Soldiers' Stories Statement
Former Sergeant Jose Adames, U.S. Marine Corps Recon, Stinger Gunner, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Brooklyn, NY, February 2009
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print

I got hit by a mortar while on a convoy, which was not a typical mission for us. Three pieces of shrapnel went through my leg. It pretty much swept me sideways, and I was knocked out cold. I was immediately helivacked over to Baghdad Hospital, and from there to Frankfurt, Germany. Eighteen marines in my platoon were wounded. When I heard the stat reports a couple of weeks later, I found out we were hit by 40 mortars and two machine gun assaults. It was in a canyon, so there was no way to go forward or back. When mortars are coming in, it’s pretty much hard to cover yourself from that. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. That’s the bad part; I’ll never forget it.
I am terrified of trucks, garbage trucks in particular, and it has to do with the fact that New York has so many potholes. When they hit one they make this deep echoing sound that sounds similar to a mortar exploding. I see a dump truck rolling down the street and I just try to go to the other end as fast as possible. I black out, not in a bad way. I just tune out. Everything gets dark, and these images keep fluttering through my mind of the night we got hit. It just replays in my mind.

When I returned I was homeless for a total of five months. I spent two months in a shelter and I couldn’t take it. It was just this thin line of frustration, and then my PTSD wasn’t helping. So I really needed to come up with other ideas. I was stuck in a vicious circle from boarding house to a shelter at Bellevue. It was ridiculous what they did to me. I had a better chance sleeping on the A train. I felt more comfortable, actually. In New York, 85 percent of the homeless are veterans. I see a lot of veterans feeling very, very angry.

Jose Adames works with homeless veterans at Black Veterans for Social Justice in Brooklyn, NY, and is studying accounting at Long Island University.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in October 2008.

© Jennifer Karady 2022, all rights reserved.