It is cold and snowing heavily in the mountains that surround us. The frozen ground has been covered by three feet of snow already. The small fire is burning in our makeshift courtyard, and the fella’s are sitting there trying to stay warm.
The Chowhall Sergeant calls us over for breakfast, we don’t have a lot of creature comforts but the chow is decent. Decent enough for Army food anyway. Our small group gets prepped for our daily mission. Today we are going into one of the local villages to spread some good will and let the Doc look at any injuries or ailments.
Afghanistan is a country full of a proud people, and most like us being here because we offer a sense of stability and protection from the opposing force the Taliban. As in every war there are casualties’, and we’ve seen our share. The locals are the one’s seeing most of the injuries, some indirectly inflicted by the fighting.
We head off in convey as usual, but we never follow the same route. That makes it harder for our enemy to predict our route and therefore harder to place an IED. We’ve been lucky, probably due to our advanced route planning.
The village comes into view, and we set up a perimeter around the village. Doc had set up his office on the hood of our Hummer. It seemed like a quiet day, and then a loud explosion of an RPG striking one of our Humvees. We laid down covering fire in the direction of the attack, and I found out that Johnson had suffered a minor wound to his leg.
With Corporal Johnson’s injury and most of our mission accomplished we started back along route Whiskey. Our convey started back toward the base when a couple miles down the road we found ourselves under attack again. We set up a hasty defensive position and started sending rounds downrange. We were taking both small arms fire and RPG attacks.
The Humvee guns were blasting away on the 50 Cal’s, and the rest of us were giving suppressing fire on multiple targets. We were under intense fire and I called for air support. I had just finished asking for a fire mission when I heard that Lt Baker had received a serious belly wound. I got back on the radio and requested an emergency Medevac, they acknowledged and gave a ten minute ETA.
About that time the flyboy’s released their payload and the earth shook violently. The cloud of dust evaporated and the Taliban pulled out. We regrouped and marked a landing area for the chopper to land on. Lt Baker was getting worse by the minute. The Medevac arrived right on time and we loaded Baker and Johnson.
The chopper flew off and we continued our trip back to Arnot our FOB (Forward Operating Base). We encountered several other minor fire fights without injury. Then ten hours and a thousand rounds later we pulled into the base. Captain Suggs told me that Lt Baker had died from his wounds.
As I headed to the Chowhall for our briefing, I thought about how to give the team the sad news. We got our debriefing and then our meal. I just stood and gave the news about the Lt. It was all I could manage. I could see the sadness in each of their eyes, but they were Soldiers. The Chaplain came in and said a prayer for Lt Baker. He reminded us to be thankful, even in light of Baker’s death. The Chaplain said that today was a day for to honor our heroes and give thanks. Christmas I had forgotten it was Christmas. We offered a prayer and began our meal.
I could not eat as I remembered the men we had lost over the years. The Chaplain came over sat down and he noticed those tears in my eyes. “Sergeant, this meal was prepared in remembrance of our God, and for those that have died in supporting freedom. You lost your friend today and you will probably lose more, but go ahead and taste this meal and show your respect to your friends and your God. This meal was prepared with God and your friends in mind, that’s why it’s savory to the touch.
My fighting days are over, but that meal and those words will carry me all the days of my life.
For all fighting men and women.
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