Lying face-down next to me alongside the Army truck was a skinny teenager in a t-shirt, bleeding from shrapnel in his chest and left arm.
With the American soldiers and Askars putting hundreds of rounds downrange, my M4 wasn’t needed. I slung my rifle, wrapped a tourniquet around the kid’s arm, picked him up, and carried him back to my Humvee. He had a tracheal deviation and a sucking chest wound. I plunged a decompression dart into the pleural cavity below his third rib and foul-smelling air hissed out his lung. As I was doing this, Specialist Charles Tomeo, the medic in Kerr’s platoon, ran up and shoved a plastic tube up the kid’s nose to open the airway.
He was a pathetic sight, sprawled on his back in his filthy brown shorts, an orange-tipped needle protruding from above his heart and a plastic stopper shoved up his left nostril. He didn’t weight as much as I ate in a day. His hands and feet were uglier than dirt from his efforts to crawl out of the line of fire. He wasn’t old enough to grow a beard, but he had a full shock of black hair. Not a bad-looking kid. Once he was cleaned up at the aid station and had some ice cream, he’d be okay.
I felt good. In fact, I was pumped. I had applied dozens of tourniquets, but this was the first time I had smelled death hiss out. I had saved a human being, a poor, scrawny kid eking out a living by driving a banged-up truck past known ambush sites. Would he eventually join the Taliban and betray an American convoy? I had no idea. Sure, some of the villagers at Ganjigal had been real pricks. But why should I hold that against this kid? I ran back down the road, hoisted up another wounded truck driver, and carried him back. Then I stopped to check on the skinny kid. I wanted to pat him on the shoulder to make myself feel good for my supposedly wonderful deed.
Only he was dead.
He had bled to death from the wound in his left arm.
The crew in the Army truck had let him bleed out, not five feet away, because he was an Afghan and they were afraid.
I went back to the wreckage and carried another truck driver back to our truck, where Tomeo bandaged him up. We placed the two wounded in our two trucks, and I put the kid’s body on the hood. When I got back to the messed-up trucks, the enemy fire had slackened because Kerr was directing a Kiowa helicopter overhead. The Afghan drivers were huddled together in a ditch by the river. The ambush had been sprung about ninety minutes earlier. By now they had pissed themselves dry and had nowhere to go.
I banged my rifle butt on the Army truck, yelling to the soldiers to open up.
“At least give me some water for those poor bastards!” I shouted.
A sheepish medic got out of the truck with several bottles of water and his medpack and ran over to the ditch.
I knelt there, looking at the mud bloodstained from the kid.
Right beside the truck door.
I banged on the steel door again. It opened a crack.
“Fuck you!” I shouted at the captain inside.
I had placed a firecracker up my ass. I figured the shocked captain would light the fuse as soon as we got back to Monti.
Don’t ask me why I did it.
OH HERE YOU ARE AGAIN
Source: Flickr / tonyarmstrong
Soviet War Memorial, Treptower Park, Berlin. View this on the map
Fog, by xDrag.
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