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The unending days of southern Afghanistan were torture. Was it Monday? Thursday? April? 2008? I’d lost count. But I had to put my speculations to rest, for the moment. We were under attack.
Three days earlier our squad had taken a Taliban controlled outpost. It was a simple victory: the main group of 15 rushed their gunning platform; the extra 7 stormed the back entryway of the dying house and grenade their way in, with the 3 snipers covering from a safe distance, keeping defeat at bay. Our one wounded man was hit in his leg, and we shipped him
off back to HQ before setting up for the night in that eerie station. All was peaceful.
For a war, that is.
That same evening I contemplated what I had done with my life. Flashback, 2004. My home before the barracks was a town west of the Cumberland Gap. I was a kid out of high school who was raised to stay on the farm and work it until the day I died. College wasn't an option, while raising stock was. Meanwhile, I was infuriated with the situation in the East. It was not simple anger. I disagreed with the lies I knew the government was feeding us, and everyone else in my family was just to blind to see it. I saw a war for oil and a war for glory. Who gave a damn about the Taliban? That was no war to be fought by us. It was no war to be carried out by a couple thousand over-trained, paranoid, brainwashed, improbable kids. The war was a UN matter if anything, an internal Iraqi affair would be even more like it. Yet, due to an insuppressible urge to leave the farm, and an unfortunate, short-lived spark of mislead nationalist charisma, I enlisted.
Reality. Where I ended up wasn't where I intended to be: with my life in the hands of some metal flying so fast it doesn't know where it's headed until it's killed some sorry soldier. What I was afraid of, in fact the only thing I was really afraid of anymore, was if that soldier would be me. This was real. Far beyond real. Whether Bush wanted the soldiers to be the "glory" he wanted to milk out of this war or not, we were now. Gripping my weapon as if it were my life (and how!), I took a knee, awaiting orders. We had become accustomed to that. Do this, do that, kill him, grenade that. All on a "Do as I say not as I do" basis. Our sergeant was a gruff, no-nonsense Desert Storm vet. "Desert Fox" was his war name, and as far as anyone else in our squad was concerned, it was his real name too. From what he told us, the only life he ever had was on the ground shooting his gun, "like his pappy before him and his pappy before him," and so on and so forth. Only I could know that war had changed that much since his old Gramps had torn down the Nazis.
"Alright all 'you's," he said in his war accent, (It wasn't discernible where he was from. He was borne of the soil and that's all I cared to think of him.) "I want flank one to head up-stairs, and provide sniper fire. You, take that RPG and take out those Got-damn machine gunners."
"Sir, yes sir.", I said robotically, so used to having myself kneel down and take orders that every action I made I had done a million times before and would do a million times again before this idiotic war decided to tire out.
Luke, Mason, and Kix, our machine gunners, would be the core of the attack. They would maintain their bunker positions for as long as possible. God's children, as we called our infantrymen, would take cover in front of the station and take out all targets. Then I would stay inside with Desert Fox and the others if reinforcements were needed. If. But if never happened.
No words could describe a battle so much like the others. Our men had, as always, the knowledge that no act of God could let them fail. Our drive to win, to glorify, to survive, and to kill (no matter how you look at it, all we were about was killing), was unstoppable. Those veiled heroes never stood a chance. How were they going to win? They too knew their fate as they acted against us. The act of defiance against America's rule of the world in the first place was a victory big enough to be the end of all wars for them.
Apples to oranges and nuts to bolts. Our frontline held, not losing a man or taking even a single bullet. The RPG men blew them all to Hell before the poor bastards could reload their fumbling machine guns. Desert Fox and I had sat and watched the battle go like a book, the movie of which you'd seen a hundred times before.
We counted up their casualties. Nine of them dead, whoever they were. They meant nothing to us.
"Good job soldiers," said Fox. "you've held the station."
Whatever you say, sarge.