UPDATE June 27, 2005. I've been told that I managed to get nearly every single detail of of how Captain Ziegenfuss was wounded wrong. The only reason I don't just delete it is that that once something is out there it's out there forever. Please see my correction and apology posted today.
Just about anyone who reads blogs, especially Milblogs has heard that Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss has been wounded in Iraq. Cap'n Z is the proprietor of the Milblog "From My Position, On The Way".
Mrs. Greyhawk, of Mudville Gazette fame visited him in the hospital just as they put him on the gurney to begin the trip to Walter Reed Army Hospital in DC. If my links don't work, as seems to be normal around here, just click the Mudville Gazette link on the sidebar.
What is striking is not that Cap'n Z was almost blowed up by an IED, bomb to us folks who don't savvy milspeak, that is something depressingly common. What is striking is just how he was almost blown up. One doesn't have to be a hero to get blown up, just near the explosion. Someone as timid as myself could be blown up just as easily as any hero. The only thing required is that one be near the explosion. Explosions are well known for their touchiness. They like their privacy and do Bad Things to people who invade it.
Here is what happened, as best I can put it together in my head...
Cap'n Z was commanding a routine patrol when an Iraqi civilian came up and told them about an IED (bomb) somewhere near. The patrol beat feet, actually drove, probably, the reports don't make that clear but Cap'n Z is a tanker and those guys aren't famous for walking, to the bomb's location. Me? I would have picked another destination, maybe Cleveland.
When they got there, instead of staying behind something real solid and shouting "run away, there's a BOMB!!" at the top of his lungs while waiting for the EOD (bomb disposal) squad to show up with their special equipment and training, Cap'n Z decided he had to do something. Since the Army pretty much quit giving company commands to peabrains in the big reorganization after Viet Nam I can only assume there was good reason why he couldn't do the safe thing.
There is an age-old maxim in leadership, never order a PFC to do something you aren't willing to do yourself. Giving new life to this maxim Cap'n Z picked up this IED (BOMB!), carried it to the nearby canal and dropped it in. I'm sure that his working theory was that the water would absorb the shrapnel and most of the blast. Aside from the Wicked Witch of the West and perhaps Hillary, few people are seriously damaged by a splash of water, even a big splash of canal water.
Unfortunately Cap'n Z miscalculated the weight of the IED and the equipment he was carrying and wearing and found himself in that canal, with the IED. The IED then exploded. Pulled down by the weight of his gear and knocked unconscious by the blast, Cap'n Z was dying when Captain Jason Spencer, his XO, jumped into that canal after him. Spencer also found that because of the way the weight of the gear he wore and carried he was head-down in the water. Somehow he got right-side up, and got to his CO and got him where other members of that patrol could pull him out, administer first aid and call for medevac.
By now Cap'n Z is probably at Walter Reed where the Docs will work hard to save the badly injured thumb on his right hand. He lost the pinky finger on his left hand, both arms are in casts and he's got too many dings and scrapes to list. Thanks, though, to the courage of Captain Spencer, who jumped into that canal knowing that the weight of that gear would carry him to the bottom, he's going to live to hold his wife, careen, his son Creighton, age five, and his daughter Adelle, age two.
There was once a day when men would sing songs about such men. Schoolchildren would memorize poems about them and boys would pray to grow up with such courage. The outward expressions are gone, today and it's a shame. Yet, still, America can produce men who will pick up a live IED (BOMB!) and carry it to where it can't hurt anyone.
I can only strive to to be worthy to live in a land that can produce such men. I fear I fall short.