GAYHEART: If you just want to start off, uh, and tell us, uh, who youare, how old you are, uh, what branch of service you're in, and, um, just a little bit about yourself.
NAPIER: Okay. Um, well my name is Andrew Napier. I'm twenty-two yearsold. I'm--I'm from Richmond, Kentucky. That's where I graduated from high school. I'm kind of bounced around, from all over in Kentucky. I joined up in the service, uh, straight out of high school, at, uh, age eighteen. So.
GAYHEART: And what branch of service were you?
NAPIER: National Guard. Uh-hm.
GAYHEART: National Guard. And you're a student at the University ofKentucky, studying?
GAYHEART: So, when you were a child, uh, tell me about growing up, priorto enlisting.
NAPIER: Well, um--my--my father was in the service. He just did fouryears, and--and got out. You know, it wasn't really his--his thing. 1:00He had to bring up two kids. So, he was in it about the same age I was. And, um, so--growing up, I always saw his fatigues. And I was born on a military base. So, uh, I don't know. I guess from the start, it was always kind of intertwined with me. Just the- the- the idea of the service, you know, you look up to your Dad, and you see these fatigues, and it's obviously something you want to do. So, I'd always try 'em on, and I'd run around in the woods, and always pretend like I was in the Army. And that was like, my thing. And um--I--I grew up down in Pulaski County. So--you know. I don't know. I put-- put on that stuff, and always pretend about it. And I saw the recruiter in high school, after a- um- a speech he gave to us in the auditorium. Nobody else came forward. And I'm just really--you know, all about it. Just, about the idea of actually going to school, and being able to--you know, do, like, a--a childhood dream. You know, join up in 2:00the service.
GAYHEART: Did--wh--what'd your friends think about it at the time? Yousaid nobody else stood up?
NAPIER: No. No. It wasn't popular. You know, the, it was, this was in2004, 2005, somewhere in that--that time, when I first started looking into it. And--I was about seventeen. And--you know, the war in Iraq had just kicked off, and it was--it wasn't going too great. And--it got a lot of--uh, negative, uh, press. So, uh, nobody was about it. I--my Mom had found out that I'd talked to a recruiter, and, uh, she actually started crying. You know, she thought I was gonna ship off to--to war. I don't know. Like it was back in World War One, I guess. But it wasn't--you know, I tried to explain, it wasn't--nothing like that. But, uh.
GAYHEART: Do you want to come in, get a chest shot?
GAYHEART: Well. I'm sorry. All right.3:00
NAPIER: Am I rambling too much? Am I--
GAYHEART: No, you're good.
GAYHEART: You're good, you're good. Yeah, that's perfect. Yeah. So,tell me about what it was like- I know what it was like to tell my Mom--you know, that I was going to Afghanistan, I was going to Iraq, or I was joining. I think--I think--tell me about what it was like when you told your Mom you were enlisting.
NAPIER: It was bad news. I--I was about to turn eighteen. And, shesaid she wasn't gonna sign the papers to do the--the early enlistment, because you can join up at seventeen, you know, and, uh, go to basic and stuff, during, like--your--your junior--junior year. Like, during the summer. And she refused to sign off on it. And, uh, you know, I was like, "Well, I--I guess I'm gonna have to wait 'til I graduate." Really upset, my Dad was all about it. And, you know, he thought it would be a good thing. Something to pay for college, too, you know? 4:00So, yeah, she was in tears. It was bad. Bad news. So.
GAYHEART: Why, when you made the decision, you know, what was yourrationalization?
NAPIER: We didn't have money for, uh, for college. And--you know,I wanted to go to, um--you know, a post-secondary school. And I--I didn't--that--that wasn't an option for me. I realized that. My sister--older sister was in college at the time, and she had already accrued- you know, just an insane amount of--of debt from college, and she was just a sophomore at the time. So, she went up here to UK for a while. And--anyways, it just seemed like the thing to do, you know. That--you saw it on--on TV. And I just--you know, my Dad enlisted, and it just seemed like the--like a rite of passage, almost, right out of high school, to really do something with yourself, you know. 5:00
GAYHEART: So, when all your friends were going to college right outtahigh school, and you were going to, you know, boot camp--
NAPIER: Basic. (laughs) Yeah.
GAYHEART: What was that like?
NAPIER: Um. You know, you're- you're alienated, al--already. I guessthat--that was a--a sign of things to come. Um. That get--gets you used to it, I guess. You know, your--everybody clans up, and they're rooming up together. And all of a sudden, you know, your--your friends from high school, and you guys aren't hanging out any more. And, like, the closer I got to graduating high school, I realized that. I'm like, "Wow." You know? "I guess these relationships didn't really mean much." You know?
NAPIER: In the first place. But. So, yeah, they went out, and didtheir thing. Started working for the summer, getting ready for college. And I was getting prepared for boot camp. There was such a--influx of--of people, at that time, in 2006, when I swore in, that they had to do a- almost a delayed entry from when I swore in, until the time that, uh, um, I actually shipped off. So. 6:00
GAYHEART: And did that worry you, that there was an influx of troops?
NAPIER: It did. It did. I--you know, I--I wanted to get in the medicalfield. And, um, I just thought the--the medic thing was gonna be ideal. And there was a $20,000 sign-on bonus. And--you know, being eighteen, and you hear that money, and that's like, "Wow. You know, they do this, and pay for college. And--you know, you get all this experience, and-" and whatever, but then you just also think, like, you know, "Why is there such a--(laughs)--such a wait?" I didn't think it--I don't know. "What's happening to everybody else? Where are they going?"
GAYHEART: Did--was it immediate, the division between you and your highschool friends?
GAYHEART: And why do you think that is?
NAPIER: I think it's because a lot of people didn't understand. Youknow. Like, what I was doing, or--or why I was doing it. You know, there was a--such a, um, structure of--of people. I mean, everybody was 7:00kind of separating their own socio-economic, um, levels, you know? But, like, I didn't--I didn't fall into the category of when--of people that would go into the Army, you know? I wasn't in JROTC, or any of that- -any of that stuff. Not looking down upon that. You know, that--that has its place. But--the school I was at, it definitely didn't. So--
NAPIER: You know, that just--I didn't--I wasn't in that tier.
NAPIER: And for them to hear that I was going in the Army, it was justlike, you know, "What are you--what are you doing?" You know--
NAPIER: "Take out some loans, and go to--go to college and party withus."
CAMERAMAN: Real quick. Let's put the water bottle down.
CAMERAMAN: That, I can--I hear you rattling it. So.
GAYHEART: That's cool. So, when--how did the 9/11 attacks--I know youdidn't go in until, like, 2004.
NAPIER: Nah, I was too young.
GAYHEART: Yeah. Do you-
NAPIER: 9/11, I was, uh, seventh grade. So.
GAYHEART: Seventh grade. So, when that happened, you know, I--I've8:00heard stories from guys that were eighteen.
GAYHEART: I was eighteen when it happened. You know, my--some--someguys were in their twenties, in--in college. Um, what was it like? Did you want to go, or did you have any thoughts of wanting--
NAPIER: No. I--I was too young. Seventh grade, it--I guess what itdid change was the depiction of--of the so-called enemy. Because, you know, growing up, I always thought about the Cold War. The--you know, the kind of tactics that--you know, my Dad was taught, and things that he would tell me about, and things that they would do, and things they would train for. So, I always--I thought about a standing army. And then when this changed, to where I saw it was like guerrilla warfare, like it was back in 'Nam, then, um, that was it. I just--you know, I had my, my idea set on a--on a different enemy. And that was--that was it. It didn't really, didn't really fire me up, I guess.
GAYHEART: Right. Well, um, what was your boot camp experience like?9:00
NAPIER: I went to Fort Benning, Georgia. And, um, there was a homeof the infantry. And I didn't--really don't understand why they sent me there. And, uh, I was the only medic that was in the--(laughs) in that--in that class. So, um, it was--it was interesting. You know. Something else.
GAYHEART: Did you--did you excel?
NAPIER: Yeah. You know, I--I tried to stay off the radar. That wasthe--what I was told by everyone in my family, was that--you know, "Don't be--don't be black, don't be white, but be gray. You know, just--just blend in." And, um, that's what I really strived to do.
GAYHEART: Did--you know, wh--why did you choose to become a medic?
NAPIER: Um, well, my Mom's a nurse practitioner. And, uh--I was alwaysinterested in the in the medical field. And it was something I wanted to get into.
GAYHEART: When you initially enlisted, did you--do--did you want to stay10:00in for life?
NAPIER: I thought so. I thought that this was gonna be the--the thingto do. It seemed to be set up real nice. You know, they--they pitched a lot of ideas about retirement, and--you know, about setting up your- -your TSP [Thrift Savings Plan] to have--you know, X-amount of money accrued by the time you--you--uh--became sixty. And you could draw that--that retirement check and the--you know, start pulling from your TSP account. And it sounded like--you know, financially, it made a lot of sense. It'd be the thing to do.
GAYHEART: At what point did you change your mind about not staying infor life?
NAPIER: (laughs) Um, I guess my mobilization. I guess that's really the--was the turning point, to really see--um, see how things really work.
GAYHEART: Was there a certain point--was it like--
NAPIER: Oh, yeah.
GAYHEART: Tell me about it.
NAPIER: (laughs) Yeah. I--I would say, uh--I was--I was questioning11:00myself within the first week of, of being in-country. And, was scared shitless, to be honest. You know? So.
GAYHEART: And you knew that when--once you got home, you were just goingto wash your hands of it?
NAPIER: Just Pontius Pilate my way out. That's how I felt. I really--Ididn't want anything to do with it any more. Coming home, it just, uh--I felt bad, you know. And it just--and it's almost disrespectful, um, to--to everyone around me. It's--to make the commitment, and then you just not want to do it. But, um, I don't know.
GAYHEART: Yeah. Well, tell me about, uh, you know, about leading up toyour deployment. The training. What you guys were initially tasked 12:00out to do over there. Where you were going.
NAPIER: Okay. Um, I was in the hospital when I got the call todeploy. And I was--I was working in the ER, and I was working a night shift. And, um, they gave me thirteen days to get ready. And I had volunteered to go on this deployment. That's, uh, that's why I was in Wheels unit before, and so I had to switch over. But- gave me a call, and said, you know, "You're--you're to report at so-and-so on January first." I'm like, "You know, (laughs) come on, at least give me, like, one day after national hangover day. You know, that's just ridiculous." But, I--January first, to report. And I went down to Fort Sam Houston, to do this pre-medic training. Did that for a month, and then we had to go as a unit to, uh, Wofford Tech--the Wendell H. Ford Training Base, the National Guard Training Base in Kentucky. We did that for a month, and then, uh, then we officially went on orders 13:00in March, up to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for--you know, the Army in its infinite wisdom would send us up, and, uh--to Wisconsin, where they were battling the, uh, the coldest weathers they had ever seen. They actually set a--a record low, the, like the first week we were there. So, (laughs) to get us prepared, you know, to hit country, in--in the summer. That was, that was great planning, thank you. (laughs) But, anyways, we, uh--we did that. We got, we got moped up. We--we did nothing in--in Wisconsin that pertained to anything that we were gonna do. They taught us all Ir--Iraq, uh--tactics. We got there, you know, about house clearing, and--and just a bunch of garbage. We trained in Humvees, vehicles that we never saw, because we were a route clearance package. And they told us, straight up. They're like, "This is--you're never gonna see these vehicles, but we're just gonna," I guess "show you how to ride in them." It's like, "Oh, that's--that's cool, I guess." Like--I mean, just total waste. It was two months of, 14:00of garbage. But we touched down, and--and, uh, I mean, we were off running, um, as soon as we--we got in-country. And then they got us in just like that, you know. They were, (laughs) the new guys were definitely ready to--or, the old guys were definitely ready to see the new guys. So, um--I mean, we immediately went out on--on a route, and started doing missions, you know, as soon as we touched down. But um- route clearance. you know, we're supposed to go out, and, and, and look for IEDs, and--and clear them for--for other people. So, for, uh, convoys. For, uh, supplies. For any--anything such as that.
