This is going to be a hard blog to post for me and many veterans who suffered a similar experience, but as I have preached before, the stories of our experiences will fade away as the years progress and will eventually be lost once we leave this world. But here is a brief tale of a horrible day in the city of Fallujah, Nov. 12, 2004.
The day began far before the sun had made its everyday pass over the horizon and brought light to the flaming city of Fallujah, Iraq. In the distant sporadic small arms fire never ceased as individuals fought on to bring down the unknown actual number of the thousands of Jihadists within the confines of the city, who stayed there for one reason, and one reason only to die and bring as many Marines and the Army battalion with them as possible.
The story of Fallujah starts many months earlier as it has always been a hot bed of terrorist activity and was considered to be one of the deadliest places not only in Iraq, but in the world. When a U.S. contractor patrol was driving through the city their convoy was ambushed and the contractors were executed, burned, than hung off the bridge as a warning. America wanted blood for this act and the Marines were sent in to remove the terrorists and Insurgents within the city.
The marines made short work and were only days from completing their mission before news of a bomb landing on a mosque and killed dozens of women, children, and unarmed men. The Iraq nation declared a cease fire and President Bush had to agree with their demands, in order to prevent more political fallout.
The insurgents believed this as a victory and like a flare in the middle of the night it attracted hundreds and thousands of Insurgents from all over the country…and the world to come to Fallujah and kill Americans. Finally after several months the city had become so infested with insurgents that military action had to be taken. In order to create peace and make it not seem like we weren’t an invading force, we brought in a battalion of Iraqi National Guards (ING’s) to help with the fighting.
My battalion was BN 1/3 from Hawaii and we were in Okinawa when we heard the call for all available troops to converge on the city. We were told very little, but were told we were going on a float. My platoon Charlie company 2nd platoon of 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion was attached to the 31st MEU and we were responsible for all combat support missions for an entire battalion. Normally a company of AAV’s would assist a BN. but we are Marines and we make the best out of any situation no matter what.
I was a young Lance Corporal at the time, fresh out of boot camp, MCT, and My MOS schools training courses for only a month or two before I was flown to Okinawa, Japan. And after one month on the island, one month on the U.S.S. Harpers Ferry, one month in Kuwait, and a month in Camp Fallujah where we received a daily mortar or rocket attack. But we invaded the city on the 8th of November very very late and lasted throughout the night.
I had already been awake for 3 days with no sleep, and the very little I received, was nothing short of a quick cat nap of 5 minutes. Our section had been running non stop missions since the breach a few nights earlier, and for the first time my crew were taking a nap until our next mission, that was very coming up quickly.
Over the radio it crackled “Section 2, Smokey and the Bandits ready the tracks, Charlie Company needs a supply run, their cords are as follows…” (I can’t remember the grids to save my life so use your imagination.)
With haste we gathered our flack jackets, ammo, food, water, and armed out weapons. I was a rear crewman of 208 and I kept my head sticking out of the cargo doors in the back. Gysgt Kelly of Bravo company sat in the Troop commander’s hatch and was hitching a ride back to his company. Lcpl. Ken Allee driver, and Cpl Diddee in our turret as crewchief. 205 Ssgt Casias was in the Turret and our section leader, Lcpl Bays (driver) and Lcpl Chpaman (rear crewman) Accompanied with track 206 Sgt. Delisio (Crewchief), Lcpl Hood (rear crewman), Lcpl Bishop (driver) and 207 Cpl Allenby (crewchief), Lcpl Koitszch (Driver), and Lcpl Donnely (rear crewman). We claimed the title Smokey and the Bandits, for Ssgt. Casias and his obsession with having a jolly rancher and a cigar, and we our recklessness and not fretting to bend the rules to accomplish the mission. (This is off a memory almost 8 years old so be easy if you remember something different.)
