First, I never wanted to write nonfiction much less about my past but my creative writing teacher thinks my army time "needs to be told." Which in my opinion is not true but even thou it is a fiction class he is going to give me extra credit for writing about it. And seeing as i have already wrote it i guess i will put it on here.
Let it be known that some things should never be told. For the day is brighter to the uninformed.
It was later may in Iraq and I was driving around western Baghdad. The temperature was 110 degrees outside and somewhere close to 130 inside our truck. I was crammed into a crappy little chair with the heavy up-armored door pushing me from one side and the huge radio mount, with its three ancient radios, pushing on me from the other. I was wearing leather hiking boots, pants that had to be tucked into the top of those boots, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve blouse, black gloves, a helmet, a pistol with its holder strapped to my leg, and eighty pounds of gear around my chest. The gear was made up of a bullet proof vest which only stops one bullet, two-hundred and ten rounds in seven magazines for my rifle that was not including the one loaded into the rifle, seventy-five rounds for my pistol in five magazines again not counting the one loaded into the gun, one smoke grenade, two fragmentation grenades, and a camelback; a large bladder with a hose strapped to my back.
The AC didn't work in that truck, as I blinked more sweat out on my eyes I truly missed my truck. With that thought, the back of my neck stung and throbbed. In truth it had been stinging and throbbing for the last four days but I tuned it out most of the time. That's when my beloved truck died, it happened as we past a 155mm artillery round wired to blow and it did just that. The driver side, my side, back door was blown open. All four tires went flat in a second. The gunner and I were hit in the neck. And I had to fight to stop the truck from flipping over. My gunner got a quarter sized piece of metal in his neck that was maybe half an inch from his spine; they said he may have nerve damage later in life. I got a burning piece of metal the size of half a dine in my neck, it cauterized the wound and they told me it would heal faster if I let my body force the metal out. The metal did get pushed out by my bodies healing of the wound but now I look like I have a permanent pimple on the back of my neck.
I took another pull on the hose in my mouth; nothing, the camelback was empty. It held two and a half liters of water and was full when we left the base that day. We had been driving around in circles for two hours, two and a half liters in two hours and I didn't need to pee. I hate the heat.
Our mission, like all the ones before it, was to drive in a big circle and then smaller circles until we found trouble, then we would deal with that trouble. Earlier we got called to an overpass by the Iraqi Army because they thought they found an improvised explosive device and we had to secure the area while we waited for the unit with the little robots. After waiting thirty minutes my truck commander, our platoon sergeant, decided it wasn't an IED after staring at the trash bag for a few minutes with the scope on his rifle.
He said, "That's not an IED, run it over Stokes." I backed my truck up and ran the bag over with one of the huge tires, which I would not have done if he had gotten out of the truck first. I liked him, he was a good leader but he could go fuck himself if he ordered me to risk my life without also risking his. Once we were back in a safe position the IA walked up and looked in the bag, inside it was something that was designed to look like an IED but never explode. At the time we didn't know it just looked like one, so we laughed until the robot guys showed up. That half mad, we are so dumb/we should be dead laugher. But that was an hour before and nothing had happened to distract from the heat in that time.
The lead scout turned onto a small street to the right and I followed. I turned off what would be an interstate in the U.S. onto a road with far more potholes than asphalt. We bounce around for two hundred meters; the shocks on that truck were completely shot, before the lead turns left at a four way. Again the convey followed, this was a street with the back of houses on one side and lively shops on the other. Cars were parked on the side of the road making it hard for us to drive down it without hitting any of them. People were walking to and from the shops; smoking, chatting, and buying things. It was a little over an hour before the next call to prayer and I guessed everyone wanted to get what they needed and socialize before being summoned to the mosque.
This was what gave me hope, people enjoying themselves and being happy. Not being lead my men who want power, into believing their god wants them to kill people. I had spoken to our translators about their faith, it is quiet peaceful. To be honest, I am not smart enough to turn a peaceful faith into a weapon but I also don't want power, so maybe that has something to do with my inability to think of how to do it.
Sadly, we let our guard down. Normally a crowded street is a safe street, because the people of the neighborhood know something is going to happen and stay away. That is not to say they are in on it, just that they know and are too afraid to tell us or the IA.
We drove slowly down the road as the gunners tossed candy to the kids on the street, winning hearts and minds. They were so many of them that we ran out of candy almost as soon as we started tossing it. So many kids, so many happy people. The lead truck passed a bright red car, flame red and continued on. As my truck came to the red car I saw the picture of a happy family. Just beyond the flame red car was a little car the color of a clear morning sky. In that car there was a man, maybe in his later twenties smiling at his son; in the passenger seat there was a beautiful young woman, maybe in her early twenties, and she is holding in her lap an eight or nine year old boy.
The boy is smiling and waving at us, his parents were laughing at his joy. This sight warmed my heart, a young happy family out to buy things for their happy home. With a woman that was dressed in a t-shirt and pants and was sitting in the front seat of the car, which was rare to see in a place so restrained by their faith. Normally she would be in the back seat with only her eyes visible whenever they left the house. They're so happy and carefree; I have never even seen such joy at a child's actions in the United States. Their happiness has destroyed mine. For the moment I reached the side of the red car, it blew up. There was a flash of light and all was black form the smoke. The moment the smoke cleared enough I stomped on the gas pedal, because where there is one bomb there is normally two.
The two trucks behind me stopped where they were to check for more IEDs and see if they could spot the trigger man, the lead truck and I drove a good hundred meters forward before we stopped to check for danger and the damage. The truck was totaled but no one was hurt, so we hooked up to the lead and towed my truck out of the neighborhood. As we passed the site I saw that the only reason all three of us in my truck were alive was because they packed the explosive wrong, most of the force went into the building beside the car and not in the other direction, into the street. But there were bodies by the shops and the blue car was nothing but smoking wreckage.
Why fight for anything when there are so many fighting for nothing. What is the point in killing your own people just to do minor damage to your enemy?