Lost in the Fog of War

(Page 4 of 6)

The driver begins to speak. His leg is broken. By now, our medic and another soldier are in the vehicle with me. Doc is obviously concerned about my bloody face and head, but I'm not in as bad a condition as the others. We pull out the driver carefully.

A photo of the author's RG-31 before it was destroyed by the roadside bomb.

The author's vehicle before the IED explosion (above) and after (below).

A photo of the author's destroyed RG-31, the front end completely blown off.

The focus now is on extracting the other sergeant from the truck. It's easily established his back is broken. An RG-31 is not well designed to fit a backboard inside. Luckily, the vehicle rolled so our rear hatch is facing just right, and I point out how to extract him as safely as possible.

We load the driver and other sergeant into the Blackhawks, but my gunner and I refuse transport on the medevac choppers. We are walking wounded, so we'll ride back with Doc. At the base, we're given a diagnosis of post-concussive syndrome.

The next two weeks are a fog. I stay in country, dizzy with the headache from hell. My gunner and I are taken off mission and placed on TOC detail, which means we are the coordinators and radiomen for the missions. But I get confused by details. Sometimes, I can't remember what's going on. I stick Post-it notes around my computer terminal to keep track of the missions I'm supposed to coordinate.

I’m also worried for my gunner. He seems a little off. I notice it more in him. What "it" is, I'm not sure.

Two weeks after the blast, a soldier runs up saying my gunner's passed out outside. My first thought is heat exhaustion, but I know that's not right. None of my guys get heat exhaustion. They're too well-trained. I beat that into their heads.

I run outside and find my gunner conscious, but disoriented. I take him to the camp's medical center, where he begins to seize. As the hours pass, my first sergeant and my company commander take turns helping me restrain him. And I wonder, when will I start to seize? What is wrong with me? Why am I so forgetful?

I'm not the only one who suspects something is wrong. My first sergeant sees something different in me as well.

Over my objections, he tells me to turn in my weapons and transport my gunner to Baghdad general hospital. But what I think will be a quick delivery and return to Camp Stryker is instead a confusing week of hospital tests in Baghdad and Balad, then the long plane ride to Landstuhl.