How one U.S. soldier in Iraq spent the last day of 2010.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Jan. 1 2011 11:27 AM

All Is Calm: New Year's Eve in Baghdad

How one U.S. soldier in Iraq spent the last day of 2010.

(Continued from Page 1)

The clinic where he was working was much like the one on this deployment, a Level 2 trauma facility. That means they have X-ray and lab technicians, equipment for dental exams, and a small number of "beds" to treat the wounded. But the clinics are used mostly to stabilize patients before transferring them to a combat support hospital, or CASH. Strand is the evacuation coordinator responsible for doing that.

"We don't even have any blood here," noted Staff Sgt. Brian Hayden, 37, an Army lab technician who is also on his second deployment to Iraq. He works at the Ortiz clinic with Strand. "I think we've had one shrapnel wound in the six months we've been here this time," he said.

On New Year's Eve, because it was slow, Strand took me on a drive through the Green Zone, now officially called the International Zone, or IZ. We old-timers still call it the Green Zone. We went through a series of checkpoints, showing our special badges at each one. Our destination was a private Iraqi hospital that used to be a combat-support hospital. Strand did a one-month trauma rotation at this hospital in 2007, earning himself a prized "Baghdad ER" T-shirt. He recalled chaotic days with patients in litters stacked up and waiting to be treated or evacuated, filling the Army choppers with troops wounded from devastating IED attacks or roll-overs.

Advertisement

He lost patients. This is war. Not everybody goes home to spend the next holiday with their families, and Strand said he puts up a tough front for "my guys."

"But inside it hits me," he said. "I got into the field to do the best I can do. The ones that make it out, they make it out. You always want to see a win."

As a medic, getting that kind of experience in treating combat wounds was invaluable, he said. It's not that he wants anyone to come in wounded. It's not that. It's just that he's a medic, and this is his job, to help people.

"It's been very quiet," he said. "It's definitely a change from the last time I was here. A lot of the new medics, they don't have to go through what we went through. It has calmed down a lot. It's died down."

Strand's grandfather and stepfather, the man he calls his dad, were both Marines. His other grandfather was in the Navy. Strand considers himself a military man, which is why he wasn't even registering that this was a holiday.

FOB Prosperity was hosting a New Year's Eve party at the dining facility, minus the booze, of course. Soldiers were invited to come dressed up or not, however they pleased. It's a dining facility, after all. Grilled cheese and fries by day, nonalcoholic beer by night. The New Year's Day 5K was postponed for security reasons, however.

The most Strand would offer by way of a New Year's contemplation was this: "I don't want to be sitting as a 60-year-old man on my front porch thinking what I could have done," he said. "I'm proud to wear the uniform. It's been a very good year. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I've got a lot of options, a lot of things ahead of me. Any time you have a great job, doing what you love, with people who support you, that's a measure of a great life.

Like Slate on  Facebook. Follow us on  Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 10:44 AM Bull---- Market America is overlooking a plentiful renewable resource: animal manure.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 10:59 AM “For People, Food Is Heaven” Boer Deng on the story behind her piece “How to Order Chinese Food.”
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.