Monday, June 25, 2007

Florence Nightengale Spring 2007 update

This posting is one of a series of updates from the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Our Florence Nightengale has been in Iraq since September 2006 and has had her tour extended, so will not be returning in September, as she was told, but will come home to a warm welcome in November 2007.
(13 May 07)
Hello All!
I found some inspiration to write an early May update. Today is Mother’s day. I’m wishing you a, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all my family and friends. I wish I could be home to give you all a great big hug and tell you how much I appreciate all of you. It is on the holidays that you realize how important your family is. It doesn’t matter if you get along well with everyone in your family or not, when you are over here in Iraq you start to learn how to appreciate certain things in your life and the importance of family and friends.
I was very lucky this past week. I was able to go over to my younger brother’s FOB and reenlist him. Luckily with the help of my Head Nurse, we were able to make the visit possible. I was able to spend 3 days with him and I have to say I had the best time. My brother and I are very close. You could say it is because we are so much alike.
I took a helicopter over to his FOB which was all of five minutes away. The catch is that it is in the Red Zone. My hospital Commander has a policy that no one will convoy into the Red Zone so permission to leave the FOB must be obtained through both the company commander and him. My brother’s unit was aware that I was coming over, but when I arrived there was no sign of anyone from his unit. Luckily the SPC that is in charge of the LZ gave me a ride over to an area where he said that some 504th guys usually were. Well, of course when I arrived no one is there. Someone was able to call the unit and a SGT came over and took me to Matt’s unit CP (command post). They were then able to get in touch with Matthew and he came to pick me up.

Matthew and I spent the next three days watching movies, playing pool, walking around the FOB, and talking. I swear Matt and I can go on and on forever with conversation. It was funny because we went to lunch when I arrived and as soon as I walked inside the DFAC it was like everyone stopped eating and stared at me. It was creepy. There are females on this FOB, so I was like what are they staring at. Matt said it was because there are not that many female officers around so I was a rare sight. The staring continued for the next three days. We were also approached my several of Matthew’s NCOs along with the chaplain that did his marriage counseling. Yeah, they were all checking out who he was talking to and why he was sitting alone with a female soldier at chow. He quickly introduced me as his sister and the look of relief washed over their faces. Too funny. Apparently they are really big on fraternization especially male female type. So they were basically checking up on him.

(17 Jun 07) So, with good intentions I started my May update on Mother’s day, however, as you can tell I didn’t finish it. Let’s just say from that day forward was a whirlwind month. The number of patients and sadly the number of soldiers we care for in the month of May surpassed our numbers in October which was our busiest month thus far. It was sad because this is the month of Memorial Day where we should take time to remember all those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. It is also the day in which, 3 years ago my boyfriend, Ken was killed. I was upset that I could not join my California family and visit him in Arlington to celebrate his life as we have for the last 3 years. I was upset that I was here in Iraq fighting in a war I just can’t see an end to. I was upset because I was taking care of wounded soldiers and knowing that some of their buddies had died beside them. I was upset that they were getting hurt and killed in this country for some unknown reason that escapes my mind. "

On the 30th, the 3rd year anniversary of Ken’s death, I took care of an American soldier that came in with massive head trauma and a large open wound from his hip around to his butt. The plan was to receive this patient from the OR and then immediately air evac him out to Balad since he had a head injury. This kid arrived on a litter because I figured if we are immediately evacuating him out, it would be better to package him on a litter already and save us an extra step. I like the philosophy of work smart not hard. When the soldier arrived he was accompanied by the anesthesiologist and the surgeons. Our ICU doc was also right at the bedside too. This poor kid had extensive swelling in his face and head, black and blue eyes, and a head wound. He also had a chest tube, foley catheter, a large wound from his hip to his butt with a large dressing on it and all dressings were already bloody.

