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Tracings in The Sand: First hand testimonials

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Tracings in the Sand

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Ramon Villagrana

Date Posted:May 25, 2011
Personal Website:Not Disclosed

Well I was PFC Villagrana back then (1988-1992)and was serving in the Army stationed in Friedberg Germany as part of 5/18th infantry. I am often asked why I joined the Army, this after the war, well, I think most of us join not expecting there to be a war and that was my case, but to not go into detail as far as why I joined, just watch the movie Stripes with Bill Murray. It seems like it was written about me. Anyway, the cold desert air didn't really allow us to sleep too well, unless you got the heater working, then you could even heat up your MRE's with it. That hot air that came out was really hot. I was part of the maintenance team. So we were always fixing heaters. Most people are surprised when I tell them that it was deathly cold at night in the Iraqi desert. Later I figured out it's because there's no humidity there, so heat doesn't stick around after the sun goes down. Then there was the heat when the sun came out. No ice or cold beverage to enjoy. I just stuck a water bottle into my green sock, hung it somewhere in the shade and used another water bottle to wet it,so the slight breeze would make the water drinkable.

I remember we breached some dirt dunes the Iraqi engineers had set up to slow us down. I was driving an M113 I named the rebel. I had actually drawn a happy face wearing a turban on the side. I guess it seemed appropriate at the time. The next day we would advance further in, but tonight, in Iraq we would sleep. I remember sleeping inside my 113 with the cargo hatch opened looking at the night sky. At that one and only moment it hit me, I could actually never see my family and loved ones again and although I'm not a praying man, I prayed. They say that in troubled times is when we find God. I think I did that night.

We were on the move. We were in a spearhead formation, with maintenance, support, commo and leadership in a single file line in the middle. To our left and right were Bradleys, the vehicles that were supposed to replace the 113, but the 113 was durable and not too many parts to fix, so we stuck with it. On the outer part of the Bradleys we had the very powerful m1a1 Battle tank. You could hear it's track and turbine engine and feel it's power.

After several hours of moving and several piss breaks and crackly voice came over the radio to halt. Apparently enemy vehicles and Iraqi soldiers were a few clicks in front of us. We verified that there should be no friendlies in the vicinity. The answer was there were no friendlies in front, so to take them out. The mortar team began to set up they gear. They were going to rain fire on the targets. At that moment I didn't feel anything or thought about anyone dieing. It was just a job, later, on other attacks I found pictures of Iraqi family members and that's when it became real. But right now, it was them or me, us against them and we had to take them out. The mortars were ready. It was just a matter of giving the orders. Another crackly voice came over the radio, this time yelling to


We waited for further orders, everyone nervous that perhaps we could be spotted and be attacked first. Then again the voice was heard:

"We have a CNN news team in front of us and dozens of Iraqi soldiers have surrendered to them"

I am so glad that the person checking to see if we had friendlies ahead, continued to check and found out there were. I don't think that CNN news crew ever knew how close they were to being a friendly fire incident.

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