GAYHEART: Well, um, do you feel--looking back on it, that you hadadequate training?
NAPIER: (laughs) No. No, not at all. But to--logistically, I, I don'tsee how I--I can't--I can't sit back and point fingers. It's easy to do, you know. I've just really thought about it. You know, I was there. Like, "How could you," you know, "As the, as the uh, Department of Defense, how could you swore down all of these people in all of 15:00these areas," that--it's really specific, you know? It--that'd be really tough. And I understand. It's a, um, it's what happens. So, wh--like, they sent us up to Wisconsin, like I said, we trained in the snow. So, we--it was always snow. And, uh, we came up to sub-zero weather. And all of a sudden, we were faced with--you know, it being 100 degrees, and over seventy-five hundred feet above sea level. And we--nobody can breathe. You know, we get out of these trucks to dismount, or whatever. And I--you know, um, (laughs). You take, like- -I don't know. Ten steps, and you're almost--you're starting to breathe heavy. It's like, wow. But.
GAYHEART: What about culturally? What about culturally, to deal withthe people?
NAPIER: Um, it was different. It was, uh, I--I still remember the firstcall to prayer that I heard while I was there. And, um--
GAYHEART: What was it like?16:00
NAPIER: You know, it was really loud. Just a big "Alllallm" [Napierimitates the adhan] and you're just like, "Oh, man." Like, it always seems to be like those speakers are right next to your face when they go off, too, and it's so loud. And--you know, you see the, the people, if--you're on the FOB [Forward Operating Base], if you're--you know, out on patrol, or whatever, and they--they stop whatever they're doing, you know, and they, they go and they, they find their, prayer rug, and face it in the correct direction, or what have you, and start to pray. And I've never seen any. You know, I saw it on TV, I guess, you know. But nothing such as that. But it was--it was pretty cool, though, to interact. At first. You know, you, uh--I don't know. You're in the honeymoon phase of being somewhere new. But that, (laughs) that wore off pretty quick.
GAYHEART: Was your--what was your overall opinion of the people thatworked on base, or the people that were out in town?
NAPIER: No, not at all. You know, you always hear stories aboutVietnam, and about the--you know, how the Vietnamese would be with the soldiers, and it'd be the same people that were meeting, greeting and receiving aid, that would be, um, behind, uh, the enemy lines. 17:00You know, firing at, at allied troops on the very next day. And it's--that's how I feel it was the same way with us. Um. We would go to these hostile areas, and we'd have to go out, and--and win hearts and minds of these people that you know that just attempted to kill you. And, um, you know, we, uh--I guess it really hit a--a breaking point for me during the summer. Um, we had these hand crank radios that we would pass out to--to the locals, or whatever. And, um, like, when we were on the route. Like, I guess they received them from, from whoever, for the--that "for official use only" money, I guess they bought all these hand-cranked solar power radios. You know, to hand out to the people. And, uh--anyways, on the FOB, we, we had some. And there were some workers that were there, that would work in the, the maintenance shop. And, um, they would fix up the trucks there, they would help out. You know, they would fetch stuff. Obviously they're not gonna have their hands in too, too deep with these vehicles, to 18:00know too much about 'em. Um, we were up in the maintenance shop, and we were actually getting a truck that was--we dropped one off that was gonna get fixed. You know, that got hit with an IED, whatever. And we're there, and, you know, I'm out there cranking this radio. I'm sitting with a buddy, and we're just listening to this Arabic music, and just--you know, just cracking up about it. And then we see the guys over there, looking at us. And, you know, they're like, "Ah, oh." And, uh, telling us to--you know, come over. And, you know, we're just like "Eh, you know, piss off." And, like, they ended up walking over to us and asking us about the radio. And, you know, you feel sorry for them, you hand them the radio. And, uh, (laughs) we went on, on route the very next day, and we came back, and the FOB was on lockdown. We sat outside the gate. And it was just like, a--they called it the turn and burn. You know, go to a certain point on the grid line and come back, clear a route for whoever. It's on lockdown. We're sitting at this gate for hours, nobody's letting us through. And we're trying to--the contact in, and, you know, the--the gate guards were screaming 19:00at people, and whatever. We finally get through, and they tell us that there had been a security breach on the FOB. And, you know, we're like, asking on--on our base. So, we're trying to figure out information. They're telling us, you know, check all your vehicles. Check underneath for, for any explosives, you know. There's been a--been a security breath. And we're like, you know, "What the hell's going on?" And we looked down, about 100 yards away I see these three individuals that, you know, just, uh--they were--they're walking with, you know, the sacks over their head, and their, their arm, their arms behind their back. And--and I'm like, you know, "What- what is going on?" And, uh, they finally tell us that, um, they had set up over 100 pounds of homemade explosive inside a bunker. And it was set up to a radio-controlled IED. And what they had--they planned to do, was to call in a--a bomb threat, into, into the FOB. It was this--you know, highly organized. You know. So, they call, they called this thing in, and, uh, luckily, they had, uh, they had got word. Somebody tipped them off about it, and they were able to thwart this from happening, 20:00you know? And, uh, they'd also set up an IED inside one of the disabled vehicles. So, whenever we could get back into it, you know, they'd set it up underneath the heating unit, so it would just blow up on the inside. So. Um. Yeah. So, the same, the same bastards that- you know, you feel sorry for, you take pity on them, and you- you give them a fucking radio. And they go out, and they make these bombs. You know, that's, that--I feel so guilty about that. And, you know, I didn't want to tell a soul that, (laughs) I may have helped aide with someone doing that. But just--you know.
GAYHEART: How would you have known?
NAPIER: Yeah. But, after that, it was just, you know, game over, forme. I just didn't give a shit about the language any more, I didn't want to learn it, didn't want to speak it. I didn't care. I did, did not care. That was just, (makes raspberry sound) that was it.
GAYHEART: Well, uh, you know, when they--I spoke to you earlier, butexplain to me, you know, they gave you a certain task when you went over there. How did that change? 21:00
NAPIER: Well, it was, uh, it was route clearance. And, um, we- weended up running a lot of, ah--what they would call, um--well, they're CLIP missions. But what they--I, I really don't know what the acronym stands for. Um, I can't think off the tip of my tongue. Um. Anyways. It was just, we would transport items that were needed to FOBs that- -that--people couldn't have access to, and that th--they couldn't get, you know, um, aircraft in, or what, what have you. So, we would start running those missions. And you just--you know, you're wondering, you're just--it's like, a, we felt like UPS, you know. It's just ridiculous. We didn't think that it was worth risking these lives, to go out and to deliver these packages.
GAYHEART: Tell me about the--the roads over there. And the--the threatof IEDs. And the feeling, whether you're in a vehicle or not, or you're on a road, the feeling that there might be one; an IED waiting for you. 22:00
NAPIER: We first get in overseas, and, uh, you know, I'm, I'm scaredshitless. And, uh, you know, we've got all these seatbelts and stuff on the inside, and they slip off your shoulders. And the--just ridiculous. And you're trying to tighten them down, because you're thinking, "Man, I'm, I'm gonna get blasted through this roof. You know, at any point in time." Because you see all these vehicles in the--in the maintenance when we touch down, that were just burned up. You know, destroyed, whatever. And, uh, you know, you don't want to be that guy. And I'm strapping in, and, uh, you--you dock so many man hours after a while, and you just don't care any more. And it's just to the point where it's just like, "If this thing goes off, it's probably not gonna kill me. And, and hopefully, it'll take me off these godforsaken routes." You know, they would just bounce you around, just beat you to death. We'd run missions, um, none--none of them would be under ten hours. You know, usually they would be somewhere between twelve and seventeen hours a day, to be on the road. And you 23:00just--ugh. We first got there, and our, our vehicles, um, were new. And, uh--they came from Canada. And nobody had any id--idea how to work on them. And--nobody could fix the, uh, air conditioning belt on any of them, so they all broke within, like, two weeks of us being there. And, I remember the first mission I was on, that--ours was broke already. And we, we actually got an ambush on our very first--it was the third day in country, we got ambushed. And before it even happened, it's just pouring sweat. I mean, I just--it was ridiculous. I was sitting in the back, and, um.
GAYHEART: Tell me about that ambush.
NAPIER: It was pretty intense. I was sitting back there, with the--itwas a left-seat, right-seat right. You know, with the, with, the old guys were still there, and they were showing us the routes, and whatever. You know, the--and--which, none of them were paved except Route One, which was, like, the main route, that leads to Kabul. But all of the other ones were just like--looked like goat trails. You know, they were ridiculous. And, uh, we're sitting in the back seat, 24:00and we hear a thud. Just--it sounds like a door shut, you know, because they're--they've got these hydraulic doors on the back. And I think, like, the door had--somebody's trying to open the door or something, you know, or just--boom. And, uh, we're sitting there, and, um the platoon sergeant looks over at me, because he's, you know, sitting, uh, directly across from me. And he gives me this look, and then the next thing you know, it--what sounds like, like popcorn popping. It's like (makes ratatat sound)--and then you're just--you're sitting there and you're thinking, I 'm thinking--you know, I'm hoping to God this is the gun, gun turret. Like, something's messed up with it, and it's just clicking. But, you know, then, then you hear another thud, and then they just--man, they get close. You know, you can see these things go off. And, uh, they--they start dropping mortars in. It looks like it does in the movies, you know. That--it just; boom. You can see it just hit outside. It just throws debris all over the side of the window. And, uh, you're sitting in the back, it's helpless. You know? But, it's exciting. It was adrenaline rush, though. I was thinking, "Man. You know, this is--this is pretty intense." You know, the gunner's up there firing, and we're chaining ammo together and handing it to them. And we're trying to look out the window to try--you 25:00know, we see firing positions. We see where these RPGs, these rocket propelled grenades are flying in from. And it's, it's almost like a video game, you know? You're just, you're trying to call out these positions. And, uh, yeah, it was intense. Just--I just remember that. Just sweating. Just could not stop sweating. My glasses kept falling off my face. And, you know, you're, you're still new, you're still green. You put all your, all your fancy gear on, and, uh, and your gloves and stuff. And I just remember just throwing that shit off. W--you know, I was like, "This is"--(laughs). You know. In theory, is--this will be good. But in actual practicality, it's not working. But. So, that was ambush one. We--we, uh, we cleared the area. And, uh--you--we--we did not stay in contact for less than twenty-seven minutes. I still remember this figure. This was--that's a long time to stay--because you're constantly moving, so you think--you'd break it down, in, in, in math. Like--you know, how, how slow you're going. And to stay in contact with--with someone for that long, twenty-seven minutes of sustained contact is just ridiculous. You know, to think 26:00about the manpower these people have. You know, they tell us that it's two to three-man groups, or--you know, whatever. Whatever bullshit they tell us in Iraq Tactics, in Fort McCoy. You know. And we get there, and it's just like, dude, unless, like--I don't know, they type in, like, a cheat code for infinite ammo, you know, or they've got laser guns, there's no fucking way that this guy's sitting up in this mountain and firing off this many rounds, you know? And--they're just everywhere. You know? So. Um, really, really freaks you out, you know. I guess to, really understand that, is what really drove it home. To think, like, "Wow," you know, there's all these people that are out there, just trying to cause harm to us." It's a wake up call. We clear the ambush area. We get up--someone gets over the radio. And they're like, "Doc, there's, there's blood in the turret. There's blood in the turret." And like, comes on. And I'm freaking out. I'm thinking, "Jesus." You know, "This can't get any worse." Like, day three, like, "Please God, make this stop." So, we--I get my aid bag on, and, uh, I've got my weapon down and low ready. And, uh--I jump 27:00out of the back of the truck. And, you know, we're--we just cleared this ambushed area. So, um, adrenaline's just pumping. You know, I see all these- all these people. We're like, next to what they call qalats. They're just buildings, these mud huts, nd, um, almost like a- adobe hut-looking things. And, um, they're all staring at me. And I'm thinking, you know, like, why were all these people out here? You know, we were just--I don't know. In retrospect, you thi--look back on it, and you just--you understand, you know, what's really going on. But at the time, you're just thinking, like, this is such a busy--I don't know, village, I guess. But--anyways, I run up to this turret, and (laughs) one of the gunners was, uh, laying on the ground, on the- -on the floor. And he was just laying there, just laughing. And I'm like, you know, "Oh my God," you know, "what's going on with this guy?" And he, like, holds up his arm. He's like, "Doc, I'm fine, man." He was like, "I don't know why they came over the radio." He's like, "My headset's broke." And he was like, uh, something happened with their-- 28:00their coms, and they couldn't get over through us about him being okay. But, um--he had, he had caught, just like, uh--like, some shrapnel on his arm. And--I don't know. We always had a good laugh about it. We- -we got out of the mission, we got done, and everybody was just teasing him. "There's blood in the turret!" That's just the last (laughs) last thing that came over the radio. It was funny.
