Soldier in Iraq Cuts the Grass

image A picture of a soldier cutting a small square of grass outside his tent is making the rounds. It's accompanied by this text.

Sometimes the little things we take for granted - Priceless
Here is a soldier stationed in Iraq, stationed in a big sand box he asked his wife to send him dirt, fertilizer and some grass seeds so he can have the sweet aroma and feel the grass grow beneath his feet.  If you notice, he is even cutting the grass with a pair of scissors.
 Sometimes we are in such a hurry that we don't stop and think about the little things that we take for granted.  Upon receiving this, please say a prayer for our soldiers that give (and give up) so unselfishly for us.

Someone who left a comment on the Utah VVA site where I came across the image noted that they had found a larger version of the image on which a date is clearly marked: November 2000. On this date the soldier could not have been stationed in Iraq. Of course, the date could be photoshopped in. Or maybe that's not even the date. I can't figure out what the numbers after '2000.11' mean. Also, I'm not sure how long this picture has been floating around.
Update: The soldier has been identified as Warrant Officer Brook Turner in Iraq. For more info see this update from Dec. 31, 2004.

Military Photos

Posted on Sat Oct 09, 2004


If you look closely at that date, there is a colon between the 11 and 33, which would suggest that 11:33 is the time the picture was taken.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Sat Oct 09, 2004  at  05:55 AM
My guess is that he forgot to set the date on the camera... Many cameras now default to January 1, 2000, and if he'd been using the camera for 11 months or so, perhaps that explains the date shown.

Posted by Quentin Smith  on  Sat Oct 09, 2004  at  06:59 AM
If this was taken in Iraq - where is the sand? All I see are rocks the guy is standing on. I'm willing to bet he is in Afghanistan.
Posted by Jellybelly  on  Sat Oct 09, 2004  at  09:20 AM
He's wearing Nike sneakers made by 7 year olds in Vietnam.
Posted by john  on  Sat Oct 09, 2004  at  12:49 PM
There isn't a colon between the 11 and the 33, there's a period/dot (the upper part Andrew is seeing is just shadow on the rocks, it doesn't have any orange in it like the rest of the text, and the bottom dot is lower than the bottom one in the actual colon between 31 and 77.)

So then the text reads:

2000.11.33 31:77

Which looks for all the world like a time stamp, but can't be (November 33rd? 31 hours 77 minutes?), unless the camera is broken or it's actually taken at a secret military camp on Mars, where they use some weird Martian time.

Quentin's idea doesn't work if you consider how the clock would keep time. If it was counting from when he got it and forgot to set the proper date, you still wouldn't have the out of bounds numbers.

So the possibilities are:
1) broken/screwy clock in camera
2) nonsense edited in later
3) some unusual system of time measurment used by the military (Nikes aside, are we certain this is US military? can anyone identify the rifle?)
4) not a time stamp, but some other form of information that, coincidentally, looks exactly like a time stamp

As to lack of sand, well, do you really envision every inch of Iraq being covered with it? At the very least they would throw down some gravel on the walkway at a camp like this.
Posted by kf  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  12:56 AM
I'm not in the Army, I'm in the Air Force, but I work closely with the Army. As far as the picture itself, I can not identify anything in the picture that would make me think it is not authentic.

-The clothes he is wearing are regulation Army PT (Physical Training) gear. The black marking on the back of the shirt is an "A" for Army (you are only seing part of it in this picture).
-The weapon is an M16/A4
-The military puts at least 6 inches of gravel down on top of the sand/dirt when they build a "tent city" to allow for drainage.

As far as the numbers or the actual location (Iraq or Afghanistan) I have no clue.
Posted by Michael K  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  05:38 AM
I don't know. I'm sure he could grow grass outside of his tent...but...He may not even be out of the country. I don't think the U.S. would allow a biological product like that to enter a foreign country. Remember when sheep were introduced to Austrailia?? People MOSTLY learned their lesson. Doesn't the military still screen mail & packages to soldiers? I mean even if they don't & customs was checking packages for bombs...a big bag of dirt would look a little suspicious. I just can't think of anywhere in the U.S. that the military trains that would make a soldier homesick for grass.

