Excerpt from the book What Was Asked Of Us: An Oral History Of The Iraq War By The Soldiers Who Fought It, by Trish Wood. Copyright © 2006 by Trish Wood. Reprinted with permission from Little, Brown and Company, New York City. All rights reserved.
We set up a little security area [on the road to Baghdad] where no one can get into where we were. We ended up staying for over 24 hours straight, and we had all the major roads blocked off. That was a... long night.
Civilian vehicles were not seeing [our] warning shots. We would use tracer rounds so they could see [them] coming over their cars, but we ended up having to shoot to kill. Those were just by mistake. You know, these people didn't really realize what was happening, and they got nervous and drove right into our roadblock, and we had no choice but to... you know, but to take them out. We had to shoot to kill because we weren't sure if they were suicide bombers or not.
[They] kind of used civilians as shields. We didn't really know it until our translator was talking with the people, and the people said, "Yeah, they made us drive into these checkpoints. We had no choice. It was either we drive into them or they kill us and they kill our whole family, so they made us do it."
Later on that night, I went from treating all my Marines to treating all these civilians. It was just non-stop. Me and the doctor were the only medical personnel that far north with the unit. We were getting called to all these different checkpoints, and people were dying all night long. It was just a night of death, of people just dead everywhere, and we would just leave their bodies where they were at, and then, I guess later on in the morning, the civilian ambulances pick up all these bodies. Like a garbage truck.
There was babies that were killed. There was older people that were killed. Entire families wiped out. There was an old guy that had drove through the checkpoint, and they shot him all over the place, and we were taking care of him. I was the one trying to get the IV into him. They rolled him on his side to see if he had any wounds, and then they realized he had gunshot right in his spinal cord, and it was all exposed. The spinal cord, the spine, everything was exposed, so I kind of knew then if this guy was going to live, he definitely wasn't going to be walking again.
I remember telling the doctor that I was having trouble getting the IV in. I wasn't getting anything back, and then we looked at him and the guy was dead.
That was the first time someone died in my arms. I didn't know if this guy was someone's grandfather or father or, you know, how big his family was, and it kind of bothered me. I didn't feel like I failed him. I just felt like this guy was mixed into this. He didn't mean to be mixed into it.
You know, we only had the supplies that we had, and if we couldn't.... I knew it was out of our control. You know, these poor people. We're there to help them, and we're killing them.
I had to open fire on [a] bus to protect the people that we were taking care of, you know, the civilian people in the ambulance. I shot into it. There were civilians in there, and everybody in the whole bus was killed. I don't know if physically any of my rounds hit anybody, but I shot into it and that bothered me.
I went and I spoke with the chaplain about that. He just told me that God knew what we were there for. He knew we were there to do the right thing. I knew I had to protect the guys around me, my brothers that were with me.
I kind of put it behind me, but every once in a while I'll think about what happened. You know, was it me that killed anybody on that bus? Everyone was dead, so I didn't.... There was no need for me to go on there.
I'll never forget that. It was a long night. It was all night long.
Audio Clips from What Was Asked of Us
Thomas Smith : Checkpoint shootings
Travis Williams : Waging War for Oil
Alan King : On Disbanding Iraqi Military