One Soldier's Story Of War
April 2, 2010
- "I have my own story. But there are thousands of guys out there with their own stories. I'm just one of many."
- "Joining the Army was a way to prove to myself I could accomplish something. It made me feel good to prove them wrong."
- We established programs, like the registration of all vehicles, so that we could better patrol the streets."
- "I'm never free of my own pain. But when I do feel the pain, I think about the guys we lost and I realize my pain isn't that bad."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Security guard Danny Kuby's friendly and unassuming nature gives no hint to the sacrifices this disabled Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran has made for his country.
But, in April 2007, Kuby was among the hundreds of Soldiers to be deployed in President Bush's "surge strategy" with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division "Raiders," 9th Infantry Regiment, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, at Fort Lewis, Wash. During more than 13 months of continuous, full-spectrum operations throughout the Baghdad Northern Belt and the Diyala Province, Kuby and his fellow Soldiers endured countless attacks to defeat Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, suppress Shia extremist militias, bolster Iraqi civil government and security force capabilities, and protect critical infrastructure.
Although he was one Soldier among hundreds, Kuby lives with the personal loss of friendships and his own physical injuries as a result of the deployment. Today he is carrying those sacrifices with him as he goes on with a life filled with a young family and an Arsenal job that he is proud to have.
"I have my own story. But there are thousands of guys out there with their own stories," he said. "I'm just one of many. I just want to help others. I don't look for anything in return."
Kuby joined the Army in 2004 after four years of JROTC in high school.
"I always liked the physical challenge and doing stuff for people," he said. "I always want to be in a position to help a lot of people.
"The Army was a big challenge for me because all my life my mom and dad told me I couldn't do anything right. Joining the Army was a way to prove to myself I could accomplish something. It made me feel good to prove them wrong."
During his first year in the Army, Kuby got married. He left his new wife and a 7-month-old boy when his unit, stationed at Fort Lewis, deployed in April 2007. It was the first Stryker Brigade to deploy with all 10 variants of the Stryker armored combat vehicle.
The unit operated out of Camp Taji, north of Baghdad. Kuby's unit operated in the city of Tarmiyah, where insurgents had driven out the local police and destroyed the police station. They used the Army's Land Warrior program, which provided military gear that integrated small arms with high-tech equipment, and provided communications and command and control at the infantry Soldier level.
"We were the first unit ever to take this thing called Land Warrior into combat," Kuby said. "Our missions were extremely important and critical to the city where we were. We had day and night missions. I was either a driver or I was dismounted with the guys. We rarely were at Camp Taji. Most of our time was at a patrol base in Tarmiyah."
Kuby's unit performed missions that involved searching buildings for terrorists and recruiting Iraqi civilians to train in personal security in an effort to keep security on the streets. The unit brought in more than 500 high-value terrorists.
"We were working to establish order. The sheik - their mayor - helped us to get things under control. We established programs, like the registration of all vehicles, so that we could better patrol the streets and know when there were unknown vehicles in the area," Kuby said.
When the 4th Brigade arrived in Tarmiyah, its Soldiers were faced with an average of eight attacks with improvised explosive devices for every three days. By the time they left in late 2008, there was an average of one IED attack a month.
"There was so much that happened over there. It was amazing," Kuby said. "When the Shiites mortared the Sunnis, we evacuated 17 Iraqi nationals out to hospitals. They had all been blown up."
And in the midst of the deployment, Kuby lost four good friends in four separate explosions, saw his platoon leader blinded by sniper fire and was involved in three IED attacks that have left him with back pain and some memory loss.
"We lost 30 to 40 guys in our brigade who got killed over there. Every month, we had memorial services," he said. "There were a lot of injuries, a lot of deaths, a lot of close calls. I'm never free of my own pain. But when I do feel the pain, I think about the guys we lost and I realize my pain isn't that bad."
Kuby remembers how Soldiers memoralized one particularly popular Soldier named Cpl. Jose Alejandro Panniaugua Morales.
"He had a favorite sweater he liked to wear. We cut up the sweater into pieces and everyone had a piece of that sweater in their pocket," Kuby said. "It was tough getting through all that. We didn't really even have time to think about what happened to our friends. Someone would get killed. But we couldn't stop what we were doing. We had to get right back to taking up our security positions."
The IED attack that caused Kuby most of his injuries occurred at night when he was driving back from a mission.
"At night, it's hard to see. But everything was clear. Everything was cool," he recalled. "We were in the Stryker. I was driving. We were going about 30 miles per hour.
"All of a sudden, someone dragged an object into the road in front of us and it exploded. It totally disabled the front end of the Stryker. The engine took most of the blast for me. The 14 guys in the back jumped out and were ambushed at the same time. They pulled me out of the driver's seat and we walked 400 meters to our post. I had shrapnel in my face, my night vision goggles were broken and I had a hairline fracture in my leg."
The attacks Kuby endured also left him with two bulging discs in his back, a fractured spine, two pinched nerves and some memory loss.
Though terrorists made the streets dangerous, Kuby said Soldiers in his unit were respected by the local civilians.
"When we first got there, people were mad and scared. They didn't like to see us," he said. "But, after six months, people realized we were doing a lot of good. They would smile and wave and offer us food.
"They definitely wanted peace. But the thing is, it's not our fight and they need to stand up for themselves."
When the 4th Brigade left Iraq in June 2008, Kuby said Tarmiyah was much more peaceful and under control, with the city cleared of terrorists and Al Qaeda's influence significantly reduced.
He has heard rumors, though, that terrorists are now returning to control. The 4th Brigade redeployed to Iraq last fall.
Kuby, who left the Army on Jan. 12, 2009, has been recommended for a Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge, but he has yet to receive them. He is now enjoying a civilian career that gives him time with his family, which includes wife Amber, son Timothy and 1-year-old Aubrey.
"After something like that, you definitely don't take your family for granted. You learn to appreciate your family and all the things they do to support you," Kuby said. "They mean so much to me after all I've been through."
Kuby joined Walden Security at the Arsenal in July 2009, about six months after leaving the Army.
"I was so excited. I really needed something good," he said. "My wife and my whole family thinks this is awesome. It's been a real morale booster for me. The people I meet at the gates often thank me for what I am doing out here. I really appreciate that. I love just going to work and being with my family."
Kuby hopes to be part of the Arsenal work force for a long time, extending both security and friendliness at the Arsenal gates.
"Nobody likes a rude security guard," he said, smiling.