The Dust of War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
What really happens when your halfway around the world fighting for your country. Why would you want to give up every loving thing you have but instead wave yourself in the shadow of death?

Submitted: November 27, 2010

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Submitted: November 27, 2010

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I watched him as he rose above the muddy trench, red anguish raging from every bone in his body as he lifted his gun into the dust of war. Just watching him made my heart beat furiously, a kick of adrenaline rushing through my body yet a tinge of sadness overcame me as I watched my best friends fighting for their lives. It was like the world stopped and paused yet I was still watching the live soldiers heavily under attack, trying to helplessly defend their country but more more of a less protect themselves. Suddenly it hit me and the sound of bullets scattering the air was the drenching drone that filled this land. I was still watching him, my best mate, until that moment when everything became slow motion. A shock wave hit him, his left shoulder catapulted backwards and that’s when I saw it, a red bullet leaving his shoulder as it left an imprint on the brave soldier. Blood was racing out of his body like a glorious waterfall and I watched him as he fell to the ground, his legs entwined together, his dusty gun laying next to him against the cherry red stain that left a mark on his army clothing. I stared at him, ran over to check his pulse, but no blood beat through his heart yet warm blood oozed and dribbled to the ground. He was dead; a memory in which I will always keep in my heart for the rest of my life, a shock that I will never be able to overcome.
I looked back over the trench knowing that if I let my guard down, I too could be lying beside my best friend; dead, only to see the fire leaving the end of each rifle and gun. I eyed out a black shadowing figure, carefully crawling to the side of the trench and closing up upon my group of men. I looked down the line of my team of freedom fighters, only to see that none of them had spotted the soon to be, deathly ambush. I turned slightly on an angle, aiming carefully through the scope of my rifle  as the enemy thought he was sneaking upon us unnoticed. Little did he know that I was taking deep breaths, calming myself, blocking out the deadening gun shots, and focusing on him. I was ready to pull the trigger; a million things raced through my mind, unknowing what family that I would put in pain if I killed him. I tried to stay strong, and know that killing one will save us all from the fury of the death that would creep up onto more. He chose to do this, to fight, to risk his life, and so did I. I trained for so many years, for this moment to retaliate an overwhelming force; I might as well take the shot and use my ability and skill. Taking slow breaths, I pulled the trigger slowly, my hands still as a rock despite the noise and vibrations that shook the ground.  I pulled the trigger and instantly, through my scope, I saw an instant shock wave and the quick death I had given him. I looked up towards the dust filled sky, hoping i’d be forgiven for doing this, and knowing what other duties I had to undertake.
One of my comrades turned to me, realising what had just happened. He smiled, but the smile soon dropped when he looked at my best friend, lying next to me, his lifeless body enclosed in a ball. He nodded his head wistfully with understanding but he looked back upon the battlefield knowing what bloodshed was to come. Ten minutes of heavy fire and our small battle ended. The last two enemies raced away in a vehicle when they came to realise that they were outnumbered and wouldn’t be able to defend themselves. I watched my commander stand up, his eyes carefully surveying the damage. He paused for a second over my best friend’s body but kept his will to overlook it. He reported back to base over the radio, saying that 6 of the 8 men came out alive and that we’d be transporting the two dead bodies back to base.
As a soldier in Iraq, we all tend to think deeply when we have the time. After every episode of a battle, the bumpy humvee ride back to base always has an eerie and deathly silence. No one speaks, moves, utters a sound, but we all just tend to stare upon the orange desert and the people that entail this land. Inside every one of us, is a bravery that most may not understand, but there is a fear that we chose to face. We came here from halfway around the world to defend our country but doing so meant to risk our lives, to leave our loved ones at up to 9 months at a time. Some say we are crazy, stupid and selfish to leave a perfectly good home, but who’s going to do the dirty work? All of us are strong willed but it is over time that we gain such an understanding of the meaning of strong willed. When you’re a rookie, you have a fantasy of the adrenaline rush and you think you know what it will be like to be in the army, to see fellow fighters die at your side and shoot with a gun, but really, the hell, anger, fury and uncomfortableness of it all is like nothing you can imagine unless you have been through it. Every day, each and every soldier is faced with the closeness to death, with the thought of being unable to properly say good bye to loved ones and the intensity of every sleepless night. It is what we chose to do but in many ways, it can be unforgiving.
We returned back to ‘the wire’, the base, the barracks, the safe area. The dinner table tonight is quite and dark, my team of soldiers blank within the Iraqi night. Not even my commander has uttered a word, only to say that the two bodies will be sent back to the US tomorrow to be laid to rest. My Commander, Mark Williams, allowed me to leave with the two bodies tomorrow to go to the one of the funerals since it was my best friend, Isaac, whom I watched die in front of me.  I refused the offer, knowing that Isaac would think I was nuts and selfish to leave this war torn country just to watch his dead body be buried beneath the ground. I didn’t reject the offer because of the thought, but because a couple months ago, we talked about what would happen if either one of us died, and we promised each other we’d take care of each other’s families, but we will keep our dutiful role to keep fighting until it was time to go home, regardless if we missed each other’s funeral. When we promised each other, I never believed it would happen but reality had hit me in the back of the head and I am now faced with the challenge to live every day without Isaac fighting by my side.
I woke up the next day at the sound of the 0400 alarm, Commander Williams at my bed side, his face hidden in the darkness, his hand held out with a dog tag in it. I took it carefully realising that it was Isaacs Dog Tag. He told me I had to get up and that I should pay my respects to Isaac before his body was sent back home. I wrote a 5 page letter to his family, detailing what had happened from my perspective and what he wanted me to do when he died. I was deeply close with his family and they knew Isaac well enough to know he wouldn’t allow me to fly back to the States unless my work here was done. I knew his family would shed countless tears but they would know that Isaac did his best to defend his country. As I looked into the coffin, I saw Isaac’s body, his clothes had been changed from his blood stained uniform, to a dutiful suit. His face was lifeless but peaceful and I kept myself at bay to not cry any tears of sadness. This was the reality of war and what was to come. We undertook such a job but in every case, we defended our country as best as we could. I carefully placed the letter in the hands of the officers in charge of the moving of the bodies. He seemed to understand what great value that coffin and the letter I gave to him, was to me.
 