This kid needed blood and he needed blood right away. My fellow co workers helped me get the monitor on him and we connected him to the ventilator. We were getting vital signs and I was assessing the patient from head to toe as someone else was running downstairs to get the blood. We rapidly infused this kid with over 16 units of red blood cells, 10 units of fresh frozen plasma, 3 units of platelets and gave him two rounds of factor 7. His blood pressure at times dipped down low and we would have to give him fluid boluses to bring it back up. On top of that we were trying to keep him pain free and somewhat sedated so he could tolerate the endotracheal tube helping him breathe. Once we infused a number of these blood products into this kid and the pace was starting to slow, I took a step back away from his side and looked down. I was covered in blood as well as standing in a puddle of it. I had it all over my shoes and pants. I looked under the litter and found that this soldier was bleeding from his wounds on his hip and from his head.

We redressed his head wound and applied a pressure dressing to the bleeding area. We also reinforced and created a pressure dressing on his hip wound. The two round of factor 7 that we gave him is supposed to help stop bleeding. It was a structured chaos as I tried to manage this patient. Oh, and let’s not forget that I also had another patient that was intubated and vented and had to maintain a blood pressure map in the 60’s to prevent him from bleeding because a gun shot wound he sustained shredded his liver. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? I hated being me that night. I am a good nurse and my standards are high so if things don’t get done, I tend to beat myself up for them.

The next issue we faced was the weather and the sky/flight conditions. There are certain weather conditions that our helicopters can and cannot fly in. There is green status which is a perfect weather condition. Amber is cautionary flight conditions. The wind may be moving too fast or there may be a lower level of visibility. Red is usually when the visibility is nil and it would be too dangerous to fly with out jeopardizing the lives of the flight crew and patients. The colors also pertain to enemy contact potential as well. The problem with being stuck at our CSH is that we do not have any neurosurgeons. The patient was potentially going to need a craniotomy to relieve the pressure and swelling on his brain and Balad is the best place for him to have that type of procedure done.

I have to thank God for my battle buddy Kim. She is the best. She really helped me out with everything going on. She keeps me calm and focused and we work as a tag team to give the best care possible.

I also had some much needed help from “Papa Bear”, a Captain with 30 years of Army experience. He jumped right on in after he stopped by to check in on us on his day off. There were no questions, no complaints, he just jumped on in and helped. Without these two awesome people, I would not have been able to handle my overwhelming assignment.

I think I will close this update for now. I need to start on the upcoming June one. I am amazed everyday here with the different things I see and experience. I just hope that I can stay positive and close this chapter in my deployment with a happy ending. I have made some good friends and worked hard. I have seen soldiers survive unimaginable injuries and have eased them into death. I remember today and everyday the sacrifices of my fellow soldiers for the freedoms I live to enjoy. Remember, FREEDOM ISN”T FREE.

Love to all,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stem Cell Presidential Veto- Part II

Back in July 2006, George Bush vetoed the first embryonic stem cell research bill that was presented to him, saying "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." and If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line This veto is another example of how George Bush has not listened to the will of the American people, 60% of whom support this legislation.

The problem is, Bush doesn't have a moral bone in his body and is therefore unqualified to make such a judgement and I would prefer that he leave my moral choices to me.

I wish George Bush knew where that moral line was that values life when he crossed it and sent our military into an endless war in Iraq.

I wish that George Bush had the same morality concerns for the life of my son, Ken and the other 3533 US troops whose lives weren't that valuable in the eyes of this president and who were killed in this president's misadventure in Iraq. These precious men & women, sons and daughters had full lives ahead of them before their lives were cut short.

I wish that George Bush had the same morality concerns for the quality of life of the soldiers & marines who returned home from the battlefront, broken and paralyzed and who would surely benefit from this promising science.

I wish George Bush had some, any, morality concerns with the lives of the Iraqi people who have been devastated by Bush's occupation of their country.

I wish that George Bush would listen to the experts in this science and not pander to his religious base............again.

How dare he deny treatments and cures of fatal and life-threatening diseases to sufferers of Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer and paralysis. How dare he deny hope?

I wish I could think of one good thing to say about this president, but I can't.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

US Revisits Length of Iraq Combat Tours

I was revolted to read that the Army is once again revisiting the length of Iraq combat tours. The Acting Secretary of the Army says “We have to look into our options” including utilizing forces from the Navy & Air Force so as not to put more pressure on the already stretched active duty force.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va said, that after four years of combat, the strategy in Iraq cannot "justify doing this to the soldiers in the Army and the families back here." (Senator Webb has recently introduced legislation to restrict the length of deployments, and to maintain at least a "one for one" ratio between deployments, unless a national emergency occurs. This is how to support the troops.)

