On Taji, the veterans were hosted by the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, a unit that among other things, flies the type of medevac aircraft that evacuated many of the wounded Soldiers. CAB, 1st Inf. Div. Soldiers led the wounded warriors on a tour of the brigade; many of the wounded warriors were unconscious during their first encounter with a medevac helicopter, and do not remember it.
“So this is what those things look like,” remarked a veteran.
The wounded warriors toured Taji, making an emotional stop at Gunner Gate, the spot where Bain was injured. There, they followed Bain as he re-lived that afternoon six years ago.
Bain stood apart from the rest of the group. Leaning with his good hand on a tree, he looked towards the gate. After a few minutes, Bain found the spot where he thinks the mortar landed. He took a knee and asked his buddies for a knife.
The mood had shifted from a seemingly incongruous cheer to sympathy, and as Bain used the knife to scrape dirt from the ground, another wounded warrior collected it in a small plastic bag.
“I came here to get closure – to feel the dirt – to walk on the ground that I couldn’t walk away from before,” said Bain.
Read the rest about the Wounded Warriors who travelled back to Iraq this month with Operation Proper Exit VII.