 
After watching the airplane lift off with two coffins inside, I knew it was time to head back onto the barren land and begin another day’s work as a soldier. We were sent to an abandoned five story building, which had reports of Taliban soldiers situating themselves in that area. Before every mission, we get a pre-mission briefing and we rely on our team communication, skill, knowledge and intuition to come out alive but today Commander Williams added an extra prayer that we fight for Isaac and the other man that was killed yesterday. With two people short, we got given two rookies to join our team. They were nice, smart young boys but this was their first time in Iraq but as always, my team could clearly see that they were not prepared for what was to come in their careers as US Soldiers. Commander Williams gave us the plan on our ambush and we were ready to go in. Like each day we encountered, this was the biggest game of our lives.
We boarded onto the humvee, soft grunts and mumbles from all the men as we piled in. I sat back, eying out for possible danger but really, I was thinking about Isaac. Dust swirled the air as we passed through small towns and the shouting of village life was a comfort. None of us knew what was to be expected along the bumpy ride but to know that blood was to be sacrificed as always. The humvee stopped at our mission point and I whispered “this is for you Isaac”.
We ran in, the heavy bulletproof vests and jam packed backpacks on our backs, our helmets shielding our head, our guns held tightly in hand. It didn’t surprise me when we were suddenly under attack although I did take a quick glance at the two new boys and you could already see the horror in their white faces, peeping out through their helmet. I remember the first time I was under attack- for real. It was like hell but after a couple of months, I realised it was quite normal and I got used to it all. We crouched behind an abandoned group of toilets as we looked up upon the levels of the apartment, our instincts guiding us on our next moves. Across from me was the other half of the team, watching the danger and giving us hand signals. There was a car just in front of the toilets which would allow some cover and to get closer to the enemy. I signalled for my movements and I was to go with one of the rookies. We quickly ran to the car, our bodies kept low to the ground to ensure we had some sort of protection against the bullets that ricocheted onto the dirt and gravel. Carefully I withdrew my gun onto the hood of the car and looked through the scope to look at the positions of the target.
In an instant second, something hit the lower part of my shoulder, pain shooting from my shoulder to the whole of my body. I felt numb and started to feel faint and dizzy. The young rookie looked at me, shocked and ducked down to assist me. I could tell he was scared and he didn’t want to see me, let alone anyone, die. I couldn’t focus and all I heard was the buzz of bullets and the rookie yelling. I couldn’t make out what he was trying to say but I knew he was yelling for help. I couldn’t take it anymore so I closed my eyes and I felt like I had just fallen asleep, it was peaceful despite the numbness and pain that spread to every part of my body.
 
 It was as if I wasn’t dying because the last thing I thought of was you. 


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