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Traitor-Conn., disagreed and said the Army should do more to add soldiers to its payroll. With our military stretched thin, we've got to be creative about where we might find fresh troops.

I've got an option that I'm sure Lieberman has not considered. He is the proud father of 4; 2 young men and 2 young women. Here's a photo of the happy family, I'll let you decide how many of them look fit for military service. The Senator's website claims he advances public policy that honors the core American values of responsibility, opportunity, and community. What better way to demonstrate these values than sending your children to serve in the military? It's just a thought.

Military families know well the burden that more than 4 years of war, extended duty, and multiple deployments have brought to our families with resultant PTSD, increased number of divorces and suicides and other extreme stressors. Increasing the length of combat tours will also surely increase the numbers of wounded and dead.

With more than 30,000 wounded and dead Americans and countless displaced and dead Iraqis, it’s time to consider all options, including the one thing that doesn’t seem to be under consideration- ending this occupation and bringing the troops home NOW!

It’s the least they can do for an already stretched military and their families.

When will the rest of the country accept and bear some responsibility for this endless war? It is long past time to show respect to the men & women who have borne the burden of this unnecessary war as they selflessly serve their country. Despite their status as professional soldiers, they are real men and women who love and hurt and feel and experience fatigue & stress. They deserve better than being treated as if they are little plastic army figures.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Raising the bar

With approval ratings hovering in the 20 percentile, in Bush territory, the new Congress isn't doing so well with the folks at home. "I understand their disappointment," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "We raised the bar too high." The Senator does not understand our disappointment and apparently the voters of America raised the bar too high in sending this new Congress to Washington. They are not getting the job done.

Nancy Pelosi calls herself "unhappy" but "we can only do so much". The whining is getting annoying.

The Republicans who continue to stand by Bush in some sense of misplaced loyalty will pay the price in 2008 and end up in the unemployment line back home.

My suggestions? Don't give up; never give up! This peace work is hard business, especially as the war machine in this country continues to consume so much of our resources, human and financial. With nearly half a trillion spent so far, every household in the US has paid $4100. That's a far cry from the $50-$60 billion the Director of the Office of Management and Budget
stated that the Iraq War would cost.

With Congress’ recent vote for an additional $100 billion in war spending, the total spent or allocated for the Iraq War alone rises to nearly half a trillion dollars. The cost to taxpayers of California now totals $57.8 billion.

It is not so much to meet with or write to your Congressional representatives in an attempt to change their minds and their vote. Writing a letter to the editor and getting the local media involved to let the readers and viewers know how their representative is voting. The public needs to wake up and remember that Congress represents you and they work for you. We, in the peace movement said that if Congress voted for the Supplemental bill in May, the war is no longer George Bush's war, it was theirs; they bought it, they paid for it, they own it.

To take that calculation further; if you don't do anything to end this war, then you own it, too. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if that is okay? DO NOT look away! Ask yourself what your responsibility is in the continuation of this war. They are telling us that the US will be in Iraq for 50 years, so I'm talking about your children, your grandchildren and possibly their children, too. How many dead Americans is acceptable to you? How many dead or displaced Iraqi's is acceptable?

“Iraq Summer” launched last week as Americans Against Escalation in Iraq prepares to dispatch nearly 100 organizers to the home states and districts of Republican Senators and Representatives who have opposed setting a timeline to end the US war in Iraq. The program is modeled on the “Freedom Summer” civil rights project. Organizers will be in fifteen states from Nevada to Maine, a total of 40 congressional districts. “This summer we will force Members of Congress to make a choice: vote to responsibly end the war or face political extinction,” said Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of

Pick up a pen, crank up the computer; your representative loves hearing from you. Yes, really, they do. To make it easy for you, here is the list of targeted Republicans:

10 - Kirk
15 – Johnson
18 – LaHood

Senate (Collins & Snowe)

3 – Ehlers
6 - Upton
7 – Walberg
8 – Rogers
10 – Miller
11 – McCotter

Senate (Coleman)
3 - Ramstad
6 – Bachmann

New Hampshire
Senate (Sununu)

