There was an eerie feeling this morning. The life, the movement, the buzz, as you would call it, had disappeared entirely. All that was visible to the eye gave the uneasy impression of ruins, a deviant ghost town. The merciless sand storm was in full bloom this morning, and we were returning to base. One momentary look around the FOB, and the conclusion would jump at you like a Jack Russell Terrier. The debris, the scarred terrain, and the lack of people; it all showed the inconvenient truth of war.
We have lost soldiers.
I could almost feel the echoes stirring of soldiers running, yelling to take cover. The explosions shook the FOB hard enough to bring the televisions in the Dining Facility crashing down from the walls. A fire-scorched shell of concrete was all that remained of the theater. Tarps covering damaged equipment and vehicles moved in sequence with the sand filled gusts.
As we entered the FOB, our humvees were ostensibly the only thing left with any energy. We cleared our weapons from red status to green, and embarked on a surreal ride to our barracks. Ironically, the occasional “death-stick abuser” was the only sign of life standing outside the high-rise barracks of FOB Loyalty.
After hearing the launches, I looked upward to the sky, and I noticed them. They we’re wobbling with a lack of precision. A style of destruction that embodied the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it..” The simplicity behind the explosive-filled propane tank rockets did not even allow us the chance to underestimate their effectiveness. The dust, sand stirred up, and all I could see was debris flying and soldiers trying to run from the aftermath. It was almost like the explosions should have been louder.
I couldn’t see the commander. He was five feet from the truck where we were staging. I grabbed up the rest of the crew in attempt to drive us out of the kill zone. It seemed as if the explosions we’re cutting us off like a carnival duck shoot. We need to get back there, I thought. There were people that had to be injured. The communications guy hasn’t stopped thanking me for saving his life. He was in the back of the truck praying as we drove out of there.
I will not forget seeing the female soldier in the open. As if she was in catatonic shock from everything around her. Frozen, she looked like she was dancing in place; trying to figure which way to go. Then, another soldier came running through the debris and commotion and grabbed her up, took her to cover. It was like one of those war movies that Hollywood cooks up with illusions of grandeur; that, in fact, there might not be any shrapnel flying with those explosions.
I stared helplessly at the camera screen, watching as FOB Loyalty was obscured by thick black smoke and flames. We were so close to them. We felt the cracks of each rocket drop our stomach another few inches. If the scheduled hadn’t changed, it would have been us out there that day. It’s been a break of luck for my guys and I since day one.
I don’t for once believe that my spiritually is influenced one bit by these events in the first third of our deployment. If it’s not us getting hit, it’s someone else. If it’s not us then someone else will always take the brunt of this insurgency. I feel lucky to serve with the men I lead every day.
They are my brothers. They are my family. They are, an extension of me, and a reflection of everything I do.
Five plus months have passed, and through the leadership I work with – and mainly luck – I’ve been able to keep my promise.
Five months down, here’s to another ten to get us done.
Here's to making it to tomorrow,
The views expressed within this journal are my own, and in no way represent the views or policies of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or any other official agency.