THE VETA Story by Shane Patrick
How old were you?
I was 19, it was winter, cold, bitter cold.
a lot of what you are going through can maybe be explained if I knew some of the specifics.
I will try but no guarantees on how far I can go with it
It was 1993 I had just reported to the ship, miserable failure in phase 4 of BUDS training. I was not well with the choice that I made, but before I made the choice to leave, my ankle had to heal, I was in the hospital doing re-hab for a month before I could take on duty on a ship. Medical reason to quit the greatest and most respected force in military history.. I was upset to say the least.
Did you know then, how it would affect you?
No, but I did know what I was in for, my then Chief, Senior Chief Pai, told me that he would take care of me, only because I was only 1 of 7 still left out of 42 that had started, and I had completed the most difficult part of the training already... I just was not going to graduate with another class or wait another 6 months to start the next phase. I was just going to cut my loss when I got to sea. I picked up the ship going North to the Artic circle, blue nose they called it, seas were high and it was 30 below when I got there...I was the last flight in before they shut down ops, an aircraft carrier is tough in these conditions but not at the expense of it sailors.
You got to visit some good places before Bosnia did you not?
yes, Ireland, England, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Egypt, just to name a few, but that was before..
So tell me about that day..
It was December 31st, but the Med Sea seemed warm, I don’t know why but it was, it just faded to as we went North. There was an alert from the Navel Sea Command, and the weapons department, which is where I was doing my duty at the time. We were one of the firsts to hear about it. There was a Marine Amphibious ship already in the Adriatic, we were supposedly sending personnel to assist and also weapons and ammo, that would support the Amphibious units, that were delivering the humanitarian aid, the history of it was that there was trouble in Bosnia and the humanitarian aid at the time was going ashore via trucks, north of Montenegro... it had been a good 3 months at sea, I was feeling pretty good about my ankle. My Chief on the ship called me into his office, and he told me that there was an assault unit going ashore with the aid. He knew of my training and asked if I would want to go, it did not take me long to accept, it was a team that consisted of Marine Force Recon, a small platoon of Navy Seals, and the personnel driving the trucks... Sea Bee's mostly.. I had background in the training in the Seals but I was no Seal, just E.O.D. fancy word for guy who can defuse a bomb or mine. Still it was a combat designation and I was trained either way.
How many trucks?
13 not including the Hum V's which there were about 4 of those, carrying us the support team, into Bosnia.
What was the target?
Aid to civilians, that is all we knew, and the destination was downtown Sarajevo. Before I knew it I was on a helo going to the "Gator Frator" to join up with the team. I was geared up with subdued urban assault as it was dark gloomy and urban streets were going to be the backdrop, MP-5 in hand and full assault gear and 12 hours later we were on land driving up the road to Sarajevo.
What was going on that made the U.S. get involved?
I did not find out till after but, there had been a civil war spilling out all over the region, the Serbs were brutal to the civilians in Bosnia, it did not matter no one knew half the time who was on who's side. It had been going on for years prior to us going there, but bottom line was there was to much destruction and the camps for refugees were getting full. We went in knowing that the flags we had on our uniforms and trucks were not a welcome site to some, but did not think anything would come of it.
How did you feel?
I was trained for this... or at least I thought, but the way the others were joking around it was supposed to be go in, drop off and leave... we had enough food and medical supplies to last for awhile, the Corpsman in the Hum-V with us thought it would last someone at least 60 days of hard fighting before they would need something. Little did we know what would happen.
Where were you when it happened?
I was in the second to last vehicle, there were two Hum-V's up front and two in the rear, I was in the rear of the convoy.
Where were you sitting?
I was in the passenger seat, rank had its privilege... or at least I thought.. there were three guys behind me and the driver, the Hum-V's back then did not have the armor they have today, so the windows were up because it was cold that day, I remember thinking if I had to get out and walk that I would have my flack jacket frozen to me... I was raised in the winter in Indiana but something about this winter was different. Bitter cold, wind would go through you when it blew.
So what happened first?