Driving through the city something didn’t feel right when I looked to our right and I saw an open field…we were stationed on the far left side of the city and usually if we saw open fields it was on our left. But we kept going forward searching for the grid coordinates the grunts gave us. Following our GPS system we finally came as close as we could to the coordinates and realized there was a mistake, when we saw another C-7 (Comm station AAV, 1 per platoon). Something was wrong and we tried to figure out what went wrong. We tried to get a hold of any radio station of our BN but we heard nothing but silence. We scanned through the radio stations until we finally found the owner of the C-7 across the bridge where they hanged the contractors. After a brief and “pleasant” conservation with them, we found out that we were in fact on the opposite side of the city. Somehow the grunts who the radio crew who wrote down the order gave us the wrong coordinates. (As said in “Jarhead” “welcome to the suck.”)
After looking over the map for a while we found the last known place of Charlie company and decided to make our way there, even though we had to drive down “Fran” (the main highway through the city) and get close enough to get in communications with someone from our BN. We trekked down the road and swerved in and out of the side roads to avoid becoming a target. After a long journey we stopped to research the map when the sound of air being sucked in startled us than a large explosion blew up a house 50 yards away. We all stood in shock and wondered what was that when another round came in and detonated in the street a little closer.
“They’re targeting us! Get the fuck out of Dodge” not only rang through the section’s radios but was loud enough to hear without a radio, from Ssgt. Casias.
“Allee Get the track in reverse!” Diddee shouted to our driver and I heard the engine roar but the track lurched forward and into a building. “Allee Reverse!” Diddee again shouted over the turret, as another mortar detonated only 25 yards away.
Gysgt. Kelly jumped out of his TC hatch and began beating Allee over the head screaming “Get it in reverse! Get it in reverse!” as Allee tried his damndest to get the gears to lock in reverse.
Finally to keep people to stop shouting at him, Allee turned around and shouted, “The Fucking track won’t go in reverse! The gears keep slipping!” and jumped back in the drivers seat just as another mortar fell from the sky and blew up showering the area with dust, debris, and shrapnel. My eyes were growing wide, I knew Allee was trying his hardest to keep that POS to work, but the track was stubborn, the only thing I could think of was this is a movie, or this is a video game…how am I going to die in a track that won’t go in reverse!
Finally as a mortar blew up and the heat wave warmed my face in the cold winter night and we finally CLICK! the gears caught and Allee gunned the track. I was thrown forward but kept my balance as I turned around I saw a building coming towards me at 20 mph and with mili-seconds to react I fell backwards and landed on my back on the bench seat just as the track plowed through the building. I remember looking up to see night and crumbling concrete halfway through the ten foot cargo door openings. Than Allee gunned the track into forward and all 3 tracks sped off in any direction to escape the incoming mortars, as I stood up and shook off the aches and pains from the fall, I shouted over the engine “God Damnit Allee! You almost got me fucking killed!”
Over the engine I heard a simple reply, “sorry.”
Assembling back into my post we drove on for another minutes or hours, it is unsure to me how exactly long it was, hours seemed like seconds than could turn back around and every second could feel like hours. But as we drove forward we saw a Bradley tank and an Abrams tank holding security. So we realized we were lost even more and stopped, we tried getting contact of the army 200 yards from our side when BOOM! the Abrams fired its main gun and destroyed a store behind us. “Ahh Shit not a gain!” I heard Casias scream from his track 40 yards ahead. Without question or order we sped off in any direction once again as several tanks shot and by a miracle we escaped all the rounds. Sitting for a rest we tried to figure out our location. I remember checking my watch and it was 3:30 A.M. we have been on a simple supply run that should’ve taken an hour at most and we have been going for about 4 hours. I remember thinking to myself, “Nothing in the marine corps is ever easy is it?”
10 minutes passed and we finally figured out where we were and a route to take with the help of our 30 year old GPS known as a PLGR, and before we took off we heard over the radio that an army unit had spotted 3 enemy heavy vehicles and were requesting artillery support. Before anyone could jump on the radio and shout to cease fire, a barrage of artillery rounds came in and blew craters all around our vehicles.
“Go! Go! Go! Go!” I heard, no idea who screamed it, or how many people were screaming it, but we took off and swerved in and out of the roads trying to dodge the army and their friendly fire. Once again we had escaped, “Thank god the army can’t hit shit.” I heard over the radio and I laughed at the truth.
