Veteran: 'Sacred vow' in Iraq spurs Happy Valley police reform
Do you know why I care so much about police reform? I was unable to completely stop war criminals in Iraq. It haunts my conscience and soul. There was an 8-year-old Iraqi girl killed as a result of "collateral damage." I held her dismembered body and cried. For the first five minutes I tried to put her back together; I thought my love could save her. It didn't. I will never forget her body. At five minutes and one second, you would have noticed a different look in my eyes. The tears stopped. They were replaced by my cold fury. You don't want to see my eyes when I'm the warpath.
I then slung my rifle behind my back, to indicate I wasn't a mortal threat, and started walking 100 yards to the offending vehicle with its trigger-happy truck commander. People tried to stop me, but I walked right through them. The section sergeant saw me coming and exited the vehicle. I went right up to his face and told him that I was going to destroy him, cutting him to pieces legally and ethically.
Of course, he threatened me, and a first sergeant later tried to stop my crusade. He met my cold fury and backed off. A sergeant major also tried, but he also backed off. Then there was my lieutenant who told me, "Fitz, you've got a red dot on your forehead, and an 'X' on your back." My response? "Sir, game on." I went on to take that section sergeant down. Then I circled back around on my mount and destroyed the lieutenant's career for threatening to kill me.
I dream every night about that 8-year-old Iraqi girl. I wake up screaming, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I do not like to sleep, the ghouls hunt at night.
I made a sacred vow on the battlefield: Never again will I allow a war crime in my sector. I believe two war crimes have occurred in my sector, Happy Valley. Just like in Iraq, I'm going to hold people accountable. There were three war criminals in my platoon (27 out of 30 were great human beings). I put one away; the other two got away. I hate myself for this! I failed. But guilt is good; it propels me forward. Just try to stop a person of conviction.
I'm nothing special, but that Iraqi girl was! I'm a force of nature because of her. Her inspiration drives me to take on anyone, anytime. I am a nightmare when on the offensive. People wonder where my fury comes from. It comes from that little girl. She is going to haunt me until I'm successful in holding others accountable. If I'm successful in this mission, I believe that little girl's ghost can be at rest and, finally, at peace. And maybe my own tortured soul can find a measure of peace.
Brian Fitzgerald is a resident of Happy Valley.
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