sealing your fate with the EOD brothers.
There will be times where you'll see panic and mayhem on streets. The kind of haunting and sickening panic that comes with discovering explosives cache, carefully groomed and prepared like a welcoming party. The precious minutes roll by like eternity. Then your hearing may suddenly become deaf and muffled as blast waves careen off every angle of a bomb scene, sending shards of piercing metal and debris as if with careless delight. Shortly thereafter, the noise and confusion becomes so intense...then dead silence...
These eyewitness accounts, I believe you will agree, are valid ---gathered from carefully archived records from the US Army Center for Lessons Learned. These records are critical for the future and training, therefore all information gathered during this operation is essential and your valuable feedback will be needed.
More critical is what you will take with you a chance-of-a-lifetime experience. And you must decide to accept this offer soon. If you have that special urge for adventure and danger, this is it. And if the you were thinking, "what if?", then decide now, the departure date is March 17, 2010 and it's coming soon...
The sudden crashing metal bang from the trash truck finally woke me up from a disturbed sleep, cold sweat on my forehead, thoughts adrift, then looking past the ticket stub on the night stand, marked "Hurt Locker", 11:30 pm.
This movie initiated an out-of-body experience for me, setting off a mental capsule of my own unforgettable time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why I am Writing This to you
I believe you are someone who, in spite of modern historical events, do care genuinely about suffering and injustice. There are only a few movies, granted Hollywood entertainment is what it is, that capture the suspense and moments of someone's life, and how we should care more about each other. That movie is "Hurt Locker", and possibly another story that needs to be told.
Now ask yourself this: "Shall we go to the movies and see this recently nominated Best Picture today?"
Yep, Roger that...