Friday, March 23, 10:53 a.m.
"This is the most dangerous road in Iraq," Sgt. Robby Taylor tells me, as our Stryker rolls toward one of the nastiest neighborhoods in Baqubah, already one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq.
I swallow nervously. Five minutes ago, the soldiers gave me a tourniquet and some bandages and asked me if I had ever treated a gunshot wound. I could feel my blood pumping faster and my stomach was in knots.
"How often have you guys had enemy contact when you've gone into this area?" I asked, hoping desperately for a positive answer.
"Pretty much every time," says Sgt. Gentille, nonchalantly. "You can stay in the vehicle if you want when we stop, but you won't be able to shoot any of the action."
"You all actually volunteer to come here? You choose to do this?" Pvt. Steven Perry, the medic, asks me.
Silently, I try and remember why it is exactly that I chose this career instead of putting my Yale diploma to good use in London or New York and making lots of money. Temporarily, I am unable to recall the reason.
"Why do you do it?" I ask Perry.
"Oh that's simple. I do it for them," he says motioning towards Sgt. Taylor and Sgt. Gentille. For some reason it gives me goosebumps to hear him say that. He is only 20-years-old. I think back to when I was 20, how I spent my time. I wonder whether it is right for this young guy to be experiencing all this pain and danger and violence and sadness. I wonder whether anyone should have to experience it.
"OK," pipes up Sgt. Taylor. "You are gonna follow me. No matter what happens, you follow me. Keep a five feet interval. If we get some small arms fire or mortars, take cover and wait for me to shout where we are going to run to next. Just follow me."
I nod, my heart is pounding. I'm thirsty but I don't want to drink too much water because I don't want to need to use the bathroom and we could be out for some time. The first time the Strykers rolled into this part of town they were engaged in a firefight for 12 hours.
"We're here," Sgt. Gentille shouts, interrupting my scattered thoughts.
The Stryker door opens slowly and I realize it's too late to change my mind. I focus on following Sgt. Taylor. There is no other thought in my mind.
Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.