I heard something that sounded like a firecracker.... the deuce and a half in front of me had four people in it, two in the front and two guys with M-16's in the back, they were about 500 to 1000 yards ahead of us... we were just starting to speed up when it exploded... one of the guys in the back was on fire and fell out of the back... he was still moving... I ducked and looked to the east and saw some guys with helmets on over a ridge... then the small arms fire hit the Hum-V, I yelled at the driver to punch it... just as that happened a round clipped my window and hit him in the throat... I ordered everyone out of the truck as I looked over and saw a rocket launcher being loaded... I was 19 and giving orders? I was the highest rank in this vehicle now that the driver was dead... I remembered my training... and kicked the driver out of the vehicle and jumped over him as the three remaining men jumped out of the side of the vehicle... we ran around the fire and then the Hum-V we were riding in exploded... knocking me off my feet... I laid there for a minute because I could not hear, or I was stunned... I don’t know what happened really but someone picked me up... and yelled at me.. "GET UP GODDAMMIT!!" I looked up and it was the Seal Team guys from the other Hummer.. Lt. Rodriguez... "ARE YOU OK?" YES SIR!! I yelled... I looked back and there were 8 men, that was the exact number of the men in the other hummer... "SIR! WHERE?" he pulled me into his chest and yelled " THERE DEAD SON!!". I did not know them, I had just met them one of the guys name was Evan, he had a new son, he was talking about it as we drove up the road. "YOU NEED TO BE OK, IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!" I could feel the heat coming off the deuce... I could hear the gunfire, as the Seals returned fire... I looked at him... I did not know what to say... he pushed me down as a heavier gun began to fire... we took cover behind one of the other trucks as the people in that truck began to speed up and return fire... " RUN! STAY WITH THE TRUCK"!! I ran along side the truck, still watching the Lt and the others fire back.. I looked back and they started to run along the ditch next to the road.. I looked up out from behind the truck and saw the men scrambling behind the hill the where the shots came from... trying to keep up with us, firing over the hill when they could. Lt. firing away just missing them, the others shooting and missing, another explosion knocked me off my feet into the ditch by the Lt. it was the truck I was standing by, the front of it was on fire. I looked up again and the Lt. was standing over me firing again.. I was deaf now.. all I heard was a harsh ring with muddled voices.. the cold of the ground was on my face and the heat from the two trucks on fire warming my hands on my gun... I could hear the Lt.. yelling at me... my eyes were open and I was dazed at his stature... at that moment a big man picked me up, and threw me over his shoulder, he ran with me till we got near a section of trucks stalled on the road... he let me down on the part of the incline of the ditch... I looked down the trucks and the line the front two hummers were in the ditch and one other truck was on fire... the man that had carried me knelt down next to me, are you ok?
What was his name?
Petty Officer Thomas, at least that is what the name on the uniform said "Thomas". He checked me out I was just stunned, in shock, whatever you call it, I was not there... the Lt. came over and asked if I was good to go, ya see the firing stopped once we were out of range, but they would soon re-group and the danger would return. Thomas, as the Lt. was standing next to him, asked me if I could see, I guess my face was full of dirt, he wiped it away... I stood up, and asked the Lt. what was next... "true grit you ever see that movie son?" No sir. "John Wayne one of his best!" Lt. said. "Well as you can see the front of the convoy.. destroyed, there are Recon up there and we need to get there, the hostiles are on this side of the road as Lt. points to the East" There was a large birm on the side of the road, and over it was houses and a few two and three story buildings... and a road that went in front of them, the only reason we knew this was because the road was higher than the birm before we got hit.. we were in the low part of the road, standard tactics, you have the high ground you have the advantage. Lt. asked me what team I was with, told him, I am not with a team, I am just a sailor, and I trained under Sr. Chief Pai.. Lt. was standing near 3 other team members; they all stopped and looked at me. "Well son, then your ready for war, we need you today".. Yes sir! Lt. instructed us that he wanted to get over the birm and take out the hostiles that lay entrenched on the other side, two by two cover with point ahead. Lt. called out "Cappy, Wilburn" point, Thomas take our FNG with you and follow the point. I was ready... but nervous, the point made it over the birm no problem, we followed close about 10 seconds...
