Super Bowl memories, Mortar attacks, and Good Friends…unedited…

It’s quiet, and it reminds me of this one night in Iraq.

Too much silence always precluded an attack in Iraq. On the night of the Super Bowl in 2005, I was tasked to go down to the motorpool and transfer fuel for a night mission.

The air was still, much like this morning. Over the sound of a pump pushing 350 gallons per minute, my partner and I heard indirect fire coming in. My buddy was on top of the truck. He leaped up and down hollering about ‘incoming fire.’

“Get down, idiot. Lay flat on top of the truck. You don’t have time to get down and get into a bunker.”

He fell and got small on top of the vehicle. I ducked behind a t-wall as the mortar exploded. The entire night sky suddenly became bright as day. Metal screamed as shrapnel ripped into the armor and concrete barrier I hid behind.

“Jesus,” I heard my friend scream.

“You okay, bud?”

“Screw you, Freeman.”

“Why? I didn’t do it.”

After we finished our task, we took stock of the damage. The t-wall where I sought cover bore ripped out chunks of concrete. Our newly armored vehicles were torn open, much like a ripped open can of sardines.

We were lucky to have survived. As we started back toward the barracks, two rockets flashed overhead.

“Oh God, Freeman. They targeted the barracks!”

My buddy and I raced toward the barracks and watched as they exploded against the satellite, we received our programming through.

“Those dirty rats,” my bud screamed. “How are we gonna watch the Super Bowl now?!”

It was one of the few times we had downtime, and suddenly, on one of the biggest nights in sports, we would not get to watch the Super Bowl. It felt like some inhumane action against us.

“They shoot at us, blow us up, and kill us, but this right here is downright evil,” my friend proclaimed. I couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl, not then or now, but I must confess this night made me angry.

Thankfully, where there’s a will-there’s a way. When we arrived at the barracks, people were gearing up. A murderous rage filled the place. One of my sergeants stood next to the door.

“What’s going on, big sarge?”

“We’re headed to the dining facility,” he answered. “They’ve got a television and an operational satellite. Plus, Budweiser sent a ship of beer to us, to help us celebrate the Super Bowl. There’s a two-beer limit. So, gear up, and let’s move out.”

I didn’t drink, and I didn’t care about the Super Bowl. So, I handed my two coupons to my buddy who went with me to transfer fuel. He was thrilled, and we walked back out into the still night.

After all this time, I can’t remember who played or won the Super Bowl, but I do remember the stillness of the night, and the attack. Most importantly though, I remember the friends who stood by me in those dark days.

We didn’t all make it home alive, but they’re not forgotten. I see them from time to time, in the smiles of newborns, in the giggles of children, and in the theater of my mind.

Fair winds, my friends. I’ll see you soon.

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