MOSUL, Iraq – Sgt. Kyle Wright was about to take a bite of chocolate cake when the blast knocked him out of his chair.
Two other Virginia National Guardsmen picked him up and rushed him out of the chow-hall tent on Forward Operating Base Marez.
“I kind of went into the air,” Wright said as he lay in a hospital near Mosul airfield, recovering from wounds to his leg and back.
“When I came to, I looked up and I saw open sky.”
The Richlands, Va., resident smiled, remembering it was his wedding anniversary. A brown blanket covered his waist. An IV tube dangled from his arm.
Wright is a member of the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, which is supporting U.S. troops that have been fighting a growing insurgency in the northern Iraq city of Mosul for the past year.
U.S. troops and firefighters, civilian contractors from KBR, and Iraqi national guardsmen pulled together and carried about 80 wounded and dead soldiers to the hospital.
“The response today was phenomenal,” said Master Sgt. David Scott, chief ward master for the hospital. “It was like a parking lot out there.”
The hospital workers scrambled to treat soldiers injured from many BB-size pellets that sprayed from the explosion. They also treated soldiers for burns, shrapnel wounds and damage to their eyes.
“This is the worst we have seen in the 11 months since we have been here,” Scott said. “Today was really the test for us.”
Lt. Col. Ed Morgan, the commander of the 276th, was in Kuwait yesterday returning from two weeks of leave when one of his officers called him with the news. The blast killed two soldiers and injured four others with their unit.
Morgan immediately caught a flight to Mosul and rushed to the hospital, where he visited Wright. Morgan said the attack showed cowardice.
“There is no face on this enemy that killed my troops,” he said. “Who was there to fight? It is not honorable.”
Just hours after the explosion, Morgan was trying to focus his men on their missions. His unit has been hunting booby traps, guarding bridges in Mosul and rebuilding the city’s roads. In the past year, Morgan’s men have received 27 Purple Hearts.
“Our prayers and our thoughts are with the families, and they will stay with the families,” he said firmly.
Asked about Wright, Morgan noted the sergeant is deeply religious and sings “Amazing Grace” beautifully. Wright told Morgan he was concerned about the other troops with the 276th and would pray for them. Morgan said he would do the same.
Contact Jeremy Redmon and Dean Hoffmeyer at [email protected]