Why the close interval?
In two by two its two men and they are covering each other right to left, and in front the guys need to have their backs watched, they look forward and to the side but they need cover. Thomas and I made it over the birm and we slid down beside a burned out car.. the point had moved south to a concrete wall... I looked up and saw the third set of guys coming over the birm when the shots rang out, they hit the dirt near the third team but missed the guy coming over he rolled back over and then there was heavy fire coming from our south... they were hitting the concrete wall the point was behind... breaking it apart with every shot... chipping it away... I yelled at Thomas- "What do we do!" stay put! Thomas tried to get up and see through the broken windows of the car, to see where the fire was coming from.. he got back down and said " single story house across from them, 3 to 4 hostiles.! I looked around the front of the car and could see the muzzle flashes, I turned back around and there was separate fire on the birm, Thomas! There is separate fire on the birm! Where is it coming from? “I don’t know!!” Thomas knelt up slowly and found a two story building North of us, shooting at the birm, we were caught in the middle.. as the fire continued on the concrete slab that was in front of the point, I hunkered behind the front rim of the vehicle I looked down at the guys on point and they were covering their heads… I looked up and looked at the birm thinking I could make it, but it would take me far to long to negotiate the steep embankment… at that point a 40 millimeter grenade launcher came over the birm… and slid down in front of Thomas… he pulled it in, and pulled off his chest holder a round of 40 mm.. and loaded it, I told him hit the two story first… he locked the round in and looked at me, “payback” just as he stood up a round hit him from behind… collapsing to his knees… and falling backwards onto my legs… Thomas!!!! I dropped my weapon onto the ground… he looked at me… his eyes dilating and his skin going pale… Thomas!! He tried to breath… but the gasps were met with a heaving chest… I could see the bullet hole in his chest near his heart… I put my hand on it.. as he looked at me…
Why are you crying?, you hardly knew him...
He just saved my life, I owe my tears to him...
How did you feel at that time?
I was f*****g pissed... I saw him slip away and something changed, I cried for 10 seconds, and it switched.
The switch in your mind where human becomes something else... they used to call it the 1000 yard stare.. my mind went blank and all I could think was revenge, hatred... these men were dying around me.. and I was not going to let one more die...
what did you do then?
I grabbed the loaded 40 mm, and stood up, the bullets began to wiz by my head but it did not matter the fire was off the guys on point... I drew aim and pulled the trigger... the 40 mm went out and through the front door... the house exploded as I drew my MP-5 and took aim at the two story building to the North pinning down the other men... I fired my weapon... and hit the building stopping the barrage of fire, as I did the points were taking aim on it as well and firing... the building being shredded with bullets... I pulled a 40 mm round out of Thomas coat and reloaded... firing at the building... shattering the top floor and a fireball thrown to the street below... it was a hostile on fire and dead... I dropped the 40mm and fired my MP-5 at the building again... emptying my clip...
Reloading the Lt. hits me on the arm... nice job... hoooya sir... shaking from the adrenaline I told Lt. that Thomas was gone... He shook his head, we need to get down to the Marines, we could hear the fire in the distance… Lt. looked at me, you ok? He saw the look in my eyes… I am fine sir just point the way, a guy came up from behind him, this is Houin, he will be taking Thomas’s spot next to you, there were 8 of us again not including the Lt, now that Thomas was dead, the Sea Bees were on the birm, Lt. yelled at them.. “Police up this mans body and put him in a truck that will run…” Lt. told us that the convoy must get to the First Aid station 4 clicks from our present location, this mission had turned into something different all together now, an international incident, this is war, and we are now in the middle of it. Lt. ordered the 8 of us that we needed to be careful getting to the jar heads at the front of the convoy. There are lingering hostiles in these buildings, just because they are not firing does not mean they are not there.
