Lost in the Fog of War

(Page 3 of 6)

I consider the idea. I still feel uneasy. But I have to weigh my options: Do I play it safe, or do I maintain a tactical approach? Am I going to place the Buffalo in front of my vehicle to check for bombs? This would leave the Buffalo extremely vulnerable if there were a blast and an ambush. Or, am I going to risk crossing the bridge first, so we can provide security?

I don’t know why, but I ask the men in my vehicle if they want to punch through. They all agree.

I tell the Buffalo to be ready once we cross and set up security. I pack a few sunflower seeds into my mouth and tell my gunner to sit down out of the turret and hold on, just in case. I tell our driver to punch it, but to not run over the stick no matter what.

An RG-31 is an extremely heavy vehicle, but it has some muscle to it, and we take off.

Our direction is not straight as intended, but upwards. I see the blue sky through the window as the explosion turns us into momentary astronauts. In the rear of the vehicle I become a human pinball, and I'm beat to hell by ammo cans and gear.

Our vehicle comes to rest in a dry canal where seconds before there was a bridge and water. The longest moment in human history seems to follow. The first thing I notice is, I can't move. My face feels cold and clammy. I push an arm through the gear that's pinning me down and yell, "Everyone OK?"

The silence feels like an eternity. As I clamber out, my gunner says faintly, “I'm OK, Sgt. Mac.”

Fearing a vehicle fire, I yell at him to get out and get to the Buffalo. Looking up and out, I can see our Huskies sweeping a path to evacuate the wounded, ensuring the way is clear of secondary IEDs.

I call for the driver and other sergeant a few times. I get no answer. When I crawl out of the nearest hatch, a friend lifts his head out of a Husky and yells for me to get clear of the area.

It’s a dangerous thing to play around outside of a fresh blast. You never know if an ambush is coming, or if there are secondary IEDs nearby waiting to inflict more hell. If the fuel tanks are punctured, and fuel is leaking, then you are only one element away from an inferno.

To this day I don’t think I completely understand what I did next. But I know why I did it.

A second passes, and I dive back into the wrecked vehicle. In my mind I can't lose any more friends. Not again. Not this time.

I call out and climb my way forward. The smoke and dust have settled, but the smell of the blast remains. I can see penetration in the hull in the front of the vehicle, and sunlight through the floorboard. I yell out again for the two men in the front. I see their bodies, but no movement. I think the worst. Then, the sergeant moans.

A sign of hope. Maybe today our boys will survive.