We kept our headway and risked driving through the city’s side streets over Fran, just in case the army decided to call in air support and wipe us clean from the face of the Earth. I got on the radio and said very calmly while everyone laughed and joked at how the army was completely worthless, “Yea it is not like we have a giant USMC logo all over the track, a 50 cal, a 40 mm, and 3 marines in every track speaking English, fucking idiots!”
It is wrong to mock a member of the military but when you almost get killed by your own countrymen, not once, but twice in one night…you have to scrutinize their stupidity.
We travelled along the roads and tore down wires hanging down from telephone poles and piano wire that the Insurgents set up, a tactic learned from the Nazis in WW2 and the Viet Cong in Vietnam, were you hang a wire across a road way at the estimated height of a vehicle and you take off the heads of the unlucky bastards that didn’t even see the booby trap. And as I sat quietly in the back of the track, we had an engineer stake that was stuck in the bow plane to cut down these wires, I wasn’t expecting what was about to happen.
The night had dragged on long enough and it was close to 5 A.M. and a few more hours until the sun came up, and my eyes began to get heavy. I struggled to stay awake and stay alert just in-case we have anymore adventures like I had experienced earlier, but also to keep the track secured from insurgents from dropping grenades from a balcony into the open back of the tracks. I kept fighting to stay awake and I bent my head down to light a cigarette, I flicked the lighter a few times and just when I finally got a flame, I was thrown back and felt a binding pinch on my neck as I was being pulled from the back of the track. In a desperate attempt to keep from getting thrown from the back of the track and get ran over by a track or humvee following us, I wrapped my feet around the bilge pump and pried on the line. The track kept going forward, thankfully at a slow 5 mph crawl, I tried to pull the line from my neck but it wouldn’t budge and the smell of burning rubber and flesh drifted into my nostrils. I pulled the tab on my bayonet to cut the line but it was stuck and instead of fiddling with it, I grabbed my rifle and put the barrel to my head and pried the wire over my neck and fell forward landing on the deck plates hard.
I chocked hard for a few minutes as I tried to catch my breath and put my hand on my neck and felt a warm liquid cover my hand. Reaching for the rear comm unit, I picked up the helmet and said, “Diddee I just got hit by a wire, and I am bleeding pretty good.”
The response I got was a typical marine one, “Stop being a pussy and get back on your post. “
Doing as commanded I poked my head up and scooted as close as I could to the TC hatch even though I was breathing in more exhaust from the vehicle than actual air, I felt safer than in the back.
Finally as the sun came up and it was 7 Am we arrived at Bravo Company. Dropping the ramp we unloaded supplies to Bravo, and were given 4 captured insurgents. Diddee finally was succumbing to sleep and Ssgt. Casias slipped down in the “dungeon” (the cargo and troop area) with me and looked at me.
“Jesus Johnson, is that what you were whining about?” He asked as he slouched against the engine back.
“What my neck?” I asked.
“Yea, that will leave a nice scar.”
“How bad is it?”
“Well it can’t make you any uglier.”
“Thanks Diddee, you dick.” I muttered.
We made our drop off and Gysgt Kelly jumped out of the track after making a few radio checks, Ssgt. Casias walked over and asked “what you aint coming with us?”
“Fuck NO!” Gunny Kelly shouted and jumped off the track. “You mother fuckers are fucking nuts. I want to survive this battle!”
“Oh come on gunny, it was a lot of fun, you don’t want any more?” we all shouted back in laughter.
“No I thought I could have a patrol where I don’t get shot at. But hell no. Again you fuckers are fucking nuts, and fuck you guys, Smokey and the Bandits enjoy the rest of your day.” Gunney Kelley laughed and ventured into his HQ and removed his kevlar and opened up an MRE to steal the M n’M’s.
“The day has only begun!” Ssgt. Casias shouted and led us to all the companies and dropped off their requests, and every company we stopped at we were greeted with, “Where the fuck have you guys been, we asked for this shit hours ago!”
Our response, “Don’t ask!”
