Do You Think Mom Knows Now?February 3, 2005
I am reprinting this article from the Fayetteville Observer in its entirety. It is the story of an 82nd Airborne soldier injured on the Iraqi election day. It is a story of heroism. But my favorite part is the last paragraph. Remember, this article is in a newspaper:
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Pfc. Brett Topping considers himself lucky to be walking.
With the Troops
A grenade that landed practically at his feet Sunday sprayed his back and legs with shrapnel. A large chunk of metal lodged in his back near his spinal cord. If it had hit him an inch to the left, he said the doctors told him, he would have been paralyzed.
“I’m really, really lucky,” said Topping, a 25-year-old from Long Island. He’s an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, in Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
He was the only soldier in the 3rd Battalion injured on Iraqi’s election day. The day was relatively calm for the paratroopers, despite threats from insurgents that they would turn the voting into a bloodbath.
Topping was bringing up the rear on a patrol near Haifa Street in central Baghdad. He was walking past an elderly Iraqi man when the grenade landed at his feet.
“You could hear the fuse,” he said.
Topping shoved the Iraqi man aside and yelled out a warning to the rest of the patrol before trying to dive out of the way of the explosion. The blast spun him around in the air and he landed on his back.
He said he wasn’t sure at first if he had been hit, but he felt pain in his legs and back when he tried to walk over to the medic to get checked out.
The medic ended up treating both Topper and the Iraqi man, who was also hit by shrapnel. Both of them were taken to the military hospital in the International Zone.
Doctors took shrapnel out of Topping’s leg, but they told him they couldn’t remove the piece in his back. It will require surgery when he returns to Fort Bragg.
Topping didn’t want to stay in the hospital. “I wanted to get back to them (his squad) that night, but I was told they were coming back in the next day,” he said.
He dismisses any talk that he did something special by pushing the Iraqi man out of the way of the worst of the blast. It was just a reaction, he said. “It all happened so quickly.”
Topping has not told his mother he was injured because he knows she will worry. He doesn’t plan to mention it until he gets home. She doesn’t know that he has been walking patrols in Baghdad. “I tell her I work in operations and stay at the base,” he said.
Topping rejoined his company Monday. He is sore, but said he is looking forward to getting back on the streets. “This kind of thing is supposed to happen to us,” Topping said. “We know what we sign up for.”