As for the Time Stamp...It just looks so out of place on the picture. It's in a perfect spot to be real, and it looks barely smudged, but that could just be the fact that the focus is out on the edge of the photo & creates the optical illusion of the stamp being smudged....I have a camera where I can input whatever I want into the time stamp...But it shows up on the back of the photo. So the date might not make any sense at all. 31:77 may be a digital record that the picture is # 31 of 77 total pictures. 11.33 could still be the time even though it uses a . instead of a : And that would leave the 2000 to be it's just the year it was taken. I still think it's odd that the stamp is on the front of the picture.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  10:23 AM aint a square it's a rectangle. It could be any time any place and so is useless as specific information.
Wish I could see a sharp enlargement. Does not really look like a tent city, and would we have tent cities in Iraq? i think no, too much of a concentrated target.
The tents look more like wooded structures from here. They seem much too large for ordinary combat soldiers. But then perhaps Hallibuttin or whatever makes sure to supply large expensive structures for the guys.
Regardless off all of this, this is one fine site, and free also. It always makes my day.

Posted by pepe nero  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  02:32 PM
Assuming the time stamp wasn't added on later, it looks like what you would expect from a digital camera. Film cameras use LEDs or something like that to expose the stamp onto the film, and wouldn't have the neat black border around the text. Any smudginess is probably the result of JPEG compression or scaling from the original size.

The picture (on the second link) is 480 by 640 which is a standard size (VGA) or scaled size (1/x of a standard size) for digital pics (with the camera held sideways to get the length of the pathway and grass, explaining why the time stamp is on the side.) So a digicam (or phone cam) seems most likely.

Maegan is right that . can be used instead of : in times, and that is the norm in some countries, but it still seems odd to have it listed like that. Who would want to know the percise year, hour, and minute, but not the day or month? Time travelers?

31:77 meaning the 31st pic out of 77 is a good idea, but why would it stamp it onto the pic? With a digicam, time stamps are usually written onto the image as it's saved to whatever media the camera uses. Since they also allow you to delete pics that have been saved, any "x out of y" would become meaningless. (Also the ability to save different size pics means the total number the camera can hold would be variable.) The only way that having that on the pic would make sense is if it was stamped onto it as it was coppied from the camera to the computer (like you were copying 77 pics and it stamped each with a running count as they were copied), but I'm not aware of any software that does that and it would seem like kind of a silly option.

If the camera allowed you to put any number you wanted into the time stamp then that would certainly be a possibility, but then we're left wondering if those numbers are just gibberish or if they have some secret meaning.

As to allowing the introduction of foreign organisms into an environment... it's the military, not Greenpeace. I doubt they care that much about polluting the Iraqi biosphere with invasive lawns.

Anyway, I don't see any compelling reason to doubt that this was taken in Iraq (although I'm sure the details of the little story that go with it have been at least embellished, like the sending of dirt, which would seem odd). Michael's details certainly fit. The time stamp does seem strange though and I'm curious to the reason for it.
Posted by kf  on  Sun Oct 10, 2004  at  11:00 PM
I can imagine someone asking to be sent grass seeds, but the dirt bit is taking it too far. I have it on very good authority that there is already a lot of dirt in Iraq, so there is really no need to import more of it. Fertilizer, likewise is not hard to come by (tent cities have latrines, don't they?). You would, however, need a huge amount of water to keep that lawn green in the desert.
Sending seeds through the mail is usually not difficult. I've sent seeds to people in various countries, and received seeds by mail from several countries, with no problems.
Still, though, the idea that a soldier in a combat zone would spend his time tending a little lawn and cutting it with a small pair of scissors seems like quite a stretch to me. If the photo is real, two other possibilities occur:
a. The green substance in the picture isn't ordinary grass, but some other herb with a higher retail value; or
b. This is some new form of hazing for newbies, or a punishment detail cooked up by the camp's officers.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Oct 11, 2004  at  02:40 PM
If you look closely you'll see what appears to be a plastic container of water with a blue-green label sitting on the bench that the rifle is leaning against. So we can definitely rule out a sprinkler system.

