Soldier Stories: Sebastian Szykier

06/14/06 12:00AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) The four hundred Vermonters of Task Force Saber are home from a year-long deployment in Iraq. And they return home with the stories and experiences of war.

Today and in coming days, we'll hear some of those experiences in our series Soldier Stories.

We begin with Guardsman Sebastian
Szykier Brattleboro.

He was a member of a tank crew near Ramadi.

(Szykier) "We were on what was called the 'quick reaction force' and most of the time we spent over there we spent waiting for something to happen. Waiting to get attacked. Waiting for your shift to end. Waiting to get blown-up, just waiting for something to happen. And most of the time nothing happened.

The longest shift we did was 18 hours. We'd sit in the tank. It was hot, there's no air conditioning in there. You get complacent really easily. But for the most part, we just spent waiting - a lot of waiting.

I tried not to think about home to much, I didn't want to get depressed. I tried to keep myself focused on my job, tried to keep the other crew members focused on their jobs. And we probably know each other more than our wives know us.

I guess the strongest memories are the memories of when one of our own died. And being the quick reaction force, typically we'd be pushed out of the wire whenever anything catastrophic like that happened. We were sitting in front of a glass factory where they were doing an Iraqi police recruiting event and a suicide bomber touched himself off. I remember that being the strongest and probably the saddest day over there, seeing all the dead bodies and not being able to do much.

If you get shot at, you can try to find the guy who's shooting at you, but once somebody commits an act of suicide bombing, there's nothing else. There's nobody to shoot at. There's nobody to take your anger out on.

I remember there was a Marine dog-handler, who was, minutes before, he was sniffing out recruits that were coming in and he had walked over to the tank and was talking to my tank commander, and then, you know, it wasn't more than a few minutes later that he was dead and his dog was dead on the side of the ground. It's just it was rough to go through that.

What I fear is dreaming about things, or once we sort of get out of here and relax, you know, maybe true feelings will come to surface or I won't be able to find people that will understand what I'm talking about."


(Host) Tomorrow, our "Soldier Story" will be told by JJ Bixby, an infantryman from Brandon. With his equipment on his back he weighed 350 pounds.

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