I looked back at Thomas lying on the ground, and I looked down at my leg, covered in his blood, I held my tears at bay. “My name is Terry” where you from?, Indiana, how about you as I took a breath, Houston Texas. What’s your name? He asked.. I looked at Lt.. he smiled “Grit” that’s his name… we started walking toward the fighting, as I looked back as the Sea Bee’s picked up Thomas’s body, my thoughts drifted back to childhood as I used to play in the snow… this cold now was frigid.. the sun what there was of it would be going down soon, when that happened the game would change from offense to survival.
How cold was it?
Bitter, cold, probably below zero. We were ordered to clear the homes and buildings along the roadside. It was then I realized what these people were going through.
The dead were frozen in their homes... shot to death by death squads, pregnant women with their belly's slit... and their child ripped from their womb. Men, women, children frozen by the bitter cold.. eyes cloudy.. staring into the darkness... Slowly we cleared the houses directly on the roadside making our way to the jar heads, the fighting had died down enough to take it slow and be sure that the buildings were clear. We would take turns clearing a house. Two by Two we would enter a building or a house and clear it. No hostiles, as we met up with the Marines, the highest rank they had left was a Lt, it is a lower rank than a Navy Lt. so Rodriguez would have command.
How many did they loose?
Many did not get a count, but we were in the teens just inside 2 hours of fighting. I was sure that the hostiles were still out there as well, Lt. Rodriguez decided to move the wreckage off the road and continue the convoy... however with several trucks and the size we would be moving targets... we were ready to EVAC, get some marine helo's in route and get the hell out, Lt. used the marine radio and called the commander on the ship. " Victor Bravo 1 this is Sierra Tango 2, do you copy"... after several tries it was clear that our radio was not reaching the ship. We may have been to far inland or the hills and mountains around us were blocking the signal, all this technology and we were hampered by radio waves.. "We continue on! Lt. said we were given a mission and we will complete it till otherwise advised" . The Lt, told us to move all the med supplies and food into 6 trucks, 3 for each, leaving 3 behind we were down to 9.
We packed the trucks till the day became night, using fuel lanterns and CHEM lights to guide us. It was very cold, and the men were shaking talking to each other. We had winter gear on, but when its this cold it does not matter.. We set camp, using the trucks as a shield we went off the road to the West into the woods, making fire to keep warm and 2 hour watches to stave out an attack on the trucks. The Sea Bee's were equipped and knew how to fight, however at night the Recon and the Seals were the best, and we stood the watches, a roving patrol was also set up, walking the perimeter, we set up flare nets in case anyone would get inside the perimeter. Flare nets are designed to be tripwires set up to flares so if someone came into the perimeter they would trip on it and send a flare up in the direction they were entering, we set them at 300 yards all the way around the camp. I had the first roving patrol, because I set the wire, Houin was with me as we walked the perimeter.
" man its cold" Houin said whispering in his southern Texas accent.. shivering and blowing into his gloves. "How come you’re not shivering?" I grew up in this weather; Northern Indiana can have some harsh winters. The trucks are loaded, now it won’t be long, Lt. will order us to get up before dawn and move under the cover of darkness. "You think"? How long have you been a Seal? " 3 Years" he said. Nodding my head in approval, we will see if we need that entire training wont we? " Yea and we will see how good we were trained." " You were under Senior Chief Pai?" Ya, I was. "what was it like being under a living legend?" It was tough, and had I not broke my ankle I would be proud to serve with him anywhere, especially here. Houin laughed... he is Hawaiian he would freeze out here... we chuckled as a flare went off to the North in front of us... gunfire erupted within the camp. Houin ran ahead of me as I flanked his position coming in from the South.
Why are you crying again?
It’s not easy to re-count this; whenever I go to sleep I see the faces of the dead.
That is why we are here.
What if I don’t want to silence them? What if they are the only thing that keeps me growing so that I may become stronger?
Your personal relationships are suffering, you need to let this go..now just try, now where are we?
