Wilson Dickey can speak first hand of the day-to-day danger faced by the soldiers in Iraq. He's been there. Pulling anti-sniper and anti IED duty on the most dangerous streets on the outskirts of Baghdad.
War's not pretty, it never has been…. But Wilson Dickey had a job to do not only for his country but for his family, who was waiting for him to come home safely, and he was one of the fortunate ones who did.
Wilson Dickey has a family history of military service - his father, Frank was a ground soldier in Vietnam. So when he enlisted in the army at age 21, to him, it just felt right.
"I'd always known I'd probalby serve, in one way or another. The army came pretty natural. I went in and spoke to them, it was what I wanted to do, and so I was in and it all went very quickly from going through basic training to airborne to ranger, through sniper school."
He moved quickly through basic training and eventually became a marksman. Sent to Fort Drum, from there, he was quickly deployed to Afghanistan.
"I was a designated marksman for Bravo company, 2nd batallion of the 87nd infantry. I was also a squad leader in charge of an infantry squad, so the missions were 2, 3, 4 fold depending on where we were and what we were doing. It's not as IED oriented as Iraq was. There were a lot more foot soldiers running around the mountains, trying to do things with us so, it could range from anything to going and patrolling looking for people that were looking to do harm to U.S. soldiers, it could be the winning of hearts and minds, whether we were putting in wells for different villages, or just getting to know the heads of the villages to let them know what we were there for..."
After his tour in Afghanistan and about 8 months away from being discharged, Wilson got the call that he was going to be transferred over to a different battalion for another tour - this time to Iraq.
"Our primary mission was anti-IED, anti-sniper missions in and aroudn the southwest area of Baghdad. We also did a lot of operations out by Abu Ghraib, which is about 40 miles west of Baghdad. I would say the majority of our time was spent in Baghdad doing the anti-improvised explosive device, anti-sniper missions, which would include anything from overwatching pieces of highway or supply routes that our soldiers would travel up and down, to key areas in volatile neighborhoods..."
Needless to say, Iraq can present some dangerous situations. For Dickey, one in particular stands out. While in Abu Ghraib, his group was sent out to intercept a mortar that had been firing into the city.
"...we figured out where they were firing it from, we were sent out to interdict, take care of these guys if they tried to do it again. Well, we had been there for about 24 hours when, of course the truck pulled up, we took care of them, made sure they weren't going to hurt American forces anymore, unfortunately we gave up our position when we did that and they started firing mortars back toward us and they probably came within 25, 30 meters of us..."
"But, we ended up being able to get out of there, we called for support, the trucks got there, probably within 10 or 15 minutes, but that time frame of going from the middle of a field, underneath the ground, to whatever cover you could find having mortars fired at you, not having any idea of how many people were out there was probably the most dangerous time I can recall...being out in the middle of that field with only 5 other guys, was probably the tightest time that I can remember."
Once back in the U.S., many soldiers have trouble dealing with the stress of being in wartime situations. Wilson Dickey is no different. But, for him, when thinking about the images he saw and what he did while he was in the Middle East, it's a matter of justified necessity.
"At the time, it didn't really bother me. You practice doing this so often, probably 1000 rounds a month at least, and you're shooting at people shaped targets, so at the time that it happened, it was reflex. It was what you're trained to do, we saw them doing something that was going to endanger American lives, met the rules of engagement, so you did it. Afterwards, whether it be 12 hours later, when you get back to base, or even moreso when you get back home and start to reacclimate..."
"Of course, it's very difficult when you stop and think about what you've done, how many people that you've had to do that to, but overall, you learn to live with it in the fact that, it was what your job was, it was your duty, and in the end you probably saved American lives."
For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.