Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 11, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Veterans Day Special


  • Hear the captivating stories of two Iraq War Veterans as they recount their experiences. Sergeant Tim Hernandez and Navy Hospital Corpsman Kevin Ivory talk about their involvement in three explosions.
Guests:
  • Tim Hernandez - Sergeant, U.S. Army


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
>>> Tonight, a "Horizon" special, we hear directly from veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, we hear from veterans who served in World War II. That's next on "Horizon.

Ted Simons:
>>> Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon" I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us this evening. Tonight, we introduce you to two Iraq war vets and who served this country and paid a high price. Sergeant Tim Hernandez served in the U.S. army in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001-2006. He was part of a small search and destroy team during his time in service. He was injured in three separate incidents, once by an improvised explosive device and twice by a rocket-propelled grenades. The last injury dashed his hopes of a military career. He's currently hoping to raise his family of five children. United States navy hospital corpsman Kevin Ivory was injured in three separate E.I.D. explosions. The last one, he was blown 50 feet out of his vehicle. He managed to pull another serviceman from the vehicle and place a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of his fellow soldier's arm. He doesn't remember that incident. Both of our guests received numerous medals and honors for their service. We're honored to have both of you on our program this evening. Thank you for being here.

Kevin Ivory
>> Thank you for having us here.

Ted Simons:
>> Kevin, let's start with you. Why did you join the navy?

Kevin Ivory:
>> I didn't like school very much. I played a lot of sports in high school. Things were kind of given to me. I was used to that. Going to class wasn't the first thing I wanted to do in the morning. I needed discipline. I wanted to move forward. I figured the military would give it to me.

Ted Simons:
>> did you get that discipline?

Kevin Ivory:
>> Absolutely. A little bit more than I bargained for.

Ted Simons:
>> Tim, let's talk to you. Army. Why'd you join?

Tim Hernandez:
>> I was almost in the same situation. I came from mesa. Gang-related back down there that's pretty much what I was doing as I was growing up. I needed to get out of that. I had a kid. I started realize I need to do something with myself. I need to become a man. I joined the military. That's where it took me.
Ted Simons:
>> Family and friends, were they surprised by the decision?

Tim Hernandez:
>> Lots. Especially my father. My father was surprised I pulled through it and went all the way.

Ted Simons:
>> Kevin, family and friends surprised?

Kevin Ivory:
>> My family was upset. Why would you do it at a time like this? I have to. Still doesn't understand. Now that I'm back at home and safe, my girl doesn't get it.

Ted Simons:
>> You experienced three roadside bomb attacks while on patrol.

Kevin Ivory:
>> That's right.

Ted Simons:
>> tell us as much as you can. I understand the memory isn't there of especially the last one. What can you tell us about what happened during these incidents?

Kevin Ivory:
>> The first two were on a Monday and Tuesday. They were back to back. The first one it rocked the truck a little bit. Threw a lot of metal at the truck. We switched trucks. The next day, we got hit again. I was pretty out of it after that they gave me a week off. They gave me a good week to recover. Two days after I came back, I parked over bombs.

Ted Simons:
>> That's pretty much the last you can recall of the incidents?

Kevin Ivory:
>> I remember the boom. I remember looking at the bottom of my Kevlar that was in my hand. I was picking myself up off the ground. I can taste the dirt. My head was just throbbing. My ears were ringing really loud. I remember looking at the truck and hearing Jeff, sergeant combs, calling my name saying, "doc, I'm hit. Doc, I'm hit." After that, I remember coming up to the truck and waking up in the hospital with a doctor with huge glasses. I'll never forget, he had huge glasses standing over me saying, "hey, are you ok?"

Ted Simons:
>> That's the thing you remember.


Kevin Ivory:
>> The glasses were blinding me. The light was in my face and they were reflecting off his glasses too so --

Ted Simons:
>> was it the kind of thing -- during the first explosion, the first time this happened, did something tell you, oh yeah, I'm vulnerable! This could happen to me, too.

Kevin Ivory:
>> I think I was in shock for the rest of the day. I couldn't believe it. When we pulled back in and they were -- the tires were all flat the and, you know, we got out and I was looking at the truck, I couldn't believe it. My head was ringing. I had a headache. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock that night. The second time, I said, I want to go home. This isn't the way I want to go out. I want to go home.

Ted Simons:
>> did those two previous attacks, did they in some way, shape or form, better prepare you for number three?

Kevin Ivory:
>> I think I was expecting it. So, yes and no, because after -- I mean, every little crack in the road, every soda can on the side of the road was a bomb to me. I mean, you're just constantly on alert. It's not a good feeling at all. So when it happened, it was -- when I woke up in the hospital, I felt a sigh of relief. I felt like, there's no way they can send me back but then again, you never want to think like that but after the third one, I was like, you know, I can't take it.