New Jersey
4 – Smith
7 – Ferguson

New York
25 – Walsh
29 - Kuhl

Senate (Voinovich)
14 – LaTourette
15- Pryce

Senate (Specter)
3 - English
6 – Gerlach
15 – Dent
18 – Murphy
19 - Platts

Senate (Warner)
2 – Drake
10 – Wolf
11 – Davis

1 – Renzi

Senate (Grassley)
4 - Latham

New Mexico
Senate (Domenici)
1 -Wilson

2 – Heller
3 – Porter

1 – Castle

I'm weary and I'm frustrated at the lack of progress in ending this war, but mostly I miss Ken and I cannot bear the thought of another family burying their loved one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

At War With the Army

Here's an article from the current "#1 weekly newspaper in Silicon Valley", The Metro. The reporter got it mostly right; there are a few things that don't add up, but I've learned to not sweat the small stuff. By keeping these kinds of stories in the paper and in front of people, maybe some more people will be touched by this war.

At War With the Army
How two South Bay mothers uncovered the truth about their sons' deaths in Iraq

By Michael Shapiro

This story is a follow-up to Michael Shapiro's cover story last week about the Army coverup of Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire in combat.—Editor

THE STORY of Pat Tillman, the pro football player who grew up in San Jose and turned down a multimillion–dollar contract to join the Army, made national headlines when Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. Tillman's mother, Mary, has worked tirelessly to try to find out how her son died and who covered up the truth about his death.

But she's not the only mother of a soldier who was deceived about the circumstances of her son's death in combat. In a span of just two months during the spring of 2004, the families of two other South Bay soldiers were lied to after their sons died while serving their country. And they too had to employ dogged persistence to uncover the truth about their sons' final hours.

Nadia McCaffrey's Story
In the spring of 2004, as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal inflamed the Middle East, Sgt. Patrick Ryan McCaffrey, assigned to train Iraqi soldiers allied with American troops, became worried about his safety. A manager of a Palo Alto automotive shop, McCaffrey had told his mother, Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, that he feared the Iraqi troops would turn on him.

"He had said in an email that because of Abu Ghraib every [U.S.] soldier had a bounty on his head," Nadia McCaffrey said. Patrick was "ashamed" of the reports and images of torture in Iraqi prisons and said the United States had "no business in Iraq," his mother said.

A divorced father of two young children, Patrick grew up in Sunnyvale and attended De Anza College. He had no desire to fight overseas, but wanted to serve his country after the 9/11 attacks.

"He was not a military person," Nadia McCaffrey said of her son. "He earned $100,000 a year—he didn't need anything from anybody."

McCaffrey met with a recruiter who, according to Nadia, told Patrick that if he joined the National Guard he wouldn't be deployed because of his age (over 30). McCaffrey was assigned to the Army National Guard's 579th Engineer Battalion in Petaluma.

In late June, Nadia McCaffrey got the news that every military mom dreads: her son had been killed while on patrol near Balad, Iraq. "They told me my son was shot and killed in an ambush by insurgents," she said. He was 34.

"I lost it—I asked if he had suffered, and how long after he was shot did he die. They said he was shot three times and didn't feel any pain, that he died immediately." McCaffrey kept asking questions and enlisted the help of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D–Calif.) to get the autopsy report.

Though soldiers in McCaffrey's unit knew immediately who killed him, it took his mother two years to get the truth: On June 22, 2004, "Patrick got shot eight times by three people with AK–47s," Nadia McCaffrey said. He was shot in the back, murdered by two Iraqi civil defense force soldiers he was training, according to the military's autopsy report.

After speaking with soldiers who were with Patrick after he was shot, his mother says her son was alive for some time after the shooting.

"He was bleeding and had a pulse," she said in a phone interview with Metro earlier this month. A criminal investigation is ongoing, she said. "The whole mission did not make sense. It was incomprehensible."

McCaffrey said one of the two Iraqi soldiers who killed her son was shot to death by U.S. troops—the other is awaiting trial in Baghdad. "No one wants the trial to take place," she said, suggesting U.S. and Iraqi officials fear the publicity a trial would engender. But McCaffrey wants to see her son's killer brought to justice, adding "I want to be there when it [the trial] happens."

