News: Soldier makes vow to family
by Pfc. Paul J. Harris
3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
BALAD, Iraq -- An Iraqi child was killed July 2, when an insurgent mortar exploded in her family's courtyard in the town of Abu Hishma.
Staff Sgt. Donald White, patrol leader, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Band of Brothers, and his patrol were near the area when they heard the mortar impact. They quickly radioed the command post to see if it was counter-fire coming from nearby Logistical Support Area Anaconda. No mortars had been fired from the LSA at that time which meant it was an enemy round.
Upon arriving at the scene there was absolute chaos, Iraqi's running to and from the explosion site, White said. There was a white car that was desperately trying to get out of the alleyway next to the house and by the Humvees.
A woman exited the car holding a small girl and was covered in blood. The girl, estimated to be 8 to 10 years old, had been cutting tomatoes by a water drum when the mortar round hit the water drum projecting shrapnel into her chest.
Spc. John Sullivan, medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery attached to Btry. B, 3rd Bn., 29th FA, was the medic who initially approached the family to offer care.
I went to check for a pulse which I could not feel, Sullivan said. As I was checking for the pulse I noticed holes in her chest where shrapnel was impacted. She was limp with her eyes rolled in the back of her head and I knew she was dead.
The family got back into the car and rushed to LSA Anaconda for urgent medical care where the medical staff at the Air Force hospital confirmed the girl died as a result of her wounds.
White and his team stayed behind to investigate the impact site. White found the tailfin of the mortar and by the size and shape of the tailfin he was able to determine that is was not a U.S. round.
"Ours are silver and a lot longer," White said. "Theirs (insurgent) are blackish to a greenish color and a lot shorter, that's the way to tell."
White also noticed the primer on the tailfin had been dented to confirm the round had been fired as opposed to placed or buried in the courtyard. Two days before the incident occurred White said mortar fire had come from the same area. He suspected the insurgents had been aiming at the LSA and they had misfired hitting the courtyard instead.
White and his patrol returned the following day to the home to offer condolences to the family and also make sure the family knew it was not coalition forces that fired the round. White knew if rumors spread that it was the Americans who killed the girl it could increase tensions in the area.
"I wanted to return to say I am sorry, I hope to catch this guy (who fired the mortar), I hope to do what I can," White said. "Words mean so much to these people just like Americans."
After talking with the girl's father I think he understood that we wanted to help and he even offered for us to sit down and have dinner with him, White said.
Pacesetter Soldiers have been deployed in Iraq for seven months now and during that time have seen their fare share of human carnage, but when it is a child that is killed it puts a very different perspective on the reality of war.
I have seen a lot of dead bodies but they are adult males and it is different, said Joshua Leist, driver, Btry. B, 3rd Bn., 29th FA, You see a little girl who has been killed and you think why are these insurgents killing their own people for no reason. No reason I can see.