Source: Campus News
By Nathaniel Villano
Salvatore A. Esposito was an Army medic in Abu Ghraib, but before that life was different. He grew up in Farmingville where many migrant men and women from Central and South America settled. After working side by side with them during summer jobs and being exposed to so many cultures, he developed a love for diversity. After graduating from Sachem High School, he wanted more exposure to diversity and culture and found it in the Army.
Sal joined the Army when he was 19 in 1991, right after high school, and did three years of active military service for his first term. Before that though he had thought of becoming a nurse but enlisted with a career in health science in mind. He attended basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and attended medic school in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During his first term of service he was stationed out in Kansas and Germany. His biggest motivator to get through basic training and medic school was doing the best he could so that when reality came he would be able to help those in need of care.
Honorably discharged in 1994 he began writing and working. Soon after his discharge though his love for writing took over but he still found it very rewarding to help people, which is why when he reenlisted he stayed as a medic instead of pursuing combat journalism. After 9/11 he felt the need to reenlist for his second term and joined the Army Reserve assigned to the 344th Combat Support Hospital.
He was 33 when he signed up for his second term of service. During that second term of service he was assigned to 344th’s home base in Fort Totten, Queens. They trained there, Washington State, Louisiana and Wisconsin. After training he was sent out to Abu Ghraib. He felt blessed to be assigned to a unit perfectly fitted for the mission of raising the standard of detainee health care in the infamous facility where they were abused and humiliated. With the guidance and support of all the nurses and doctors and other medics, he performed well in his duties on sick call for the detainees in the field detainment setting. They were especially helpful to him when he was assigned to work within the hospital’s Emergency Treatment Room for a month. There he was not only able to help the detainees but also the Iraqi civilian population and the Coalition Forces. They had their bad days but overall he says it was a very rewarding experience.
One of the biggest wounds he had to take care of happened when a soldier’s Humvee had been hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device, better known as a roadside bomb) while he was on patrol of Abu Ghraib’s outside perimeter. The shrapnel shot up through the carriage and tore through his body. The toughest part about being a medic was not the wounds but when the detainees showed their spite and hatred. For the most part he says they were grateful of all the care they received. When the mentioned above soldier was brought in to be worked on, Sal noticed two of the detainees receiving medical workups smiling at the soldier’s mangled body.
Right now Sal is currently enrolled at Suffolk County Community College as a Liberal arts major. He works full time at SCCC at the Selden campus in the blue collar unit as an Auto Equipment Operator. When he left Abu Ghraib, Sal spent a lot of time promoting a charity for permanently disabled veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project. After graduating from Suffolk he plans on staying at the college to use his GI Bill to get certifications that will enhance his resume for a future supervisor position. “It’s a good civil service job that helps me connect with the community.” said Sal of his current position. He plans on reenlisting but until after his mother passes. She is a cancer and stroke survivor and he needs to be there for her during her twilight years. He plans on serving one more term, hopefully out in Afghanistan, he said. “Being in the military has fulfilled my desire to help people, to travel and to learn more about the world. I’m still learning,” said Sal.
Sal currently has a book out in libraries called “Abu Ghraib: After the Scandal.” The book is not only about the 2003 abuse scandal that took place, but he also included the sadistic history of the prison when it was under the control of Saddam Hussein and the way he used the prison to instill death and fear to maintain his power. “And I write that we had set the Iraqis up as straw men, claiming they had weapons of mass destruction. Soldiers were in turn set up as straw men, as we were branded with a stigma that accused all of us of human rights violations. Lastly, I wrote the universal brotherhood of man,” said Sal.
Writing the book did not take him long; what took years was getting a publisher. Between agents and publishers, he was rejected about 500 times before he finally found McFarland Publishers in North Carolina. He wants to keep the book as only a reference in libraries and not bookstores so when patrons, particularly students, look up the story of Abu Ghraib they will learn more about what happened in 2003. Several years ago when he started writing it his friend Doug Childers, who co-authored books with best-selling author Dan Millman, convinced him to put it together. “I was reluctant because I knew of all of the resistance I would face. Just bringing it up to folks that I’d served in Abu Ghraib with opened up assumptions, not a dialogue. Were it not for his insistence that it is a story that must be told, I would not have persevered.” His book was published/released in December 2012. He plans on writing another book and has written several other books including a comedy along with a play. After graduation from Suffolk Community College, he plans on seeking an agent.
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