We finally made it back to our stationing area where we dropped off our detainees, reloaded up on supplies, and ran some maintence on the tracks. As I ran from the head, (bathroom) I was greeted with every single comment of “Nice battle wound!” by a few supply marines and I walked by the HQ tent to have a first sergeant scream “There is a purple heart right there!” My platoon was more typical of what I was used to expect of some sly comment such as, “Johnson is a cut-throat trout!” or way to go “Wire boy!” My gunnery sergeant Micheal Housewright had a very distinct laugh and talk that was a low breathy, and comical “which way did he go George” talk.
“Huh huh, hey Johnson you are going to be called cut-throat for now one…huh, huh.” Gunny Housewright mocked.
I had to laugh at the comments because it was pretty remarkable for what I have encountered in one night. I sought out my corpsman to have him clean me up some and his first reaction was one I also expected. “Holy Shit Johnson! What the fuck happened to you?!”
After a brief explanation of what happened that night while the corpsman cleaned me up some, just enough to get all the dried blood from my neck, I asked somebody for a mirror so I could see it, but everyone had a scratched and foggy shaving mirror. Finally my driver Allee offered to take a picture with his digital camera and I got to see the wound for the first time. “I had to laugh at it, I did look like somebody tried to cut my throat.” And when it had happened I thought an insurgent had leaped onto the back of the track and was choking me with a wire, thankfully it was what really happened, and not what my imagination thought in pitch blackness of a little light from the moon and no headlights, since we had already been targeted enough. Than I had also been up for close to 78 hours by this time straight.
Diddee called over to me and had me put some tension back in the track with the grease gun. So I ventured over as we put the track up on road wheels to operate on the suspension. With the weight of the vehicle resting solely on the tracks, I moved the grease insert to the track than “Bam!” a huge spraw of dirty grease shot out by 26 tons of preassure behind it. Again I had to laugh, along with eveyone else in the area. “This is my luck! And why does this shit have to keep happening to me?!”
After a few hours of maintence, we got the call again that Bravo company was needing supplies. After a thorough check that we had the right coordinates. We assembled the tracks. And with tales of our adventure many of the supply, radio, and HQ marines asked to see if they could tag along. Gladly we accepted the help even a gunny who was renowned for being a pain in the ass, and whose name I cannot recall.
We mounted up Ssgt. Casias as the driver for our track, Ssgt. Brown (HQ marine) was in the TC, Diddee was back in the turret, and Allee and I were in the back with 4 other marines. Track 207 was suffering some problems so we carried on with a supply trip to Bco, with 205, 206 and 208.
Our destination was drawing closer and every wire that passed overhead I ducked my head out of the fear of getting nabbed again by a wire. The Gunny however didn’t head my warnings and stood chest high out of the track and was closelined by powerline and was tossed from his perch down to the ground. I began laughing hysterical, and the Gunny scrambled to his feet and gave me a snarled look and asked, “You think this is funny?”
My response was pulling down the flackjacket and revealed the large gash in my neck. The gunny retrieved his words and went back to his post without a single word in return.
We made our way through the city and finally arrived to Bco FOB (Forward Operating Base) where they had secured a families home, with one of the very few family members who decided to stay during the assault. As we were unloading a large firefight opened up around the corner and with our track finished with the drop off we went around the corner and there I saw a terrible sight. From a second story window I could see the tip of an AK-47 with rapid fire spraying lead upon a small squad of marines who scrambled to pull wounded marines behind a very small wall maybe two feet tall and made of cheap concrete blocks.
With little options, Ssgt. Casias drove the track in front of the window to block the marines under fire than like a sprung trap all the marines in the back of the track jumped out and returned fire with M-16s into the window. The distance from our barrels to the window was six feet at most. Many tracers flew in through the window and ignited something within the household and it caught ablaze.
After dumping rounds into the window to drop or hold up the insurgent within Diddee got clearance to fire the 50. cal. twisting the turret around he shouted through the mic. system “I can’t see anything, all I can see is fire!”
As the house burned and flames were climbing out the window, I shouted, “If you see fire pull that fucking trigger!”
No sooner did I scream that and Diddee pushed down on the trigger and the house erupted in a storm of flying bricks. No realizing that I should take cover, I stood in amazement as the house was riddled with 50. cal rounds and I was pelted in the face with large brick. I dropped to the ground and massaged my aching jaw and heard ramp coming down. I readied my rifle and as the ramp lowered I did my duties and was the first one off to provide security for marines entering or exiting the vehicle.
