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Editor's Note: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Farina, a native of St. Meinrad, has written a book about his unit's service in Baghdad during the summer of 2008. "Angels in Sadr City — The Final Battle for Baghdad, Iraq," will be released in coming months and he said profits will go to families of fallen service members. Excerpts from the book forwarded by Farina are published here.
As I stared deeply into the fine aged wood of the piano, I realized it was the one thing in this world beside the Lord our God that could bring me peace.
It was an old player piano I picked up for a mere $85 that was advertised on a Web site. The intricate parts, the ivory keys, the balance of the sound; these were all factors that played an important role in taking away my nightmares after one year of fighting in a hell that no man should have to endure.
Many nights up to this point have I lied in bed, waking up from some dream about death and the horrors that came with it, and only now could I rest. I never thought that something such as a piano could help me to find peace in my soul; never in a million years would I have expected it. A weekend at my grandparent's, where a close friend of mine named Rob Moore would teach me some of the basics of playing, is what brought me to this state.
Drinking was one thing I relied on when I came back from Iraq to help me sleep, because the nightmares would get so bad that all I wanted to do was find a way to not dream at all.
So I drank.
I drank so much that I poisoned myself into thinking it was a way to live where I could grasp just mere hours of sleep without dreaming each night. Drinking only brought temporary peace along with a series of hangovers and bad decisions.
The piano brought me the one thing I needed in life - a goal. It was balance I craved. I am a Libra and one thing that Libras always rely on is balance in life, of all things in all relationships. The balance achieved through such an instrument would prove to be priceless.
Not all the therapists or doctors in the world could make the madness of war go away long after one has left the battlefield. No, it was something personal I had to find, and find I did. I look back now on the things I have done in war and realize that a lot of the guilt I put on myself is not my guilt to carry.
Things happen for a reason and that is just what they are in life, things. Shortly after discovering that the trauma in our lives stays with us because there is a block of sorts, I found that if you can do something constructive to remove that block, then the trauma and guilt associated with it can be let go.
The piano was the key to removing the block of my trauma, not drinking. I felt a love for learning new songs to play for friends and family and this has brought much healing. When you do something out of love, there will be peace. When you do something out of self, there will be consequences
The story that follows is one of love. Love for one's country, love for a brother at arms, and mostly the love for our families at home, which each man would die to protect.
As you read in the following pages, know that many have sacrificed to make what has come to pass a reality for all to share in and remember. To our fallen, may you rest in peace. To the reader, may you grasp the experience in the greatest detail of what is about to unfold for you.
Chapter 5 Excerpts - Conflict in the Streets
As the sun slid below the Iraq horizon, the night was welcomed in bringing cool relief to my men and my sweat-soaked body. In the cramped turret compartment of our Bradley, Muck and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder, scanning the area.
Muck was giving me lessons on the different types of controls used at night. The green glow of the turret control panel gave our faces a twisted, ghoulish look. The dried sweat from the day was stinging my eyes as I stared into the night.
The alleyway in front of us played shadow games on our minds. Through our night optics we noticed a cat creeping out of a hidden doorway, checking the area for food. I sat watching the cat do his thing, my night vision giving him a sickly green hue.
"Ah, hello little kitty, what are you doing?" Muck asked in a low murmur.
"RPG!" I screamed.
A dark figure stepped around the corner in a fast motion with a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher on his shoulder, trying to aim in our direction for a quick shot. Whether his intent was to harass or kill us did not matter because as soon as I shouted "RPG!" three high-explosive rounds were fired at the insurgent.
As I shouted my hand was already releasing the fury of the Bradley's main gun. The force of the three rapid 25 mm rounds leaving the barrel shook my body. When I could see clearly, I saw the first round hit the dirt by the man's left foot, the second went straight into his chest, while the third round hit somewhere between his waist and stomach.
The violent impact flung him back and twisted him like a rag doll. The 25 mm projectiles had punched two baseball-size holes through his torso. His body lay on the ground, cold and lifeless.
Still we kept a close eye on him for any signs of movement.
There were none.