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Chad Eppinette

Kacey, Chad’s wife, has two Facebook pages in his memory:

In Loving Memory of Chad Eppinette and
Cupcakes for PTSD – a cupcake bakin’ veteran support group to help those with PTSD.

Following is an excerpt from his journal on the Iraq war:
“Although I managed to survive my 2nd tour with only mental and emotional scars, I feel as though the real me managed to die regardless. A portion, or maybe all, of who I was did not survive this conflict. My joy and youthfulness was murdered in cold blood. It was taken from me relentlessly and even without my knowing. I think I may have lost it on a cold brutal desert night when nothing else could possibly get worse. The night sky was streaming with tracer rounds and missile trails. Muzzle flashes emitting from the barrels of rifles and machine guns were lighting the darkness of the night as if there was a lightning storm that was started by Satan himself. Despite the deafening sounds of explosions and gunshots, I could hear the one sound no man ever wants to hear or relive. The noises that I heard were familiar. Everything turned into slow motion as my senses heightened. I was now hearing every breath from all across our suburban battlefield. I could hear every bullet impact, ripping through flesh and bone. But even worse, that familiar sound now piercing my eardrums. I wanted it to stop so desperately. Although I know that for me, it would never go away! Louder than any sound I have ever heard, the sound of people screaming as they lay dying. Bullets hurt, I have the scars to prove it. But even worse, this noise of people exclaiming in a lake of pain. Most of them knew that they would drown in this lake. Some were screaming for help, others yelling profanities. Some yelling in English, others Arabic. Somehow, I felt as though I could understand every word. I remember the familiar pain that bullets imprint upon you. I could feel their pain as though it was mine.

By the end the outcome was devastating. Bodies, blood and limbs lay along our battlefield. Casualties on both sides. Almost no survivors. They told us that we had won the fight. “Funny,” I thought, “I don’t feel like a winner.” Later I realized that the price I had won was simply another day in paradise. One more chance to survive, I hope.

I really don’t know if I died there, or maybe it was there that I realized that I was dying. For two tours in Iraq I had been through a never ending chain of dramatic events. Did I lose a piece of me in each? Did I lose myself in one event? Or did I just try to deny the truth for many years? Maybe I lost a piece in my first fire fight. Just pieces of me spread across this country. I could have been my first kill, or the first time I saw bodies mangled and shredded. Was it the first time I saw a man with no head? I ponder the events that I faced and ask myself ‘when and where?’ Life was whole at one point. Then, as if overnight, life was a puzzle. Where to live meant to kill. A jigsaw puzzle, missing pieces and the big picture that shows you what it should look like, but wait, I have more questions. They say war is hell; I say that’s an understatement! Why did I have to watch a mother and father stand in the street with their three children and scream for help as they were all engulfed in flames? I remember watching their flesh fall freely onto the ground as their bodies melted. It was nauseating although I could not make my eyes close or turn my head. Believe it or not, I wanted to shoot them so their pain could end. But according to the laws of war, that would have been a mercy killing, and I would be in jail.

I remember the mine fields that we had to clear and dead body clean up details. I can vividly recall the twisted and mangled bodies of our enemies as we removed them from the scene. There were not only soldiers, unfortunately, but innocent women and children caught in the crossfire of opposing forces. Those were the worst.

I can recall April 7, 2003 as if it were yesterday. I had spent the night sleeping a few hours on 2500 lbs of C-4 (plastic explosives). I slept fully clothed and ready for an early morning and a long day. If I had only known what was going to go down in the next few hours I may have moved slower to prolong the outcome. We were doing our 2nd assault on Baghdad and ironically were sent to take over the amusement park and the zoo. Intel said the enemy was dug in deep in that location. They were not wrong! Our raid started as planned, eliminating all threats. The more we advanced, the more intense the battle. I had just put 30 tracer rounds into a bunker and it, long with the machine gunner inside, was a total blaze. I thought I had seen an old style grenade get thrown at us. I yelled “grenade!” to my crew to warn them. The grenade never went off. We found out later that they were not properly trained on those grenades and forgot to pull the pin. Moments later we were in a cloud of solid black smoke and could not hear each other yelling due to the deafening explosion. We confirmed that an RPG hit our armored personnel carrier (APC). The vehicle was not moving. Immediately I realized why. As our LT. stood unleashing a lead wall at our attackers, I went directly to the driver. I had to crawl over people to get to him, my best friend, Joe. The RPG had hit the vehicle right beside his head which was enough to kill him. Suddenly our ATV started to move again as I got a thumbs up. He was alive and driving! Why isn’t he dead? Who knew that when I attached my ruck sack to the vehicle by his head that it would be enough to save his life?

We continued on in the pressing action. As we were making a turn to move closer to our objective, I watched a 40mm grenade fly through the window of a small guard shack. The impact of the grenade, when it hit the man’s chest, disintegrated him instantly. Finally, it’s only 7am local time, we crash through the gates of the amusement park. Everyone is picking targets and dropping them like flies. After the action died down we moved into a defensive perimeter. No one in – no one out. I find the only remains of my clothing from the RPG hit. A smoking, scorched, half sole of my boots and 2 t-shirts. Our area is quiet. The only noises were coming from the zoo assault next to us. As we fix ourselves behind our rifles, preparing to shoot anyone sneaking around, all action seems to slow to a deliberate halt. Then from nowhere, a single gunshot. As we wait for the location of the sniper to be called out, my left arm starts to feel weird. Immediately a rush of extreme pain screams throughout my shoulder. I tell my team that I’ve been shot. They did not believe me at first then I turned around to address them and to sit. When they turned to look I was gushing blood everywhere. I was bandaged accordingly. When they tried to get me to the Med-evac station we started to receive mortar fire and the action went back to all guns blazing.”

By Chad Eppinette
Posted by his wife, Kacey Eppinette – In Loving Memory of Chad Eppinette