Asleep in my rack. The rough hum of the in-wall a/c lulls everyone to sleep. The oppressive heat can be felt on the walls of the temporary building. Sweet sleep finally being given to some very tired souls in the middle of Baghdad, Iraq circa march of 2008. The piercing noise comes. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs the conditioned response in my brain goes from 0 to 100 mph in an instant. Instead of a saliva response I am given a huge rush of adrenaline. I spring to my feet as the C-RAM alarm sounds. Running down the metal grating that connects the temporary buildings, I feel the first impact. The impacts are like being punched in the chest, taking your breath away. The dust plumes flow over the buildings. I keep running, beating on the walls as I go ensuring that some hard sleeping joe doesn’t stay in his rack. I near the stairs and get ready to jump. Bam.
White nothing but white. Even the ringing in my ears can only be described as white noise. Everything hurts, even my teeth and eyes hurt. The pressure was so intense. I saw the light but never heard the sound. I felt the heat but never felt the wall I bounced off. As I come slowly back to my senses. The dust and rocks and debris still sprinkling down around me as I am now splayed out about the ground. Climbing to my knees, my ears scream at me. I start to drag myself to a duck and cover. BAM, I smacked against the wall again, I feel the flash off of this one. I realize the longer it takes me to get in there the sooner I die. I jump to my feet to make a mad man dash. Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement in the dust. The body looks like a zombie arms straight out in front, blood everywhere. I turn and grab him as another trooper runs up through the dust to help me. As soon as the injured soldier realized he is safe with us he collapses. We get him to the duck and cover. A combat medic stands in the breach. He grabs the casualty and starts going to work. Its incredible to watch a combat medic in action.
Myself and another go out to find a stretcher, rounds still impacting just meters from us. We find a stretcher, its strange how fast you can run and for how long you can do it, when the threat of imminent death is present. We get the casualty on the stretcher wait for the all clear and then haul ass. I am in a pair of pt shorts, my shirt was used as a bandage. No shoes running on gravel. One is in his boxers. Others are dressed like me. We run dealing with the cuts on the bottom of our feet. We get him to the medevac truck. The doors close.
The crash begins. Adrenaline gives you the incredible ability to run, fight, and a high, but it comes with a heavy price. The crash following a rush is nothing short of waking up with the worst hangover you have ever had. Whats follows then is the realization, as you walk back past the blood stains, some of it yours. The smell still fresh. The smell of burnt metal, wood, and cordite still hangs in the air. The shakes set in, I usually got it in my right hand, never knew why, maybe it was my bodies way of getting ready to pull a trigger. Sometimes all the emotions would come to the surface, tears would come , sobs would happen, its just the brain crashing. Others just shut off, I did that a lot. Sitting there in the temporary building still in blood soaked pt shorts, smoke dangling out of my mouth, playing call of duty 4 trying to kill the nerves. And so it went for several months and I wonder why I am a little nuts.