Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, August 2010, Camp Delaram/D1
So there I was, kneeling on the dusty and sand-covered floor of my can. My loaded rifle was tossed on my bed and the pregnancy test was held in my shaking hand. I had so desperately wanted to pull the trigger, to end all of the pain and confusion that I was causing. But I held my lower stomach and looked at the test.
This is my reason to live. This child, my baby.
I didn’t sleep that night. I cried bitterly into my sandy pillow.
My mind still flirted with the idea of death. It seemed to ebb and flow with my ridiculously raging hormones. I was too much of a coward to do it myself. My mind would imagine the bullet traveling down the barrel of the rifle and connecting with my throat. And then I would remember the man from my unit in America who had been in Iraq when he put his rifle to his throat. I had met him after he had fully recovered; his face severely disfigured. It takes a steady hand to take your own life by a gun. One slight hesitation at the last moment and your finger can pull the weapon slightly to one side, putting the bullet off of its deadly path and down a painful and embarrassing path instead.
During the next changeover, Staff Sergeant Rambo informed me that I would be traveling outside the wire again. I immediately perked up.
“When will the grunts be here?”
The thought of seeing a friendly face suddenly filled me with hope.
“It’s not the grunts coming. The Georgians will be coming to pick you up and take you to Delaram 1.”
My heart and hope were immediately crushed. I wouldn’t know anyone.
Delaram I, or D1, was located close to Delaram II, or D2, the main camp where I had spent the last five months. We didn’t call Delaram II “D2”. It was simply Delaram. The D1 camp had been given to the Georgians and promptly forgotten about by most Americans. NATO forces would gather there but no one paid it any mind. I was getting sent to D1 to grab a decommissioned switch.
“That’s it, Staff Sergeant?”
What a glamorous mission. Maybe I’ll hit an IED.
A different hope filled me. I went to my can and grabbed my stuff for the mission. The Georgians’ convoy was waiting for me. When I walked up, an uglier version of Victor Krum greeted me in Georgian and silently ushered me into the back of an MRAP.
The same vehicle Dumaw bled out in the back of…
I sat in the back of the vehicle by myself while the non-English speaking Georgians drove to D1. I replayed Dumaw’s death in my head over and over, hearing the screams over the radio and imagining the floor of the vehicle covered in his blood while the grunts tried to save his life and stop his lower body from bleeding. I saw the vehicle door open and saw his blood dripping from the back. My brain wouldn’t stop playing it over and over.
By the end of the relatively short trip to D1, I was sick to my stomach and on the verge of fainting. When the vehicle stopped, a Georgian walked over to the back of the MRAP and opened the door for me. I stood up and instantly began to sway back and forth. A Georgian saw me and sprinted over. He knelt down on one knee and held out his hand to take mine. I shook my head at him and he stubbornly refused to let me try to get out of the vehicle. Tacitly, he made it known that I was to use his knee as a step down from the relatively high cab. Suspiciously, I allowed him to take my hand and guide me down, gingerly stepping on his knee as I went.
I weigh 200 pounds right now!
The Georgian didn’t even flinch at my weight. When I was safely standing on the ground, the Georgian smiled at me and took both of my hands into his, and then he bowed. The gesture of kindness caught me off guard, and I was too shocked to say anything before someone else guided me away from him and into the area of the base that I was to grab the switch from.
The buildings of D1 were half pressed wood built by Seabees and half bombed stone buildings. As I approached one half stone/ half sandbagged building, I saw a tall tower made of stone standing alone.
The Georgian pointed at the tower when he saw my gaze.
Russia? Are Russians here? Shiiiit.
Immediately on guard for the Georgians and the Russians to be at close quarters near me, I pulled my weapon up to the ready position with my finger straight and slightly off the trigger. After seeing the reaction of the Georgians as Russia burned, I wasn’t willing to be engaged in further cultural disagreements. The Georgian led me into his Command Operations Center.
Adjusting my eyes to the darkness, I wheeled around to see a Marine I had originally deployed with waving at me from the other side of the room.
Of course, he was one of the Georgian liaisons sent here with me. Of course he’s here…with his Georgians.
Franklin wasn’t wearing cammies. He was sitting on a cot at the edge of the COC in green on green shirt and skivvies.
“You aren’t wearing cammies.”
“Yeah, man, the Georgians don’t give a shit.”
“Where are the Russians?”
“I don’t know, one of the guys waved at the tower and said Russia or some shit.”
“Oh, I guess the Russians built it when they were here in the 80’s.”
“Yeah, so how have you been? You look like shit.”
I let out the breath I had been holding with an audible whoosh and let my rifle fall to dangle from my body.
“Things fucking suck.”
“Yeah, man, this place blows. Georgians smell like shit.”
I quickly looked back and forth at the multiple Georgians standing around us.
“Man, they don’t know a lick of English. They are the dumbest, smelliest people I’ve ever met. Isn’t that right, bedro?!”
He stood up and clasped hands with the nearest Georgian, who grinned and nodded at him.
“Georgian for ‘brother.’”
