I remember this day in vivid detail. I didn’t have time to write about it at length back then. The battalion commander decided to grand-stand while my platoon had been tasked with an idiotic security mission. The same half-wit who would later make meaningless paeans to yet another fallen Soldier on another pointless mission.
We were right by the Af-Pak border, at a crossing where 30,000 people trafficked every day. The only road was canalized by concrete barriers. If a suicide bomber with a VBIED or an S-Vest had come charging on us, our ability to stop him would have been non-existent.
People would have died for some meaningless battlefield tourism.
I remember my CO being on the verge of tears, he was so angry. In a private moment, he started to apologize to me for “Scuba’s” boot-licking stunt.
I stuck a Lucky in my face, lit up, and told him:
“Sir, that fuckin’ guy doesn’t have the ability to get an emotion out of me anymore . . . “
I can’t talk about missions. None of the interesting details. That leaves me about 1% of the things on my mind that I can talk about.
We’re in a better place now. No more Heart of Darkness. The weather is cooling off. The humidity dies off at night. I unstrap my sidearm and strip down to my unauthorized Adidas running shorts and climb into bed.
It’s quiet here. I haven’t heard a shot fired in anger in weeks. No rotary wing roaring overhead. No 30mm thumping in the distance, from some dickhead getting ‘merc’ed out by the river.
I got a bit of color on my face. I’ve been doing shorter missions, but today I got a little sun. I took a drive-by tongue lashing from the big boss. He was peacocking in front of a General. I didn’t even flinch.
My CO came over to take my side, but it wasn’t necessary. I think the CO was more upset about it than I was. I just looked the old man straight in the eye. I can’t tell if that pisses him off or not. I don’t really care. There is a place for his kind of bullshit. Outside of the wire ain’t it.
He wasn’t just stepping on my dick. He was stepping on all of my NCOs at the same time.
Condescending fuck. Sincere as a campaign promise.
“Roger,” I replied. I went back to doing my job.
The boys were all pissed afterward. We rolled into a compound and they slouched together against a concrete barrier.
“Hey, sir, got a cigarette?”
I tossed my NCO a whole pack, still in the plastic. Everyone fired up.
“Lucky Strikes! Fuck yeah . . .”
They all smoke shitty Hajj L&Ms. Rolling papers and strichnine. I only bum them the good stuff. Before I could reach for my lighter, my squad leader handed me his cigarette to spark up with.