The sweat was pouring down my face as I sprinted towards the mud brick wall. The low thrub of Blackhawks had faded only to be replaced by the pounding of boots on the ground, merged with my beating heart. We hit the ladders and bounded over the wall like an Olympian over a hurdle. My turtle shell of body armor stuck to my skin like hot tar under the moonless night sky. I could see the target building materialize several feet in front of me and I redirected towards the door. The relative silence was abruptly shattered by AK rounds yards from my face. Calm. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Muscle memory spread the detonation cord over the door. Time slowing to a crawl as I’m suddenly back home drinking a beer with my best friend talking about how well the Packers will do this weekend. He puts his arm around me and I realize if I ever want to have that tomorrow I must get through this tonight!
Booom! The door splinters into tiny little pieces followed by two concussion grenades to “prep” the room. In a single motion I am inside, training my rifle at a skinny motherfucker, pointing his rifle at me. My M4 recoiled against my shoulder no more than a video game controller in a boy’s hands. No thoughts as I continued scanning the room, looking for more targets. There was a silence of silence as explosions and gunshots rang throughout the compound. My head was still ringing as I moved towards the next door. I looked into the eyes of my team leader and they said it all …”this house is hot! Frag the next room!
With movement choreographed better than dancers on Broadway we released hot death in the form of M61 Fragmentation grenades into the next room. Upon impacting against the ceiling they pepper every piece of matter with jagged scorching hot metal. I will never forget the screams. When you are facing death on a regular basis you learn quickly to trust your instincts. They all heighten when you perceive danger and they can save your life, when you are not safe. Now, standing in a room filled with mangled flesh all I wanted was for my senses to turn off. Cordite and burning human flesh filled my nose like rotten eggs left out for a year. Ears ringing, disoriented as if Id woken from a dream, my body moved without the command of my mind. The noise was getting louder now and I realized it was coming from the old woman on the floor. The one without any legs. Her torso was moving like some dancer on broadway. I had no emotion at that exact instant but I sensed wrongness. As I sat on the humvee, driving away from this worthless shithole of a city, I looked down to realize I was covered in blood. Her blood. I never knew her name. What her dreams were or the kind of person she wanted to be. But as I laid her in the back of the medevac, she cried.