Ted Simons:
>> Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin Ivory:
>> I'm done.

Ted Simons:
>> Tim, three separate attacks. Talk to us about them. As much as you can talk. As much as you can remember.

Tim Hernandez:
>> The first one was a firefight I went to. They just said all operations were over and the war was done. It was the very beginning of the very part of the war. It was 2003, I believe. And they said, I think, it was probably around June or July, one of those. Um, this was Iraq. And, um, I remember the firefight we got the into. We were so surprise. We couldn't believe this was happening because, you know, we were -- at the time, we didn't have -- you go out with four trucks, you know, at the time, you go out with two trucks, do night missions and so forth. Then the insurgency started rising. We were in the middle of it. I can remember the first attack I really got into first on force, rounds flying everywhere. I can remember the confusion and the shock in the beginning. We have this thing called battle hard. You don't get battle hard right away. You get battle hard by going through stuff like that. None of us were. When you go through something like that like he was saying, you're not really prepared for it the next time but it almost teaches you, ok, this is what is going to happen. This is what you need to do. At that time, I wasn't that way. A lot of us weren't. It was pretty intense for the first firefight. We got through it, though. No one was really injured. I took a little bit of scraping and scraps here and there but no one was severely injured.

Ted Simons:
>> The attacks after that?

Tim Hernandez:
>> Um, the second one was an I.E.D., roadside bomb. We were coming around a traffic circle taking prisoners back to a place in Iraq. I believe it was called isamar airfield. We were coming around this traffic circle that they have out there. I remember looking down and seeing the initial blast and when it blast it goes pop and then boom. And I could remember seeing the pop and I tried to turn as fast as I could because I was up in the gun pointing security and I remember that pop and then I looked away. Then I felt the hotness, confusion, dirt, sound and the ringing of the ears. You don't know which way is up or down. At the time I was in the truck, um -- then I got back up and got back on my gun and waiting for the firefight to happen. I was still a little confused. Like I said, I was already battle hard. So the third one, the third attack that I got into when I got my third purple heart, it's kind of hard to talk about but, it was -- there were two trucks. They were coming from taji east of Baghdad right before you get to bilad. It was late at night. We were escorting some big trucks back. Some hats. I was in the back. All of a sudden we heard we were attacked. We drove our humvees up there as fast as we could and found out what was going on. As soon as we got into the area, they opened up fire on us and hit with us R.P.G.'s and all of this other stuff. And in the attack, we lost some people and, um, you know, personally I lost some people on my truck. I remember, um, jumping out of my truck because of the r.p.g.'s that hit the truck and I can remember trying to get an A.S.P. report going through my crew and equipment trying to find out who was gone and who was hurt. My gunman was hurt. My drive was gone. It was, um, then I -- it was hazy after that then I remember running to the other truck when I was getting fired on. That's what I got -- that's when I got hurt the second time. The r.p.g. hit the floor next to me or the asphalt. That blew up against my leg hip, arm, side and a little bit of my face and I got back up. I pulled guys out of the truck. And I got them back to safety and returned fire. Went back in another time to get our sensitive items -- that we call them -- and came back out. Then I had to go back in another time because all of our maps and everything were in there. I went through enemy contacts three different times.

Ted Simons:
>> My goodness.

Tim Hernandez:
>> Yeah.
Ted Simons:
>> Severe injuries here. Severe injuries here. I want you to both talk about the recovery process and, again, just share with us what went through your mind as you were recovering from these wounds.

Kevin Ivory:
>> Um, it's not me. Just everything changed, memory. Emotions. I mean, people talk about you're quiet sometimes and you know, and people -- you're just not yourself. I don't know if anyone's ever sprained an ankle or anything like that but you know you can run fast but on that swollen ankle, you can't do much so it's frustrating, but to realize it's going to be like that pretty much your whole life, it's just a battle you fight with yourself more than injuries. I mean, when it's with the brain injury, it's not physically -- physically I look fine but you go inside my head and it's just all rewired. So --

Ted Simons:
>> And the recovery process for you as well, did it feel like this might be someone else's story? What am I doing in someone else's story?

Tim Hernandez:
>> It did. It was pretty surreal. I didn't -- I couldn't believe it. It was one of those things where you sit in the hospital and you see a guy next to you and he lost his arm. You see the other guy over here that lost his hand and here you are, you're still whole but at the same time you still have the same problems and the same mental injuries as anyone else does. And it's hard to deal with because you don't want to come out and say, hey, I have a problem in my head or anything like that. It's hard to explain. It really is, because you don't want to admit it but at the same time you want to talk about it but you don't want to talk about it because it makes you feel like less of a person. That's just something that comes with it. So --

Ted Simons:
>> do you miss the service? If so, what do you miss about the service?