GAYHEART: Do you think, ah--now, why do you think that's funny? Becausea lot of people wouldn't think that's funny. You know, a lot of people would say, "Oh my God, caught shrapnel in--in Afghanistan."
NAPIER: Well, you know, just like--from the severity of how it soundedover the radio. It just sounded like, you know, the guy got shot in the face. And so, you know, you--that's what I'm expecting, you know, running up there. I'm like, "Jesus," I'm thinking about, "How can I cover this guy up? How can--how can I make the situation look a lot better than what it's really gonna be like?" And then I open this door, and there he is, just laughing. And I'm just like, you know, "What 29:00is going on, man?" I just--I guess that's the humor you find in it. We--that just continued to get, you know, darker, as the deployment drug on. We came back from that mission, and--it was actually at a, a FOB called Tillman, after the--you know, the--Pat Tillman, that was, like, the area that he got, uh, killed in. And--we were coming back from this FOB, and, uh--from that--the ambush. And we get back and we touch our stuff down, and they come over the radio and they're like, "Attention on the FOB, attention on the FOB. All--all O-positive to the aid station immediately." And, I don't--you know, it's day four, I'm like--oh. They--you know, like, somebody comes and grabs me and tells me to go down to the aid station. And they tell us we got US casualties coming in. And I--you know, I didn't even know--I, I'd been to the aid station, like, twice, you know? I didn't know anything about how it worked and how it operated, and whatever, you know? Like I said, it--it's day four, you know? So. So, we're--we're--we're 30:00sitting around, and, and just--you know, uh--shooting the shit with everybody in the building. And they tell us that the chopper's coming in, and uh--there's two of them. And I didn't really understand that. And they said, you know, an IED had went off on their Humvee, with a Pennsylvania unit, and, um, a National Guard unit. And they told us, you know, they came on the radio and told us the unit. And, um, you know, they needed help with the stretchers. And like I said, the military personnel, we're--we're always very few, the medical personnel, there was few. That, they needed help with the stretchers. So, we, we go out. Like, me and, uh, two other medics. And there was, there was another guy, one of the guys in--at aid station. But, two of the medics I deployed with, they came out there. And we--and they're like, "Okay, you all get chopper two." And--"Okay." So, they 31:00get the casualties out of the first one, and they're unloading them and stuff. And, you know, you see one of 'em's a walking wounded, and the other one, you know, uh, you know, your- your eye fixates on it. It's just like, uh, you--you see a soldier in fatigues. And, uh, he--he had lost his legs. And, you know, we're--we're standing there, and it's like, you know, like I said, it's day four. And I'm like, "Holy shit." Like, there it just, right in the open. You know, they're carrying him out, and they got a tourniquet--he's just, you know, wailing on this stretcher. Chopper two opens up, they tell us that it's a, a hero bird. And I didn't know what that meant, at the time. I didn't even know what we were doing. I thought we were getting casualties out. And--so, uh, it--it--Chopper two opens up, and, ah--(pause). (laughs) I'm sorry.
GAYHEART: It's fine.
NAPIER: Chopper two opens up, and, uh, you--uh, with the--with the--with32:00the wiper wash of, of a--of a helicopter, you know. It's like, the smells are intensified, everything around you. Debris is being thrown up. You know, you're smelling the FOB, you know, in the innermost areas of your nose. And, you know, for me to have this big shnause, it doesn't help me out any. And so that's like, all smells are amplified, so, you know. Uh--even--even more. Um. (sighs) This, this door opens 33:00up, and instantly I'm hit with the smell. And, uh, it--I don't--I don't even know how to describe it. You know, it's like, a, like a mix with diesel and--and, like, burned chicken, almost. And, uh, it hits you right in the face. And I see this--this thing laying on this--this tarp. It's--his hands are--what they resemble to be hands, are, are just out in the air, just like this, like, crossed over. I, I don't--I don't know, just hanging there. And I--I--I turned around, and--I'm sitting there with my buddy, and, um, it's really loud, you know. So, we're sit--we're like, right there, right next to the chopper. And I turn around and start dry heaving on him. Like, "Oh my God." You know, I'm trying to hide from all my friends, you know, cuz I'm like, I don't want anybody to see me right now. Because it's j--just so disgusting. You know, to see this. And, uh--you know, we, we get this guy, this 34:00guy out of this chopper, and they take--they tell us to take him back in the ICU room and, uh, intensive care room. We--we take him back there, and they close the curtains. We, we had to go in a different way, so nobody would see us, you know. And you can still hear the, the guy that had lost legs, like, back there screaming, you know. In this- -this tiny little aid station. And, um--we got the curtain closed, and one of the old--older sergeants, um--and he's seven Sergeant First Class. He came up and started giving us directions on what to do with this guy, that was this, this bigger--you know, they brought him in on this--it was a body bag. Like, on top of the body bag, so that's how we carried him. Like, they--we had to transfer him over onto a stretcher, you know, to--to get him away from the chopper. And, uh--I don't know. He starts going through this procedure, and um, almost like it's--like you're dissecting a frog, you know. And, uh, (pause). 35:00So, they--they tell us to--to grab these trauma shears, and to--you know, get this guy open. Get these clothes off of him, you know. Or, uh, what was left. And, uh, he had this IBA [Individual Body Armor] on, but it was just cooked, man. It was just--you couldn't even--you couldn't see. All of his name tags were burned off, his unit badges were burned off. And, uh--so, um, we've got to cut these clothes off, and a lot of them are stuck to his skin. We--his boots are blown off, and, uh, his socks are like, merged with his skin, you know. And, um, we start cutting his clothing off. We're trying to peel it off, and skin starts falling from him. And, like, uh, (laughs) you've got this, 36:00this older sergeant that's sitting there and talking to us, you know, and he's just like, "Ah, this is what--this is what we're supposed to do. This is what happens," you know. "Just don't worry about that. You know, try to, try--try to clean that shit off." You know, "Just- -just scrub it off him." (pause) We--we had to go through with it, and, you know, continue to go out. And it just, uh, I don't know. Just, it felt like we were just cleaning putty. I didn't even know what this thing was that--that we were trying to, to clean up. He told us to, to get this, this medical tape, and, uh, tape up--tape open--or, tape closed his, his mouth and his eyes and his ears, to prevent any fluid 37:00from, from spilling. And, uh, it was just like, you know, "what--what difference is it gonna make?" You know, because the guy's just filleted open all over. You know, it's--you're not gonna stop this fluid from spilling. But that was just the procedure, you know. You gotta--that was what you gotta do. You gotta tape him up. We gotta tape us this- -his arms, and his legs, together, and stuff them inside this bag. And, uh, I don't know. That was day four. It was the--the National Guard, you know, that--that's why--everybody else wasn't back in this room, you know? It was just kind of like, we were the--we were the last ones to get there. And--you know, you're the last ones to get on details. And, of course, they save the best for last. So. That just seemed to be the--the common--common story throughout this deployment, was just--was going back to that.
GAYHEART: Did you--did you come to start hating to go back to that room?
NAPIER: Oh, I hated it. I absolutely fucking hated it. I couldn't--Icouldn't stand being there. We, uh--it was the ICU room, and there was 38:00also the death room. So, you know, when we--when we had--uh--we needed both of those is when it--when it got--when it got pretty hairy, you know? What are you supposed to do?
GAYHEART: Would you--how'd you cope? Day to day, going back in there? Imean, you went back. So, what did you--
NAPIER: Yeah. I had--I had to; um, I don't know. I guess you justkind of develop a--your own coping mechanisms. Some of the--the medics had turned to, um, substance abuse while they were there. And it was just--other ones were just doped out of their minds, with, you know, prescription medications. But, you know, just--I don't know. They 39:00put me on, at that--the next day, after that experience had happened, we were out on another mission. And, uh, we were sleeping in this tent, all of us together. And, uh--I had this, this fierce nightmare, and I, um, I was kicking this rack above me. And, uh, I--I was that-- Lieutenant that we had just cleaned up, that--because he got trapped in the Humvee when the IED went off, and they couldn't get him out, and it was combat locked. So he just--just burned, you know? It was just like--like leaving a turkey in the oven. That's exactly what it looked like, too. And, uh--I had this dream I was him. And, I mean, I just freaked out in this dream, and started kicking--I'd never done this. And, uh, this is such a vivid--I got up, and I was--I tripped over all these bags, and I started screaming, like, "Help!" Like, in the middle of this room. You know. And this is--this was day five. And, 40:00uh--all these flashlights turn on me, and everybody was like, you know, grabbing me, like, "You know, what's going on?" Like, "Chill out." Like, "Dude," you know, "Snap out of it." And I just--I still don't know what's going on, I don't know where I'm at. And, uh, so they put me on--on medication, like, instantly, from--at that point, to sleep. To calm my nerves. To help with anxiety. That's how a lot of m--you know, the other medics would do it. They'd smoke. I didn't. I, just never--never got into that. But, I don't know. Never seen such--such smokers, like, as the medics. It was ridiculous. Always smoke breaks. They'd use the skin cauterizer to light cigarettes up in the back. They had a little station we had in the back, to just sit down. I just remember that cauterizer being back there, and they'd light up cigarettes with that.
GAYHEART: So, that kind of set the pace? Or was it more, was it worse in41:00the beginning? Or, did it just kind of--
NAPIER: No, it--it--it set the pace. That was--you know, in, in May,when the summer months came along, and, uh, I don't know, a lot of it, you just, you ended up just blacking out. Sh--you try not to think about it, you know? And then you'd see these--like, trying to reflect on it now, it's hard for me to draw up these, these experiences, because they all just seem to bleed together, and I just--you know, really just pushed 'em all out, and I tried not to think about it. I guess what comes back to me more than, than sights, is--is sounds. Sounds and smells, is something that you--you can never eliminate, I don't think, from your brain. It just seems like it doesn't--that never leaves, you know. And, uh, you can't--you can get out of the 42:00service. You can, you can wash your hands clean, as you had said. But, those kind of--those kind of memories, you know, you don't ever-- you don't ever lose hold of, you know? That just--that stays with you.
GAYHEART: You try to replace--you try to have some, make some goodmemories, now?
NAPIER: Like, to--over top of that? What do you mean?
GAYHEART: You know, what do you do to--what do you do now, to cope? Whatdo you do that's positive, that, helps you not think of the sounds and 43:00the smells, and, the time back in the intensive care room?
