After clearing houses for what seemed like days (even though it was only about an hour) everyone consolidated at the strongpointed building. Then it came over the radio that we needed a medical evacuation; two Americans had succumbed to the heat. At this point, our command had an important call to make: should we stay, or should we request for an emergency pick up? This was supposed to be a two-day mission. Enemy fire continued to pick up and so did the heat. Our command made the decision that we needed to request for an emergency pick up, since we already medically evacuated two people and it was only going to get worse. The only problem was that the pick up would not take place for at least another five hours.
One of the best men that I have ever met in my life was running the SBF that was taking the most contact (he is the one that has the hole in his hat). Throughout the day he courageously continued to lead and inspire the Afghan soldiers despite the terrible conditions.
He continuously drew fire to his position to try and determine where it was coming from. He also provided cover for the assault force with machine gun fire and mortars. He refused to leave his post no matter how bad the elements or enemy fire got. He continued to give reports over the radio, but gradually throughout the day his voice began to fade and trail off during radio transmissions.
It got so bad that my teammate Johnny Mac (my former senior medic and future contributor to this site) and I made the decision that we needed to move to our teammate’s position. I grabbed my bag and all the empty water bottles that I could find and ran to the nearest well about 50 yards away. The enemy was ready for me and a few rounds landed at my feet as I ran to the well and back.
Johnny and I went around the back of the strong pointed building and up the backside of the mountain. The incline was so steep that we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. Travelling up the backside of the mountain shielded us from the onslaught of bullets coming from the village. As soon as Johnny and I arrived at the top, the Afghan Commandos told us to “get down.” I was so tired I ignored them but found out quickly why they told me to get down. As soon as I stood up bullets ripped past my head. I took the Commandos’ advice and got down.
The SBF position was located in a pre-existing circular trench that had a large mound of earth in the middle. Johnny and I were located at the back of the mound and my teammate was at the front of the mound facing the village. I started to call my teammate’s name but he did not respond so I decided to go to him. I ran counter-clockwise through the knee-deep trench and could hear the crack of bullets whizzing by me. I dived for cover as soon as I reached my teammate. His eyes were rolling in the back of his head; he could barely talk or lift his head up. He needed water and medical care right now.
Unfortunately, I left my backpack full of water behind the mound. I mentally pumped myself up to once again expose myself to enemy fire. This time, I swear I could feel the bullets going past me. It was like a movie scene; machine gun fire trailed my movement and kicked clouds of dirt as I literally ran for my life. When I turned the corner I could see the look of terror/fear/amazement, in Johnny’s face. When I took cover, Johnny, a 12-year veteran of Ranger Battalion and Special Forces (Johnny is no longer in the Army and is OK with me using his name) grabbed me and started punching me and screamed, “you better start low-crawling you fucking motherfucker!”
After my counseling session, we made a plan. I would take the backpack full of water back to our teammate and give him some water while Johnny prepped his medical equipment. Our teammate would move to Johnny to start receiving treatment and I would assume command of the SBF. I pumped myself up again and started to low-crawl around the circle. I found this to be to slow and I decided to get up and run. I liked the idea of being exposed for a much shorter period of time. I gave our teammate some of the well water and told him what was going on, he was starting to become un-responsive. I asked my teammate if he needed any help and like the true warrior that he is, he said no. He mustered up what was left of his strength and ran back to Johnny, collapsing as soon as he got there. Johnny pulled him to cover and immediately began to treat our teammate. They received sporadic gunfire throughout the entire treatment.
I was located in the middle of two Commando machine-guns, each one about 15 feet from me. After Johnny administered an IV and other medical aid, Johnny, our teammate, and some of the Commandos, were going to move back to the Casualty Collection Point (CCP). However, due disorientation, my teammate left his gun in my position and would not go to the CCP until he once again had it in his possession. I grabbed his gun and ran the gauntlet another time. Once the gun was back in my teammates possession, Johnny and our teammate left for the CCP. I was now in charge of the SBF with six commandos.
We now had to wait for another couple of hours to be picked up. This is when my mind started to wander. I now had my first chance to think rather than react. I asked myself, “how could I possibly keep coming so close to getting shot only to escape unharmed; one of these times I am going to get hit.” I started to think that if a bullet did not hit me then the elements would take me down; my position was running out water.
We had been fighting all day, we were exhausted and this was not our turf, I started to get worried that the fighting would continue into the night. I feared that a fresh enemy could easily overrun are haggard force. I was convinced that I was experiencing my last day on earth and that it was only a matter of time before I died. I begged God to let me survive the day. I pleaded with God and said things like “my wife can not live without me,” and “I don’t want to die right now, I am not ready.”
People say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes, this was not true for me. I started to think about all of the things that I would not do in this life. I felt sad that I would never see my wife again, never be able to kiss her, hold her or tell her how much I loved her. I would never have the chance to be a father. My two younger brothers are my best friends and I would never see them again on this earth. I would not have the chance to tell my parents how thankful I was for the upbringing and love they provided me with. I thought that I had so much more that I needed to do on this earth; I was only 26. I asked myself if I lived life with the zeal that I wished I had and started to question if I was a good person or not. Was I a good husband, son, brother, friend? Ultimately, I wondered; “Am I going to go to Heaven or Hell?”
(Continued in Part II)