They Hung His Friends From a Bridge

Robert Young Pelton’s Iraq War comic book explores mercenary’s tragic past

They Hung His Friends From a Bridge They Hung His Friends From a Bridge

Uncategorized August 1, 2013 0

Billy Tucci art They Hung His Friends From a Bridge Robert Young Pelton’s Iraq War comic book explores mercenary’s tragic past It was March... They Hung His Friends From a Bridge
Billy Tucci art

They Hung His Friends From a Bridge

Robert Young Pelton’s Iraq War comic book explores mercenary’s tragic past

It was March 2004 and T-Boy’s flight was delayed. Because of that, the gunner for the private security company Blackwater missed a mission with his fellow mercenaries to deliver kitchen equipment to U.S. Marines in Fallujah, then a major battlefield of the Iraq War.

The Blackwater mission ended in horror. Four of T-Boy’s fellow Blackwater guns-for-hire were ambushed by insurgents and shot dead, their bodies set on fire and hung from a bridge.

Eight months later famed war correspondent Robert Young Pelton met T-Boy in Baghdad, where the goateed fighter, depicted above, manned a machine gun on the most dangerous eight-minute commute in the world. Riding in battered armored trucks, Blackwater’s Mamba Team raced back and forth on Route Irish escorting coalition personnel between Baghdad’s international airport and the fortified Green Zone compound.

Pelton was there to write. His new graphic novel Roll Hard is one result.

Billy Tucci art

“I selected three companies I felt would be the major players in the private security industry: Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Hart,” he tells War is Boring. “I spent time with all of them in Iraq. I asked [then-Blackwater boss] Erik Prince what the most dangerous job they had was. He said the Mamba team.”

“I was later to find that each member had a fascinating story,” Pelton adds.

It took weeks and several shared near-death experiences on the bomb-blasted Route Irish for T-Boy—a surprisingly gentle soul—to open up to Pelton. And the story he told was heart-breaking. T-Boy wondered if he could have made the difference that day in Fallujah. Was his delay why his friends died?

On every mission, T-Boy carried an American flag in memory of his lost friends. And in March 2005, exactly a year after the Fallujah killings, T-Boy visited the fateful span as the Marines renamed it Blackwater Bridge. Pelton’s explosive graphic novel, with detailed art by Billy Tucci, depicts T-Boy tearfully pressing the flag to a girder.

“Survivors’ PTSD and many other issues plagued him,” Pelton says, adding that T-Boy and the other members of Mamba Team, reticent at first, now love the Roll Hard comic book. “I just wanted to put a human face on what I thought was a very ugly job for a group of people that was little understood.”

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