15 June 2010

Return to Iraq

Retired Staff Sgt. Chris Bain (center) touches the ground near Gunner Gate on Camp Taji, Iraq, where he was ambushed, April 8, 2004. Bain and eleven other wounded warriors visited Camp Taji June 13 as part of Operation Proper Exit VII. Photo by Spc. Roland Hale.

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.

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