I can also think of an additional, more morbid possibilty for a plot of grass with those dimensions, but somehow I doubt a heart-warming little Christmas story built around that would fly with the sorts of people who email pictures like this.
Posted by kf  on  Tue Oct 12, 2004  at  12:37 AM
I don't really see this as a far-fetched possibility. Why wouldn't a soldier want a little patch of grass outside his tent? Dirt wouldn't be that hard to come by(Iraq probably grows food somewhere....), seeds wouldn't be that hard to come by(Is the US the only place that grows grass?....), and water wouldn't be that hard to come by(As far as I know, the soldiers arent' being rationed water....). Everyone seems to be picking nits on this one. Hoax picture or not, it would be easily done for real, and a pretty cool idea, too.
Posted by Mark R  on  Tue Oct 12, 2004  at  05:47 PM
Dudes, it's simple. Whenever a battery pack (regular AA batteries, not the small one for keeping the date ) is removed from certain cameras (for example, Olympus F100 camera that I own), the date is reset to 01.01.2000. Why there is no date backup system I don't know, but this photo is NOT a HOAX. By the way, Jellybelly, lack of sand does not mean this guy is not in Iraq, because there is lots of land that is not sand there.
Posted by SK  on  Wed Oct 13, 2004  at  12:48 AM
SK: That doesn't explain the weird numbers.

Even if it were reset to Jan. 1, 2000, the clock would still behave like a proper clock and would never say it's 31:77 on the 33rd of November (unless, as noted, it was damaged or has some unusual feature to put any numbers you want in the time stamp). The arrangement of the numbers is in the exact form (YYYY.MM.DD hh:mm) you would expect for a time stamp, and other explanations seem odd (like having who tells time that way?)

The question of if it is a hoax (at least as far as taking place in Iraq) was raised because of the "2000", which people assume means it was taken in 2000. But if the other numbers make no sense as a time stamp, then we can't assume that the "2000" is a reliable measure of the year. The clock may be screwed up, or it might mean something else entirely.

I agree with everyone saying there is no reason to doubt the actual contents of the photo, and that it being taken in Iraq is plausable (even if the story details sound colorized). But I still want to know the story behind the numbers, since they really make no sense.
Posted by kf  on  Wed Oct 13, 2004  at  01:46 AM
Maybe this is the true location, Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar.
Posted by Ernie  on  Mon Oct 18, 2004  at  11:37 PM
Snopes has weighed in on this one as well...
Posted by Karen V  on  Tue Oct 19, 2004  at  06:00 AM
Ok, let me put some minds to rest. I started this email because that is my brother law and I am very proud of him. He has not set the date on the camera obviously alittle too busy. But, he is stationed in Faji (spelling? not sure). He has been over there a year in January. This is no Haux! He is a live person working for the Army (although lately the email has changed to "marines"). NBC was interested in doing a piece on this picture but, we haven't heard from them lately. (They may have got on this website and had doubts). Unless you have valid questions about anything, don't shed any doubt.
Posted by Michelle  on  Wed Nov 17, 2004  at  03:28 PM
Another thing, there was a comment "why would someone in combat be wanted grass?" Ok, they cannot just run to the local mall on their day off, they can't go to the bar with a buddy and have a "tottie". They are stationed in a secure area, where they spend their day off. If you will notice, he still is carrying his gun while tending his grass. So, I hope I put everyone's mind to rest with the time stamp on the camera and the authenticity of the picture.
Posted by Michelle  on  Wed Nov 17, 2004  at  03:38 PM
this is bs. you cant mail fertilizer or dirt to iraq....its restricted by customs. not even sure if you can mail fertilizer OUT of the US anyway. my fiance tried to mail canned soups to her brother stationed over there and damn near got him in trouble.
Posted by John Ormas  on  Sun Sep 02, 2012  at  09:11 PM
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