Houin and I went down to the camp off a hill, I flanked him so I was in a better view point, a squad of hostiles had entered the camp, and held the 14 Sea Bee's at gunpoint, there were probably 20 in this squad they were eating the rations as the leader, or at least the one I thought was the leader was questioning one of the 1st class Petty Officers, all the Sea Bee's were on their knees.. with hands on top of their heads.. the flares worked well but they moved to quickly, I could not see if there were any others from the Recon unit or my team. Houin signaled me with his hand that he was going to move to the West... I was going around the perimeter as well going to make sure that our team was watching. I went about 100 yards and saw two men, ours.. I whispered the hooya.. and they looked and motioned me in... I walked up and the rest of the Seals were there as well, Houin! he moved to the West to look for you... Lt. said don’t worry the Marines are over there.. he will hook up with them.
What are we going to do Lt.? We could not just charge in their we and the Sea Bee's would get cut to shreds... Lt. looked at me, find a roost, and take this seal radio and this rifle, it was an intercom system to short range for us, "when I say so take out the leader" hooya sir. I went to the East and up a small ridge to a point under a pine tree, covered completely and had a good vantage point on the whole camp.. I took aim with the sniper rifle the Lt. gave me.
I could hear the Lt. in my ear, "are you a go"? Yes sir.. I am ready, "take him out". I took aim and glance through the glass, having the leader in my cross hairs... I squeezed the trigger and watched his head exploded as the round hit him... the rifle had a silencer so the hostiles did not know where we were.
The Lt. yelled.. " you are surrounded!! lower your weapons and surrender!! I took aim on another person holding one of the Sea Bee's at gunpoint.. at that time the hostiles began to fire into the night and into the trees, where the Lt.. voice came from, I took out another one of the hostiles, as they fired I hit 4 more, the hostiles saw them falling with head wounds and decided to retreat... the Marines then moved in, and took out the ones that were escaping... in my ear I heard the Lt. "grit your done get down here". I walked into the camp and saw the Lt. talking to the Sea Bee's Chief, "we secured the area men, lets get these trucks on the road, anything happens from here on out is going to be because we made it happen lets move!" Lt. ordered the trucks ahead and I jumped onto the first one with Houin and the point men. The truck fired up and we sped away, I could see the others holding on to the sides and Lt. yelling at the Marines to move faster and get on a truck... the road was moving again, and we escaped again this time. We had a lot of area of hostile territory and this was far from over for the hostiles. The dark would soon give way to light and a new day would bring more problems.
Were you sad?
No, I mean, do you have time to be sad? I thought about what had transpired over the last 24 hours but did it matter? Not while I was fighting to get these supplies to the Red Cross.
Is there a trigger that sets you off?
Cold, sometimes the smell of a coming snow will do it... then again.. the smell of blood is not a smell you deal with everyday.. movies sometimes cause a flashback to a particular time... maybe... cold though.. is the worst...
Was it cold that morning when you sped away in the truck?
Yes, so cold, deep in my bones cold... one of the Sea Bee's brought some Scotch... good Scotch in a flask... helped for about 10 seconds then the wind would blast your face...
What happened next?
Along the road their were refugees, walking, in the cold, we could not stop, and the dawn, was more like a grey cloud moving than the sun... we were moving fairly slow because of the threat and also the lack of to many good streets at that particular time. We were close to the Aid station... probably a mile.. when it happened...
The convoy stopped... I did not know for what purpose but the Lt. was in a tuck behind us, the seal radio was still in my ear, and all I could hear is static.... it was cold and quite and the morning was blue in color around me... I looked up across the buildings and did not see anything, there was nothing I could see, the Lt.. got over the radio and asked what was going on.. I got out of the truck, and Houin was right behind me... we were in the first truck so there has to be a reason for the stop... there was no noise coming from the front... I walked around the front of the truck and there was a body of an 8 year old girl laying on the road... broken.. I had to close my eyes... she did not move, and laying face down... the driver of the truck opened his door... " I couldn’t run her over".. the Lt.. called over the radio.. "what’s going on!". Debris in the road sir.. Houin said over the radio... I looked at her she did not look human, it was incredible how she was bent... and battered by the weather... almost preserved... Houin said we need to move her... I agreed.. the father behind the wheel could not bring himself to roll on through.. and I could not either... She was barley clothed.. Houin ordered one of the Sea Bee's to get a blanket... I walked alongside the truck and in front of the body, Lt. came trotting up to the front... " ok " we need to move it.. I looked at him sir.. as the Sea Bee driving started to cry... I said lets just move her off the road... Lt. just shook his head.. one of the Sea Bee's brought a blanket around the truck... I looked up and away from her as they wrapped her up, her hand fell out of the blanket, as they picked her up... I looked away to the East and saw a rocket inbound for the truck... it seems as though it was slow motion... " GET DOWN!!!!" I yelled... I threw my self into the ditch as the truck exploded..... the heat from it hit my legs and fire engulfed everything above me... the shockwave threw the Lt. into the Ditch... alongside me...
