Josh Galiyas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served with the 101st Airborne Division and US Southern Command from 2001-2008. He was in army basic training during the 9/11 attack, and in 2003 he was among the first troops to enter Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2003, as Josh’s unit staged in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq, Sergeant Hasan Karim Akbar (formerly Mark Fidel Kools) threw four hand grenades into three tents in which other members of the 101st Airborne Division were sleeping; Akbar then fired his rifle at fellow soldiers in the ensuing chaos. Killed in the attack were officers Christopher Seifert and Gregory Stone. Fourteen other soldiers were wounded by Akbar.
In 2005, Sgt. Akbar was convicted and sentenced to death. His judgement has since been twice affirmed by the courts and he currently awaits execution. Akbar was the first soldier since the Vietnam War to be convicted for “fragging” fellow soldiers overseas during wartime.
“Before I joined the army, did I ever think I could end up in a war?” Josh says, thinking back to his high school days. “Sure I did.” That comes with the territory, he admits. But war, he realized is a miserable experience. It’s the worst thing anyone could go through. “Sure, my time in the army made a man out of me, but war is not something I enjoyed.”
On September 14, 2015, Josh Galiyas shared his story with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.