As I stepped onto the ground, bullets bounced off the street in front of my toes. Unsure of where they were coming from, I picked windows in any house with a clear point of view and fired back. Rounds were empting quickly from my magazines, but thankfully since Diddee was in the turret he had little need of his six magazines and I mounted all of them to my flack jacket.
4 magazines down, going on the 5th, I held my ground and retreated back into the track wondering what was taking so long. As I poked my head out of the track, the cargo hatches that hung out and over the side of the track were drilled by rounds coming in from our left flank. We were receiving fire from the left flank and from behind. With out track completely exposed all the marines and I fired rounds in all directions until we heard “Cease Fire!” We halted, and no sooner did we stop our fire we received fire once again as rounds ricocheted off the track in different directions. Again we fired back until we were ordered to “Cease Fire!’
Finally after what seemed an hour firefight, but what was only a total of five minutes we were receiving the casualties…
I jumped back onto the ground in front of the ramp to help guide the marines carrying the wounded into the track and ensure that nobody targeted them as they placed the first wounded marine inside the track. Our first arrival was a marine being carried in the sitting position as he took a direct round into the meaty section of his right thigh. I looked down at him and his face was white as a ghost and the wrappings had rolled up and I could see down into the wound. The torn flesh and muscle, the fat and bone was laid bare to the elements, and the marine leaned his head back against the engine panel and faded in and out.
The second marine was brought in with his blouse cut down the middle of his back, and a large one inch gash ran from his left shoulder all the way down to his right hip. I am not sure how he suffered such an injury, but my only conclusion was that he had bent over as a rad dragged along his back and flack jacket. I helped guide the marines assisting him to put him against the port side of the vehicle next to his wounded comrade. He seemed to be doing better than the other, but I could see in the gnarled face he expressed, that he was suffering.
Thinking I was done I stepped back in the track as the Gunny shouted get back we have one more. I stepped back out and something that would haunt my nightmares for years later I saw one last marine brought aboard with bullet patches all over his body. The man’s (though he was 19 years old, the man went through Hell and back and he deserves to be called a man, and not a boy or young man).
“That’s it!” The Gunny shouted and stayed with the hammered squad.
Ssgt. Casias raised the ramp and I sat down in the port bench seat and looked down at the wounded marine laid out before me. He was young and was Latino with a lighter brown skin and dark hair. I looked up to see the Chaplains assistance look up at me and nodded his head in doubt that this Devil Dog would make it. I could do nothing but have a shock concreted over my usually oppurtunistic face.
I felt the track lurch forward and begin to pivot around, standing back up I watched the area to ensure we didn’t crush any marines taking refuge behind the track and not knock over a building. “Punch it, The Helo is Oscar Mike” I heard somebody shout. But the world around me became a blur, it was like having tunnel vision but all your senses were dulled. I stood up and watched the area as we sped down the road and Ssgt. Casias drove the track nearly top speed at 45 MPH, and to be able to maneuver a 28 ton vehicle in a down town setting of tight roads that would be difficult in a car, he handled it better than anyone could possibly dream of.
“Get down here!” The Chaplain’s assistant called out, I turned around and dropped in the seat and looked over the marine.
“How is he doing?” I asked.
“Talk to him!” He shouted.
“Marine! you hang in there, you did your country and family proud.” I didn’t know what to say, I never met the man before this whole day has been something hard to grasp. I felt my hands shake, like you would do when you were scared, not just scared but absolutely terrified. My voice quivered again as I spoke. “Marine you have a family, don’t you leave them. You have your marines here and they care about you, even though I never met you, I don’t want to have you leave us. Come on Marine come back to us!”
I shouted as loud as I could, as I saw just flinches of life flicker in and out as an eye would partially open. Talking off my kevlar, I wanted him to see a human not a marine, and help give him some confidence and strength to fight death as Ssgt Casisas plowed over curbs and twists and turns in the road. I went to check on the rest of the marines. I saw the HQ marines who wanted an adventure frozen in awe. No reactions, their mouths halfway open and shallow breaths as they would close their eyes and pray. I checked on the other wounded marines and I was pleased to see the first marine brought in with the wounded leg coming too, but I could tell he was heavily drugged up.
