By Aaron Wasserman/Daily News staff
Posted Sep 04, 2008 @ 01:03 AM
There were times at his base in Iraq when Brian Scott said he heard nearby gunfire while smoking a cigarette outside. But nothing was as dangerous as what happened last week on his way to a Baghdad police station where Scott, 28, an Army reservist and Bellingham native, trained local officers.
On Aug. 28, a roadside bomb exploded in front of his convoy's lead Humvee, he recalled yesterday from his bed in a military hospital in Germany. No one was injured, but everyone stopped to secure the area and wait for an explosives division to come.
Then, as his Humvee drove to the back of the scene, with a translator on board to stop civilians from passing through, there was another explosion.
"It was aimed directly toward the turret and my gunner was up in the turret checking the entire area," Scott said from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Sounding understandably a bit tired in an evening interview, Scott detailed the attack, which left him seriously injured and Spc. Michael L. Gonzalez dead.
"What happened initially was it knocked me out for about 30 seconds to a minute and completely destroyed my vehicle. I woke up and noticed pieces of turret on the ground."
After reviving from the second blast, he said he used his only free arm to try to rescue Gonzalez, a gunner, who had been knocked down into the Humvee and had metal and armor lying on top of him. But Scott said he quickly realized how grave the situation was.
"I grabbed his wrist and there was no pulse. He was dead," Scott recounted. "There was nothing I could do to save him."
After others removed Scott from the vehicle, another person returned to rescue Gonzalez, Scott said. He said the team leader, upon realizing Gonzalez had died, looked back at them.
"His eyes were wide open as if it was something he couldn't believe. He didn't know it was that serious," Scott said. "There was silence for about 30 seconds. He got back on the radio - and he said it kind of quietly because he didn't believe it at first - and said, 'Spc. Gonzalez is no longer with us. He's passed away."'
Gonzalez, who came from Spotswood, N.J., was 20.
On the trip to the hospital, Scott said, "Blood was pouring out of my head. I was blacking out. My memory was messed up. I couldn't remember anyone's names, the road we were on. I couldn't even remember my own name."
After being transported to a few hospitals in Iraq, Scott said he is now in Germany recovering from head and back injuries, and is scheduled to arrive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in a few days.
Scott praised Gonzalez yesterday as "an amazing gunner, the best one in the company," a fast learner who knew how to protect his team in the convoy.
A military police sergeant, Scott was deployed to Iraq for the first time in July to train Iraqi police. He has served in the Army Reserve since 2003. Before that, he was on active duty for four years, working as a tank mechanic.
For security reasons, Scott did not want to disclose yesterday where in Baghdad he was working with local police. He said in addition to training, he accompanied police on convoys, distributed fliers in the neighborhood about the water and sewer systems and services the Iraqi government offers, and encouraged people to call Iraqi police.
Because of the hospitable reception Scott said he and other American troops received - he also sometimes played soccer with neighborhood kids - he believes "the people who attacked us weren't from that neighborhood."
From the time he arrived at the hospital, Scott said he remembers few details, aside from being transferred to other hospitals in Iraq and then to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which he said is "the most amazing hospital I've been to."
He said he is recovering slowly from a back injury, with pain down his spine to his knees, and cuts to his face and hands.
In Washington, he said he likely will have surgery to remove metal still lodged in his head.
Scott's mother, Phyllis Cerel of Medway, said she is very proud of her son and everyone else in the 340th Military Police Company.
"I just think people need to know the war is hitting home, and he exhibited some real bravery under fire," Cerel said yesterday. "Through all this he says he wants to go back to his unit. I don't know what's going to happen, but that's how they all are - they want to go to back to their unit."
Scott said there is a very slim chance that he could be redeployed, but it's too early to know how well he'll recover.