This story is one of many inspiring stories from the book Faith in the Service: Inspirational Stories from LDS Servicemen and Servicewomen, compiled by Chad S. Hawkins and published by Deseret Book. This story comes from First Sergeant David Fillmore of the Utah Army National Guard. This is so inspiring to me!
First Sergeant David Fillmore
Utah Army National Guard
I was frequently given assignments to head patrols into insecure areas to accomplish a variety of well-defined missions. On many missions I was given the responsibility to provide security for specialists for their designated tasks. Our small caravans would consist of four to seven armored and unarmored vehicles. On one of these missions our task was to visit an old weapons factory, where the Iraqi government used to build and house weapons and missiles. We were escorting several chemical and weapons specialists. Along the way we made a series of wrong turns. By the time we realized we were in the wrong place, we were driving in a small village settlement. We turned the convoy around and headed to our intended destination.
After reaching our destination and accomplishing our goal, the specialists in our group mentioned that they had observed an unexploded missile half buried in the ground back near the small village. Knowing of the extreme danger of having such a powerful bomb near the community, we decided to go back and make plans for its removal. While we were at the village, I walked to a nearby shack to buy some cold sodas for our guys. Using broken English and sign language, the man who sold me the sodas asked what we were doing. After I told him about the dangerous bomb, the man responded by telling me of another unexploded bomb nearby. He explained that it was located in the median of one of Baghdad’s major thoroughfares. Using his directions, we went to inspect this claim of a second unexploded bomb.
Once we arrived at the location, our first duty was to partially stop traffic and set up a secure perimeter. After the specialists verified that there was another bomb, they yelled at the people nearby, “Get back! Get back! Get away!” The bomb was a 152- millimeter artillery shell in the middle of the road, the largest in the Iraqi arsenal. The specialists were concerned that it might be a potential trap—a device that could be remote- detonated. Our team was not prepared to disarm the artillery shell, and so we contacted our base to send out a squad equipped with a disarming robot.
While we waited, our mission evolved into keeping people away from the hazard. This became more difficult by the minute. The area was densely populated with pedestrians and an ever-increasing traffic jam. Although we left one lane open in each direction, impatient drivers began to drive wherever they could, hoping to make progress. Horns honked and tempers mounted.
After an hour, the team arrived to dispose of the bomb. Now that the bomb was being worked on, we were forced to completely close the road in all directions. By now, several hundred cars were backed up, and we were surrounded by at least a thousand people. Adding to the confusion, people were getting out of their cars and walking towards us. My team was thinned out and not properly prepared to deal with the escalating situation. The crowd repeatedly attempted to get closer than safety would allow, so I was consistently trying to back them up. There were only two other soldiers in my vicinity.
Then an Iraqi man came right up to me, pointed, and yelled in broken English, “You American! You shot my leg!” The man then showed me and the crowd his prosthetic leg. I tried to explain that I wasn’t the one who shot him. He yelled again, “You American! You shot my leg!” As he said this, I could begin to sense the entire crowd becoming hostile. I remember thinking, What are we going to do? We had our machine guns locked and loaded. We took our weapons off safety, and I was considering my options. I seriously thought that this was going to be it—that if the mob didn’t disperse once the guns opened up, I would be probably a dead person.
During this moment of tension, I remembered the words of the priesthood blessing I had received prior to leaving for Iraq. The blessing promised that I would return home safely. I thought, But I do not want to live through this by shooting into this dense crowd. Then the Spirit brought words into my mind telling me how I should respond to the man. Those words didn’t make sense; they were provocative and it seemed they would only make things worse. But I was reminded of other times in my life when I needed to trust the Lord—and all had turned out well. When the man accused me again of shooting him, I said the words I was prompted to say: “Me no shoot you! Me no shoot leg!” I pointed to his leg. “Me shoot here!” I pointed to his heart.
The man and the crowd became silent for several seconds. Then the man started to tell the crowd about the great American doctor who helped him with his injury and gave him his prosthetic leg. He praised the doctor and the nice people in the American hospital who cared for him. Instantly the mood of the crowd changed. The anger went away and everyone calmed down.
This lesson, among others in Iraq, taught me to trust in the Lord. For fear of provoking the crowd, I never would have responded to the angry man using those words if I had not been prompted by the Lord. I put my trust in Him and with His blessing the event had a peaceful conclusion.