NAPIER: Um, I guess to avoid triggers, I just--you know, I lost interestin a lotta things, coming back home. And, uh, I just, I stay away from a lot of the movies, lot of pop culture seems to revolve around violence. And, uh, those kinds of--those kinds of triggers will--just puts me back. And--that's things that I can do for myself. But, you know, sometimes you can't, you can't stop that from happening. You know. Like, I'm in class, and I hear somebody, like, slam books down. Or, you know, whatever. Or a door slams shut down the hallway, and it sounds, you know, exactly like a mortar round goes off. And I--you 44:00know, you can feel it. You instantly start feeling it. Your palms sweat, you get nervous. And, like, before I'd snap to it, I'd really try to take away that--that reaction. But it--it's just like the-- there's other reactions you can't stop.
GAYHEART: How long was your deployment?
NAPIER: Oh, we--we went boots on ground in May of, uh, 2008. And wecame home in March. We left--the last day in country, were like--I can't remember the date. It's early March, late February, somewhere in there. It's like, ten months. So.
GAYHEART: Tell me about some of the other missions. Tell me one thatyou think about, that you remember most vividly.
NAPIER: When I got injured. We were going down a route that we had been45:00ambushed on before. And it was, uh, during the summer. And like I said, when all these ambushes would--would occur, these vehicles, and you know, you're--you're thinking, like I said, you call out these- -these positions, these fighting positions that you would see, to the gunner. And you'd tell them where it's at. And, you know, you're-- you're assisting on ammo. There's a lotta ti--a lot of things to occupy you when this is going on. But it's still--it's adrenaline rush, man. It's just like--like, nothing matches it. To know that--you know, your--your life's on the line, you know? And, uh, all that changed, uh, after that. After, um, we were-- (sighs) we got hit pretty hard, um, on a route. And we were the--we were the last truck in the convoy. And we--we were training another unit, another active Army unit. And they were, um, they were in our vehicles with us. And, um, we had one 46:00of their gunners that was gunning in our truck. And he'd been deployed be--before. So, our--our platoon sergeant was okay with it. He--he said, you know, "He's got the green light to do it." So, he gets up in the turret. And, uh--I mean, it just kicks off. Usually, like, in a complex ambush, you know, you would--a mortar would go off, and--you know, you--you got the bullets and stuff. But this was just like (snaps fingers) like, right out the door, is just, like, everything. And they just brought everything to the table. Just--(making sounds) bullets, and--and RPGs, just constant. Just, dud dud dud dud dud. Like, you just think, like, I don't know, they're dropping, like-- like, daisy chain bombs. And it's just like--you know. You don't know what's happening. And it was just--it was insane. Um, the guy--I start calling out these fighting positions, and, this was a--a ridge line, up--you know, there was a, there was a perfect ambush spot, of course. And--and they just had us in this valley. This ridge line was about fifty meters up on our side, and I was looking out. And you 47:00could see these guys, you know? They were--you know, it was--the first time, like, visibly, to be that close. And these guys just seemed like they had a death wish. But, you know, us being the last truck in the convoy, and you know, um--um--they just--they brought everything out. And I was calling these positions out, and this gunner just stopped shooting. And, like, uh, I don't know what's going on, right? So, um, I try to look over, and, uh, their platoon sergeant was sitting in the back with me. And he was sitting over here, like, he starts screaming. And he's--he's Latino, and you can't hear through his accent. He's- -"alalalala." He's screaming at this guy, and he's like, "You get your ass back up in the turret." And he gets back up there, and he--excuse my horrible Latino impersonation, but, I--I can't understand what he's saying. And, uh, I--I just know the guy just sits down. The--the gunner just--just sits down. And, uh, I look over at him, I just remember having this eye contact with him. And looking back. And then looking up in this ridge line. And, uh, seeing all these people that were up there, just firing, firing, firing. And I'm thinking, you know, "I really hope something happens," you know. This--this--they're 48:00fighting. You know, they're trying, you know, I--I can't get around 'em. You know, nobody--we can't get up in the turret. And it--I mean, within a minute, they--their platoon sergeant got up, and he's hitting him with an ammo can. He's like, "Get up there." And he was--because it was embarrassing him, you know. The platoon sergeant of their unit. And he was just really embarrassed of this guy. And, uh--he's hitting him with his ammo crate. That was, you know, it was pretty funny. And I'm looking out, and, uh, I see this silhouette. And, uh, you know, right there, just fifty meters. Just parallel right with the truck. And, uh, I call 'em out over the radio, I clicked it on, cuz I'd saw it. And it was just, like, just, you know, out of, um, repetition, I guess, I'm like, it's--the last thing we transmitted was, "There he is, fifty meters," and it cuts off. Like, this orange round flies. And I--I thought it was an alum round. Because how there's this brilliant orange, you know, flew at our truck. And, um, that was it. That's the last thing remember, was just that orange round. And, uh, I wake up and, uh, it's just black smoke. And I--I--I couldn't gather my 49:00thoughts. I--I didn't know where I was. I didn't know what was going on. Um, I just knew my leg was stinging, when I--when I--when I woke up. And I'd--it was almost like--like a movie, you know. Everything's muffled, and your ears are ringing. Just, "beep." And you can't think. And you can't--you're trying to think past this extremely high-pitched noise. And, uh, I'm looking around, and I'm still trying to gather where I'm at. And, uh--I'm looking at my leg, and, like, blood starts soaking in through my--through my ACUs [Army Combat Uniform]. And I'm thinking, you know, from working in the aid station, it would be like the, you know, the countless amputees that--that--that went on, that, you know, I had to help with, or see, or, you know, whatever. And I'm thinking, "Oh, Jesus, I've lost my leg." And I'm reaching for--and my tourn--to grab my tourniquet. And I'm pulling my tourniquet out. And then I look back down at my leg, and the blood spots are still the same, just these circles. And so I just--these holes were there, and 50:00I just ripped it open, and--because I was afraid to touch my leg. I thought the back of it was just, you know, I didn't know what was going on, at the time. I, um I started laughing; there was just these three pieces of metal that were stuck in my leg. Like, you know, that look like--like a pencil got stuck three times. And I just, I don't know. Just started cracking up. When it was just like--man, I'm like, "Are you serious?" And then I hear screaming, like somebody's yelling, "I'm hit, I'm hit, I'm hit." And, uh--I'm still--my Kevlar's on sideways. My eye pair was off my face. And I'm looking over, I'm trying to look through all the smoke, and I'm just kind of batting it out of the way. Trying to move--move the smoke. And then, um--the platoon sergeant was back there, and he's, like, holding his arm. And he's just--his arm's all bloody and stuff. And--I'm like, "Shit." And I grab my aid bag, and I go to get my aid bag, it was sitting on the seat right next to me. And it's just pieces; there's nothing there. There's just like, this--I don't know, bag was destroyed. And I'm still thinking, 51:00like, "What--what has just happened?" You know? I thought that our truck got hit with an IED or something underneath, you know? But, uh, I start piecing all this together. I'm trying to think--I don't want to think, because cuz--you know, this guy's screaming. So, I'm obviously- -I'm trying to see what's up with him. And, uh--I had, like, another, like, a dismount bag I would use when we got out of the trucks, I had medical supplies in. So, I had--I was getting out this gauze, and I was cutting all his clothing in the back there, and, you know, just trying to give him a rapid assessment, and make sure that nothing's life-threatening, you know. And he's got shrapnel up and down his arm, it's peppered down his body. And you know, I'm, um, trying to see if everybody's okay. And, uh, you know, we're still moving through this--this kill zone. But I just don't--I don't know. I just, uh--it's all I can think about at that time. And, uh--still didn't know what had happened. We'd--we'd stopped and saw all that. Finally, we--we--so, like, there was a hole that was in the seat. Like--like, 52:00how the seats are set up. There are, like, two of them, just like how you and I are sitting. And there's another seat here, and another seat there. And the seat, um, right across from me to the right, had hit the one adjacent to me, but there was a hole that went through an RPG, and went straight through the side of the vehicle. And, uh, it blew up from, like, inside my aid bag. And how it cornered it, somehow it blocked an insane amount of shrapnel from hitting me in the face, you know? So, it just--I don't know, and it hit my glasses and my Kevlar, and it through it off my face, you know. And, uh, I don't know, I just started wigging out. I just couldn't believe it. I'm like, "Oh my God." You know, "That was"--there it was, you know, that close to hitting me straight in the gut, or even taking off that guy's head. You know, that was just sitting in that seat. Who had just got up and started hitting that guy with the ammo crate, you know, telling them to get up and--and fire. You know, get up in--in that gunner position. And I just lost it. I just threw my Kevlar off, and I just, uh, just went a little bit berserk in the back seat, you know, still trying to 53:00come to, just still--just out of it. And, uh, I don't know, they gave me, uh, how many day--eleven days, they gave me eleven days back in the rear. And, you know, I--I worked in the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation), and, uh--for that, for that period of time. And our first mission back, we had to go down that route again. And, uh, we got ambushed, again. And, you know. Ugh. It just was a total different experience, you know, after that had happened. They medevaced us out from that area. They, uh, I don't know, they had another medic that was there, and, uh, they were really concerned about the platoon sergeant I had mentioned that got peppered with shrapnel, and whatever. They thought that, I guess I was just kind of incoherent, which, I--you know, I guess in retrospect, I kind of was; I was just freaking 54:00out. But, yeah, we get ambushed again, the same spot, the same area, the same shpiel. And, uh, totally different experience; you know, I just sunk to the bottom of the floor. I just--I couldn't do it. I had to turn off my headset. And like--you know, where they couldn't hear me talk, and I could hear everybody else. Because I--I had, like, this mini panic attack, in this back of this truck. And here I am, supposed to be the medical personnel, you know? And I'm--I'm just freaking out. (pause) That was the end of that story.
GAYHEART: Is that how you--you know, as it happened more and more, isthat how you dealt with it? You just--
NAPIER: You just further sunk into yourself, I guess. And just, like,to a point of--
GAYHEART: Did you--
NAPIER: --solitude, I guess. Because you just, uh, you just turnoff. Your--you just, uh, like, in the medical field, they call it 55:00compassion fatigue. But I don't know what they'd call it in combat. I guess--I don't know, Combat fatigue, it's--you just don't care anymore. It just--they call it complacency, but it's just--how can you not be complacent about something when it just happens time and time again? You just don't care.
GAYHEART: Did you, did you fight back? Or did you, did you just give up?Or did--were you just--did you not want to fight back?
NAPIER: Of course I wanted to fight back. And, I got stopped for makinga--a horrible mistake, after the--that ambush I got injured in. I came out, and I'm looking ridiculous. I've got black smoke all over my face. I've got one pant leg missing. You know. Wh--looks like it's rolled up, like I'm LL Cool J. And, I jump out of this back of this truck. And I'm--I'm holding my weapon. And this Toyota Hilux, this pick-up truck rolls around the corner. This bin that's full of military-aged 56:00males. And I'm just--you know, we're last truck. And they're w-- they're trying to set up a landing zone for this bird to come--this chopper to come in. And, uh, I don't know, I got up, and, uh, started walking towards that car. And they're--they're pretty close to us, you know, and I'm telling them to get back, and I'm holding this weapon, I'm screaming, I'm, you know, I'm just, like I said, I'd--I don't know. Basically incoherent; I just uh, I'm screaming at these guys, and they're just looking at me, you know? And, um--I racked my weapon. And I'm thinking, like, you know, "These--these--these bastards." You know, this, "How did they go through this ambush right behind us?" You know, they're probably here to scout and recon, or, you know, whatever. There's a thousand thoughts going through your head. And I rack this 'round. And I'm thinking, I'm just--I'm about to--to put one through the head of every--every bastard in that truck, you know? As soon as I rack that round, and I pick up that weapon, and I point it right at 57:00the first individual, my plat--platoon sergeant comes up and grabs me. And, uh--grabs me at the back of my IBA. And he's like, you know, "What--what the fuck are you doing?" He, he's like, uh--he grabs my weapon. And, uh, I just, like, snapped to, you know, I'm like--holy shit. You know, like, that--it was, like, surreal, like, "How did that just happen?" You know, I just never thought in a million years, that I would ever feel that--that way. You know? Where I just didn't care anymore, just wanted everybody gone, you know?
