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Rolling Thunder

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All my life I wanted to become an architect and design building plans for important government buildings within the U.S. and I even took architecture and design classes all throughout my high school career all for the pursuit of my dream career. But my senior year brought around a greater calling and it changed my life and affected everyone else in the United States. It was my senior year at Springtown High School in Springtown Texas. That Tuesday I decided to not go to school and instead stay at home because I was sick so I spent my day at home surfing the channels on TV and listening to my favorite local radio station 93.7 FM. But that day will forever live in infamy but it will also serve as the day of when I would decide to be a part of something that would mortally change my life. That day was Tuesday September 11, 2001. The 9/11 attacks filled with me with a new sense of patriotism. A sense of pride for my country and that pride was crippled. It would show to everyone that it was a pride I would fight for. A pride I would die for. Within that I week I told my parents that I would be recruiting with the army. To say the least my mother was livid. My dad, being a retired service member himself was much more understanding of my wishes to enlist but I could see it in his eyes. It was a look that hung about his face that showed he didn’t want his son being sent off with the military. He didn’t want to lose anyone again, especially his son. But regardless of my mom’s comments and my dad’s lack of comments it would not sway my decision to enlist with the army. Within an amount of time that seemed like nothing I was sent off to basic training and I was put through training to toughen me up for the harsh world of war. There was a time I thought that training was hell. I would be proven wrong within the first week of being in the Middle East.

By that time it was March 2003 and it seemed like we had every damn NATO army in the world there in Kuwait. There was talk all about the camp of invasion but the big man on top told us that we were only there for the time being to keep Saddam out of Kuwait’s oil fields. But within the week we had the entire U.S. 3rd Infantry rollin into Iraq and it was clear there weren’t there on some peace envoy.

It seemed liked we would just have a clean swipe through all of Iraq but that was foolish of me to think that it would be anything close to easy. And it wasn’t just the enemy you had to watch out for. If you weren’t aware, the land would swallow you and leave nothing but more sand. Good thing for me though was that I had my squad mates to look out for me and I looked out for them, those are the people that become so close their like family because not only is your life in their hands, but you have their life too and it’s your responsibility to take care of them.

Our first “stop” was a city close to the border with Kuwait. I’ll never forget that place and what happened. As our squad with two other squads pulled up to the first buildings we got out of the vehicles and started to clear the west side of the city. As we cleared each building we searched for weapons and bombs and anything that could be used to declare one of the natives a “terrorist”. Marla Stuart, Corporal, translator, squad mate, and most of all, friend. Marla and I were clearing a building when we found the family in the corner of the living room hiding from the violence of the sporadic gunfire between U.S. 3rd guys and small local terrorist. Marla talked to the family, tried her best to calm them down. She even gave the little girl a candy bar. After the we left the building she came up to tell me something about the family but I never heard what she said over the sound of the Humvees. The sound of hundreds of engines rolling throughout the town, it reminded me of the thunder storms back home in Texas.

As we returned to our vehicle we were told by First Sergeant Hardey to move over to the north east part of the town because of some harassing mortar fire on the main convoy. Scotty and Will figured it’d be a cake walk but Marla was much to somber to even give her input on the situation. I figured she had a feeling something was bout to go down. Regretfully, she was right. By the time we were about 5 clicks away from the enemy mortar position, everything took a turn for the worse. Our vehicle was undermined by a roadside IED. The explosion was deafening, it left my ears ringing and my head in a haze. While our Humvee was disabled, nobody was hurt and I started to count my blessings. But I counted all too soon for no more than 30 seconds after we ditched the vehicle, we started taking heavy gunfire from two different streets and three houses. The squad and I, we ran for the nearest building. That’s when Scotty took it. He got hit when he broke from cover, he didn’t keep his head down. He was dead before he hit the ground. We were all shocked at his death, but it wasn’t the time for panic. We had to stay organized and in control otherwise we would all end up like Scotty. With all the enemy fire on our position we couldn’t move much, even with us being inside the building. Bullets ripped their way through the side of the stone house, lodging themselves on the other side of the house. Slowly the walls began to break and crumble away, we were losing cover, running out of ammo, and running out of time.

Will radioed the First Sergeant Hardey for immediate support but only to be met with a denied request. First Sergeant said that until we removed that mortar position, the convoy couldn’t move forward but we couldn’t move forward unless we got support. Will, Marla and I found ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place while being shot at, and nothing is easier to hit than a target stuck in one spot. But all was not lost, we were 3rd Infantry, we were trained for this type of stuff. Will said that he could go and get the ammo boxes from the Humvee but the vehicle was in the middle of the street, an easy target for anyone. Will decided to go for it anyway seeing as how we had no other choice except to try for it. We gave him as much covering fire and support as we could but with magazines running dry and too many targets, it became difficult. By the time Will sprinted to the Humvee at least 15 more enemies arrived firing their AK’s and lobbin grenades at us. Will had gotten the boxes of ammo and was on his way back when things had become even worse. He was shot in his calf and back on his way back to the building, and he collapsed in the street. He bled there in the street, alone for what seemed like hours yet it had only been minutes. The enemy used Will as bait, they wanted us to go out and get him just so they could pick us off as well.

After what seemed like another several hours of being shot at, we had run down to just one magazine left and Will was still laying in the street grasping for life, hanging on by threads. The enemy was still pushing their advantage and was closing in quickly. They went from down the street to the building adjacent to ours within a matter of minutes, facing minimal resistance from us due to our lack in numbers and fire power. We could hear the terrorist closing in on us; we could hear their voices coming towards the door of our building. When it seemed as if they couldn’t get any closer to us, I heard a very distinct sound. A sound I will forever remember. The sound of rolling thunder. The 1st Armored Division had moved into the city and was now backing our invasion, but were they close enough to help us was the only question on my mind. Quickly an enemy had busted down the door, responding quickly, I shot and killed him with my sidearm but the second and third enemies had rushed to quickly and blindly fired and hit me in my right leg and left arm. At first I didn’t even know I had been hit, it was just a sharp pain, but once I looked at my wounds, the pain rushed throughout my whole body causing me to scream in agony. Had Marla not dropped the other two terrorist that could have been it for me, but the impeccable timeing of the 1st Armored saved that day. I was shipped off the frontline and from a hospital in Kuwait City to another in Germany and then back home to Springtown Texas. My tour was over. And while my tour was over, my pride and love for my country would never end.





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