“It's the stench. The smell of burnt flesh and hair mixing with the acrid smell of burning fuel and tires from the surrounding vehicles caught up in the explosion. It's that menagerie of stink that burns itself into your nostrils and your ever living memory and nightmares. Even the hint of a similar smell sets my hairs on end and has me preparing to fight. Nightmares of that smell have woken me; sweating, heart racing.
The chore of picking through the mangled, blown apart and unrecognizable bodies and parts isn't something I look forward to, but it's one of the tasks I've been assigned as the Senior Human Intelligence Collector in the province. The task - to the best of my ability, with the resources I have available, is to identify those who were murdered by Al Qaeda in this VBIED attack. I always laughed at that one. VBIED. Vehicular Born Improvised Explosive Device. Back in the 80's when I was growing up and The IRA was actively carrying on their campaign against The British, they were just called car bombs. Funny how terminologies change but tactics really don't so much. Anyway, there were 66 victims in this particular suicide bombing that needed my attention.
So picking through body parts and rifling through pockets, bags, debris, etc. isn't fun, but it can be very interesting to see what people were carrying on them. ID's of various origins, photos, baubles, good luck charms. I lay them on whatever body part I found them on or closest to, photograph it, bag it and tag it.
Whenever I find a hand that may have readable prints, I pull out my Sharpie and swipe it across each finger as I try to get a good print. It's not that I think I'll actually identify anyone this way, but it's worth a try. It was rough at times because on occasion I'd have to break fingers to get the best print possible. All I could think was "Hasn't this person been violated enough?". Yet if it leads to me being able to identify him and at least give his family some closure then it's, well......snap, Sharpie, roll the print; snap, Sharpie, roll the print. After awhile you forget that it's human fingers you're doing this to.
Then one day I had a complete face, blown off of a suicide bomber lain in front of me on a gurney. It was taken out of a quart size zip lock bag. I do mean complete. Eyes, teeth, jaws; everything back to his ears. The rest, including his brain, was obliterated by the blast he initiated. They found his face laying face up on the gravel 300 meters away from the crater he left behind. We also found his right foot and hand, both in relatively good condition. Who was this terrorist asshole who killed my friend and nearly me? Snap, Sharpie, roll the print.”
This is just one example of what veterans deal with. They’re just looking for a chance, some help, someone to believe in them. I have countless stories of animals abandoned and left to die also. Again, just looking for a chance.
Read this and take it in. Animal rescue saved me. With my new 501 (c) (3) federal nonprofit @rescueonesanctuary, I’m adding housing and full services for veterans in addition to the NO KILL dog and cat shelters. I want to help as many veterans and animals I can. This will be my legacy.