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December 31, 2006

One More Bullet


by Chris Maynard

Navy medic Dustin E. Kirby, whose bloodied hand was the subject of a November 3 BAGnewsNotes posting holding a sniper’s bullet in Karma, Iraq, was wounded himself earlier this week. He was shot in the left side of his face, also by a sniper, and also in Karma, on Christmas afternoon. He is 22 years old.

According to an article in The New York Times, his upper palate and jaw were severely damaged; he was transferred to a hospital in Germany and was conscious and able to communicate by writing notes. After being struck he apologized to his senior enlisted man for getting wounded and insisted on walking to an evacuation helicopter. He was on his second tour of active duty.

In 2004 a cousin, also a Navy corpsman with a Marine unit, lost a leg in Iraq. Before returning to Iraq, Petty Officer Kirby was a roommate of Marine Lance Corporal Colin Smith, who had been wounded by the bullet shown in November’s photograph. Lance Cpl. Smith, who is 19 years old, is now under “treatment and evaluation” for head injuries.

Like putting a name to a face, putting a face to a hand lends a slight bit more recognition as the official toll of U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq crosses 3,000.

(image: Joao Silva/The New York Times.  Iraq.  published: December 29, 2006.

  • Rafael

    Damn, Damn, DAMN!!

  • PTate in MN

    It’s very, very sad: Now more Americans have died in George Bush’s WOT than died on 9/11. And are we any safer? How about the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died? Are their grieving parents, husbands, wives, children enjoying their liberation yet?
    The military option was always the wrong one.
    So, did Bushco rush Hussein’s execution to dampen public response to this other milestone?

  • Bill

    having been a 19-year old Hospital Corpsman in combat (Cambodia and Viet Nam) for me, this really hits home.
    Why, why why are we doing this again?
    How long before we leave off the roof of the embassy again? Because that is the only logical end to this kind of idiocy.

  • Kitt

    This is the year I do SOMETHING that challenges & changes the way we’re going. Other people are talking, too.

  • rchsod

    this is what really pisses me off when i hear someone say bush grieves or he cares..he cares not that brave men and women like dustin that are scared for life. bush lied to them and their families about reason for their loved one`s sacrfice. bush has never faced his demons because he always takes the cowards way out.
    there are not enough people in this world like dustin. i hope his recovery goes well for him and his family

  • tina

    Notice that none of the people mentioned in connection with the photo are among the 3,000 dead but among those other casualities we never hear about, the 25,000 wounded, many thousands of these maimed for life.
    Iraq is actually a lot “hotter” than Vietnam was at the same time (3 years into the war), in that there are more hits and engagements. But due to advances in medical technology, there are fewer actual deaths. In WWII, over 40% of the wounded perished in hospital, in Vietnam about 30% of wounds proved fatal after the injured were removed from the field. It’s now been whittled down to 17% or something along those lines; additionally, due to quicker and better response the grievously wounded are more apt to leave the field alive. However, the quality of life for the survivors is often questionable. A young woman, from my hometown in MI, wounded in Iraq is also not among the dead, but thanks to her brain injuries it’s actually rather hard to tell the difference. She is never conscious and will just waste away hooked up to a machine.
    The 3,000 number is completely misleading. It gives the impression that it’s not even “really” a war. It’s repeatedly pointed out to me that more people die in car accidents in a much shorter period of time, blah blah blah…false comparisons all. Compared to other modern conflicts it is every bit as intense, and we have wasted a lot more than 3,000 American lives. Just because we’ve kept their pulses from flatlining doesn’t mean they are not casualities. The 25,000 number should not be pushed under the rug.
    Modern technology and a sophisticated means of delivering it to the soldiers has kept the number of 3,000 artificially low. Remove the quick response and logistical support provided to people like Dustin pictured above, and the number of deaths would shoot right into the stratosphere.
    And if American troops actually left their bases to engage in combat (which I am given to understand they rarely ever do any more, most hits are accomplished while convoys are trying to get from one place to another), esp. without punishing air support…whooo boy.
    To quote my kid, we are SO not winning. But I’m afraid the 3,000 number, bad as it is, more or less hides how hideous the situation really is.

  • Cactus

    When we see the photos of the soldiers, especially if we know they have been wounded, it has an unexpected impact on us as we comment/critique them. They become closer to us and the photo becomes more personal. Kirby’s November photo on The Bag was almost iconic, yet anonymous; we didn’t see his face.
    Now we learn that his face, seen here probably in an earlier photo, is of an earnest young man. As we connect that young face with the ‘November hand’ holding a bullet, and we see this worried expression he has and the blood on his hands from caring for someone in his group, we realize that in this moment, right now, he is in a bed somewhere in Germany or the US being treated for a major assault on his body.
    How can we now take a step back and say, ‘how sad’ or ‘but he is so young?’ We know him now. Jolene, who asked us to pray for her friend, Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, in November, is probably also now praying for PO Kirby. We, who do not know either of these men, have been touched by their lives. They have made this war personal for us.
    The greater tragedy is that the people who made this war possible have no such feelings. They put all the death, the heartbreak, the brutality, all of it, out of sight so that their pure and tender eyes to not have to see what they have done. I cannot fathom what kind of person, what kind of psychopath, could do that. These people are beyond my ken.
    I agree with Rafael: Damn, DAMN, DAMN!

