Nancy Sherman


From THE UNTOLD WAR, Chapter 4,“The Guilt they Carry”

Accident Guilt 

The guilt, as Prior explains, is the result of an accidental fratricide in 2003 in which 20 year-old Private First Class Joseph Mayek was killed.  Prior, who was then commander of the Charlie Company, 6th Infantry, First Armored Division, was tasked to provide security around the U.S. Army headquarters just after the fall of Baghdad. Private Mayek was taking up his post when a Bradley blast ripped through his face.   He had been standing no more than a foot in front of the muzzle.   Prior reconstructs the scene. He is calm, but he is eager to lead off the interview with the accident:  “I lost a soldier, which was extremely traumatic,” he says without hesitation. He narrates every detail precisely, the way a person who has relived the scene over and over does: “One of the Bradleys misfired. It was on the front gate, and had a malfunction and it took off a third of his face. It was as if an ice cream scoop just scooped out his face…He survived the initial blast, if you can believe it. We were in the medic tent with him. It was one of the most traumatic things I have ever seen in my entire life. To literally see someone’s face completely scooped out, to see just the very bottom part of his jaw working…he couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t scream. …I mean he had no eyes, obviously. No face. I can only imagine the terror, the fear, the pain he was in. He obviously couldn’t breathe because he had no nose or mouth to take in air …It was one of the few times in my life I’ve really cried—tears just streaming down my face because I’m watching ten people work over this kid. …It was an unbelievable thing to see…It is one of those images that will be in your head until you die…”