Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ike Palacios recalls Iraq roadside blasts

The first time his vehicle was hit in a roadside bombing in Iraq, 46-year-old Ike Palacios thought that he would die. But he survived, and was thankful for it.

The second time his vehicle convoy was attacked, he uttered, "This is the end."

But no. He only got injured, hospitalized, and got back to his usual duties as roadside patrol personnel.

"I sustained neck injuries. I suffered from bad headache, and pain in the back. But I'm alive," said Palacios, smiling, in a recent interview.

"We were in a convoy. The car behind us and in front of us got hit. Although we're not directly hit, we all got injured in the truck," he said.

The incident happened on a special date, Oct. 16, 2005, the birthday of his father.

"I really thought it's my end but I've been lucky. I thank God for that and the prayers of many people," he said.

Palacios and other members of the Echo Company are back on Saipan after a year of duty in Iraq.

Palacios is an Army Reservist who was called by the U.S. military last year to serve in the war-stricken country.

Palacios said he experienced at least seven road bombings while patrolling villages in Iraq.

"But after my two incidents, I lost my fear. I believe that if it's your time, it's your time. I realized that it's not my time yet," he said.

Life in Iraq was quite hard, especially with his kind of assignment as truck patrol personnel.

"It's hard. Everyday, you're not sure if there's tomorrow. We're always on alert. We go out at dawn into the villages. We patrol 24 hours, protecting the civilians. We've got to be careful since everyday the enemies are planting bombs everywhere," he said.

He said the insurgents would hide improvised explosives behind a dead animal, trash, or broken vehicle.

It was most difficult "because we can't determine who are the real enemies" since they look and act like ordinary civilians.

Palacios said there was only a limited time to communicate with his family but whenever he had the chance, he would call his family to tell them he is doing good.

He said soldiers have access to the Internet and telephone at the base.

"I call them when I get the chance. I e-mailed, too," he said.

Despite all the hardships, he said he feels proud and fulfilled over his Iraq assignment. "We are fighting for freedom," he added.

Palacios' wife Cindy said she is happy and was speechless when he arrived late last month. "I'm just happy to see him back," she said.

Palacios said he would soon be back to work at the Marianas Public Lands Authority as a land inspector.

Returning Army Reservists have a 90-day period to return to their work.

The Echo Company was fielded to Iraq in February 2005. They completed their duty and proceeded to Kuwait on Jan. 1, 2006. They arrived on Saipan in batches since last month.

Sapian Tribune


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