Were you injured?
I had the wind knocked out of me from the blast, some burns to my face and my boots and my ears were ringing for days after that, it was close.
What of the Lt.?
I looked up out of the ditch and saw a Sea Bee without an arm walking around... he was looking for it... others were on fire and screaming... I saw down through the fire the other trucks and the seals and marines running for cover... dazed from the blast I felt the Lt.. pull on my leg... "Grit" you ok? I need to find Houin... sir.. I looked around through the smoke and fire and did not see him... I heard the small arms fire hitting the metal, on the truck, as the Sea Bee's were burning to death... I tried to go help... but..
The men on fire... it was difficult to see.. the man with the missing arm... looking for it... are these the things you see at night?
Yes- among other things... there is nothing I could do... we were pinned down and I could not see Houin... I was 19 years old when this happened... I should not have seen these things...
I should have been watching films in college or something..
This is the life you chose... and war is not easy, you had no idea, easy.. do you want to take a break? or continue?
Continue- I looked around and saw him lying on the ground by the dead girl... I was not going to let him die there... I got up and the small arms fire got more intense.. I crawled out onto the road, Houin saw me and laid there... I got to him and asked him if he was hurt... he said that his legs were burned... I pulled him down into the ditch, as the small arms were missing us by inches... Lt. was on the radio as I was doing that to get us some air support... I could hear the aircraft carrier signal the Lt. that they would send some F-18's to help... we were pinned down in the city and we had no idea the numbers at which we were facing... Lt.. looked at Houin and I... "its time to stop running we make a stand here! or these last trucks will not make the aid station" Houin loaded his M-16, I loaded my MP-5 we were going to have to make a stand... Lt.. Radioed the others at the other trucks we were going to go over this birm and take out any hostiles...
I looked down the ditch and it looked like we had 30 men... Sea Bee's armed and ready to... this was it.. we could hear a tank, and also some trucks.. and men running over the street... I peeked over the birm and saw the walls of one building crawling with men, there were civilians in the streets in between and the tank rolling up from a cross street not quite yet in firing range of us, there was also a truck with a 50 cal mounted to the bed... bearing down on us... I told the Lt. what I saw... he said get the 40 Millimeter ready along with the ammo where I could reach it.. we were the only ones on the left flank.. three of us and one of us was injured... the tank was on the right flank but we had the truck... I readied the 40 MM, and Lt. told everyone to ready themselves...
To this day I do not speak of what happened next, history will not tell of this battle nor will it show anywhere that it even happened, however the survivors know.
Why do you think the public does not know about this?
its a loss, it was not about oil, it was our government doing it wrong... whatever it does not matter.. its my burden.. my curse..
