Dec. 12, 2004 10 p.m.
Northwestern Iraq

"If you ride those convoys every day, you're numbered." — A guy in my bunk from Texas.

We drove from Al Qaim to Husaybah, on the Syrian border, then back to Al Qaim a few days later. The ride there was in the back of a seven-ton truck with a single plate of armor. I prefer the "seven-tons" for safety. Because they are high up off the ground, and the blast from a roadside explosion usually spreads out low, you can survive if you are hit. I prefer them with the double plate of armor with sandbags in between the armor. They are about as uncomfortable a ride as there is though, since you are thrown in the back like a hound dog in an open back pick-up bouncing over the desert bumps — huge bumps, so hard at one point I did a bridge with my two feet and the palms of my hand on the floorboard butt up just to try and ride them out.

There was enough room to stick your legs out with eight Marines in back. One of them looked at me and threw a piece of cloth at me. It was a brown neck gaiter. He figured I was cold and threw it at me without saying anything. He looked at me and smiled. I thanked him and put it on.

It was loud in the truck, and you could not see out over the armored sides, so when it sounded like an explosion in back no one was too sure until the black cloud of smoke came up. One of our 15 vehicles — #14 — had been blown up by a mine. The two drivers kept looking back behind the glass so they must have gotten the news over the radio. No one said anything to us; we judged by the smoke that it was a seven-ton. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Six out of the last eight convoys had been hit. No one was hurt badly this time. The Marines had stopped driving on paved roads because there were so many bombs being planted. It took two hours to make the 15-mile trip across the desert, and now that was no longer safe either.

The way back was in a Humvee which was a lot more comfortable but less safe. In the front were MPs from Pittsburgh. MPs always got hit. They were almost as bad as reservists.

The driver had Skoal mint and Skoal cherry smokeless tobacco. He was almost out of mint. He shook the can five or six times with a wrist flick, like snapping a towel, then picked the last of it out and mixed it under his lower lip with the cherry. Alongside the M16s and the metal boxes of shells were Jolly Rancher hard candies, Starburst, Beef Jerky and Levi Garrett chewing tobacco. You had to have something in your mouth.

The back door on photographer Curly's side was broken. By the end of the ride the front left door on the Humvee had broken off completely. The driver put the door on the hood and we finished the ride that way. I was glad to get out.

E-mail Steve

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Steve,

Again you have managed to put a smile on my face and a tear in my eye at exactly the same moment. My son is a U.S. Marine who also happens to be a 7 Ton driver as well as the occasional HUMVEE driver.

I thank you so very much for allowing the Marine families to have a taste of what is going on with our Marines over there. I wonder sometimes when I am reading your stories if I am supposed to get a chuckle out of them, but then I envision my son playing the part in your articles and I am so proud to say I am a mother of a U.S. Marine.

Semper Fi to you and all and stay safe.

— Cindy

Dear Mr. Harrigan,

My husband is a Marine in the Military Police company "B" of the 1/7 in the Al Qaim area, and has been instrumental in helping to restore the police to the Al Qaim area. His name is Sgt. Dwight. If you run across him at the police academy (or police station) — I know you probably won't remember — tell him his wife says "hello." He's done so much to help restore the police to the area, and I couldn't be prouder of what he's been able to do in the time he's been there. He doesn't complain about the food much, and if you find him, tell him I said to give you a can of Spaghettio's. (laughing)

Thank you for reporting anything GOOD in that remote corner of the Iraqi world. There is so much good being done, and not enough reporting of it. His two sons and his wife are very proud of him.

Thanks and Happy Holidays,
Elizabeth


Hey Steve!

Thanks for the humor from the front. Amidst the horror and tragedy it's a relief to laugh. Thank God our fighting men and women are still thinking about the real things in life — eating, sh*****g, and girls! America's heroes are "Simple Men" concerned with simple but all important things — "Sure Got That Right!"God Bless Our Troops! Can't help but love them! OOH-RAH!


War is like the theatre, the best seats are high up and at the rear.

Jack Willoughby
Scottsboro, AL


Thank you for the article on Husaybah. Our son serves with 1/7, 3rd plt, and it's so hard having him away from home. Reading your article just makes them seem closer, somehow. I wish you had photos from there. We get very few phone calls and no e-mail.
Debbie (Yorba Linda, CA)


Just a note to say THANK YOU. I wish we had reporters like you are in the "NAM." Most of the ones that even showed up there stayed in the bars and told lies about us. May the good Lord Bless and Protect YOU sir. Keep your head down and come home soon.

Nam Vet
Jack


Hello Steve,

Keep up the great work you do. Many things do not change in combat even though technology has greatly improved.

We had "piss tubes" in Korea while we were bogged down in the trenches. They were made from 155MM expended rounds with the end cut off, set in lime in the side of the trenches.

— John in Georgia


You continue to amaze me. I am addicted to reading your blogs. Every time I get on the Internet I check to see if a new one is posted. These blogs provide an insight of what goes on behind the scenes that we do not catch on TV. Please take care, and tell all the soldiers over there that we are praying for their safe return.

— Cathy (Beaver, PA)


I had a hard time reading about the quality of food at the front line (10/9 blog). In the Roman days they had cooks with their pots and pans. Even Frodo had Chef Samwise (rabbit stew, anyone). One would think that our best war fighters would be served the best food (surely air drops are possible - there's always Campbell soups). I'm sorry to hear that isn't the case. From now on, when I say blessings at my meals, I will pray for better food for the Marines you're with and a circle of safety so they can enjoy it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your crew. Keep safe!

From Georgia,
Jan

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.