Hi! I'm Lauren, and I need a Lobotomy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


It’s been a little while since I have had a memory, or flashback of sorts, from Brian’s deployments in Iraq. Today I had one. I wasn’t prepared at all. I was checking the news, like I always do in the morning, and this article http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/08/06/afghan-president-31-americans-killed-in-helicopter-crash/?test=latestnews was the first thing I saw. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

I started shaking, and almost crying, because all at once I was hit with the memory of what it was like for me, on the family side, when Brian was shot down in February of 2007. I can't even begin to imagine what I would be feeling right now if Brian hadn't made it home to me. I am very fortunate.

Brian went to Iraq the first time as a door gunner. He volunteered to go with an aviation unit instead of wait for his artillery unit to be activated. I figured that being above the fighting was safer than patrolling the streets, which he would have done with his other unit. Shows how much I know!!

For about a two week stretch, starting in January of 2007, I was completely on edge. There were numerous helicopter crashes with very few survivors and every time I heard of a new one I was worried it was Brian’s. I wasn’t sleeping, I was so very scared, and it took all I had to try and take care of YaYa and go to school. Everyone advised me to stop watching the news and checking it on the internet, but at that point I was way too addicted to any information I could get about anything at all. Because I wasn't sleeping I would stay up all hours of the night, constantly refreshing to see if there was anything new. When there were no new crashes for a week or two I let my guard down.

It was a Wednesday morning when my phone rang with a number that meant someone was calling from Iraq. I panicked. I knew in my mind that if something happened to Brian they wouldn't call me, they would show up at my door, but it didn't stop my fear. I wanted to faint. I was getting ready to leave for school and I was trying to feed YaYa so we could leave. I was in a hurry because I had a big test in physiology that day. Brian never called me in the morning and that added to my fear. I answered the phone.

"I just want to let you know I'm alive," Brian said. I was relieved to hear his voice but I had no clue what he was talking about. How could he be anything but alive if he was talking to me on the phone?

"Ok," I said slowly, still trying to figure everything else out.

"I can't talk long, but there was an incident and I'm alive. I'll tell you later."

"Ok, but, what happened?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't tell me, but I had to try.

"We were in a helicopter crash, but everyone is ok. That's all I can say. I just wanted you to know I am ok in case you hear anything on the news."

I was shaken and shaking and more curious than calm, but I knew I couldn't ask more questions. We said our goodbyes and I headed down the mountain to meet my dad, who watched YaYa while I was in class. The crash was mentioned on the news all morning and I was grateful Brian had called so I didn't have to worry.

When I met my dad he asked me if it was Brian's helicopter that was involved. I don't know how he knew, but he's pretty smart like that. I confirmed and then rushed to class, to take a test I was in no way mentally prepared for. I proceeded to fail it miserably.

That night I went to dinner at my dad's house and it was all anybody talked about. To add insult to injury, that very same day I was IMing with an old high school friend and she told me that a friend of ours had died. I was in such shock from the helicopter crash that I didn't even realize she was telling me it was one of my best friends from high school that I had only recently gotten back in touch with. (fyi, I have a habit of dropping in and out of people's lives, it's just the way I am - I build a lot of walls around my soul) I didn't put it together for about a week; it took that long to process almost losing Brian. Then I started crying all over again. It was a rough go there for a while.

The next morning I looked for any information in the newspaper I could find and it was buried on the very, and I mean VERY, last page of the paper. I have the clip-out somewhere, but it wasn't very big. I figure it was because nobody died and it wasn't sensational in that way, but in a way I think it was more amazing that everyone survived. A brick falling from the sky is not a very safe thing to be in. 

Here’s an excerpt from an article I found online after the crash. It’s an article about Scott Upton, the pilot of the Blackhawk. You can find the whole article here: http://www.usawoa.org/downloads/CW4ScottUptonEarnsDFCSep07.pdf. I posted only the part about the crash.

“It was before noon in February when Upton and the pilot of a second Blackhawk were transporting troops from one forward operating base to another. They were on their way to Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. It was daylight when Upton saw a “fireball” flying into his chopper, known as No. 503 among Utah’s cache of Black Hawks.

The impact on the chopper’s fuselage, Upton said, “felt like someone punched the whole aircraft on the side.” His left door gunner, Brian Carver, instantly returned fire. Upton’s crew could see at least one vehicle and the source of enemy fire coming from the barren landscape. Upton dropped 503 to about 30 feet off the ground at a speed of about 150 mph, trying to make himself less of a target. Upton asked for a damage assessment, and the news coming back from pilot Lloyd Nelson was good. Everything was running fine at the time and everyone, including crew chief Joe Bass, was OK.

The chopper, however, had been hit four times. He learned how bad the damage was when he tried to turn the aircraft after flying for about a full minute, which put the Blackhawk about three miles away from where it was hit.

He thought about flying back to Balad. “I heard a loud boom,” Upton said. The chopper’s nose dipped and pulled to the right, still traveling at about 150 mph. About 300 feet away, Lance Robb, pilot of the second Black Hawk helping with the troop movement mission that day, saw what was happening. “I knew that I had a tail rotor problem,” Upton said. In short, the tail rotor “disintegrated” in the air. “It was, ‘Brace for impact,”‘ he thought to himself.

But there was a berm. He came in tail first, slamming to the ground as he slid about 100 feet. The berm ripped off the left tire, and the chopper rolled onto its side not far from a house. People in the area moved in. From three miles away, the enemy would have been able to see that one of their targets was down. They would be coming soon. Upton heard gunshots. “I’m thinking the enemy is coming,” he said. He climbed out with his semiautomatic rifle ready. But the fire came from Chock 2, the second  Blackhawk that now sent out warning shots for Iraqis moving to the crash site. So the Iraqis stayed away. 

Upton and his crew emptied the broken Blackhawk of equipment and “sensitive” items while they secured a perimeter around the helicopter with guns drawn. Two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior gunships flew in within minutes after Wyatt Smith in Robb’s chopper radioed about a chopper down. The gunships allowed Robb to land his Black Hawk and cram aboard Upton, his crew and passengers, stacked like cordwood inside. Within about five minutes, or what “seemed like forever,” Robb’s helicopter arrived safely in Taji."

Brian points to the bullet hole above his head.

What was left of the helicopter after the crash.

Brian would be happy to share his story, I don't know his side of it very well (kinda sorta mentally blocked it), only my part.

He did say to me later that when he realized they were going down, as he tightened his seat belt thing, that I was going to be pissed because he hadn't updated his emergency contact information when I had moved. He would have been right.

For his efforts in suppressing enemy fire, Brian was awarded the Air Medal with Valor. He doesn't like to share that with people, but I am very proud of him for being able to think so quickly and help save the lives of his passengers and fellow crew members.

I am lucky. I got Brian back. I almost lost him but I got him back. The families of the 31 soldiers and 7 Afghanis won't be getting them back. My heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost friends and family members in the wars, those who still have loved ones in harms way, and those who may have someone over there at some point. My tears don't mean anything. I don't think I know any of them. I cry for the loss anyway.


  1. Mr. Gucci was a Bradley gunner outside Fallujah. I remember that horrible, sinking fear. Thankfully he was never injured, but I am very very glad he's a regular old civilian now.

    So glad your husband made it home safely after such an ordeal. Amazing.

    This recent loss, like all of them, is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to their families too.

  2. I just found out I knew some of the guys on the bird. This sucks even more now.

  3. And, Gucci, I'm glad your husband made it home safe, too! It is too scary over there.