Battlefield Falluja

11/20/2004

The last entry in the EWM Dairy (Battlefield New Jersey 11.05.04) spoke of the Muse’s trepidation on the eve of the U.S. re-invasion of Falluja.

It didn’t take a military genius to divine that this was going to be bloody business. Not the deadly commerce of precision missiles fired from distant seas, but the face-to-face variety, fought in the alleyways and tenements of an incensed city teeming with ruthless enemies sworn to martyrdom.

In such a breach, it is kill or be killed, and I wish unto every one of our brave troops the fury of the hounds of hell so that each can play the role of killer–not the killed. I’m against this war, but that does not preclude me from hoping that American soldiers do whatever it takes to get back alive.

Thankfully, few among us can understand what went down in Falluja. A gripping account is found in embedded-reporter Dexter Filkins’ story in today’s New York Times.

Filkins traveled into the streets of Falluja with Company B of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, a unit that saw one-in-four of its members killed or maimed by insurgent fire. And his reporting provided me with the context and empathy that comes from a sudden reminder of the six degrees that are said to separate us all.

He wrote of the death of Cpl. Romulo Jimenez, 21, of Belington, W.Va., “a popular soldier who spent much of his time showing off his tattoos…and talking about his 1992 Ford Mustang.”

I did not know Cpl. Jimenez, but I know who he was. By twisted irony, the Muse’s travels took me through Belington, W.Va. at the age of 21–same as Jimenez. And it was there that a 1972 Camaro on a car lot along U.S. Route 92 caught my eye.

I bought that car with the money I was making from my construction job in Belington. Probably paid too much, but it was important for a man to have muscular wheels in that part of the country. I tricked-out my rod with a four-barrel carburetor, headers and dual exhaust. I’ll bet Jimenez did that to his Mustang too.

And I’ll bet that I never shut-up about how bad my ride was, just like Jimenez use to.

In the quarter-century that’s past since I parked the Camaro, I’ve changed a lot. Today, I’m more prone to drop a dime on a symphony ticket than mag wheels. I’m not sure that makes me a better person, but it provides a thousand memories of how I got from “Point-A” to “Point-B.”

And I surely wish Cpl. Romulo Jimenez had a future so we could see where he would end up.

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