Twelve hours later the wheels touched the concrete at Morton. The girls had done the usual great job of making difficult things come together.
Two were going to AAGH for the special care they were going to need; local ambulances were going to carry them there.
Two more were going to Shock Trauma for special treatment. Two of our helicopters were carrying them.
The final two were St Marys; they were going to need special work on their legs and the Saint had the best there was. Two more helicopters carried them.
Doc Burns and his doctors had made all the arrangements while they were somewhere over the Atlantic. That was one more reason I liked Doc Burns medical group; they were on the job when I needed them.
The nine that had died were another matter. The funeral home in Cville was going to store the bodies temporarily until all arrangements were made. Tomorrow the families were going to meet at 1000 at the funeral home.
Once at the funeral home the bodies were going to be removed from the leak proof military coffins. The bodies had been packaged with ice to keep them from decomposing during the flight. They would be place on a tray in the cool box until the arrangements had been made and the family had chosen a casket or cremation.
I had been on the tarmac by the plane telling each of the injured I would try to see them tomorrow.
I was still there when they started to unload the caskets. The rest of the girls joined me and stood silently with the families as they were loaded into the hearses. Before the door was closed I walked to each one and said a prayer, then closed the door.
We made the long walk to the terminal and the gathered crowd of reporters who had been recording the event and taking an endless stream of pictures. I stopped in front of the reporters.
“As you know the last few days have been rather dangerous and deadly. To put it bluntly, I am tired and hurting physically, mentally and emotionally and I know the same is true for the families of the deceased. And the day is still far from over,” I said.
“That said, as soon as the families have finalized the services for their loved ones, we will get the information to you. Right now all of us at JBG need time to reflect and heal and come to grips with the events of the last few days. Please give us time to do that,” I said.
“BJ, Al Jazeera said you were injured; how serious are the injuries?” asked Hanna Page.
“We were wearing IDF issue body armor. An RPG penetrated the armored HumVee as we were exiting the HumVee, the blast and explosion burned my neck and left small pieces of shrapnel imbedded in my neck. The doctors there removed all but a few deep pieces that are going to require specialized surgery to remove,” I replied.
“In a few days when things have settled down, I will hold a press conference to answer your questions. Thank you,” I added.
What I did not say was the surgery was scheduled for tomorrow before the pieces had a chance to do any nerve damage. Doc Burns already had a specialist from John Hopkins to do the surgery tomorrow afternoon at 1400.
After a tough night talking with the girls and family and then the muted pleasure of little boys and holding Takeo and Sara, I had a restless sleep.
At 0700 I was in Roberts’s office picking up all the papers in my tray and then went to my office to find my desk with stacks of things that needed my attention.
At 0800 the girls and I met with Jason, Mischief and Mayhem (Rosanne and Corry) – they were never going to escape those nicknames – from HR. The process had already been started to get the death benefits to the families. I listened while the complete package was gone over for anything forgotten or missed.
JBG carried life insurance on all the employees assigned to the embassy division. The beneficiary would get a one million dollar payment and one year of full salary as weekly paychecks. The spouse would get lifetime medical and children to the age of 26 as required by law. Each child was to get two hundred and fifty thousand in a college trust fund to pay for college. If they did not attend college they could not get access to the funds until the age of twenty five.
At 1000 we met the families; after much discussion it was decided that if a suitable place size-wise could be located there would be one large funeral for the men at one time. It would make logistics so much easier for everyone.
I called Duke Justice and told him what I needed; I wanted to use the high school auditorium for the funeral service. The high school auditorium could hold seven hundred.
“I’m not sure they will do that, the school board is an independent thinking bunch,” Duke replied.
“Influence their thinking. If they refuse to cooperate I will have a legal team deliver freedom of information requests to the judge tomorrow. For say the last ten years of the board’s budget and itemized expenditures, hiring practices, grading system, school bus contracts, building and renovation contracts, to be audited by an independent group.”
“Then I would take out a full page ad in the Gazette every week with the discrepancies found. You know just how happy that would make old Elmo. I know of several individuals that could be paid to write opinions critical to the board’s processes and heaven forbid if the auditors find any mismanaged pennies or inappropriate expenditures,” I relied.
“Let me call the other commissioners; we are to meet in 30 minutes and we will go pay the board a personal visit with your request within the hour,” Duke said.
Andy and I along with four other men went to medical building to see the General.
“General, I see you have weathered the night, I trust the food has been to your liking,” I said.
“I demand to see the Russian Ambassador immediately. I need better medical treatment than I am getting,” he demanded.
“You are in no position to demand anything! You will have visitors coming to see you tonight; important people. You can air your complaints to them, not that it will help much,” I said.
Duke called back and said the school board reluctantly approved my request and wanted to meet the director of the funeral home at 1400 to make the necessary arrangements.
I turned that over to Jason and asked if he would attend that meeting on my behalf.
At 1300 one of the Blackhawks carried Vicky and me plus a few guards to John Hopkins for the surgery on my neck. It was an hour surgery done under some kind of continuous x-ray. There were three rows of small stitches on the back of my neck when he finished. Vicky only needed one row.
At 1600 I sitting in my recliner with one of those soft jell ice packs on the back of my neck. Jenny, Marcy, Jason and Ching Lee were filling me in on their visits to the injured men today. With the first group from Portugal and the last six from Israel we had ten men in various hospitals.
Before they were finished Director Dorin called to say that he would be on time, landing at 1815 our time.
At 1630 I started making calls; the first was to Ben Smith, “Be at Morton no later than 1810,” I said.
“I have an important meeting at that time,” he replied.
“Unless it is an appointment with a world class hooker it is not as important as this one; cancel it. Be at Morton at 1810,” I replied and hung up.
Then I called the rest on my list including Ben-David. I had asked Director Dorin to tell no one I had the General and the Colonel – not even Ben – explaining that I would tell Ben to be there under different pretenses.
On my list were Frank Love of the CIA, Eric Robinson of the DHS, Marty Coeburn from the FBI, and Art Cummins of the NIA. Last on the list was General Ingram.
When I called the General and told him to be at Morton he implied he was busy. “You need to get not busy and bring your two Iranian experts; there is someone you desperately need to see.” He decided he could make it.
At 1815 they were all in my office when my phone rang. It was Director Dorin, ” I am five minutes out they are telling me,” he said.
“No problem, I will send someone to meet you at the plane,” I said.
I sent Albert to meet the plane. “Bring the gentlemen directly here, bypass the customs station. They are late for my meeting.”
Ben immediately stood as soon as Director Dorin and his guest walked in and made the introductions. Assistant Director Dorin had brought his boss Director Able Gerber.
After the introductions and with a lot of people wondering what was going on, “Let’s go meet the guest for tonight’s entertainment,” I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.