GAYHEART: Was there any other time where you just kind of shut off? Imean, I know that--the more you go on those missions, the more--
GAYHEART: Hardened, and numb, you become. But.
NAPIER: We had, uh--
GAYHEART: When it becomes muscle memory, you know?
NAPIER: Yeah. We ha--we, you know, we--we did our thing during the58:00summer, or whatever, and it really, it started to slow down a little bit by the time, uh, October ran around. And, you know, we--there were still some pretty significant things going on. There was a lot of catastrophic kills, but it wasn't ambushes. Ambushes were kind of going out, because it was getting really cold at night. You know, they couldn't--they couldn't move as well as they could before, the enemy couldn't. We were at an aid station, refilling, um, this combat lifesaver bag. And--that we had used during a--a Mass Cal [Mass- Casualty] situation. And, uh, it was a buddy of mine and I were down there. And, uh, they--the medics down there at this aid station were like, you know, "Hey, man. You got, there's some casualties coming in from your unit." I'm like, "What are you talking about?" Like, this is a tiny little aid station. They, they never brought trauma patients into this place. I'm like, you know, "Whatever, dude." And they're like--they're like, "No, man. Seriously, you all got a, a KIA coming 59:00through." And I'm like, you know, "What are you, what are you talking about?" You know, I have no idea what's going on, or what had happened. And, uh, so I don't know what to do. And my--my friend who's with me, he's, you know, he's a squad leader. He, you know, wasn't in my squad or anything. But he was like, you know, giving me all this advice. Like, "Doc, you know, you gotta stay down here and--you know, see what's going on, and see what you can"--because they were pushing him out, you know? They're like, you know, "You gotta get outta here if you're not medical personnel." And so I'm like, "Shit." I tell 'em, like, you know, "I've--I've got some experience with this stuff." With being at the aid station that I was from. I'm like, you know, "If you all need some help with what to do, with what to pack--how to package this guy, how to move him, I'll tell you. I'll tell you what to do, what you need to do. What everybody needs to do here. But do not let me see this guy. Like, I do not want to see him." You know, this is like, I--I made it through the summer. You know, of, you know, the--it's over. This is--we're supposed to be dying down right now, you know? And, uh, I don't want to see this guy. And, uh, they tell us that it's--we find that, we get a name. And it's a guy that, 60:00uh, I just came back from leave with. And, uh, we'd been back seven days, you know, from leave. And I--I never liked the kid, and, uh, I thought he was goofy, and before we went on leave. And then--and you get stuck together when you're waiting for planes and stuff. And he starts talking. And, you know, we start hanging out, he's actually a pretty cool guy, you know, we ended up hanging out. And he comes back from leave, and he's telling me about his kids, and he's showing me all these books he bought. And, you know, telling me all these stories and stuff. And, uh, I'm like, "Jesus." So, I tell them, like, "I don't want to see this guy." You know, (laughs) don't, don't do this to me. Like, as just a favor, please. You know. Just for my--for my sanity, man. Like, uh, don't want to. And, uh, the ambulance pulls up from- -right from the helipad, and, uh, with the guy on the back. And they don't have enough people to help with the stretcher. So, (sighs) so I'm instantly cast out there. And, uh, they open these doors up, and 61:00there's just this, uh, this green blanket with an American flag draped over the top of it, and this flag is just covered in blood. And I'm like, you know, "Why would they put that flag over top of this green blanket?" And I still don't know the extent of the--I don't know what happened to him. Nobody knows what's happened to him. And, uh--you can see all this blood that had pooled in the bottom of this ambulance. And that just starts, like, seeping out of the bottom. As soon as the door opens, you know. And just like, "Fuck." So, we pull this guy out. And, uh, you know, these boots are just hanging, just lifelessly out of this blanket, you know? And, um, (sighs), we pull him out of this truck, and we're trying to get him up through the door. And, uh, I still don't know the uh, extent of his injury. And, um, we're walking 62:00through this hallway, trying to get him back to this room. And, um, you can hear this, like, I don't know--I'm trying to think of the--the best way to describe this--this noise, that was hitting the floor; I don't know what--what it was. It was just, like, a--like a drip. But like something else was hitting with the floor, and you don't know what's still--we go back, and we set him in this room and shut the door. And, uh, everybody's still just, like, in shock. Just, like, looking at us, you know? Because th--now there's just like, this mess that's on the floor, you know? From, like, us walking up--up these--up these stairs. And, uh, this--this guy from one of the, uh, main areas in the FOB, comes up with these papers. And he's like, "You know, we need somebody to identify the--the body." And I'm like, you know, "No." I'm like (laughs) you know, this is--it's enough. I had to carry the--I had to carry this guy. And, uh--now there's this mess. I don't 63:00want this image. No, no, no, no, it's not happening. Like, you know, "There's nobody here, nobody can identify him. You're the only person that knows him." There's another guy that was, another medic that was with me that knew who he was. And, he had seen him before. And, like, "Well," you know "You two need to come in here and identify him." And, um, so, um, sorry, excuse me. It's kind of like a split second thing, you know? Like, everybody's looking at me. And I'm--there's all these people that are in this aid station just looking at me, you know. And I'm just like, "Fuck." So, we had to go back in this room. And, they pull this thing back, and, like, there's this guy, you know, that I just went on leave with. This--this goofy guy. And, uh, you know, he's still got his glasses on his face. And just this look, you know, he just has this look of shock on. And, uh, like, the whole side--back 64:00side of his head was just blown out. And it was just dripping on the floor. And, uh; I'm looking at him, and I'm--I'm thinking, "What am I supposed to be feeling right now," you know? This is--this point in time in October, and this deployment, like, "What's the appropriate response," you know? I felt like I'm a robot, and I've got to program this into me, because there's gonna be people watching me when I get out of this room, you know. What am I--how am I supposed to react to this? And I can't. I can't--I can't feel anything. I couldn't--I couldn't muster up a response. And, uh--the medic I was with got really tore up, and I'm just sitting there. We had to--step out of this room. And, uh, people were just looking at me. And I just--I don't know; I didn't know what to do. I just had a blank stare. And, uh, somehow I was able to muscle out a--a tear, so I didn't stand out 65:00so much, you know, just--I don't know. It was almost like being on display. You know, I just didn't--I felt really uncomfortable. And, uh, we had to sign the papers, and I come back out from his room, from signing these, uh, identification papers. And they, everybody's still just crowding, you know; nobody's moved. It was like, the aid station just stood still. Like, nobody was doing shit. And all that mess was still on the floor. You know, I--I picked up some--these cleaning wipes, and I just started scrubbing. I just couldn't stop scrubbing. Just, scrub, scrub, scrub. There was just blood and brain matter, just on the floor, and I'm trying to scrub this up. And then people just started moving after that. It was just like, you know, everybody kind of jumped in, and like--and I--I just kind of lost it at that point in time. I just--it really hit me right in the face. I just, 66:00uh, sitting there, and just scrubbing the floor. And, uh, somebody grabs me in the back, I just, you know, throw them off of me, and just- -just keep scrubbing. I just, I'm focusing on cleaning this up, on the floor. You know? (Gayheart coughs) And that's it. It's gone.
GAYHEART: Did you have, uh--did you have friends there? Did you have,uh--you know, other soldiers that looked up to you, or that--that--that you could turn to?
NAPIER: Uh, yeah. You know, there are some people in our--our group.I--you know--some deployment that went on, I just--I really just 67:00closed myself out from about everyone. I just didn't want to--you know, these guys that were--you know, this route clearance package with me, were, uh--they--they were seeing one side of the--of the story, you know? And it was like--I had to come into this aid station. And they would wake me up from sleep, you know, in the middle of the night, after us getting back in, and I'd have to come and--and--and clean bodies. And I'm just like--I don't know.
GAYHEART: What do you mean, clean bodies?
NAPIER: Just the dead. They'd bring in, they--I distinctively remembera time, with--they had Polish that came in, and--I don't know. It'd be, like, two in the morning. And, you know, we're supposed to be up, in like, three hours, on another mission. And I'm at two in the morning, and there's this mangled Polish guy. There's another one that was laying outside, just on the ground. You know, just dead. Just chilling. (laughs) And, uh--just me and another--another soldier. The 68:00guy was just coated in diesel. It was just implanted in his skin. Um. I don't know. It blew his arm off. And, uh--they had just kind of flopped it on him, you know. We had a--we had to clean--we had to--you know, undress him, and scrub him down, and whatever. But, uh--I don't know. So, I--I had to come back from that, you know? I had to get up and I how am I supposed to go to sleep after that. You know? I almost want--just--it's supposed to be all fine and dandy. I'd just sit in silence, you know? Come back to my room and just sit. I--I didn't know what to think. I was twenty years old, and I just, uh--I guess just pissed at the world. I just, uh--didn't understand any more. 69:00Anything. Nothing made sense. So, it was really hard for me to relate to anyone, you know. The medics there just left, man. They--my first sergeant called me, the--left--last medic standing. It was a big joke, because so many guys would just leave. You know, they'd show up and just--I don't know. They'd go home, um, medical reasons, or--or whatever. You know, just--there was always a reason to not stay in--in our FOB.
GAYHEART: What's the time, man?
CAMERAMAN: Oh, we're about 6:10.
GAYHEART: Okay. Want to take a break? We can take a break.
NAPIER: Yeah. Yeah.
GAYHEART: Like, a ten--
[Pause in recording.]
GAYHEART: Um, so, you--you--you're making it--you made it through thesummer. Um--and everything in between. You've mentioned that you were knocked out a few times, and--and went unconscious, and--hearing and memory loss. And--tell me about a couple of those experiences where 70:00that had happened, and how it happened, and when.
NAPIER: Well, just the- I had mentioned--the main--that was the mainone, with--when I got hurt, it knocked me out from that experience. Like, like, from then on, it was just the--just kind of downhill, with, uh--with hearing. Um--we had some--some close--a close control- det. [detonation] munitions that went off, that we--it screwed up some stuff, you know? And they thought that they put one block of C4, ends up being, like, a lot more than that. Um, there was a time that one of our--um--parts for the truck that we drug behind us, uh--got hit. Um, by an IED. And, uh--we couldn't move it. We had to blow the brakes off of it, 'cause it got stuck. It was just dragging. So, they--like, EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal] came out, and they were trying to--uh--rig up some C4 to, uh--to blow off these breaks. And, 71:00uh--from this--I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it. This mo--they called it a "MOD." But it's just like a--like a rolling axel, okay? With--with wheels on the back of it, you know. Just, like, ready to go. Just slap it on there, it's good to go. But, it--it got stuck, you know? From this IED. So, we get it mobile again, we're gonna blow it, and, yeah (laughs) they made an error with the amount of C4. It was like--I mean, it was literally--how we were parked, it was--like, directly in front of my truck. Like, just--there was glass separating us, and I could see the MOD right there, and I'm watching this thing, and they're calling the--the shot off, or the radio. And, uh--man, that thing went off, and just--(Napier makes bomb sound). You know, just like, uh--(laughs)--I don't know. That concussion threw me back, you know. I was inside this truck, and, uh--I don't know. I--I had a--I had to come to. We're all in the truck, we're like, you know, "What the hell just happened?" You know, and they came over, and this thing's all destroyed, all mangled. And, uh (laughs)--it--I don't 72:00know. Something had happened, where they'd left some C4 there, and--I don't--I don't really know what the story was. They couldn't figure it out. They'd put too much C4 there, and something had happened; controlled munitions went off, and blew us back. It was pretty funny. But, uh--yeah. From that, like, I don't know. Y--my--my ears just constantly rang, from then on, uh--all the time.