The man kept muttering “I am sorry, I am sorry.”
“For what?” I asked.
“I am bleeding all over your track. I’ll help you clean it up when we get home.” He awkwardly mumbled.
“Don’t be sorry Marine, I can take care of this.” I tried to sooth him.
‘Can I ask a favor?” He again slurred. “My leg really hurts and I don’t know why, but can I put it up?”
“Yes, yes,” I said and pointed for a marine to grab and MRE box and place it under his foot.
“You got shot.” One marine asked.
“Really? Am I dead?” The wounded marine pondered.
“No Devil, you are here with us. Just hang in there OK.” Another marine said and placed his hand on the wounded man’s shoulder.
I returned my attention to the marine in front of me, and I rubbed his shoulder to give him a gentle and loving emotion to keep him here, or at least to give him a loving feeling that he wasn’t alone as he came closer to his final moments.
“Mu- Mu- Mumu” The wounded marine in front of me mumbled.
Pleased to hear a response I jumped to his side and made myself as close to him as possible, “Your mom isn’t in the room at the moment she stepped out to get a drink,” I lied but mainly because if he was coming in and out of consciousness and whatever his brain was making him believe I didn’t want to put him into shock as he tried to comprehend two worlds. “Hang in there, we are almost home.”
“Ha-ho-m-e?” he asked.
“Yes, yes,” I sputtered as tears began to push out of my eyes. “It’s all going to be OK.”
I finished my statement and suddenly the man began to tremble and go into a seizure. I jumped onto him to keep him from falling and held him firm as the Chaplain’s assistant held his legs. The marine shook uncontrollably and I kept shouting, “Stay with me! Stay with me!”
Finally the body relaxed and I sat down and observed him. His eyes rolled in the back of his head and he laid still. “Marine! Marine!” I shouted and shook him gently on the shoulder. His body made no response. My heart sank, and I looked at the Chaplain’s assistant and he put his fingers on the jugular vein as he had done several times before to ensure we still had him. But this time he withdrew his hand slowly and looked up at me and shook his head.
I couldn’t and still can’t express the feeling that overcame me. It was a combination of absolute hatred, remorse, sadness, and sick. I blinked my eyes several times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, but I came back to the same sad scene before me. Eyes poured from my eyes and I looked at the wounded marines who saw me trying to keep their friend and comrade with us and said nothing, I just shook my head. Their faces dropped and the marine who had the bullet in the leg sobbed uncontrollably as he looked back and bit his lip. The second marine buried his face in his hands and cried.
I couldn’t feel nothing but absolute hatred at this moment and jumped outside of the cargo hatches and screamed, “Fuck this city!” and began firing into any open window on a second story window. A marine grabbed me and pulled me down, but I got back up and rested my rifle on the cargo hatch and heard a faint noise that got louder. Looking around I saw the CH-46 silhouette in the sun as if flew over head and the last mile to the base.
We hurdled over the berm and into the FAB and next to the corpsman and dropped the ramp. There was 4 docs standing ready with everything they would need. My face said it all as I stepped off with a saddened face. Their opportunistic faces dropped and I ushered them over to the marine and picked him up by the shoulder as they grabbed his body and together we carried him off and onto a body bag. They gave one last heart beat check and zipped up the bag. The heavy zipper sound pinched at my heart and I felt like I had to sit down. Plopping down beside the track I looked away as they escorted the two wounded marines out of the track than I heard Ssgt. Casias cry out, “Johnson ground guide me to supply, we have to wash out the track and re-supply up.”
I jogged to the front of the track and escorted them over to the supply and Ssgt Casias dropped the ramp. I looked inside and saw blood and chunks of flesh hanging from the center benchseat. I felt my stomach convulse and I wanted to throw up, but nothing was in my stomach. Allee got out of the back of the track and Diddee ran to another track, while Ssgt Casias ran to the HQ tent.