Kevin Ivory:
>> Sometimes I do. Sometimes you have some freedoms. I mean, I work in an office. It's frustrating because their problems are problems I wished I had in the military. Sometimes I missed that aspect of it. When we complained about stuff we complained about some stuff that should be complained about. Now, it's just kind of -- um, it's petty at times. A lot of times, it's a good stepping stone. I kind of appreciate it for what it is. Sometimes I just miss the bond with some of the guys that I had and some of the guys I lost as well.

Ted Simons:
>> Tim, do you miss it?



Tim Hernandez:
>> I do. I really do. I'm not one of those war junkies or anything like that at all. What I miss is I miss my friends, brothers and sisters in arms. I really do. It's almost like being in a fraternity when you're in there, you know? You're in there for awhile. You get to meet all walks and shapes all over the nation. All over the world for that matter sometimes. People from different places that joined this united states army and it just -- to be taken out of that and to start all the way back over -- you know, you get rank when you're in the military. You get up to a certain spot. To be taken out of that and put back into the civilian life how hard it is with the economy today and everything trying to get a job, it's hard to realize you're not going to have your friends anymore. You're not going to have the same pay anymore. You're not going to have the same benefits anymore. It makes you miss it tremendously. And I do. I really do.

Ted Simons:
>> Can you talk a little bit, both of you, about the people you met and not in the service but the folks in Iraq. How much contact did you have with civilians there?

Kevin Ivory:
>> I had a lot. It was at a time I took over a hospital. I tried to care for 200 patients at one time. And you get people that truly appreciate you. You get people that are normal. Middle-class and poor. The U.S. is kind of no different from there. It's a different culture but you get people that need help and want help and then you get extremists that you just can't talk to them. You can't get to them. Most of the people I came in tack with were sick or needed medical treatment. They were vulnerable and they were open. I think that's the best way to meet the people in the situation we were in.

Ted Simons:
>> do you think you changed minds and hearts from the folks that came in needing help, got help and left with a different idea?

Kevin Ivory:
>> I changed lives. Definitely a woman -- I helped deliver a baby. She wanted to name her baby after me but Kevin doesn't really go too well over in the Arabic language so -- it's definitely people that appreciate what we did over there. Absolutely. There's a lot of those hidden stories as well as the war stories we're telling here today too.

Ted Simons:
>> You were in Iraq and Afghanistan. Compare the two. How were they different? How were they similar?

Tim Hernandez:
>> Well, different in the sense of the way the war was fought differently in both areas. I would say Afghanistan -- when I was there at the time -- there wasn't that much insurgency rising at the time. There wasn't that much attacks. Occasionally an I.E.D., explosive integrated device, on the side of the road. Most was keeping peace, going into downs and do presence patrols and talking to people. That's pretty much all it was. For me being there at the time I was there, the people, it was amazing, because just like you said, it's just like normal people. They speak a different language and have a different culture but they bleed and breathe the same way we do. They're the same people everywhere I went.

Ted Simons:
>> Did you see the changes? Did you see their attitudes changed as you noticed you may not have been a certain way?

Tim Hernandez:
>> I saw that a lot in Iraq. Like I said, I was there in the first push and then towards the middle. Towards the first push, that's when we got a lot of hatred after the insurgency started rising in the beginning of 2004 in December. That started to get intense at that time. You can see the hatred there. It came out more. And then as we started fixing schools and fixing water supplies and, you know, the things that the military does, um, you could see people change. Could you see -- I mean, I walk the streets every day looking for things and bomb shelters and I was talking to people that knew me by a first name basis. We had a little thing out front. Every single one of them knew me by name. You made friends. Some people appreciated it, some people didn't.

Ted Simons:
>> Last question, relatively quickly here, are you optimistic for the future?

Kevin Ivory:
>> As far as the war is concerned?

Ted Simons:
>> As far as your life is concerned?

Kevin Ivory:
>> Always, always, absolutely. Jeff and I both. The person that was in the third I.E.D. incident with me, he lost his arm. Now he's got his prosthetic all tattooed up. He's working construction with one arm. When you have someone like that in your life, I don't think that you can be down on yourself as long as you're breathing and you're alive. I just try to help people as much as possible. I think I've been blessed enough in my life.

Ted Simons:
>> Optimistic?

Tim Hernandez:
>> Very optimistic. At first I wasn't. I'm not going to life. Now that I've been out and the people that I've met and the V.A., the people personnel, and all of this, it's been beautiful. I've had a great life for the last two years. I really have.



Ted Simons:
>> It's been an honor to have you both on set with us and joining us tonight on "Horizon." Thank you for your service. Best of luck to both of you.

