Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, May 2010, Camp Delaram
Ski and I jumped up and grabbed our rifles, panicking. I tripped over the folding chair I had been sitting in and began sprinting to the entrance of the tent.
“Quick, this way!”
We ran into concrete bunkers that were immediately next to the networking tent. The bunkers had two long sides and a roof made of a slab of concrete; the sides were lined with green sand bags to our shoulders. I leaned against the edge of the bunker, gasping for breath as other Marines and contractors piled into the bunker.
A lean whistle began, growing louder and louder, shriller and shriller, until it hit. The explosion was loud, and very close. The ground shook and dust fell from the concrete slab over our heads.
“Bet they missed. Those mother fuckers are shooting shitty mortars out of the back of trucks and can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
Everyone chuckled nervously.
The contractor from the smoke pit was standing beside me, and we tried to keep some space between us in the crowded bunker. His white collared shirt was a sharp contrast to the tan cammies we were wearing. When more Marines showed up on the edge of the bunker, everyone scooted closer together to give them room to fit. The contractor and I pressed against each other, my face extremely close to his chest.
I gazed up at the slab overhead. If we get hit, that two ton slab is going to land on us. The contractor looked down at me, correctly interpreting my fear and suspicion of the engineering design of the bunker.
“It’s an illusion of safety. If we get hit, they can report that we had ‘taken cover.'”
Another whistle and explosion. More dust settled on our heads.
Everyone started telling jokes nervously. The environment when your life is in danger is a strange one. You can’t do anything so you laugh. You make inappropriate jokes about the Marines who came to the bunker half-dressed. You press up against the tall and strong person, feeling their chest rise and fall as you wait for the attack to be over.
When the attack was over, we shuffled to our individual working areas. The explosions had hit the compound directly next to ours, about 100 meters from where I was sitting when the first mortar struck. That compound was the Afghan National Army compound, where the Marines were supposed to train the Afghans to fight against ISIS. The mortarmen had hit their countrymen.
At the end of the day, I walked back to my sleeping tent, taking a detour to the ANA compound to see the damage. An ANA soldier told me what happened when I walked up. He wouldn’t let me see the area that had been attacked. Two men had died, hit by the mortars while in the porta-shitter. Their legs had been blown off when they were kneeling to take a crap.
“They were aiming for your tent. They wanted to take out the…” He gestured to the satellite antenna. “They would never have killed these men. They are our brothers. Fuck you, and fuck America.”
He spat at my feet.
Shaken, I walked to my tent.