I lift my head and see a soldier on the ground in front of me, bloodstains forming on his shredded uniform. I whisper a feverish, incoherent prayer, the gist of which is, “Not here. Not like this.” A “Let me see my wife again” slips in there somewhere.
I wiggle my toes inside of my boots, and realize I can move. An attempt to swing my right leg around is met with sharp pain and a crunching sensation, so I try to plant my hands to lift myself off the ground. The left one responds, the right one lays impudently in the dirt.
“You okay, sir?” shouts Sergeant Christopher Styron, a 1st platoon team leader. The best I can say is “I don’t know.” He hoists me to my feet. My right arm hangs dead at my side while my right leg drags in the dirt, unable to swing at the hip. He puts me on the back of an ATV next to another soldier who is unconscious but still breathing.
For the first time, I behold the entire surreal scene. Bodies, uniformed and civilian, are scattered about the street, most of them writhing or struggling to their feet. Several lay terrifyingly still. Several shops on the southern side of the street burn silently. A suicide bomber has detonated on our position. Twenty-three civilians are dead or wounded. Fourteen of my soldiers are injured—three of them fatally.
We speed toward the company outpost. I lean my head back and watch the blue sky as I resume my whispered prayers. Within minutes, the company aid station is the cacophonous epitome of controlled chaos. The most seriously injured, including myself, are moved inside to await evacuation by helicopter. Other soldiers and civilians are on stretchers and blankets in the gravel outside. Medics strip our burned and blood-soaked uniforms away with trauma shears, start intravenous fluids, apply tourniquets, and curse the helicopters for not being there yet.
Staff Sergeant Lester Medina, Charlie Company’s chief medic, darts from patient to patient. Medina, a die-hard Crimson Tide fan, used to joke that he would let me bleed to death unless I publicly stated that ’Bama was better than Georgia.
“I won’t say it, Medina,” I tell him through gritted teeth. “Don’t even ask.”
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"A suicide bomber has detonated on our position"
Josh Darnell, a 1994 Georgia graduate and Army lieutenant, wrote a story for this month's issue of Georgia Magazine: