BAGHDAD – Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
"We will never leave a fallen comrade." You hear that phrase hundreds of times throughout your time in the military. You see it on t-shirts and you hear it in war movies on TV. Seeing first hand how soldiers of all ranks come together to uphold that motto is truly awe-inspiring.
This past week, we have been on and off with our communications blackout. The soldiers who went missing were from our brigade. I can't say much about it, only once they went missing, it was the No. 1 priority to find them.
I have learned a lot over the course of the last nine months. These past three days, I have learned quite a bit about human nature and how it relates to dedication. In the "Mail Call" column, I discussed how as a soldier I have learned not to complain about trivial matters; someone always has it tougher and worse off. We went into comms blackout over the weekend, which meant that we were unable to contact home for Father's Day, but it did not matter. Soldiers on the staff and on the line were focused on the mission at hand.
Soldiers on the staff slept in their offices; it was not their job to search on the ground, but all the coordination and planning that had to occur was done on a 24/7 basis. The planning was done for the soldiers on the ground out in sector — over 8,000 were involved. The staff got some sleep in the office but these soldiers did not sleep; it was a constant search.
The missions were ongoing and around the clock. One of the aspects of military life is to learn how to work and operate when deprived of sleep. We try to keep a relatively balanced schedule, but we all know there are times when you are expected to go with little to no sleep over a couple of days. This is what the soldiers here have gone through, and you will never hear one complaint.
You will never hear a complaint on the long hours, the hard work, the heat, or the warm drinking water. All those are trivial when you compare it to what you know others are going through.
Two more soldiers were killed with an IED last night. That makes five soldiers in the last seven days.
One of the soldiers from last night was one of the more popular NCOs [non-commissioned officers] in the brigade. I had the privilege of flying home with him for mid-tour leave; and it seems every soldier I talk to has some sort of fond memory of him, be it sharing a meal in the dining facility, or having him spot you in the gym.
We have some more memorials scheduled over the next week; and by no means will they be easy to go through. I would like to say that having sat through a number already, you can get numb to them. But it's simply not the case. Word of this incident and who it involved got around fairly quickly; you could almost sense the stomach knots walking around.
I have no wonderful news to report and nothing glamorous to write about; but I do still have that feeling of optimism having seen how our soldiers react and carry on in these times.