Chakra Discussions

Face to face with death

by Partha-sarathi das

Posted February 26, 2005

Iraq is always an intense place with death around every corner. You never know when some car bomb will go off or you might be in the kill zone of an ambush. Soldiers die every day but is it really possible for me to be fixed on Krishna? I always wondered this. Little did I know that Krishna would give me a firsthand lesson in death.

I keep on staring at the crimson blood on my uniform as I sit in my vehicle, the events of today permanently etched into my head. Earlier, I was driving down the road, part of a convoy heading to another base camp. The team and I were scanning the surroundings to avoid being ambushed. Three of us were in my vehicle.

Ahead I noticed another US convoy coming our way. I just turned my head for a moment but, as I looked again, I saw a flash of light and the boom that always follows. Almost instantly the vehicle was aflame.The air quickly filled with the stench of burning rubber and metal.

Without hesitation my driver and I came to a stop and jumped out of the vehicle. Our gunner set up security to protect us and to secure the site of the burning vehicles, while other soldiers followed suit. As my driver and I ran up to the vehicle, I was praying my beating heart out, "My dear Lord, please let these soldiers be okay."

I prepared myself for the worst and hoped for the best. It was worse than I had thought. The passenger and gunner were seriously injured; each was covered in blood. The driver was not really hurt. The blast had come from the right side of the vehicle. We grabbed them and started to provide first aid. Two soldiers worked on the passenger; two other soldiers worked on the gunner.

We are taught to reassure the casualties, and to make them feel as if everything will be okay. I bent down towards the soldier and started describing to him the glories of Krishna and the lilas of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The soldier tried to talk but blood oozed out of his mouth with every exhalation. I tried harder to concentrate on describing the wonderful slokas in the Srimad Bhagavatam.

The convoy commander decided to call in a medical evacuation (medevac). As we prepared the soldier to move, I ripped the piece of dhoti from Lord Nrsimha, which I had kept tied around my wrist. I placed it in the soldier's hand. I just turned to him and said, "Hare Krishna," then walked away, hoping that Krishna had heard my prayers.