Like Mary Tillman, McCaffrey is outraged by what happened to her son and by the lies the military told her about his death. "I want to know why," she said. "Trust me, I'm on their case for this and I won't let it go."

McCaffrey asked reporters and photographers to be present when Patrick's flag-draped coffin arrived at the Sacramento airport a week after he died. "Patrick was not a private person," she said. "Why should I have hidden him when he came home?"

In August 2005, Nadia joined Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas, when members of the Gold Star Families for Peace asked to meet with President Bush, a request the president ignored while on vacation at his nearby ranch. (Gold Star families are those who have lost a soldier in military service. Some families place "service flags" with gold stars in the front windows of their homes to show their sacrifice. sells these flags, but when I checked they were sold out.)

McCaffrey traveled to Jordan with an aid delegation sponsored by Global Exchange, meeting the mothers of slain Iraqis and distributing $600,000 for Iraqis injured in the war. She's a founder of to aid soldiers, especially those suffering from stress disorders and emotional trauma.

The daughter of a Serbian father and a French mother, McCaffrey was born in France in the final months of World War II, known as "The Good War." In contrast to that conflict, McCaffrey said the occupation of Iraq is "not a good war, not good at all."

Karen Meredith's Story
On April 3, 2004, Karen Meredith's son Ken Ballard was completing his yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. As all soldiers do before returning home, Ballard turned in his weapons—7,500 miles away, in Mountain View, his mother planned Ballard's welcome-home party. The next day "all hell broke loose" in Baghdad, Meredith said. Ballard's tour of duty and the tours of 20,000 other soldiers were extended. Meredith hadn't seen her son since Christmas in 2002 and couldn't wait to see him again. She never would.

Kenneth Michael Ballard was born in Rome, N.Y., on July 21, 1977—7/21/77—weighing a lucky 7 pounds, 7 ounces. The family moved to Mountain View in 1981; Meredith and her then–husband divorced when Ken was a young child.

Meredith said she was proud to see Ken join the Army when he graduated from Mountain View High School in 1995. Ballard later won a Gold to Green ROTC scholarship and graduated in 2002 from Middle Tennessee State University, where he majored in international relations. He returned to the Army, trained as an officer and was deployed to Iraq.

"Ken was given his own platoon, 2nd Platoon, part of the Crusaders of Charlie Company in the summer of 2003," Meredith said. "He felt a tremendous responsibility in keeping his guys safe from harm."

On May 27, 2004, Meredith spoke to her son for about 40 minutes and discussed plans for his month-long vacation to California and Tennessee. She asked him to bring home some prayer beads—he joked that he'd bring her a burka.

Four days later, Karen received another long-distance call, but this time Ken wasn't on the other end. The voice of someone she had never met said her son was killed by small arms fire on May 30 in Najaf. Meredith's only child, the boy she raised almost single-handedly to become an honorable and honored man, was dead. He was 26.

At Ballard's memorial service the following month, an officer said Ballard's heroic efforts saved the lives of some 60 soldiers. Ballard was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. Even during the time of her deepest grief, Meredith sensed there was something amiss, believing that such valor would warrant the Silver Star.

Meredith asked for a copy of the incident report about her son's death and was told she'd have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. She didn't get the report until May of 2005, on the eve of the one–year anniversary of her son's death.

Military officials brought the report to Meredith's home. "The autopsy report was not sealed—I asked the officer why," she said, but she was not given an answer. Without looking at the reports, she stashed them in a safe place and left for Arlington National Cemetery, where her son rests.

"When I got back I'd hid the reports so well that I couldn't find them," she said. After scouring the house "I found [the reports] the third week in July, the week of Ken's birthday." The five-page autopsy report was "very medical, very technical," Meredith said. "But one thing stood out: the report showed that the angle of the bullet's entry could not have come from a rooftop or a sniper."

The daughter of a lieutenant colonel, granddaughter of a colonel, sister of a lieutenant colonel and ex-wife of a former Air Force serviceman, Meredith kept asking questions of military officials. On Aug. 2, 2005, she says she received an email from Lt. Col. John Tien, saying, "Are you telling me you don't know what happened the night Ken was killed?" But Meredith said Tien's email didn't say more about how Ballard died.

