WASHINGTON — I spent a good bit of time in the U.S. Embassy while in Iraq last weekend with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, which I wrote about earlier this week in “My Independence Day Weekend in Iraq With Dr. Biden.”
In a rare moment of downtime, I joined Dr. Biden and her staff in the Embassy gift shop.
In a quest for souvenirs for my children, I purchased one of the only items for kids: a stuffed duck with a T‑shirt that said “Duck and Cover.”
And that’s exactly what I had done the night before, three times, while in my room at the embassy. I was typing a story on my computer when the call came over the loudspeaker: “duck and cover.” There was a threat of indirect fire, the voice said, and people were supposed to either rush to a room without windows or, if walking outside, duck into one of several bunkers along the sidewalk.
At the first warning, I ran into a windowless room, slightly panicked, and waited it out until the all clear sounded. Although I didn’t hear anything, mortar explosions had been heard, according to later news reports. I took a slower pace at the second warning and by the third, at 4:45 a.m., I was so exhausted I ducked under a blanket rather than back into the windowless room.
That day, elsewhere in Iraq, there was a deadly suicide bomber attack and another that wounded two Iraqi police officers.
These incidents served as another reminder of the fact that our troops, and many civilians, are under the threat of attack each day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether in combat or not, all put themselves in harm’s way just by serving there.
Upon my return, my kids were thrilled to get the stuffed ducks that had traveled all the way from Iraq, but are still too young to catch the tongue-in-cheek humor of the “Duck and Cover” on those little black T‑shirts.
I went to sleep last night in my own bed, without the concern of incoming attacks or a “duck and cover” sounding over a loudspeaker. But I’ll never be able to look at those stuffed ducks, perched now on my children’s desks, without remembering that night and the sacrifice our military members and civilian employees make each day on behalf of all Americans.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)