GAYHEART: Tell me about, um--a time where you discharged your weapon.
GAYHEART: With the enemy; like, uh--going out on a mission.
NAPIER: Oh, I never did.
GAYHEART: You never discharged your--
NAPIER: No. No, I never did. Unh-uh. I was always inside the truck.So, uh--I drew it plenty of times. Like, being out, dismounted. But I never fired it.
GAYHEART: How's that make--how's that make you feel?
NAPIER: Pissed. There was a--I don't know, at least, man--at least,73:00like, shoot up a berm, where I think somebody could have been, you know? I mean, something. Shew. There's just nothing. There's no retaliation from me, from that entire deployment. And, uh--that makes me pretty angry. But then, on the other hand, to know that--yeah, that may be the case. But at least I was in the truck with somebody. I was calling out positions. You know. I help aid, and--the -um, the destruction of the enemy. So, that's--that's cool. You know, to think about in that sense. And also to know that I'm not going home with, uh, civilian blood on my hands. You know? So, like, that--that's a--that's a big peace, to me, because that would just be unnerving, I think. To constantly carry that around with you.
GAYHEART: Can you go out to a full shot?
GAYHEART: (clears throat) So you only did one tour.
GAYHEART: Did one tour? Um--what was your--can you go out to where it74:00shows--
CAMERAMAN: Oh, like the--wide shot.----?
GAYHEART: Um--so, what was your overall--you know, if you were to capit up in a paragraph, what was your overall--experience like? Add some- -some adjectives, and some metaphors, and try to describe it. (Napier laughs)--If you were to--if somebody was to meet you at the bottom of the airplane, and shake your hand, and--"Tell me all about it." If you were to say, in a nutshell.
NAPIER: Interesting. It's--uh--it's the only way I've been able tosum my experience up, as cheesy as that sounds. I--it's funny, I saw a graphic, you know, the best way I can really put this, um--somebody had--had drew up these two pictures, and they put them next to each 75:00other. And, uh--one of them was these soldiers leaving this, uh--like, a Burger King or something in--in Bagram, you know, the main air base in--in Afghanistan. You know, they've got everything there. It's nicer than some of the posts you find here in the States. It's ridiculous. Some of the guys that go there, and they spend the whole tour there. You know, whatever you call a tour. I don't know, it's just different, you know? Like--(laughs)--they had--had that picture of these guys walking out of this--this Burger King, right next to this picture of these guys walking up, just humping this hill, you know. Just--you know, there's sweat on 'em and stuff. And it said--the bottom, the caption, said, "Afghanistan." And it said, "Your experiences may vary." And--(laughs)--so--I don't know. I--I always thought that was pretty funny. They just didn't--you never really get a--a clear picture painted of how it's gonna be before you go, until you actually do it, you know? You don't know what you're in for.
GAYHEART: Do you think other people have your experiences?
NAPIER: Oh, I'm sure. Yeah. I mean, there's--there's guys all over76:00that do. It was really interesting, when we first came in. And, uh- -we were visiting these FOBs, and, uh--talking with these other units. Like, we were there with the scouts from the 101st, and--you know, just--love those guys. They're awesome. You know, they would be out there doing everything that we were doing. And, uh--unfortunately, I can't say that about a lot of the units that we were deployed there with. And, uh--that served in the same time. Um--there was an active duty unit that wouldn't come and recover us when we were two clicks outside the FOB. And it--our--our truck was black on ammo. There's two of them that were down, and one that--I said, I got injured in. And we were two clicks outside the FOB, and they said, you know, "We don't have a maneuvering element here in the FOB, we can't come get you." And you're like--you know, "What the hell are you all doing?" You know, "What is this?" You know. "Why--what--what the fuck is your purpose?" You know? Like, "What are you all doing," you know what I mean? Um--anyways, these scouts--awesome. They had medics that were--that were there with them. And, uh, we were able to trade a lot of stories. Really cool, to--to hear these--these guys' feedbacks. 77:00And, you know, to--all kinds of--just, a--a wealth of--of information. Because I wanted to talk to everybody that I could, you know. It just seemed like there's so many stories.
GAYHEART: Did you share the stories of the aid station with them?
NAPIER: Uh--no. No. I, uh--no one really asked about it. The--Iguess because that was kind of unique to our--to our area. We had a--a one-plus trauma center. And that's basically--they had the ability to do a lot of things they could do here, you know, at UK. Their medical center. They had--they had everything there. You know, operating room and stuff. So, they flew all these bad patients in there. So, when we go out to these little FOBs to talk to these people, they didn't--they didn't have that there, you know? There wasn't a--a surgical team that was there, so they weren't bringing these really bad--these bad patients in. You know? So.
GAYHEART: It's not something you--would lend out?78:00
NAPIER: No, I didn't--I didn't feel comfortable talking about it. Italways--it always really bothered me. It always really choked me up, even thinking about it now. You know? Just, the--the weirdest things will s--will set that off. And you'll--you'll just be s--stuck to ponder it, you know? To think about it, to try to break it down in your mind.
GAYHEART: Do you talk to anybody else that was in that aid station?
GAYHEART: Do you think they deal with the same things?
NAPIER: I do. I take that back. I do--I do talk to--there's a couplepeople I talk to.
GAYHEART: What are they?
NAPIER: One of them's a PA, and, uh--the other one's a--a staffsergeant. And they're--you know, he's a--he's a medic staff sergeant. And, uh--they were--they were there. They were stationed there, at the FOB. So, that was their--their job, was to--to handle a lot of that stuff that was there. All the medical stuff. They weren't part 79:00of the surgical team, but they were--they'd run, like, the sick call and stuff, and they would help assist with all that. A lot of the paperwork--the medical paperwork.
GAYHEART: So, do you talk to them about--is it--is it--does theconversation go, "Yeah, that's crazy." Or--
NAPIER: No, we usually don't--we don't--usually don't talk too much.It's kind of like, uh--we'll end up--meet up at a bar, and then just drinking, you know? We just don't talk about it. Just, uh--sometimes we'll kick something around. My, uh--my PA didn't know until recently about the experience with, uh--the soldier in our unit that was killed. Um. He had no idea. He didn't know I was there at that FOB when that happened. Usually, we'll talk about--we'll talk about funny 80:00stories, though. You know, like, when we're--about the aid station. You know? Three was a--a time when a guy came in, and a lot of them will come, and--you know, they're seeking profiles, so they don't have to do anything. They can sit around and just hang out. So, uh--this particular PA--uh--didn't believe this soldier. He came in and said that his--his sho--shoulder was hurting, and said that he--since birth, you know, it'd pop out of place, and stuff. And--it was really bad. Really bad news. He said he didn't want to say anything about it before deploying. And--you know, the same--same story you get from a lot of people. And a lot of times, it comes out false. But, you know, sometimes that you do--people are legit, you know. And, uh--so, he's-- he's doing this evaluation. And, uh--you know, he's presenting all these positive signs, and he's still not convinced that this guy's telling the truth. And, uh--(laughs)--he--he tells him to--to walk his hand up the wall, and to, uh--to try to test the strength of his shoulder. So, he starts--he puts it behind his back, and he's walking up this wall with his fingers. And, uh--(laughs)--the guy ends up throwing his 81:00shoulder out, like, dislocating his shoulder, like, just right there. Just--crack! It just cracks. And his shoulder--his arm falls forward, just limp. And he's like--"Uh! Uh!" And he grabbed his shoulder. And we're just sitting there--(laughs). I'm about to lose it. I--I mean, you know, I feel bad for the guy, obviously. He's--this guy's in--some intense pain, you know. But--(laughs)--I don't know. It was pretty funny. I still--I give him a lot of heat about that now. Um, that--
GAYHEART: That's unfortunate.
NAPIER: That poor guy. Yeah. (laughs)--he had to dislocate hisshoulder to, uh--
GAYHEART: Prove that--
NAPIER: To prove--(laughs)--that something really was wrong with him.
GAYHEART: Well, while you were over there, did you--did you talk to yourparents? Did you call your Mom?
NAPIER: Yeah. We, uh--they had the spa--spa--spa-ware? The SPAWAR,that's the company. Anyways, they had it hooked up to a lot of places that you could talk. And there'd be a limit, usually of--you know, ten to fifteen minutes. So you'd have to--you know, call when you could. 82:00There was always a waiting line. And, uh--there's always guys that always wanted to talk. And--you know, all the time. That--that was irritating. It was just--(sighs). We would talk. I didn't, uh--I wouldn't tell any of my stuff to my Mom, obviously. You know, that's just--you know, she'd get really upset, obviously. She threw a fit about me wanting to enlist in the service. And if we talked about this deployment, and -I mean, she would--throw a hissy. But, I sent my Dad some--some, uh--some pictures and stuff. Just told him what was going on. And I told him not to tell my Mom about it. (laughs)
GAYHEART: Well, uh--tell me about when you came back, and thentransitioning back. Whether it be with your family or friends; everyday life. Uh--how that was. 83:00
NAPIER: My--my family threw a party when I first came back, and a lot ofmy high school buddies came out. And it was--which is kind of weird, a weird situation. You know, it was like, nobody--
GAYHEART: Oh, sorry.
NAPIER: That's okay. Uh--are we good?
GAYHEART: Yes, go ahead, I'm sorry.
NAPIER: That's okay. She threw this party. And, um--you know, myparents did. And these guys from high school came out, that I--I graduated with, I went to school with, hung out with all the time. And, um--it was just odd, because it--it almost, like--it felt like--I was like a rabid dog, like, they were trying to approach. It was kind of like they were reaching out to try to pet me, almost. And was like- -"Ugh," was really timid to talk to me. And just about anything. And just--immediately, you know, you--you felt--um--you felt like the--you 84:00know, the--the oddball. You know, you just didn't--I just wanted to fit in, you know, with everybody else. I just wanted to mesh right in, you know? Because I just didn't want to stand out. It kind of made me uncomfortable, that we had this party, but I wanted to see everybody. You know, see my family, whatever, my friends. Um. But--it was just odd. But, I don't--I don't know. I--they were very--uh--impersonal with me, asking me questions. You know? Just--they avoided the--the deployment subject altogether. And, uh--it just felt like two strangers talking, the--much--with everyone. You know. So, we had--that was my first dose. And, uh--I don't know. From then on, it was just kind of--it was kind of odd. It was just like a lot of those occurrences, you just didn't--I didn't have anybody to really--to talk to, you know. These--these guys that--that I'd hung out with, all these years, just, 85:00uh--just--I don't know. Just kind of fell through, just weren't the same person any more. Um. You really don't--you don't know who to talk to. The guys I had--I had deployed with are from--they're--you know, they live two hours away from me, so, in contact through phone. You know, and seeing how everybody's doing, just check in. And--but outside of that, it just--um--you just kind of felt alone, you know? And uh- that's--I was really excited, you know, to hear that--uh--got in cont--I'm trying to think how it even happened. I talked to, uh, Sergeant Hawks, somewhere. Where was it? I saw him--called him. I don't know. Then he told me about this program that's happening, and he gave me a flier. And then I saw--I was like, "That's really cool," you know, that--you guys have something like this offered, to--like a transition. You know, something that you all can--can help. You know? 86:00I'm--I was trying to go to UK, and I wanted to start classes, like ASAP. And, like, I didn't--I didn't know what, really, to do. And, uh--I just--I just felt lost, you know? And, uh--so. I got signed up for classes. And, uh--was able to start. He really--you know, he was able to be there, and--and help me out with, uh, telling me about classes, and--you know, telling me how it was when he came back, and about his transition, and stuff. And--and, uh--telling me not to, uh--be so, uh--one of the word--what's the word I'm looking for?
