Page 3 of 3   <      

One Month, Two Brushes With Death

Briggs's Humvee had a flat front left tire, copper shrapnel embedded along one flank and a broken window.

"Let's limp that thing" back to base, said Frank, the commander.

At Combat Outpost Attack, Briggs pushed open the heavy door and got out.

"Just like last time," he said.

He smoked his cigarettes. He looked miserable. He sat on the ground and wiggled his toes in his boots. "I'm going to lose my mind, man. Lose my mind," he told another soldier. "I should still be in high school."

"I might as well give up. Something's going to happen," he said. Several minutes later, Sgt. Ed Herring, 28, approached Briggs.

"Did the doc look at you?" he asked.

"I'm okay," Briggs said.

"That's not what I asked. Have you been looked at?"

Herring held a finger in front of Briggs's eyes and traced it right and left, up and down, looking for signs of concussion. He shaded Briggs's pupils and waited for them to widen.

"We know that wherever bad things happen, Briggs will be there," Herring said.

By the next morning Briggs had a different perspective.

"If it's your time it's your time, I guess," he said. "Somebody's been looking out for me, though. I've been lucky."

<          3

© 2007 The Washington Post Company