Watapur

In the first bit of the night, the rain was unnerving, pouring down inside the room. I barely slept before getting up for the  three – to six shift. At least in the guard tower I wouldn’t have to listen to it.

A couple packages arrived yesterday, one from my parents with some hygiene products and Swiss Miss, and a newspaper clipping at the bottom. It was about FOB Honaker Miracle, circa November last year. It only just mentioned Watapur, but it was an unwelcome reminder. Michelle made me write the story in a letter to her, and I did at the OP, thirteen handwritten pages.

I wasn’t in the platoon that got massacred at Watapur; when it happened I heard them on the radio, but I was in a house taking heavy RPG and machine-gun fire of its own. A bullet came through the door and ricocheted around the stone, and bit into the medic’s leg. I wasn’t with my platoon that entire operation. They had Air Assaulted onto the top of the valley to freeze and fend of Tally in hand-grenade range trying to overrun them, and pawned me off on Third Platoon.

So my platoon was up there throwing grenades, and all the assets devoted to the platoon taking massive casualties for getting caught moving out in the open during the day, and me in a house with another ex-partner of mine, Brady. He’s an antagonizingly proud, amoral, born soldier. He’s been in my platoon since basic and we’ve butted heads the entire time. Now him and I leapfrog steps in controlling the air assets, before they abandon us for the other platoon, and then them too.

What frightened me the most was that the day before, while clearing a village during the day, we had clambered down the cliff-like banks of the river and up the other side, Kiowa helicopters overhead, but all the time intercepting chatter- they have us in sight, they describe our movements, they call up for approval to take the shot. We had to run back down to the river, Kiowas never had eyes on the fighters, and climb back up the other side exposed.  That six dead for moving in the open during the day could have so easily been us.

Really the entire story begins with me on the treadmill when we got the word to pack up and head out, without getting a chance to shower or let Michelle know I was leaving for what turned out to be a five day mission. And the story ends with every available platoon in the battalion being called into that valley, even Rangers, Special Forces, Afghani Special Forces, A-10s, Kiowas, Apaches, and the most exclusive asset in the military: a C-130 gunship.

They hammered the valley while I waited it out sitting on a pile of corn in another house further up the valley, having separated from Brady again. Ever since then I’ve been more scared, more aware of the possibility for catastrophe. There was a mission just over a week ago, I missed it because I was already broken by then. But the brief mentioned a movement down an exposed hillside during the day. I told them it was a bad idea. I reminded them of Watapur. They said they’d be fine- they had Kiowa support.

“That doesn’t matter! Abu had Kiowas in Watapur, it didn’t help them! They had to leave for fuel. Kiowas can only retaliate, they can’t protect you.”

As usual, no one listened. They took fire, of course, and hard. My squad leader was shot but lived. Now he’s back home.

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