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Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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A Trip to the PX Causes Reflection

March 10, 2006
8:55 p.m. Local Time
Camp Victory, Iraq.

I guess we all feel exceptional. We all feel like we are special and that if anything bad happens, it won't happen to us. I'm certainly guilty of that and I told my wife that very thing before coming to Iraq. But after tonight . . .

I decid to go to the PX here on Camp Victory in Southern Baghdad. After all, I'm scheduled to leave this base tomorrow and who knows if I will have a chance to buy trinkets for the wife and kids before I go.

At 8:04 p.m. I walk out of Saddam's palace where I am spending the night. Right in front of the palace, a bus is scheduled to stop at 8:05 p.m. It is dark as I step out of the huge wooden doors. As I step in the street, I see the bus driving away; I miss it by literally ten seconds. I call to it but . . . nothing.

So, that means I have to wait. And, of course, I do. About 30 minutes later, a white bus appears with a sign in the window, "Blue Line." This is the bus I am going to take to get to the PX.

I jump on, still grumbling to myself about how the last guy was early and that I wasn't late for the bus. Well, after we take off, I realize that I have to transfer from the blue line to the gray line. So, I get to the bus stop and get out and wait. It is dark and a little cold. This happens at night. After all this is the desert.

As the bus with "Gray Line" printed on the window comes to a stop, I prepare to jump on. However, before I can, a young soldier named Paul Gardner from Vancouver, WA steps off.

"The PX is closed. A couple of morters came in and hit over on Riva Ridge." This is about 200 meters from the PX. According to Paul, "they closed the food court and the PX." He adds, "You can hear them off in the business but never so close."

So, what am I to do. I turn around and come back to my billet.

A little too close for confort.

Here is the thing. If I had made the first bus, I would have been near the spot where the mortars hit. And the bus I was on is not up-armored. In fact, it has no armor at all. So, if the mortar had hit us, it would have turned the bus itself into shapnel.

We all think it won't happen to us. And as I came to this war zone, I truly believed that it couldn't happen to me. But because I missed a bus, through no fault of my own, I was nowhere near the explosions.

Maybe that is the strange part. Nobody is immune. Even in this place, a fortified base, if you're in the wrong place . . .

As I right this blog, another huge explosion hits close enough that I feel it in my chest. That makes four today alone!

Nobody is immune. Nobody is immune. I think I I am starting to get it.