Friday, September 14, 2007

An IED Survivor

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.

Sir Winston Churchill
In the euphemistic, sanitised language that are acronyms IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device. There are a family of derivatives such as VBIED - vehicle borne IED. Already in my stay here various IEDs have rattled the windows and woken me up. No one seems to pay them any attention. But behind IED (we don't say "bomb") is a nastiness never conveyed by those letters. With an emphasis on "improvised" these devices can include bunker busting heavy munitions rigged to take out your family car, or military vehicle, or unprotected shoppers in a market.

Last night I spent a BBQ dinner (yes, those things happen here) with a most remarkable man. From South Asia. Quiet, softly spoken with that lovely singsong lilt that goes with that part of the world, and with an open, kindly face. The cricket is being televised from South Africa so he was a little distracted at the start of the evening by the current game. Not so unusual for someone from South Asia. What was unusual was his thoroughly disarming and frank story about recently surviving a massive IED that hit his vehicle and killed all his fellow travellers and injured him. It was an appalling incident and experience. Not only were these fellow travellers but one was a close friend and another a guard assigned for his protection. (Actually if I got the story right these two were the one and the same). He walked away from the vehicle as the sole survivor, yet the blast was so comprehensive there was nothing remaining by which the others could be identified. I'll spare you the gory details but you can imagine what he was covered in. Burnt, full of shrapnel, covered in gore, he walked away. He was airlifted out of the country for repairs and after being stitched up and given extensive counselling he is back in the saddle. Last night he spoke quietly about the experience. I applauded his preparedness to talk about it, not something we blokes do very well. He is something of a champion among his colleagues (many of them with remarkable SF backgrounds and plenty to be proud of in their own right) - they are in awe of what he walked away from. His shy smile, honesty, calmness, twinkling eyes betraying a vibrant character underneath somewhere, and matter of fact approach to everything has their respect as well I hope - it certainly earned mine. And that he was taking the philosophical approach that every day things just keep getting better only spoke of a resilience that even that old bulldog Churchill would have applauded. I am all the better for having met this man, a fortunate encounter and complete bonus on this trip. Far better than any tourist icon or places you go are the characters you meet.


FuzzyJefe said...

Hi Pickeled Eel, I'm really surprised to find your travels have taken you to Iraq. How did you end up there? I'm enjoying reading your perspectives on life there.

Pickled Eel said...

Hi fuzzyjefe,
That is a great photo by the way. Yes, Iraq was never a place in which I expected to find myself but a business opportunity came our way so I am here exploring its potential. And am enjoying the heck out of the place - though it is not a visit you would make on an idle whim! Or if you were nervous about guns, sounds of tanks grinding up the street and choppers whooshing past every now and then. OK, a lot.

Chris said...

One often reads about these things in the news: "An IED has exploded, killing 3", or "Coalilition forces killed 15 insurgents". The frank and sanitised manner in the way the deaths are reported can't help but produce an almost surgical cleanness about what is going on over there. Maybe that's what makes hearing first-hand experiences from those that have been there all the more potent?
It's just a shame that we get such a .. delicate view of events.
Take care over there.

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