Just a buck changes luck of grunts in Humvees
Thursday, November 10, 2005
On the cusp of Veterans Day, the fires we watch by night ought not be late-news images from Iraq of yet another U.S. military vehicle laid ruin by a roadside bomb.
But we are at war, and such is the nature of armed conflict. Some of us die. Some of us kill. The equipage of the mayhem — ours and the enemy’s — is blown to flinders. We come home. On Veterans Day, people wave flags for us.
Before tomorrow’s confetti has been swept up, try doing something for Veterans Day that will leave you feeling warm when you pull the covers to your chin at night.
For about one-fourth the cost of a luxury venti at Starbucks, you can help start a ripple that, maybe, could make a lifesaving difference sometime, somewhere in Iraq when a terrorist triggers a roadside bomb.
A Pasadena, Calif., group called Soldiers’ Angels has launched a program christened Armor Up to provide Kevlar blankets to fortify the floors and doors of Humvees.
When we went to war in 2003, the Humvees that raced to Baghdad on the heels of "shock and awe" were little more than glorified Jeeps. Their vulnerability became apparent at the same sobering speed with which IED became a household word.
At the beginning of 2005, when the Columbus-based Marine Reserve unit Lima Company arrived in Iraq, Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Delgado said that only two of the nine Humvees in his weapons platoon had been up-armored.
"While we were in Humvees," Delgado recalled, "eight Marines were injured in blasts from IEDs.
To make up for the absence of armoring, Kevlar blankets were issued. But, Delgado said, "only 40 percent of our vehicles had Kevlar blankets. We lost two Humvees."
Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Paul Hackett, who left the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill for Iraq in the summer of 2004, found a similar paucity of up-armored Humvees.
"The vehicle I had to drive around in had no armor and a canvas top," Hackett said. "The first week we were there we had a sergeant lose his leg up to the knee in a Humvee without armor.
"There were a few fully uparmored Humvees, but they were reserved for senior officers."
Hackett wasn’t shy in his criticism of the war when he returned to Ohio and launched a bid to win the 2 nd Congressional District last year. He lost by a slim margin and is now running for the U.S. Senate.
Readers might agree or disagree with Hackett’s contention that Washington was naive to think Iraq would be a cakewalk, or that unarmored Humvees could get the job done.
"It just sort of ties in with the notion that folks were going to be hugging us and kissing us and throwing flowers, and that was just piss-poor planning," he said yesterday.
He supports what average citizens are doing to help protect soldiers.
"We used those Kevlar blankets on the floors of the Humvees so that, if we were hit by an IED, it would at least slow it down. I think it’s wonderful . . . that there are Americans back home who are aware of the issues and are donating money to protect soldiers."
According to an Army report, 10,300 of the 22,000 Humvees in Iraq have factory-installed armor. Of the balance, many have been retrofitted with some plating, but, Hackett said, "I’m sure there are still lots of people running around over there in lightly armored Humvees."
Kevlar blankets are needed. Send a buck before Veterans Day has passed to Soldiers’ Angels, 1792 W. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, Calif., 91104. Visit the Web site — www.soldiersangels.org — and click the "Armor up" link.
A half-million people will likely see today’s Dispatch. If each of them sent a dollar, it would buy more than 500 of the $925 armor blankets.
Maybe somewhere down the road, our troops will be equipped with the new Rhino Runners — perhaps the Humvees of the future — which can endure blasts of staggering power while protecting occupants.
When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last visited Iraq, it was in a Rhino Runner graciously loaned by Halliburton. When Saddam Hussein was taken to court last summer, it was in a Rhino Runner.
A buck to help the grunts and ground-pounders inch a little closer to Rumsfeld and Saddam’s level of protection would be nice.
Then, on Saturday, you’ll have an answer if someone asks, "Did you do anything for Veterans Day?" Mike Harden is a Dispatch Metro columnist. He can be reached at 614-461-5215 or by email.