Soldier's Diary: No Fireworks in Iraq for Fourth of July

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.

July 2006

A number of soldiers have been keeping up with the World Cup. It's being shown on AFN [American Forces Network], and due to the fact it's being held in Germany, the games are on at a reasonable hour. It's a shame the U.S. was eliminated so early, but at least we can relax and go another four years without having to care about soccer.

Keeping up with the latest in sports has been a good way to spend some down time. I recently received an e-mail from a friend at home who informed me that Major League Baseball is looking at canceling the remainder of the season and handing the World Series to the Mets. Great decision. Might as well end the wait now.

4 July 2006

Fourth of July weekend. There are no fireworks planned, only the hope we can see an aircraft drop some flares once the sun drops. There's always a chance, and it would be the closest to a fireworks display we will see. Throw in the odds we will hear some rounds being fired at a nearby range, and it could resemble home … well not so much, but with a lot of imagination it could.

A number of us did take a couple of hours and had an ad-hoc BBQ. It was a good time to look back and reflect, as well as to think about what we have ahead of us over the next couple of months. Everyone agrees that the last few months are the most difficult to get through — the fight against complacency and even overconfidence will become a battle in itself.

It can be tough to keep focused on the fight when the sounds of an airplane and the taste of cold beer are in the not-so-distant future.

The dining facility was gracious and provided us with burgers, wings and dogs, as well as an ample amount of non-alcoholic beer. There were no fireworks, just food, music and some words from our commander encouraging the continued hard work of all the soldiers within the brigade. It's not the same as being back in the States and watching the fireworks over the East River, but when you're in Baghdad, you make it as good as it can get.

3 July 2006

I received this e-mail the other day:

"The best man in my wedding, and best friend from basic/AIT, was recently injured by an IED outside of Camp Anaconda and is presently at Walter Reed with shattered ankles and head trauma. No other soldier in his patrol was injured by the blast, or the subsequent ambush. His comment to me was 'at least it was only me.' THAT is the kind of selfless courage [that] is shown everyday over there and that only soldiers will understand or honor." —Adam P.

This e-mail is the perfect lead-in to the next entry.

The past couple of weeks have been rough on us; but as I mentioned in the last column, you can always find good news to write about. I want to focus this one on one of the soldiers who has been doing great things for his country over the past 10 months. I think it is the best subject for a July 4 column, as the soldiers here are continuing the precedent set by those who came before us.

Staff Sgt. John Nagy is our psychological operations NCO [non-commissioned officer] for our brigade. He came over to our unit shortly before the deployment. He hit the ground running and has not stopped since. This is not his first deployment over here and chances are that this won't be his last. Like the other soldiers I have talked about in this column, he has a family at home, a wife and a newborn baby.

On Saturday, July 1, SSG Nagy was awarded a commendation medal for his work. Nagy has been with the brigade for the duration of the deployment, but he did not earn the ARCOM [Army Commendation Medal] here in Iraq.

While flying home for his two-week mid-tour leave, another passenger on his flight became very ill. Nagy, although not a medic by trade, took charge of the situation, assessed the individual and performed immediate first aid and administered two IVs.

Nagy then convinced the pilots of the aircraft to make an emergency landing in order to get the individual to a hospital as quickly as possible. Turns out, this was the absolute right decision as the patient wound up having a ruptured spleen. Nagy's actions directly contributed to the saving of the passenger's life.

It would be easy to say that actions like this are uncommon; the reality is they occur every day over here. Actions like this have been common from the soldiers deployed over here. Hard work and sacrifice are traits shared by the soldiers assigned to South Baghdad.

To date, more than 200 Purple Hearts have been awarded, 45 of them posthumous. The soldiers assigned to South Baghdad — despite any setbacks that occur — continue to put on the uniform and body armor day in and day out ready to accomplish the next mission.

Click here to read the latest readers' responses to Capt. Dan.

E-mail Captain Dan at Click here to read his bio.