Brief sidebar for comedy: I may have neglected to mention this before, but our company is known as "The Anvil". This name was given to our company by our leadership during OIF I. Apparently, the irony of naming their company after an object that is beaten on all day escaped the brass.
Anyhow, There I was.... sitting in our building, shirt off, getting my hair cut in anticipation of the visit. We're all cracking wise, having a good old time, and I joke about shaving a big "R" in my chest for Major Riddell, my all time favorite-guy and personal hero. This has the anticipated effect of laughter, causing another Marine to remark: Yeah, you could shave your chest to look like an anvil!
I will be truly shocked if any of you can't guess what happened next. But for the slower readers out there: Yeah, I did it. I shaved an anvil into my chest hair. It's the most goddamn ridiculous thing ever. It was done entirely tongue-in-cheek, A way for me be obnoxious and still untouchable. There is also video of this incident. I probably won't be able to make it available until I get home, but it WILL become available.
Okay, sidebar over now.
As I said before, we were waiting on the CO and the 1st Sgt. But they were late. Really late. Finally we get the word to pack up and head back to our building. A few minutes after we assemble ourselves, Warrent Officer Young comes in and tells us why the convoy is late, citing an IED attack. Then he delivers an even more sobering piece of news: 1stSgt Barnhill is dead.
The 1stSgt is the only KIA, but three other Marines were seriously injured. One was our C.O., taking shrapnel through the legs. Another was Lcpl Crabtree, taking shrapnel to his face and extremities. Current word is that he is in the hospital, in danger of losing an eye. The other injured Marine, Lcpl Skelly (and I may have spelled that wrong, he's a new join in a different platoon) took shrapnel to the legs as well.
Losing good guys is tough, but it seems a little tougher when it's a member of your leadership. Don't get me wrong, I think the lowest private's life is worth just as much as a general's. But your immediate leadership gives your unit it's "profile". They also directly influence your daily life, unlike little guys such as myself.
It's no secret that I disliked 1stSgt Barnhill. The guy had a bad habit of berating Marines over inconsequential events, and I couldn't stand it. But this is just too much. My understanding is that the shrapnel that killed him struck his head; hopefully he never even knew what happened. My greatest sympathies go out to his family. He was a Husband, Father and Brother. Regardless of my personal dislike, he was an outstanding Marine that I respected.
I am both infuriated and terrified that despite our best measures, things like this still happen. You can be in top shape, a dead-shot with any weapon and smarter than anyone else in your unit, but you're in just as much risk as anyone. 1stSgt Barnhill came closer to achieving invulerability than anyone I've ever met. An already huge man, he had the added training of MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) Black Belt, to contribute to his bad-assness. I keep expecting to suddenly hear him scream at someone, or bust into our rooms late at night, out of breath, yelling "Flaks and kevlars on! We got incoming!". I know it's never going to happen again and inexplicably, I miss it.
In other news, we've been tasked with other missions while we're up here at AQ. We're viewed as manna from heaven by these guys, so we're going to loiter about a while longer and continue to help them out.
Unfortunatly for you, this means fewer & less detailed posts. The lines for internet here are a bit longer, and I only have 20 minute stabs. I'll do what I can, as you're seeing here, but it's hard to throw something detailed and smooth in such a short period of time.
More scoop soon.