Last evening I watched Grace is Gone starring John Cusack, a powerful film about a man who upon learning of his wife's death in Iraq, struggles to convey the devastating news to his two young daughters. In my opinion this film should be required viewing for the American people -- especially supporters of the war in Iraq who have no loved ones serving. It set my thoughts racing faster than I could keep up with them.
Because Grace is Gone is a story about a family pained by the death of a female soldier, I can't help myself not to reflect back to night of October 26, 2003 in the Abu Ghraib market. A night that I would very much like to forget -- it is not that I don't want to -- it is that I can't.
My infantry unit was working closely with a military police unit conducting "rapid response" to violent activity in our sector. We permanently positioned ourselves in a small police station called the municipal building. That night I was pulling guard duty on the roof of the building and things were unusually calm and peaceful -- a rarity for me and my fellow soldiers. When my guard shift expired I came down from the roof to my sleeping area. I loosened my body armor and boot straps and dozed off for a short while until the moment came -- BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Without any warning or expectation our municipal building was on the receiving end of an insurgent mortar attack. The mortars fell upon us quite accurately with deafening explosions.
Most of us were protected by the concrete building as the mortars landed outside directly in the parking area.
The first barrage of incoming mortars exploded at the exact same time that a contingent of military police were exiting their vehicles after pulling into the parking area -- they were fully exposed and received the full brunt of the attack.
Hearing the chaos -- I immediately tightened my body armor, tied my boots, grabbed my weapon and ran outside with approximately one dozen other soldiers. The mortars started falling short of our position. One of my junior soldiers ran out into the lot to aid the the MPs -- inspiring the rest of us to join him. We carried three critically wounded soldiers into the building. Two of the soldiers appeared to have lost limbs. The third soldier, a female, had no sign of an injury but was clearly fading away.
Moments later our combat medics arrived on the scene to evacuate the bodies -- two were still alive. Tragically, the MP who was killed was a 19 year-old girl who days prior survived an IED attack.
My squad leader ordered us out into the streets to patrol the area on foot to find the killers -- we wanted revenge. The night ended without us quenching our thirst for the blood of those who attacked us and killed one of our fellow soldiers.
Looking back on the incident I have always struggled to find out what hurt me the most about the death of that military policewoman. Was it her youth? Was it her gender? Was it simply just that another U.S. soldier was killed? Or was it a combination of all three? I still haven't reached a conclusion.
I just want you all to know her name -- Private First Class Rachel Bosveld.
The days after Rachel's death were terrible -- constant attacks, riots, and day-long battles.
Often I think of Lori Piestewa, the first woman & mother to be killed in Iraq -- in the very same convoy that Jessica Lynch was ambushed. I have no personal connection to Specialist Piestewa. However, I do have a wish for every American to know her name as well as PFC Bosveld. From the pictures I see of Specialist Piestewa on the web -- she appears to be a genuinely beautiful person -- inside and out.
In the end, all I can do is honor them both.
This was written as a recognition of all women who wear the uniform. I know that female troops don't want to be recognized by their gender -- they're members of America's armed forces -- first and foremost. But this is the very first war that women are fighting side by side with men up close and personal with the enemy.
In addition, these women have more courage and intestinal fortitude than most men in America -- Especially the cowards who support the continued war in Iraq while they stay home. They justify their lack of service by standing on a street corner waiving the flag and simultaneously spewing neocon rhetoric -- the epitome of the worst element in American society.
The moral and main point of this story is that I am so very honored to have served with PFC Bosveld, wishing I could have known Specialist Piestewa, and it was inspired by the film Grace is Gone.