So we burned a large pile of brush the other night. It's been dry lately, so the wood was just begging to ignite. As it's spring, the lush grass made it just about possible for the fire to spread, so even with a moderate breeze, we were able to burn with near impunity.
I've always loved fires, especially bonfires. I still do. Sometimes however, I catch myself staring into the flames, and I'm reminded of fires that burned over 3,000 miles away.
In the summer of 2004, I was a Specialist in a unit that spent most days escorting other units and civillians all over Iraq. Here's a pic of me back then. I was about 20 lbs heavier (all muscle my wife will lament!) and a whole lot dumber than now. I was a machine gunner/automatic rifle man, that's my M249, Annette - SN 54166, in the pic below. We spent most of our time rolling down supply routes or getting lost when we strayed off of them. I spent most of my time in a gun hatch on top of a armored Humvee. Heading north of Baghdad one summer day, something huge blew up in front of us and took out a civilian dump truck. It was an almost ridiculously huge mass of flames. Talking with some EOD guys a little later, they said it was probably a napalm roadside bomb. The insurgents had been working on getting the napalm thing down in the area, and, well, judging from the huge wall of fire that just about made me soil myself, they had got it down.
In the pic below is my buddy Myers in the lead gun truck. He's aiming at a black car that peeled out immediately after the explosion. He said it was trigger man, and he had good instincts, so it probably was - but instincts aren't enough to justify taking a life, so he never pulled the trigger. As we drove by, I saw one of the guys that somewhat escaped the fires above, some other Iraqis had him pulled out behind the group of cars above. He was melted alive like a candle. The flames were meant for us, and these innocent guys were burned alive because the triggerman was a little too jumpy. I think of the wonderful life and family that I now have, and I wonder if the men that died had wives, children, and parents that never saw their loved ones return from work.
I'm very thankful for what I have. I let myself think about these things when they come. There's perspective for me in fire.