the warmth from the truck burning was the first heat I had felt in over 24 hours.. the Lt. tapped me on the shoulder and ordered the move ahead... I jumped over the birm sliding down the other side... Houin and the Lt.. followed me... I could see out of the corner of my eye the others along the same line did the same... I stood alone.. 40 mm and took aim on the building in front of me... it exploded before I could get a round off... I looked up and F-18 was doing a bank maneuver... we had air support... I did not see the tank so I assumed it was hit with the first shot... but I saw the truck... the 50 cal rounds were tearing apart the cars in front of me... I heard a round hit Houin... I could hear the air let out of him as I turned the 40 MM at the truck... the round came out with a thump... the truck exploded in front of us... the man running the gun flew into the air and landed on the street.. on fire I put him out of his misery with a short burst from my MP-5, I ran toward the buildings and Lt. was yelling at me as I ran... civilians!!! watch for civilians... I was firing at the men that had weapons, dropping a couple here and running for cover.. Lt. and I moved into one of the buildings adjacent to the heaviest firing... the Lt. went over the radio and told the aircraft to hold fire... we went inside clearing each room... the plan was to blow a hole in the building wall on the second floor and gains access to the building next to it... taken out the hostiles there... we climbed the steps on the far end of the building... we went up the first flight to a landing area... where a window out the back of the building had light coming in... their was a boy probably 6 or 7 years old.. he had his hands over his ears from all the gunfire... as we approached I looked at him, he had big brown eyes... and dirty face... covered in plaster and dust from the building... he looked scared... I pointed the gun away... and put my hand out.. "don’t be afraid" I wont hurt you... he backed up with his feet and put his back against the wall... Lt. said " Leave him we cant take him with I don’t want him to give out position up" he is probably a decoy like the dead girl in the road..." I could hear at that moment the roar of a F-18 coming over the buildings looking over the next set of stairs I did not see much of anything after that but fire and a concussion I had never felt...
The ceiling had caved in on top of us standing on the landing... I don’t know how long it was that I was out but the whole entire top of the building was gone... we lay there I could feel the blood on my face... my right leg was numb and I did not see the Lt. nor the boy... it was dusty and at that moment the boy was standing over me, pulling the shards of concrete off my leg, there was a piece of rebar that had gone through my leg... I pulled it free and it bled down onto the white concrete dust... the boy was bleeding from his arm and leg... I looked for Lt. I asked the boy... where? he just shook his head... meaning he was gone... I was alone I checked my radio and it was broke.. so I ripped it from my waist belt... grabbed my MP-5 and grabbed the boy... this building would be rubble if we stayed... I was outside my body when I picked the boy up... I did not know what I was doing... just getting the hell out of there... I had lost Houin to 50 cal seconds before... the Lt. was buried and probably dead... and I did not know how many friendlies were outside of what was left of this building... I heard the roar of the F-18 again... limping I ran with the boy in my arms... to the door where we came in... the sun had come out this day.... I could see blue sky it was almost refreshing.. blinded by the sun... I tried to squint to see what was in front of me... I looked down at the boy in my arms... and he was looking ahead to see where I was running... blood coming off my head into his hair... black as night... our breath in the wind... the sun finally out... I looked out over the road... I saw.. a burned out tank to my left, the burning truck on my right.. and on the other side the body of Houin... I saw Marines running back to the birm and jumping over it... Seals to... the birm being safety I knew I had to get there... at that moment small arms hit the wall next to me and I pulled myself inside away from it... there were hostiles behind a car directly to the right of the burning truck... shooting there AK-47's at the building and me... there were concrete piles and pieces of the building all over the street so there was cover... I could see a path almost to the birm... I looked at the boy and he had his head close to my chest... looking at me... crying... from the sounds of the gun blasts....
You had to make a choice.
Yes, the F-18 was on its return run... I could see it making the turn in the distance lining up on my position... it would not be long now... no radio, hostiles had me in a crossfire... and safety looming on the other side of the road... I could make it alone... but holding a boy? I did not know...
What did you do?