NAPIER: Don't--yeah. Don't be anxious. Don't isolate yourself. He waslike--you know, get out there and just--you know, talk to people. And, uh--that just--that's really stuck with me. I just didn't really--I was trying to hide from everybody, because I just felt like the outcast. 87:00You know, I just felt like the weirdo. I just didn't want to--I didn't want to answer these questions. I just felt--I didn't think anybody wanted to talk to me about it, you know? So, I just kind of hid from everyone, you know? And it just--it made my situation a lot worse.
GAYHEART: Well, what do you think about the cameras, and the fact thatUK and the people, and--researchers and professors, and people across the country really care? They want to hear about your story. How does that make you feel?
NAPIER: I think it's awesome. You know, I came home, and, uh--I just--it felt like nobody even realized that I was even gone. What--what's even going on. You know, a lot of people--I remember a--this girl had asked me at a--at a bar, when somebody had mentioned it in our group, about going over. "Oh, he just came back." You know, whatever. You know, that's--that kind of story. And they were--she was like, "Oh, is that--that still going on?" I'm just like--are you serious? You 88:00know, it's just like--it just seems like that was the--the common, uh- -perception of everyone. And, uh--to hear that was just kind of a slap in my mouth, you know? But, uh--and--it's awesome to hear that anybody even cares what's happening, you know?
GAYHEART: You know, um--what was--what was the classroom experiencelike? The people, the work.
NAPIER: (laughs) It was interesting to come back. And--you know, you--(sighs) you feel like you've made this--this big step in your life, as far as maturity goes, I guess. And you--you come back to this class, and you--you've got these--these kids, that are--they're supposed to be, you know, your peers. And, uh--they're just rude. And just--to the professors. And they're just--just brats, you know? You just--uh- 89:00-you don't--you don't understand. I didn't understand where they were coming from. And, um--that was frustrating. Just to see that. Just- -a lot of people don't understand, you know, how--how well they have it. You know, they don't have that--I don't hold that against them. You know, it's not their fault that they don't have that--this is--you know, they're--they were born into this, you know. That's--that's what happens. They grew up, and Mom and Dad paid for college, and here they are. You know, they're--and it really distracted me from course work. I would just think, I'm--I'm trying to do this work, and I'm just hearing these people talk, and being disrespectful, and talking back to these instructors, and stuff. And I'm just--you know, I'm just, like, fuming in the back. I'm just like--I just wanted to grab them and tell them to shut up. You know, just--I don't know. That was frustrating. And then, to--I don't know, take a step down, too, from the situation 90:00that you're in. You know, you're a--you're--you're responsible for these--this million-dollar equipment. Responsible for people's lives. And, uh--I come back, and what am I responsible for now? Just to make sure I brush my teeth and piss in the morning. That's about it. It's just like--you know, that's depressing, to think about that, sort of, in a sense. I guess it's a good thing, to know that it's over with. But then, to make that huge step. Because, I mean, we were just going hundred miles an hour. And it just--whoosh. We came back home, and- -and it's over. you know? And--done. So that--you know, welcome back. Here you go.
GAYHEART: Do you find yourself trying to take on things of epicproportions?
NAPIER: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, you try to take up projects, and--you're still thrill--thrill-seeking, you know. Um--so, I'm thankful I didn't buy a bicycle when I got home, you know? I really wanted a bike, real bad. You know, to--just to--just to fly down the road. You know? 91:00I just--something about it--you know, just seemed so appealing to me. Just to get on the interstate, and just--I don't know. Break 130 on a--on a bike, just not caring. You know? Just--pumping you full of adrenaline. And, uh--that kind of behavior is just--it's almost--you know, j--it's erratic behavior, just--it's odd. Because--you know, um--usually I consider myself, just--you know, kind of calculated with what I do, with what I--with what I want to do. Just almost, like, OCD about my stuff. And, um--I come back now, and it's just like--I'm just really impulsive. Um. Trying to--to match that--that feeling of just 110 percent. You know? Pure octane, from overseas. You know. So.
GAYHEART: What do you think the effects of that'll be? Success?
NAPIER: I hope so. I think that if you can channel it in the right way,it will be. It's uh--that's--that's what I--that's what I'm wishing. So. But you--you gotta be careful. I think. 92:00
NAPIER: Just like, uh--like I said. I mean, I talk about getting--wanting to get a bike. And--you know, wanting to come home and drink, and--and just--be obnoxious with people, just to--you know, try to start a bar fight, or do something, just to get the adrenaline going. And--you know, instead of taking that--take that kind of energy, and ap--apply it to positive things. And, uh--like I said, when I saw--you know, talked to Will, and talked about--you know, like, going to school, and telling me about summer school, and telling me about--you know, all this, that, and that--and all this is going on. And--telling me about the new GI bill, and stuff. And it got me excited. It was just like--you know, this is awesome. Like--you know, we got the book stipends and stuff now. And--um--now, with the--the care going on at the VA, I'm trying to get that to go through. And it's just--you know, positive energy, you know? Taking that, instead of being destructive, to get a--a natural high, you can be constructive. And then--you know, 93:00build things up, and then--and make a difference. You know, actually-- not just for yourself, but for--for those around you, you know?
GAYHEART: Are you--at this point in your life, are you--are you proud ofyour service?
NAPIER: Hmm. I don't know. I think, uh--I--I did the job that I wasasked to do. And--in the best ability--in my best abilities. So--but to say that I--am I proud of it? I don't know. (pause) Yeah. 94:00
GAYHEART: Do you know why you feel like that? Why you're hesitant? Tobe proud?
NAPIER: Well, just the--you know, to be involved in that, whether it'sto, uh--to help. Just to see destruction like that. Um, whether it's- -I mean, you know, of human life, or of property, or--um--or how it impacted--im--impacted the, uh--all the individuals that were involved with everything. You know, with, uh, the whole--whole deployment, all around. You know, the civilians, the military personnel, the contractors. Um--I just hope that it was--it was for something positive. And, uh--that's--you know, that's all I can wish for, at 95:00this point. And--(pause)--I guess I'm hesitant to say I'm proud, because I just don't know if we--if we made any difference at all. If we just fueled the situation. And m--and made things worse.
GAYHEART: Were you proud of what you did? Not of what we docollectively. But, like, you specifically did.
NAPIER: Well, that's what I mean. I mean, like, I'm--I'm part of a--I'mpart of a unit. I'm part of a whole. You know, like--I can sit back and--I guess, judge what I did. But--what exactly was I doing? I guess it gets philosophical, you know, without drudging down that road. I just, uh--like I said, I--I did what was asked of me. And, uh--I tried to be there for the guys. And, uh--I felt that I did the--as--you 96:00know, cliche as--the best that I possibly could do.
GAYHEART: What specific challenges did you find, when you startedcollege? What was really hard for you?
NAPIER: I guess studying. Being back, trying to get back in the--inthe daily grind of things. To be surrounded by people, and to try not to think about any--anything else but school. That's your only purpose of being there, you know. I guess there's a whole--a social aspect of college, but I--I've never--experienced that. And I don't really want to, now. You know, usually that's what people do. You know, freshmens, and they come in--got your dorm, and lalalala. I just didn't--uh--I skipped all that. You know, I didn't--didn't happen. I came in, and--I guess, like I said earlier, I just--like--with people 97:00being disrespectful, and--and to see these, uh--uh--how these--these kids would act, you know? It just kind of--it irritates you. It gets under your skin. And, uh, that--that was frustrating. To s--I don't know. It just--I hate to sit back and just judge. That's the--that's the thing. Is like, I constantly got to stop myself from doing that. Was just, not thinking about other people. I just didn't--should be where I don't care. But it was just like--I guess I was kind of--I don't know. I don't know how you could analyze it.
NAPIER: What's that?
NAPIER: Yeah. Yeah. I was just, uh--I don't know.
GAYHEART: Maybe prideful of who you are, or what you've done.
NAPIER: Um--(laughs)--I can't say that I'm--I'm prideful of wh--whoI am. Or--or what I've done. I--you know, I just, uh--I guess 98:00the--to be in a--a self-serving culture, and to try to step out of those boundaries, and--and try to help others. I guess I was just--I was proud of that, to say that I did that. To try to--try to make a difference, in--in--in that aspect. But, um--(pause)-
GAYHEART: How do you think you're different than a typical collegestudent?
NAPIER: Mmmm. I--I don't know--college has got such a--especially UK.99:00Is such a diverse population there. You know, not just with the--the people. Just--you know, the backgrounds, and where--what they come from. Who they are. I think that that really helped out with UK, is how--how big of a college it was. You know, it's pulling from all these different areas. You know, you see these--um--nontraditional students that come in. You know, people that are in their thirties and stuff, and--in their forties, and even fifties, seeking a degree, sitting next to you in these classes. And I'm--I really--I really respect that. You know, somebody to come in and do that. But then on the other hand, you've got--you know, the kids that are--(sighs)- -interrupting class, coming in late. And--you know, they've got all this, like--expensive clothing on, that you just know that Mom and Dad bought it, and they're just paying their way to--uh--go to college. 100:00And that's--that kind of--that angers me a little bit. You know. I guess I'm different from--in that way, just because I've provided for myself. And I--um--I take--I take pride in that. And I--it takes away from my learning experience, from what I've done, when--when you've got--you know, jerk-offs that are doing what they're doing, texting, and--and stuff, in class. It's just like--you know. Come on.
GAYHEART: Do you feel that your experience has made you a better student?
NAPIER: I can't say that. I think that just, uh--I'm a--I'm a differentperson in my environment, you know? Um, I guess I'm--I feel like with my--the events that happened with me, I'm--I'm operating at such a--a 101:00lower capacity now, than--than--than where I was before. And, um--and that's frustrating, to--to know that. To--to come to terms with that, and try to overcome that. To know that--um--that you think that you-- you did things--you've made choices that have resulted in, um--(pause)-- a bad student, I guess. You know what I mean?
NAPIER: Just like, uh--I don't know. My mind wanders so much in classnow. You know. I just--like I--like I said, real anxious.
GAYHEART: You said you had some tests done when you came back?
NAPIER: Uh-hm. I, uh--you know, I--overseas, I'd noticed, just withlike short-term memory of things, I just was forgetting a lot of stupid 102:00stuff. Big stuff, you know? And, um--important things, was doing it when I came home. You know, we'd go places--I'd go places and forget-- you know, I--I'd go to the store and forget my wallet, you know? Or--you know, just not do things that I'm supposed to be doing. And, like--I can't even--I can't even think of better examples now. Just really big stuff, that you just aren't supposed to forget. Showing up to class without any books. Just not even thinking about it. Just showing up. And then you're like, "Crap." You know? And I'm--I don't--"How does that happen?" It's just, on a constant basis. I just, uh--mentioned that at the VA, that it was just really--really frustrating me. I, uh--I couldn't get any sleep. I was constantly up. Um. I was sleepwalking. Uh. I don't know. (pause) I woke up in a linen closet 103:00one time. Just--I don't know, sleepwalking. I just, uh--I never had that--that kind of behavior before. And it's frustrating. And you just wake up, just, tired. And you just feel like you hadn't slept a wink. I guess cuz you just weren't sleeping. You're just fighting. My--my wife would wake me up--uh--I would--I don't know. Doing something stupid. In--in my sleep, you know, just wrestling, or doing something. I'd fall off a bed, or--I'd grab her, and not even realize what I'm doing. Like, by the shoulders. And she'd just, like, wake me up, and I--I don't even know what's going on. You know? 104:00
GAYHEART: You still have those same dreams?
NAPIER: I do. It, uh--they were intense. It was really--it was reallybad. That was one of the main reasons I was going to the VA, was just--it just wouldn't stop. You know, you have the--these intense dreams, and it goes on for two years. And you just--you know. You just want to do anything to make it stop. And the--the frequency is-- is definitely, definitely decreased, uh--now. But.
GAYHEART: Why's that?
NAPIER: I don't know. I guess over time. And being able to talk.Talk to people. I think--um--it's really helped me out, instead of bottling--bottling up so much.