Kevin Ivory:
>> Thank you.

Ted Simons:
>> Horizon teamed with the Arizona heritage project to record the experiences of the veterans of the Second World War. This soldier's company worked its way into Germany and came upon a concentration camp in Dachau.

Jack Nemerov:
>> By the time we were getting close to Germany, we were hardened fighters, tough. My young men were the best fighters in the world. And we kind of became [indiscernible] to what we saw. When we entered Dachau we were horror-stricken what we saw. We're human beings. Yes, we're human. We were there to fight a war. That was more than we can digest what we saw there. When we entered there -- and there were still German guards there. They weren't armed. I don't know what they did with their armorment but they were still there. And we saw the poor emaciated human beings. The main camp only held male prisoners. We saw walking scarecrows, skin and bones. That's all they were. And the older of the camp, horrendous! Just horrendous! Now, they issued orders all prisoners were supposed to be killed. Most camp commandants didn't know what's the difference? They lost. Another week? Two weeks? A month? The war was over. All they did is said, "Go." The prisoners of war didn't go any place they figured, what's the use? Our own forces will be here sooner or later. Where are we going to go? The poor devils in the butchery camps were too weak to go any places. We came in and the commandant disobeyed the orders. He had bodies all over the place that was recently shot. The poor devils that were still alive seemed to have a compulsion if they kept moving, they would stay alive. So barely able to stand on their feet but they were barely walking around. They would walk around on the ground. When we came in, they gave us kind a strange look because they were used to the idea of men coming in wearing different colored uniforms, come in and shoot some of them and then leave, because the Nazis had developed killing squads. Some of the killing squads wore black uniforms. Some wore green-gray uniforms. Some wore brown uniforms. We came in wearing khaki uniforms. They figured, another killing squad. Another uniform. And they just kept moving around. So I walked up to a couple moving around and I stopped them like this and I spoke to them in Jewish. I said I'm Jewish and we're concerns. And they all started to gather around us. And they -- apparently they didn't believe we were real. They reached out to feel the fabric of our uniforms and when they felt that the fabric was real, they grabbed us by our arms and wouldn't let go. They just hung on. Some found enough moisture in their bodies to cry. They cried. We did, too. And then as tough as our young men were, they were still big-hearted Americans. They reached into their pack and took out the camp food that they had and handed it to some of the poor walking scarecrows. That was a serious mistake. A couple of these poor walking scarecrows took the food out, gulped it down and dropped dead in front of us. This was an experience -- we could have killed everybody in sight. That's how we felt. Two of my young men went absolutely wild. They just went out of their mind. They went after the guards standing in the back there, the German guards with the rifles. They didn't shoot them but they started to hit them with the butt of their rifle. And they had some of them down on the ground. They were hitting with the butt of their rifle. And I knew I had to stop it. There are always people that go by the book. I knew if some top brass walked in and saw what was going on, those two young men of mine could have gotten five years in prison for what they were doing. So I started to wrestle them back out towards the gate. As I was pulling them out, they handed their rifles to a couple of the poor walking scarecrows. And these two devils, poor walking scarecrows finished off the guards on the ground. They were too weak to do any real damage. So then I took the people that I brought in with me, I took a few truckloads of workers from the BMW plant in with me and the reason why I did that is because they said they didn't know, you know -- so then I took them towards the back of the camp and there was a big wooden shed back there. That was locked. So we broke the lock and got into the that shed. The shed was near the crematorium when we got into the shed, we found there was bags and bags and bags of lime and all kinds of tools in there. So I had some of the people that didn't know dig a ditch. Back by the crematorium and take some of the bodies that were decomposing and put them in the ditch and cover them with lime and cover them up with dirt and then I had them make a marker "poor old souls here." That's the best we can do. There was no way we can identify them. They were decomposing. We had to get them buried. We did that for four hours. Some major walked in. He bellowed at me, "Get out!" So I took my guys and I left. Later it turned out that he was from the 43rd infantry division and the 43rd -- the general of the 43rd always had newspaper men with him. They were writing up a story of the 43rd. The general wanted the credit for liberating that place. So we had to get out. They did write the story. I found the story.

Ted Simons:
>> Thanks for joining us on this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. If you have comments about "horizon" please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "horizon." "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. "Horizon" is the source of in-depth reporting and thoughtful discussion about local Arizona issues. Each weeknight, Ted Simons offers civil discourse with knowledgeable panelist who has are there not to agitate but rather to educate. "Horizon" works hard to provide you with news and information that's factual, nonjudgmental, and balanced. Finding reliable information has never been more difficult and more important. Your contribution now will help assure that thoughtful public programs will always have a home on 8. Thank you.

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