The only thing I could, I pulled my weapon, squeezed the boy... and ran... out the door.. I hit a pile of concrete and the bullets were bouncing of the concrete I had just stepped on, I returned fire on the car they were behind but it did not stop the firing.. I could hear the F-18 power up at afterburner... I screamed... firing my MP-5 until the clip was empty... COME ON YOU MOTHER FUCKERS!!!! AHHHHHHH!!!! I dropped to my knees behind a pile about 25 yards from the birm to reload... the boy clutching my flack jacket... I reloaded and peeked out... the F-18 roar closer... I stood up and fired.. peppering the car and hitting two men... another man came from the other side and fired... my body gave out and I fell.. my chest was heavy and my hands went numb.. I was laying on my back... looking up... coughing... I looked down at my hands... they were bloody... covered with warm blood... I looked up again.. at the sun peeking through the clouds and looked back down and saw the boys face... white his pupils were from the bullet that went through him and hit me... I shook him... NO!! I did not know if I was hit... and I did not care the look on that boys face... I looked up and watched the F-18 fly overhead... I heard the explosion as the building got hit... I starred into his eyes.. and searched for life.. searched for a meaning in that moment wanting the blast to reach me quick so that I may die along side him... cloudy my vision was around me, tears welling up my heartbeat pounding NOOO!!! GOD DAMN!!!! GOD DAMN GOD NOOOO!!! ...hearing footsteps and yelling muffled..almost silent from the blast... I did not cover my face... I laid there staring into that boys eyes.. as the rubble was thrown at me from the explosion...
at that moment... my arm went in the air... and I was drug away from his face... watching it all to the base of the birm... looked up and it was the Lt. alive and bloody but he was there dragging me out of there and over the birm... once over the birm and out of the boys look, everything went black...
I woke up in an aid station.. Alongside the Lt. I looked over at him as he was yelling at one of the corpsman to get him a coffee...
Lt.. what happened? "Grit, your awake... good, did not want to see you die.." am I hit?.. "no you have a couple of bad cuts, a bruise on your chest that is the size of your chest and a nice broken shoulder... but you will be just fine..." your flack jacket saved you... we looked all over for the bullet entrance wound but there was not one"... the boy... he saved me.. "what boy?" the one laying next to me when you drug me out of there...!! that boy..!! "hey I was running and saw only you... if he was there I missed him"... "Hey! you did a good job out there, the other trucks made it, and your alive.." am I? I said... am I really alive..?... or is this hell? cold and dark...
What happened next?
I went back to the ship... Lt.. went with me along with the 4 Seals still alive... we went to a ceremony onboard in the captains mess... we all got medals... pat on the back... the whole thing made me sick... giving me a medal for killing more then 10 people... and children dead that I could not save... I walked the passageways dazed in my dress blues, wanting to jump overboard and drown look up at the sea above me as I freeze to death in the cold dark sea... I wanted to not see that boys face in my dreams... or hear the last breath of Thomas and the memory of his blood on my pants... walking through each passing door I thought of those men I shot through the head in the night, the children they had... the kids laying on the side of the road frozen in the earth, the little girl that was used as bait for them to take our lives... the men in the Hum-V the kids of that sailor and the wife’s expression on her face when she got the news... my heart pounded.. my hands sweaty and my forehead dizzy from the Captain saying " for courage under fire" ... I walked to the hanger bay.... walked out onto the fantail launch gasping for air... I watched the sun set on the Adriatic... I never did see or talk to the Lt.. after that day... I took the medal they just gave me and threw it into the Adriatic ... I cried for about an hour standing there watching the sunset... it was then I realized what had happened to me... my life was saved and taken away at the same time... I wanted so much to be a soldier.. to make a difference... to save lives... and in the end... a boy, a nameless boy saved my life... I made a pact that day standing in the orange glow of a winter sunset to never forget his face.. and help as many kids I could for my penance for letting that boy die that day.
You feel that your penance will save your soul?
No I dont want to be saved... I was cursed that day.. that day god was my enemy, inside.. and out. You see my penance will be my gift to the memory of the nameless boy. It will haunt me everyday of my life and I will let it... whenever the weather gets cold, and I can see my breath in the winter... I will remember him.. and the men that fell that day.. all for something more than money or oil, but a human life.. saved by the content of those trucks... and the sacrifice the men made that day to save those lives... I will honor them... as will the 12 men who survived that day, we will remember and honor them.. today and forever...
© 2009 Shane Patrick
Added on April 19, 2009
AboutI challange thought and perception... I hope... I write because it is my passion... I also do not fall under a "genre"...I try to write a little bit of everything it all depends on my mood... questio.. more..