GAYHEART: Yeah. What do you think, uh--the University has done to makeyour experience better than the guy that came four--you know, four or five years before you, that didn't have--you know, what are some things 105:00that are--
NAPIER: Well, just to know that a--a presence is--is there, is huge.Just to know that--just to know it's there. And not even if you go into the building. Doesn't matter if you're even involved with anything at all. Just to know that--that that resource is there, is--is really big. You know, to--that--someone acknowledges what you've done. Um. You know, before I deployed, I went to a smaller university, and they didn't have that. The only liaison you had was a woman who handled VA claims. And our--you know, their--their paperwork. And, uh--she--she also had, you know, multiple other roles. And that's how I thought that this school was gonna be. You know. And, a lot of pay got screwed up over there, with uh--because--you know, the work load's really high, just for one person. And that--not being her only job. She ended up, like, retiring in the middle of my semester, and it--I screwed it up, with payments. I don't know. So, I just didn't--didn't 106:00have the patience to come back home and have to deal with that again. I just did not want to. Just to come back, to--to--be a part of this university, that just doesn't care about what happens to you. But it definitely wasn't like that, and I was really surprised, you know.
GAYHEART: I know you have nightmares, and I know that you think aboutit. But, do you deal with any stress?
NAPIER: Like, outside of deployment? Like--
GAYHEART: Yeah, like now. Do you deal with any stress? Do you--youknow. Stress from combat, stress from the pace change. Stress from the transition.
NAPIER: Yeah. I think, uh--I think your--your coping mechanismswill--will develop better over time. I feel like that now that-- 107:00with--with time, I've been able to--to handle some things more and more efficiently. I c--I can't say "better." But--efficiency, I guess, would be the--be the correct term. I, uh--yeah. You know, I--I constantly reflect back onto that. And like I said, there's just things that will--will set it off. You know, a string of words somebody will say, or--like, a set of smell, or--sight, sound, whatever. Somebody's name. It doesn't matter, just instantly--you know, you're just--(snaps fingers)--taken back, and you're just right there in that moment again. And--
GAYHEART: I mean yeah, do you just--
NAPIER: I clam up. I just, uh--I don't know.
GAYHEART: Do you think--108:00
NAPIER: I try not to bring attention to myself. And that's--you know,I feel like, uh--if you talk too much, then that's when you start tripping over yourself. If you just shut up, and--hopefully somebody will assume something else, you know? So. Um.
GAYHEART: Do you think there'll ever be a point where when you hear astring of words, and you hear a name, you won't? It'll just be like hearing a name?
NAPIER: I hope so. You know, I don't--I don't want to base my life onthis--you know, this dramatic experience. You know, it was just like- -what really sucked about the--about this whole thing was that it wasn't like--one incident. You know, I guess, like--you can--you can develop these tools of--you know, something--somebody's in a really bad car 109:00wreck, or--you witness the death of someone, or whatever. You know, what have you. It's like, this one isolated incident. But it's just like--with the deployment, you come back with--with multiple things. These multiple triggers. And that's uh--that's a--that's a big problem. Um. I think that with time, with--with--with talking with people, that--um--things will get better. But you gotta be willing to--to talk, I think. To take that--to be proactive in your--pursuit of health.
GAYHEART: You think--you think helping others deal with the same stuffyou have will work?
NAPIER: I think so. I think, uh--I think you'd feel better after seeing110:00someone else get better, and making them not have to live through, uh--what you did. How you felt.
GAYHEART: So, what--now that you're in school, you're a biology major.What are your goals?
NAPIER: Well, I'd love to, uh--graduate, uh--within these next coupleof years. That's uh--the military hooked me up with a lot of credits, for class. And, uh--it's--taken away a lot of my electives. So, really--it helps me out. But, also kind of--with--with my major, 111:00it makes things kind of precarious, because I don't know what to do. I--I'm--you can't take too many difficult classes, and--together. So, now it's stacked up to where I've got seventy credits, but--you know, in theory, I'm supposed to have fifty until I graduate. But I can't take, you know, fifteen at a time. Because all these--all these running consecutively together. So. Um. I'd like to, uh--I'd like to graduate. I'd like to get outta there. And--and start--I want to go to medical school. Um, I don't know, my goals are set high. But, uh--we talked about that earlier, coming home and having these huge goals. But--you know, set 'em to where you--you can achieve them. But I think that this is definitely achievable. I want to get into public health. And, uh--help serve a lot of underprivileged areas. Not just- 112:00-you know, not--I'm not saying abroad. I mean, there's a lot of things that are stateside. You know, there's a lot of issues that need to be addressed. And, uh--I still want to get in and get my hands dirty.
GAYHEART: Um--how do you think--how are you gonna do it?
NAPIER: With, uh--due diligence; gotta keep at it. And, um--it's a--it'sa long road ahead. But, I know that--that it'll be so rewarding to be back in that position, to--to help others again. You know. And--and to this--and this time, actually--um--make a big difference. You know?
GAYHEART: If you were a senior, or a med student, and you came across a113:00green soldier, just getting back from deployment, who seemed a little stressed out, kind of, maybe kind of like you must have, coming back to UK--what would you tell him?
NAPIER: Take your time. And that, uh--you know, it seems likea--(sighs)--a daunting task, to have to come back, and--you know, get everything back. Get all your--your ducks in a row again. And, uh--set out your--your core schedules, and--you know, you--you think, "Well, I've done this before. I've tooken this m--I've taken this many hours, so I--I'll be okay to take this many, and I'll be just fine." You know, that's just--that's not true. You're--you're a different person. Y--you've picked up a lot of new habits. And, um--definitely take your time. I came back, and I just jumped head first into things. I wanted to go full time. And, um--retrospect, that was probably 114:00a--a poor decision. I took a summer--summer course. I went full time in the summer, and I thought that would be a good transition. But it doesn't--doesn't load you up to--how things are gonna be. You've got a lot of stressors to deal with outside of school. School itself--(snaps fingers)--is a huge stressor, you know. And to have a lot of personal issues, it's not the time or place for that. So, like, now, um--I feel so much more comfortable with taking classes. Um--that now--I say in my personal life, that I've--I've--like I was saying, that I've developed some coping mechanisms that--you know, an--almost a year ago, that I didn't--I didn't--didn't possess. I didn't have that. And, uh--that creates a lotta--um--just a hostile environment, you know.
GAYHEART: Well we've had a chance to talk to some World War Two guys,that were part of the vet club. Same one that we have now, just, sixty 115:00years later. What do you think it was like for them, coming home from World War Two, enrolling in UK?
NAPIER: (laughs) Well, I would imagine that the, uh--there must havebeen a lot more individuals, I guess, that came to this university. I don't know. I haven't looked at the statistics or anything, or I haven't seen any figures, um--to--to make a--educated guess at that. That's just a stab in the dark, just with it being a large state, public university. That th--they would have had to have come together. Operated as a unit.
GAYHEART: The type of war World War Two was, coming back to go to116:00classes, what do you think that was like? Do you think it's similar to yours?
NAPIER: No. I think that, uh--(laughs). I think definitely--theydefinitely had--uh--quite a bit to deal with. So, I would--I couldn't imagine that, you know? Um. That's why I feel almost guilty, with, uh--sitting here today, and even, like, talking about this. This would have been, like--uh--like any of my stories would have been nothing. You know? Just, these--these guys dealt with this, just such a grand scale. I just couldn't imagine that.
CAMERAMAN: (coughs) Sorry---?
GAYHEART: Shit, what was? (both laugh) Well, tell me about, uh--your117:00opinion of the surge in Iraq--or, surge in Afghanistan, and your opinion of the--both climates, both wars, and how--president, and how-- how it's been handled, your--your opinion of it.
NAPIER: I was so excited to get home, and check out the politics. Iwas all about health care, you know? I--you know, I--obviously, that's a biased opinion, because I want to get into public health. And I--obviously, that--I think that it would--it would serve better, um, for those underprivileged individuals. But that's--that's--heavily debated, on--you know, where you sit. But, um--to see that, and to see--to--to hear a time table laid out with Iraq, and to see that troops are being withdrawed, I was--just stoked about it. Even the civilians 118:00in Afghanistan were asking--were coming and talking to me, and, uh-- were asking me about President Obama. And about--you know, what they thought about--withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. And--and what have you. And, uh--they wanted to see him, uh--come to office. Then--to hear the troop surge come through, just--uh--just made my heart sink. You know? I was obsessed with it. I j--just constantly checked out the news. I wanted to hear all the stories, and--uh--Herat, and all those--uh--southern, and--and southwestern provinces, that--to us, were just--you know, unventured while we were there. You know, there was a lot of contact, where we were at, and--Helmand and all the southern provinces were just starting to get hot. The Marines were coming through there. But not--not to the extent they are now. And, uh--I 119:00don't know. Just to--just to see those lives lost. It just sickens me, you know? I just, uh--I don't know what we're doing there. I think one is too--one--one death is too many. For what cause?
GAYHEART: Do you still keep track of the news?
NAPIER: Not as much. An--another--another trigger, you know. Theywould describe these ambushes, or--you know, IED attacks, and--you know, I'd--that wasn't--wasn't healthy to do. But I couldn't, couldn't stop it. It was just--obsessed with it, you know. Now, I--I'm just sickened by it. I--I don't even want to hear it. You know, I'll turn--I'll turn it off. Don't even want to know about it. I just--it 120:00pissed me off, to the most--utmost degree. Just, the--to know there's gonna be more troops. To think about what was going on while we were there. If we were (sighs). What--what our--what our main focus was, in Afghanistan. To establish peace and security. To--to run out these terrorist cells, you know. And--whatever. I just--I don't know. Why were we there? Why was there only thirty thousand troops deployed at that time? And--to see all those lives that were lost. I mean, was--could nobody figure this out? Was there nothing that was going on? You know, seven years prior to us touching down? They could have looked at it and been like, "Hey, you know what? This is getting a little bit worse. We should probably do something about this." You know? Then--they called it Af-Candy-Land before we--we came there. I remember--Sergeant Hawks telling me about that. Just--I don't know, it 121:00angered me to--uh--to see that going on. You know? And--
NAPIER: What's that?
GAYHEART: What's that, Af-Candy-Land?
NAPIER: Af-Candy-Land? Yeah. Well, just 'cause it was--nothing wasgoing on there. 'Cause it--
NAPIER: With--with Iraq--yeah. How--how hot it was getting in 2006.That's all you heard about, you know. Just--just a--straight up war zone. It's just all you heard. Nothing about Afghanistan, anymore. They said it was just peaceful, you know? So. I don't know.
GAYHEART: Did you think--did you think Afghanistan was a pretty country?
NAPIER: Oh, I did. It was--it was gorgeous. I mean, we traveled somuch, in in these eastern provinces. And--I mean, I--I loved it, to be honest. I really did. It was, uh--you know, it was just untouched. You know, you go to these villages, you know, they were--like I was 122:00saying, they were made out--looked like clay. They called 'em qalats. You know, they were just these little mud huts, or whatever. And it just--these people seemed so peaceful. Just, uh--just farming. And cultivating. And, uh--I don't know. You'd see some--some sights there that were just--they were just breathtaking. You know, I got a lot of pictures of it. But I was just, uh--I was taken back by it, you know. I was just like, "Wow." It's a--it's a beautiful area.
GAYHEART: Well, um--I don't have anything else to ask you, and Iappreciate you sharing--sharing your story, uh--with me and the camera. So. Unless you have anything that you want to add, or that you want to talk about.
GAYHEART: Um, I really appreciate it, man. Sharing your story. Itwas--it was good. Uh--we're not--
NAPIER: I hope I said something useful.
GAYHEART: What's that?123:00
NAPIER: I said, "I hope I said something useful."
GAYHEART: Oh, no. It--it was all good.
[End of interview.]