General Sherman’s famous quote, “War is hell,” springs to mind as I watched Hank bleed out. We walked right into the killzone. “Thanks to that idiot Lieutenant.” Hank and I had sought cover behind a barrier made of sand, and God only knows what else. Thick, black smoke fills the air, the smell of burning rubber and human flesh makes it impossible to take deep breaths. We return fire and provide covering fire so our men can get out of the killzone. As usual, you never hear the shot that kills you. I hear a loud crack and Hank hits the ground. Blood pools in his lower torso, and I drag him to the corner and begin first aid. The bullet hit Hank in the liver, just below his flak vest.
I open his vest and cover the wound with my glove. “Freeman, I’m dying. Put me out of my misery and continue mission. We have to help these people.” I can’t get the bleeding to stop. Hank groans and I prop him up against the barrier.
“Hold this bandage against the wound, Hank. I have to beat back these clowns, they are charging us.” I put Hank’s hand over the wound. Lifting my weapon, I press the trigger and spray bullets. With the help of the other soldiers, we finally beat the insurgency back. I turn to Hank and sit down next to my friend. I put two fingers on his neck to check his pulse, but he is dead.
I stand to my feet, and can’t believe my eyes. Dead bodies litter the ground, blood stains the walls, the ground, and the faces of my fellow soldiers. Vehicles and buildings are burning. I grab Hank by the shoulders and pull him to the nearest vehicle. The entire scene is carnage.
“God help us.”
As I walk back to my vehicle, a Sergeant Major stands outside his Humvee yelling into a hand mic. I feel something whiz past my ear, and I watch as the bullet strikes the SGM in the ear. His brains fall out of the side of his head.
“Jesus!” I duck and race to where the Sergeant Major had fallen. His body lies under the armored door of the Humvee. I check him and I see movement from the corner of my eye. Turning, I lift my weapon and track the insurgent.He comes out of the ditch, RPG raised and aimed at my friends. I pull the trigger three times. The bullets thud into his body and he slides down the ditch. Our new convoy leader signals for us to load up. We all jump into our vehicles and continue mission to the next rally point. Darkness falls upon us as we pull into our ‘secured zone.’
After the last vehicle has pulled up to the rest, we all download. I stretch. My body feels like it has been ran over. Wearily, we all trudge to the formation that Goon called.
“We lost some good men today. However, we have dealt a critical blow to the insurgency. They know we are here. Today, they felt it. We should not get cocky though, these guys will not back down. We have to take this city. Hunker down for a couple of hours. Get some rest.”
“ Hank is dead, God only knows how many more will die in this dump.” I walk to my truck and crawl in the driver’s seat. Stripping down, I take off my helmet and open my vest. It feels like my gear weighs a thousand pounds.
“I’m gonna die in this freaking place. I will die lost.” Alone in my truck, I cry. I cry for Hank, for those who didn’t make it to the rally point, and I cry for me. It has been years since I went to church. My thoughts turn to God. Does He still love me? Will he forgive me for what I have done? When I am done here, will He be able to call me His son?
Exhausted, I lean back against the seat and in seconds, I’m asleep.