(Host) Gabriel Bullard of Hyde Park has been a member of the Vermont National Guard for 16 years.
Last year he deployed to Iraq as part of Task Force Saber.
He talks about the bond between soldiers and the emotional toll of the war.
(Bullard) "I’m the gunner of an M1 Abrams tank and we were doing a combat patrol from Ramadi and we were struck with an IED that comprised of probably 500 55milimeter artillery rounds. Your heart drops and the first thing out of your mouth being a commander is, is everybody all right? It’s drilled into our heads where mission comes first. Maybe, maybe so. When you’re in a confined space with three of your best friends that are depending on you to get them where they need to go and you’re depending on them doing there job, they come before the mission."
"So when that happened my helmet was cocked off sideways, my glasses had fallen off, I was in a pre-state of shock, you know, because the flash had just gone off, your ears are ringing from the loud explosion, you’re engulfed in a cloud of smoke and a fireball and the first words out of your mouth is, "are you all right?" Driver comes back and says he’s good, gunner comes back and says he’s good, get on the radio call the incident up to higher so everybody else knows what’s going on and keep right on going."
"A week prior to us starting our de-mob process we were out on mission, they stopped a routine vehicle stop that was traveling slow thorough the MSR acting suspicious and they approach the vehicle. We usually try to get the guy out. We carry interpreters with us get them to talk to them whatever else and the guy didn’t want to get out of the vehicle and it was a vehicle-born IED loaded with explosives and the trigger was set on the door mechanism. He just opened the door a little bit and re-closed it and boom. It was that quick. I was sitting at my post which was probably 250, 300 meters off and saw the whole thing happen. My heart sunk as low as it could possibly sink because I sat there and watched it. Being in the tank and not on the ground there was absolutely nothing that I could do."
"And then when you come back in three, four, five hours later, you’re inside, all your stuff’s off, you’re sitting in your room, and then you just slump down into your chair, and to be perfectly honest with you, you bawl. You cry your eyes out."
"I was scared at first, and you know, the family’s scared, your son’s going to war or whatever else. But now that I look back on it, I wouldn’t have missed it. To stand in front of your commanding general and raise your right hand in front of the flag and take the oath that you’re going to serve your country is one thing. But to actually do it is another."
(Host) Gabriel Bullard of Hyde Park . Tomorrow in Soldier Stories, we hear from Steve Norcross of Essex. Norcross had 110 soldiers under his command.