I was numb and my body was taking over by my marine self and I began unloading all of the gore covered ammo boxes, MRE boxes, and anything else soaked in blood. A young supply marine grabbed me and set me aside and I refused and kept unloading boxes until a red headed sergeant who was in charge of the mess hall ordered me to go get ammo. I picked up all of my bloodied magazine clips and tried to refill them one-by-one, but my hand shook uncontrollably and my eyes watered with tears and sweat.
After five minutes of struggling to load the magazines, I succeeded in putting 3 rounds. The red head sergeant came back to me and told me to hand over all my mags, and go have a smoke. I did as asked and he quickly loaded me back up with a speed loader, while I walked aimlessly around with a cigarette dangling from my mouth.
I noticed that the marines cleaning my track threw out the last box and brought in a hose to wash everything out and I saw a swell of red tainted water and brass cartriges rush out of the back of the ramp. I finished my smoke, and lit up another one with the last puff of my previous one and laid down in the sand and looked up as the Ch-46 took off with all of the wounded marines and the body of a fellow marine.
Ssgt Casias came running back screaming “hurry up and get your shit ready, Bravo Company is still in a world of shit right now!” I quickly ran to the sergeant who finished my last magazine and I inserted the now full 7 magazines and ran to the front of the track to ground guide it. The track rose its ramp once everything was clear to go, and I guided my track to the road and jumped in the rear hatch, then we took off.
Allee looked at me as my face was drained with color, “Are you alright Johnson?” He asked softly.
I kept my face staring at the center benchseat and nodded yes, and spoke softly. “Hell of a day, isn’t it.”
Remembering what Ssgt Casias said earlier Allee muttered, “The day isn’t done yet.”
I jumped out of the cargo hatches and watched as the building swished by. The heavy stench of death from rotting bodies laid out in the streets was everywhere. Dead insurgents were strewn out in the gutters of the streets and in the lawns of yards, exactly where they gave their last breath, and I felt like I wanted to shoot all of their bodies and mutilate them into an unrecongizable mush, but my anger would have to contain itself.
We could fire gun fire from the distance once again and I jumped to alert and saw exactly what I had just seen, a squad of marines caught in an open street getting sprayed on as they all took a knee and fired back. The insurgent was in a white robe and an Ak-47 rolled from the window, but it seemed it didn’t see the tracks and from where I was sitting I saw him lean against the window and I had a clear shot. Without even thinking I raised my rife and fired 7 single round bursts from 400 yards and watched his fling his arm up and drop his AK-47 and roll away from my site. The track never stopped moving and once again we rushed to block the marines on the ground and again we fired a heftly supply of rounds into the building.
Then I have no memory of what conspired afterwards and no memories of what happened for several days afterwards. But my first clear memory after that day was we got a chance to go back to base about 2 weeks later for a shower, phone calls, and a hot meal. I ventured into the chowhall and along the walls of the secondary chow hall set up for our BN there was a list of pictures of those who had fallen. There was already a long line of photos of marines who lost their lives. As I walked by I stopped and immediately my face turned white and my stomach curled as I looked into the face of the marine I struggled to keep alive until the medevac showed up. I looked down at the name . Lcpl Medina, Brian A. November 12, 2004. I was speechless, than I forget once again of what happened before.
These memories haunted me and continue to haunt me, but as I said if we are afraid to tell the stories of the horror that we saw, than we are doomed to continue repeating this unspeakable act we as humans do onto each other. I understand my brothers and sisters who share nightmares, night sweats, flashbacks, chills, and depression. But you have to stay strong, and keep fighting as you did on the battlefield, for once you quit and give in to this disease known as PTSD, than you have finally fallen in combat and to the enemy even though it has been many years later.
Semper Fi for all those who gave their lives to protect us and our way of life, I salute you and though you are no longer among us as the living, you are never forgotten.
And to the mother of Lcpl Brian A. Medina I am so sorry for your loss and not a day goes by I don’t think about that brave marine as I was with him for his final moments. And for all the mothers, wives, fathers, brothers, sisters, who lost a loved one overseas, I do apologize for what had happened and hope you can find peace.
If anyone needs to talk about their experiences please let me know, message me here https://www.facebook.com/ForgottenHeroesTidesofWar or at firstname.lastname@example.org