  • Cactus

    tina: Also, from what I’ve heard, if a casualty is on the plane out of Iraq on the way to a German hospital before death, it’s not counted as a battle death. So you have to add all those that died en route, or in, the hospitals.
    Gruesome statistics, to be sure.

  • PTate in MN

    Tina–an important point.
    Cactus–eloquently said.
    Thank you.

  • earl Mardle

    Cactus, an urban myth. keeps the tally and includes those wounded in combat who die outside Iraq and whose death is reported by the military.
    For example
    Staff Sergeant Henry K. Kahalewai
    Place of death Brooke Army Med Center, TX
    Private Eric R. Wilkus
    Place of death Landstuhl Reg. Med. Ctr.

  • tina

    Earl, it may well be an urban myth, but the fact that people are not willing to take the 3,000 number at face value tells us something. There’s no trust in the govt. or media to present an accurate picture or engage in an honest public debate.
    Most people I know do not accept that less than 2,000 people died during Katrina, either. They say that about 5,000-6,000 were/are listed as missing persons (who can be presumed to be dead) and that many corpses were disposed of unidentified, so the number of Katrina deaths is closer to Mayor Nagin’s 10,000 estimate than the govt. wants us to believe.
    I don’t think this is necessarily correct thinking, but the complete lack of trust reminds me of some third world countries I’ve visited where discussing the latest criminal conspiracy in the govt. cabal is a bigger pastime than watching football (soccer) games. This is the U.S., so this suspicious kind of attitude is sad.
    I don’t remember Vietnam, were all things to do with Washington that spooky then as well?

  • Cactus

    tina: In a word, yes. Apropos of the discussion you were having about the numbers of the dead, that was one of the first noticeable things that I remember in what became the protests, even to the point of comics making jokes about it. Each night on the news we would hear something like, 1326 enemy dead today and 3 US military deaths. The numbers were so incongruous, and so daily, that eventually no one believed them and the cynicism set in. Later it was widely believed that Johnson had lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident (Vietnam firing on US ships). By 1965, the police (aka the fuzz or pigs, depending upon ones radicalization) were bashing heads at the Century City Hotel in LA, which was then fairly new and posh. The 1968 Chicago riots lead to the election of Nixon and you know how that turned out. The passions of the two sides were really much, much more than you see today. So, earlMardle will just have to forgive me if I don’t believe the “official” stats on the number of dead.
    It’s hard to capsulate such a time because so much was going on in several fronts all at the same time. I’m sure some purist will post a defense of Johnson and Nixon, but I’m just telling you how those of us on the left saw it. Sometimes it seemed as if protests were going on somewhere every day. We see nothing like that today.

  • Ed

    The only idiocy about Vietnam is the exit from the embassy rooftop and a Commander & Chief in Washington having to approve every little mission.

  • ummabdulla

    “Sometimes it seemed as if protests were going on somewhere every day.”
    I lived in the Washington area then, and my elementary school was close to the University of Maryland. It does seem like there was always a protest somewhere. Of course, these were college students who were worried about the draft, and who may have been included in the draft “lottery”….

  • Doc Kirby

    i want you all to know that my recovery as well as my frined colin’s is coming along well. both of us are very thankful for all of your concern, and i agree to many of the points made in most of these comments. but please remember that whether we agree ith this war or not, there are still thousands more oldiers, sailors and marines in iraq today. and they are doing nothing more than their jobs…looking out for the men and women to their left and to their right, brothers and sisters in arms…don’t forget their sacrifice…and don’t forget. never forget.
    always Doc Kirby
    (PO3 Dustin Kirby)
    semper fi

  • jtfromBC

    Doc Kirby, I really appreciate you checking in, and although we are definitely following different orders I think constantly of all your buddies and *everyone* in Iraq that’s in harms way. I hope your recovery continues to go well, and that the occupation will soon be over.

  • jtfromBC

    Doc Kirby; on an earlier post that showed you with a bullet I said ;
    “I speculate the discharged slug was twisted into an empty US cartridge of the same calibre, easier not to lose, to demonstrate it, and potentially to keep as a trophy.”
    If you have time please comment on my speculation that the slug was twisted into the cartridge.

  • Cactus

    Doc Kirby: What a pleasant surprise to read your comment. I’m sure I join all my other commenters in rejoicing that you are recovering, as well as your friend Colin. As an old bitch who has been to this party before, my heart breaks to think of so many of our young, and not-so-young, men and women coming back draped in flags or with horrible injuries. So it is with gratitude and joy that we learn of your and Colin’s recovery. Bless you and all our troops and may they all come home soon and safely.

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