Later that month, Meredith got a call from a casualty officer saying "the Army is coming to see you about the incident report." Knowing that meant that the incident report was being changed, Meredith "went to my bed and cried for an hour." She called the office of U.S. Rep Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and asked a member of her staff to attend the meeting with military officials.

"I wanted the message to be, 'Don't fuck with this mother—she's got Congress behind her,'" Meredith said. Supported by Eshoo's chief of staff, Meredith met with Lt. Col. John O'Brien, head of the Army's casualty division, at her home. He told her that the story about Ballard providing cover for 60 comrades was untrue.

Here's what happened: an accident occurred as Ballard's tank was backing over a median strip. Under heavy fire, Ballard had instructed his gunner to get down, Meredith says she was told by the casualty officers. As the tank reversed, a tree branch engaged the machine gun just as Ballard poked his head out of the tank to survey the scene and give orders to the driver. The gun discharged and killed Ballard.

"Everyone in his unit knew," Meredith said. "They had taken statements within an hour of him being killed. I don't know if they were given orders to not tell or if it's implicit, just this veiled assumption: if the high-ranking officers are not telling then I better not tell either."

Meredith said the Abrams tank's thermal imaging system was broken and that soldiers were reluctant to use the tank, but a captain ordered them to use it. "If it [the imaging system] had been working, Ken wouldn't have needed to be outside the tank that night," Meredith said.

On Sept. 9, 2005, Meredith says she met in Washington, D.C., with Lt. Col. O'Brien and received a letter of apology. Four days later she met with Col. Bradley May of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I finally got to hear what Ken's last words were: 'Hard left, go straight, take us home.' He was taking care of his guys," Meredith said, her voice cracking with emotion. "It was the last hour of his life. Everyone thinks you're just finding out details but these were his last words; that's what people don't understand."

Meredith, who once worked for FMC, the company that manufactures the Bradley fighting vehicle, said she's not anti-military. But after the Army misled her about her son's death, Meredith vowed to try to prevent other military families from being subjected to similar indignities.

On Sept. 27, 2005, she met with Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey and asked him to promise that soldiers' families would be told the truth about casualties in a timely manner. She asked for pictures of Ballard's body being returned to Dover Air Force Base, but she says that request was denied.

"They knew that I'm antiwar and they didn't want me to have it," she said. "We believe these photos are no longer being taken so that there will be no record of this part of the war forever," she added. "If there are no pictures, they don't have anything to release."

The military has made "some changes based on my comments," Meredith said, including instituting procedures regarding condolence letters and follow–up calls. "But they still won't let us see the pictures from Dover," she said. "We call it the Dover test—if the country would be upset by seeing pictures, then they are not shown. Their goal is to not tell the truth."

"Why does the Army culture allow this?" Meredith asked. "My son is a fourth-generation Army officer. He was raised to believe that the Army takes care of its own. He gave everything and they disrespected him and his family," she said. "To me this is unforgivable."

Meredith remains outraged, not just for the loss of her son, but for the injustice of the war and the disproportionate suffering of soldiers and their families.

"One percent of the country is fighting this war—our country is not at war," she said. "Only military families are carrying the burden of this war."

Meredith, who now works for a networking company in Sunnyvale, says she'll keep telling her story: "People need to be touched by this war. I was opposed to the [Iraq] war before it began but I didn't start speaking publicly until shortly before Ken was killed. I always supported soldiers but never supported the mission—whatever 'the mission' is."

President Bush is treating the military like "little green Army men," Meredith said, citing what she believes to be the president's detachment from the suffering and concerns of soldiers and their families.

Asked if her son supported the Iraq war, Meredith said: "When I asked Ken what he thought about Rumsfeld or Abu Ghraib, he'd say, 'I don't have time to think about that. My mission is to get my buddies home alive.' "

Michael Shapiro's stories, which range from investigative reporting to travel topics, have appeared in the Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Sun. He is the author of 'A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration.' For more about Shapiro and his work, see

Find this article at: