(Media please contact John Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Major Mark Bieger found this little girl after the car bomb that attacked our guys while kids were crowding around. The soldiers here have been angry and sad for two days. They are angry because the terrorists could just as easily have waited a block or two and attacked the patrol away from the kids. Instead, the suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers. Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn't make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her.
The soldiers went back to that neighborhood the next day to ask what they could do. The people were very warming and welcomed us into their homes, and many kids were actually running up to say hello and to ask soldiers to shake hands.
Eventually, some insurgents must have realized we were back and started shooting at us. The American soldiers and Iraqi police started engaging the enemy and there was a running gun battle. I saw at least one IP who was shot, but he looked okay and actually smiled at me despite the big bullet hole in his leg. I smiled back.
One thing seems certain; the people in that neighborhood share our feelings about the terrorists. We are going to go back there, and if any terrorists come out, the soldiers hope to find them. Everybody is still very angry that the insurgents attacked us when the kids were around. Their day will come.
The reaction to my photo of Major Bieger craddling Farah, the little girl who died in his arms, provoked a flood of messages and heartfelt responses from caring people around the world. I have spent the last several days trying to read every message, and respond to as many as possible, but the flow has finally outpaced me, much as the swiftness of a river will finally defeat even the most determined swimmer.
This morning there was a banging on my door. It was "Q," loaded for battle, weapon in hand, wearing the military radio headphones with the microphone that wrapped around his face. Bang, Bang, Bang! Q hit my door.
"Mike! Where are you?!"
"Hold on," I said, opening the door.
"Why aren't you ready! Grab your gear... we're going!" My worn-out boots sat empty in the corner.
"I can't go today," I said, glancing in the direction of my laptop.
"Just tell them I can't go today."
"Okay!" And Q trotted off back to his Stryker, leaving me behind. The soldiers rolled out on their mission without me.
And now I sit here, answering a few final emails, while the men of Deuce Four patrol in Mosul. My hands may be here, but my head and heart are on the streets in the struggle. I've been riding the wave of interest and feedback from that photo, but I need to get back to what I seem best equipped to do--posting dispatches about what is happening here in Iraq. I will continue to read every message, and I offer my sincere thanks in advance for everyone who takes the time to send one, but, alas, with this dispatch, I must swim to shore.