In April 2007, Terry spent a week at COP Callahan in Sad’r City, Baghdad. This is his recollection of meeting CPL Brandon Richie.
COP (Combat OutPost) Callahan could have been a setting in a modern version of the movie Apocalypse Now, a bleak, 5-story monolith in the middle of Baghdad whose walled up windows made the inside dark and gloomy. Used as a base for the 82nd Airborne to patrol the infamous Sadr City, the building was dusty and uncomfortably hot; despite the lack of amenities found in most other American military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq, morale was high, probably as a result of the battalion’s strong sense of mission.
Morale was high with one disturbing exception. Brandon, 19 at the time, wasn’t coping. During that month, he had lost his grandfather, who was also his surrogate father, and his brother, who committed suicide. The previous week he had carried a friend whose legs had been blown off from the wreckage of a rocket attack on the COP, and cleaned up the blood afterwards. He was shaken, everyone knew it and he was on suicide watch. Unfortunately for him, his unit shunned him. Fortunately for him, his chaplain didn’t.