My mind flashed to the image of the Georgian helping me from the vehicle and my loyalty landed directly with the Georgians.
“It’s still rude.”
A Georgian walked up to us and gestured at me to come with him.
“What does he want?”
“Fuck if I know.”
I followed the Georgian over to a computer. He began talking to me in the harsh dialect of Georgian, gesturing at the computer.
“Uh, hey Franklin, aren’t you supposed to be their IT support?”
“I think he’s asking me to fix his computer.”
“Man, fuck that. I can’t figure out what they want.”
I sighed and looked back at the still gesturing Georgian. He was miming with his hands, covering his ears. I, like an idiot, kept trying to ask him questions. He kept miming the same thing over and over.
“This is frustrating. Okay, let me sit down and figure it out.”
Did the computer work? Did it connect to the network? Did it…have sound?
I worked with the computer briefly. The computer was in a language that I couldn’t read. I navigated to the control panel by memory and changed the language to English before running it through its paces. When I saw that it was muted, I unmuted it and played sound.
The Georgian jumped up and down like a teenage girl and clasped me by the shoulders, cheering.
“Jesus, Franklin, they just wanted sound.”
“You seriously couldn’t just try? What do you even do all day?”
I was irritated and on edge. Franklin ignored me. I put the computer back into the language the Georgians wanted and stomped out of the COC, grabbing the switch I was meant to decommission.
I ate alone, surrounded by Georgians, in a brightly lit chow hall. I hadn’t eaten or slept in over 48 hours and I was stumbling with sleep deprivation as I tried to make it back to the vehicle I had arrived in. I planned on curling up under the vehicle to sleep. No one seemed to care where I was or what I was doing. I was becoming invisible again, which is what I wanted.
However, I was intercepted on my trek by a Georgian. He motioned for me to follow him.
Sure, just follow strangers, Savannah, that’s smart. What’s the worst that could happen?
I laughed bitterly to myself.
I was too tired to argue with someone who didn’t speak my language so I blearily followed him. He brought me to a can and motioned for me to go in. I heard female voices…American female voices. Shocked, I opened the door to the can.
The Female Engagement Team was a group of female Marines specifically trained to be the Marine Corps liaisons with the local women and children of Afghanistan. I had volunteered to be one when I was on Camp Leatherneck because the FET was supposedly the only way a female Marine would see any action or go on any patrols. However, I had been told that my job was too important to be FET so I watched other women from supply and admin positions “train” and conduct “tryouts” while I inventoried equipment in the hot sun.
But Congress had stopped the FET from engaging in any missions for over five months. I remembered Sergeant P mentioning that they came out briefly but they were told to stay on base.
So this is where they ended up.
I walked into the can and headed directly towards the only empty cot I saw. I started to set down my 90 pounds of equipment and the switch when a particularly bitchy faced Sergeant called out to me.
“And who the fuck are you?”
I offered no other information.
“You can’t be in here.”
Fucking fight me.
“We are full.”
“This cot looks awfully empty.”
The girls looked at each other, shocked into silence. I flopped onto the completely empty cot and closed my eyes at last, immediately falling asleep.
Within what must have been seconds later, I was jolted awake to the cot being kicked.
“Move. This is our Staff Sergeant’s cot.”
I was fed up.
“There is literally no equipment or anything anywhere near this cot.”
“Well, she’s coming back tonight. She’s been out for a few weeks.”
“Well, then she can wake me up when she comes in. I’m not going to sleep on the floor when there is a perfectly empty cot right here.”
The Marine didn’t even try to be quiet with her insult as she and the others walked outside the can.
“Fucking cock sucking bitches.”
I spoke aloud to the empty can. I could hear the females outside the can, insulting me. I put my head back down onto my arms and drifted off again.
I jolted awake again.
ARE THEY FUCKING THROWING ROCKS AT THE CAN?! ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!
Seeing red, I walked outside holding my rifle like I was going to buttstroke someone across the face.
“HEY, FUCKFACES! KNOCK IT THE FUCK OFF BEFORE I FUCKING PUNCH YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE. SOME OF US ACTUALLY FUCKING WORK AND DON’T GET TO SIT AROUND AND SHOOT THE SHIT FOR MONTHS BECAUSE WE’RE THE GOD DAMN SPECIAL TEAM THAT CONGRESS TOLD TO SIT DOWN.”
Again, shocked silence.
I slammed the door back open and threw myself down to sleep again.
Throughout the night, they stayed up and laughed and talked loudly, smoking and shooting the shit like a bunch of people who had no worries in the world. My anger at them was amplified when I awoke, once again, to them sticking their burning cigarettes into the cans’ ventilation system. As cigarette smoked filled the can, I struggled not to cough and give them the satisfaction of knowing I was affected. I breathed through my cammies to smell sweat instead of disgusting cigarette smoke. I knew that if I walked outside again, I would murder one of them. When I looked at my watch, it was 0300. They were still awake.
When I awoke at 0500, I slammed the door loudly on the way out while they slept.
Fucking disgusting cunts.