The Other Graveyard

US military fighting vehicles damaged in Iraqare repaired in Texas.

As bullet-riddled, bomb-scarred fighting vehicles are slowly towed into the production lines of the Red River Army Depot in northeast Texas, 57-year-old Elnora Harris often wonders about the young soldiers who have been in them, traveling in harm’s way through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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In a business made brisk by world conflict, Red River officials say they do not have enough money or manpower to keep up with the incoming shipments of crippled combat vehicles. Row after row of disabled Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, cargo trucks and ambulances line the back lots of the depot — a graveyard of metal.

Between 6,200 and 7,000 battle-worn vehicles are parked on those lots, and officials say it would cost as much as $65,000 to fix each of the Humvees and $500,000 to $1 million to repair each Bradley. A new battle-worthy Humvee, decked out with high-tech communication gear and state-of the-art armor, costs the government about $190,000. A big Bradley costs $2.2 million, Army officials said.

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Concern for the welfare of young soldiers strikes hardest for Harris whenever she climbs inside a big Bradley, preparing it for an overhaul, and finds pictures of loved ones and discarded notes, written with a shaky hand.

“They’re mostly letters to their sweethearts. How they miss them. And want to come home,” she said.

“It’s sad,” Harris added, always wondering whether the soldiers made it out.

Despite the current production pace, disabled fighting vehicles fill the back lots of the 18,000-acre Red River Army Depot, some simply worn out by the grit of war, others showing signs of a devastating attack, crumpled by improvised explosive devices, known more commonly as IEDs.

The shattered lines on thick bulletproof windshields tell the story of heavy gunfire absorbed by American troops. Jagged holes, pointed inward in floorboards, convey the horrifying picture of an explosive going off directly under the seats of traveling soldiers. Melted tires and charred metal are clear reminders of the heat of danger in a distant war.

2 thoughts on “The Other Graveyard

  1. Saw the video (probably a cliche by now) on CNN, of a Bradley getting blown up by an IED.
    $2 million of scrap in 1 second. Aside from the poor souls inside it.
    But still we think war is an answer.

  2. Red River, along with Anniston in Alabama where they repair tracked vehicles, is one of the few installations that’s seeing an increase in budgets for base ops these days, while power projecting platforms like Ft. Benning, Hood, Carson and Bragg are all getting cuts.
    No money for the troops, but we will get them into combat one way or another.

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