Combat Outpost Zaher; 15.JUNE.12

Patrolling was slow and methodical. One field flat and open, freshly tilled, giving our element standoff distance to fight without cover. We crashed into the next through a wadi eight feet deep.

Overgrowth obscureed the bottom until the point man disappeared into the green void. The grape rows stoodd over our heads. Overgrowth on top of that turned them into humid, narrow chasms in the late morning sun.

Close confines. We couldn’t see. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t shoot.

We emerged into the sun and I took a knee by a wall as our point man swept with the mine detector. I pulled off my eye protection to wipe the sweat away and scanned from our position up to the road. A compound sat on the other side, with no signs of life. The last clearance through the area had seen to that.

The heat and dust fried the equipment. They fried the boys. Everyone was sun-burnt and exhausted. We were at bare minimum manning, and stretched thin by even simple tasks. The boys were willing, but they had been through the grinder. Each thing added up, and I was wary of needless work.

At night we sheltered in another abandoned compound. The complex was large and required extra security, taxing the boys available to patrol. Despite efforts to clean it, flies infested every inch of the place. I was covered in sand flea bites as I slept.

I walked through a field of golden wheat that stood waist high. The color juxtaposed against our steaming, verdant surroundings. Impossible, prehistoric mountains loomed in the distance. A line of my boys snaked out in front of me, their helmets cutting the distinct profiles of Soldiers. Above me a Kiowa and a gunship circled.

They would rain fire for me if I had needed it.

We stalked a place that Time forgot, where History goes to bury its Empires. We looked like invaders from another planet. We see in the dark. We see their body heat. We hear their radio chatter. They fight us with the left-overs of other wars. Hand-me-down guns. They hide bombs and pray for us to step on them.

We rooted them out. We blackened their faces.