Well, I’m back in Balad. We were pacifying Samarra, but with our time in country drawing to a close, we were ordered back to Balad in order to put the finishing touches on our reconstruction.
Our return was precipitated, however, by tragedy. Two days before our scheduled return, our forward base came under mortar attack. In that attack, CPT Eric Paliwoda, the commander of our attached engineer company, died. As far as I know, he didn’t suffer–the wounds he sustained were severe enough, internally, that he died instantly.
I didn’t know him very well, but I had the pleasure of working with the “Gentle Giant”, as we all called him from the beginning of the war (we were both working at 3rd Brigade, 4th ID HQ–I was the brigade targeting NCO, he was the assistant brigade engineer). He was, indeed, gentle, and always went out of his way to take care of his soldiers before himself. He died as he lived–among his soldiers. And we are all the poorer for his loss.