Monday, January 03, 2005

Heroes of Mosul

I don't know the Dustin who wrote the letter, but we have a mutual friend who sent it to me just now. It's amazing how similar these kinds of stories can be! All are unique of course, but they share common elements which are heart-wrenching to say the least. This one is close to home--the common friend aspect and the mention of common interests (Tolkien) always tend to bring things into new perspective.

The following is an email we received from Dustin today. It's a tribute to his captain that was killed last Tuesday in Mosul.


Dear Family and Friends,

I grieve...for a family that has lost a father. For myself, I've lost a friend. For an army company that has lost a commander. For a nation that has lost a hero.

I first met Captain Jacobsen about seven months ago. He was inspecting the barracks before signing for the building. He came to my room and noticed that I was a fan of The Lord Of The Rings. He did his inspection quickly and then started talking about the movies and books. We visited for 10-15 minutes, during which I told him that I was disappointed that we were supposed to leave for Iraq before the extended edition of the third movie was available. He told me that he had asked his wife to send it to him as soon as she could and that when he got it we would have a movie marathon.

A few weeks later, he and the first sergeant decided to play 2 on 2 basketball against guys in the company for the right to park in their reserved parking places. My friend Kris and I were the first challengers. It was a good game, with several lead changes, but in the end Captain Jacobsen's 6'5" frame was the difference, and we lost. There was one incident, however, that shed some light on his character. We both went up for a rebound and I got the ball, but in doing so, I hit his nose with my elbow on my way down. He ignored it until I stopped and asked if he was ok. He quickly wiped the blood away with a finger, looked at, wiped it on his shirt and said, "let's play". He didn't get upset, didn't make a big deal about it, he just got back down to business.

A few weeks ago, we started working out together. That first time, we lifted for about an hour. I pushed him so hard that he decided that, as soon as we were done lifting, we were going to run. I hate running. I spent a good portion of the rest of lifting trying to convince him that running after lifting wasn't a good idea. Amazingly(ha ha), he saw through my facade. So we ran. On the way back to our rooms, the water we had drank decided that we didn't need it anymore. It's a special bond you share with someone that you throw up with.

Since we have been in Iraq, Captain Jacobsen has led from the front, without fail. Before every mission he would have a talk with the whole company, telling us exactly what the plan was, asking if there were any questions, encouraging us, and then praying with us. He was a man who embodied the phrase 'For God and Country.'

When word reached me that he had been injured in the chow hall, I thought "It's Captain 'J', he'll be fine". He was one of the few men that I looked up to, he couldn't die. About 30 minutes later, my platoon sergeant called the squad leaders into his room. His eyes were red and brimming with tears. In a choked voice he said, "Captain Jacobsen is dead. He's not coming back". Suddenly, I realized that I was looking at the floor with tears streaming down my face.

In the sorrowful week that followed, we were told that it had been a suicide bomber that attacked the chow hall. We learned that over 20 had died, 2 in our company, and almost 70 were injured, including my roommate who will have a piece of metal, the size and shape of a large marble, in his knee for the rest of his life.

The memorial service was held yesterday. Through blurry eyes, I saw hundreds of grown men cry and hug each other. We are saddened by the loss of the dead and angered by the means of their death. The cowardice of this attack is unrivaled, yet I despair that we will never have our vengeance against those responsible. The best we can do is fight on with the memory of those we lost close to our hearts. Please remember them in your thoughts and prayers.

Also remember that all who paid the ultimate price are hero's.


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