Soldiers' Stories Statement
 
 
 
Former Satellite Communications Specialist Aaron Grehan, 11th Signal Brigade, U.S. Army, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with girlfriend, Neta, and mother, Judy; Peterborough, NH, May 2007
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print
 
         
 

Four months into my tour of Iraq I got kidney stones because of all the calcium in the bottled water. I was airlifted to a place called LSA Dogwood, which is just outside Baghdad in the middle of the desert. It’s a pretty good-sized tent hospital. Now, the thing with this place is that there are no trees; there’s nothing out there. It was probably 120 degrees during the day—a good bit hotter than it was in downtown Baghdad. The tent next to mine housed all the burn victims, both U.S. troops and Iraqis. It was miserable. There were nothing but screams and moans coming from that tent.

I had an IV because they wanted me to pass the kidney stones, so every two hours I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I had to walk through the tent with all of the burn victims. There’s guys over there whose legs would be so blackened that it didn’t look like a leg, and there were little kids that you couldn’t even recognize as a human being. It was horrible. At that point I really started looking at the war differently. I saw how it affected people—the inhumane consequences. They couldn’t have stuck me next to a worse tent to have to walk through every day.
 
About six days into my hospital stay, there was a loud explosion. And then another one, and another one. Soon we’re all getting under our cots as if that’s going to protect us from some 3,000-pound hunk of metal coming in and exploding. The explosions are getting more frequent and more intense. You could hear commotion from all the tents; everybody’s yelling and screaming, commands are being shouted, confusion. People don’t know which command was coming from where. Sometimes the military can be so inefficient like that. Somebody came in and said, “We gotta get out of here!” Then someone else came in and said, “No, stay put!” Then another person came in and said, ”We’re getting transported out of here. Everyone get outside so we can get into vehicles!”

We headed outside and everybody’s out there in their hospital gowns, their asses are hanging out in the wind. Half of us had our own IV bags, just holding them up, and mine kept backing up so I could see this stream of blood going in. It sucked because it hurt. We’re outside and it’s 120 degrees and we look over and there’s this cloud of smoke a quarter of a mile away. Everyone is wondering what is going on, and finally word circulates that there’s an ammo dump over there. Real smart of the U.S. Army to store all of these munitions and explosives so close to a hospital. They had millions of pounds of IEDs, explosives, etc. It had gotten so hot out there that one of them exploded and it set everything else off, at this point everything from grenades to rockets, and the rockets had started going off, zipping around randomly. It was pretty insane.

We got word that there were no vehicles. There were probably over a thousand of us just sitting outside not knowing what to do. Then we were told to start walking in the opposite direction of the cloud of smoke. There was this mass exodus of people in hospital gowns holding their own IV bags walking through the desert. We walked almost two miles over open desert before they sent vehicles to pick us up.

Aaron Grehan is a psychedelic trance DJ and organizes electronic dance events in and around New England.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in May 2007.

     
         
 
© Jennifer Karady 2016, all rights reserved.