Want to know what a day in Afghanistan can be like?
The story I am about to relate was not received first hand. As far as i know the relater has not told anyone else in the family but his mother, and then only in a depressed inebriated state. The young man had been drinking with some friends at his mother’s house. He has been haunted with nightmares every since his return from Afghanistan, he resists sleep and sought the comfort of inebriation to dull his senses. It was in this state that he told her the following story after his friends had departed. He has since sought counseling in both the AA and military provided help. I can only hope he is having some success. The scars this young man bears are truly horrible. I served in the Marine Corps in peace time and was spared the sights and experiences he was forced to endure.
As he relates it he was in the second Humvee of a convoy on patrol, some where in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. His station was that of radio operator riding in the passenger side of the vehicle. All the array of radio and satellite equipment separating the space between the driver and him. standing just to their rear behind the radio’s was the turret gunner. Seated to the back on either side were two Marines.
Standing in the turret of the lead vehicle was his best friend and buddy, riding shotgun was their other close friend. All three had endured boot camp and all other training other than radio school together. They were close and time in zone had even drew them closer. many evenings they had sat clustered together with other buddy watching DVD’s on his laptop. Often eating the beef jerky I had sent to the grandson. They wore out the magnetic dart board game my wife had mailed him. They were close as many times blood brothers cannot be, they were brother Marines.
It was a hot dusty day near the high120 degrees as it often is over there. They had traveled many long miles without any sighting of insurgents. suddenly a blinding flash of light , boiling flame and smoke engulfed the lead Humvee. The young man , (who I want to call a kid, because I had met him the previous October at Twenty Nine Palms, and they all appeared to be so young.) was thrown out of the top of the heavy machine. He flew off to the ground at the side of the track they called a road. My grandson imedeatly left his vehicle against protocol, he should have stayed at the radio, and rushed to his side. Both legs were barley hanging on by slivers of muscle. The grandson quickly applied tourqunets to both legs. He held his hand and cried and prayed with his young friend and lied and told him he would be OK.
He rushed to the stricken Humvee in an attempt to help his other friend. Others were there and none could open the door. There is some kind of locking bar inside the vehicle that prevents insurgents from opening the door from the outside. It was in place and none could pry the door open. Flames wer enveloping the interior of the machine and they all watched helplessly as this young man perished in flames as he screamed horribly.. My grandson watched his face melt away like wax.
The first Marine was evacuated alive and even returned to America where he died in a military hospital. There was apparently some talk of awarding the grandson some kind of award for his quick action in applying the tourquinets. He wants nothing to do with it.
He drinks to try to escape these horrible memories. I fear they will haunt him th rest of his life. To compound this even more, a few months later they had just exited their vehicles in a town square. By this time they were in the new MRAP’s, the heavier supposedly bomb proof machines. 200 meters away one of the hero’s of the insurgency exploded a 500 pound truck bomb in the market place. thirty Afghani civilians were killed and seventy others injured. Another young Marine know to my grandson was struck in the head and killed instantly by a piece of shrapnel. The kid was only five feet in front of my grandson.
To me he has recounted going around picking up body parts and placing the in what he refered to as garbage bags, after some of these bombings. Great memories for a young 22-year-old man aren’t they?
The self imposed cross he bears is “Why them and not me?”
I can understand his need to drink to try to escape these horrors. But if there is a God I hope to hell he can spare the time to comfort this troubled young man who I love so much and who is a hero to this old man.