Casualty | Teen Ink


January 21, 2022
By TMuriqi, Bedford Hills, New York
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TMuriqi, Bedford Hills, New York
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Author's note:

I have always enjoyed heroic stories about people doing unimaginable things while serving.

Another drop to fuel the gigantic machine of war. It's 2002, months after nine eleven happened. The night before deployment was full of adrenaline, eagerness, and fear. I check my equipment one more time before I head to bed.  Boarding to take off and then seeing the blades of the chopper cut through the particles of sand. Our squad felt untouchable as we neared the drop point. When we finally reached the point,  ropes dropped and I set my boots on the roof in Afghanistan. It's quiet almost like there were never people here. I see a puff of smoke from a window then a rocket coming fast. I yelled “ RPG” but it was too late. The rocket crashed into the side of the black hawk Followed hails of gunfire. One comrade after another fell and without a second thought I darted to a nearby door. Kicking it in and quickly scanning the room for combatants. I find a family huddled in the corner of a living room, a small girl peeks out from the huddle and reaches out to me with a shaky open palm. On her palm there was a peace sign, I grabbed my pack and drew the same sign on my hand and on top my name. SShe ran into my arms crying. I looked over at her relatives and I realized that they were dead; caught in the crossfire. “I'm sorry” I said, “I'm sorry we brought this upon you.” 

Yelling of Arabic  echo through the hallway. Quickly, I grabbed the girl and searched for another way out. Without knowing where to look fear and every drop of sweat started to cloud my senses. Luckily, the girl pulled me out of the clouds by tapping on my helmet and pointed towards another way out of the apartment. I dashed toward where she was pointing and we successfully reached what looked like a lobby. Before anyone could recognize me I found a maintenance closet and ran inside and locked the door behind me. Setting the girl down, I took out my canteen and cleaned most of the blood off of her. I wondered what this girl's name was so I pointed at my hand then to her. She points at herself and says, “Anna”. I chuckled and communicated to her that she could rest as we wouldn't be leaving this room for a  while. We would have to wait until night, the best way for me not to get recognized in full uniform is to be concealed by the night. The time is upon us, I wake the girl from her peaceful slumber, this is the only peace she will get, I take back that leads me to the alleys. Slams of garage doors echoed throughout the city, and patrols navigated the empty lifeless streets. The tension was high, while holding this girl it was impossible to use my main weapon, I would have drop her inorder to do anything other than moving. Unexpectedly, I was a fool, not watching where I was walking glass cracked against my rubber boots. I alerted a Taliban soldier and he started to look down in the direction of where we were. Hugging the girl as tightly as I could so we wouldn't be seen, I could feel  her tiny heartbeats start to get faster and faster. 

BuBum BuBum Bubum was all I could hear. Luckily, the soldier grew tired of searching and went away. I couldn't be any more thankful in my life. I could barely remember where to go, this is when I wished to have paid more attention in those briefings. All I need is a sign dammit, and there it was. From where I was it was still a blur, I pulled my binoculars out from my pack and zeroed in at the structure before getting my hopes up. “I see it, I see it” whispering happily. It was the US embassy, all I had to do was reach it and we would be okay. Now I just need to figure out how to get there. Scavenging around my backpack I pulled out a map of the town, being able to diverge a travel plan will come in handy as I wont be confused on where to go. The night is young, and I hope to reach the embassy before morning. I pack up my pack, check my weapons, and carry on with the girl in my arms. Creeping around every corner, car and sidewalk and then stalking every new block I was met with before entering. I would have to stop many times to wait for Taliban patrols to grow tired and move, Eventually they would but it would take time. Time I do not have. Looking at my watch, only  a few hours before daylight commences. I'm gonna have to speed this movement up as I've only covered half of the distance in 6 hours. I'll have to risk louder movement due to the fact that if the sun rises, the chance I can find a hideaway where we’ll be undisturbed is low. Picking up the pace my movement can be heard from miles, the crunching of the sand is similar to ice cracking. It was a miracle how I have not been found out. I keep pushing all this weight as I can't stop, not now, not ever if we want to live. An hour passes, one hour left before the sun, I can see the white stone US Embassy, a beacon of hope. My energy was fully replenished and I kept going,. 3o minutes passed, less than 500 yards away and I see the entrance. My excitement got the best of me,  an unknown light shines on me, an unrecognized voice follows, I dont reply, shortly multiple shots hiss by me one by one. I duck behind cement blocks which are slowly getting chipped away, I set the poor terrified Anna down, and return multiple bursts of bullets. Minutes pass, I can hear trucks nearing where the enemy was, I pull a grenade out from my vest, activate it and throw it. After tossing the explosive, Pain shoots up my arm. An explosion erupts the night sky and the screams of men accompany them. Inspecting my arm, I was hit and my right sleeve was turned from camo to dark maroon.  I pick up Anna as the enemy is distracted. While racing down towards the Embassy, no slight care for silence. I could not bear the pain any longer and applied a tourniquet to my arm, it was rendered useless, no longer able to use my main weapon, I could only rely on grenades, my sidearm, and my knife. 

Multiple footsteps and chatter disturbed the peace, the enemy reorganized themselves and were coming down on me. I can't take on this many, and a straight shot to the embassy is no longer viable, so I insisted on taking another way through alleyways. Doing this, I lost the army of men chasing me down. Continuing onto the embassy, we’re almost there. Unexpectedly, a Taliban soldier was smoking a cigarette, and we walked right into his sights. I can't grab my gun, I can't drop Anna in time- the man takes aim… Click, his gun jammed which gave me time to settle Anna down and engage the man in hand to hand combat. Im outmatched, useless as I only have one good arm, I try to shove him away and pull my pistol out. The man slaps the pistol away and tackles me to the ground knocking my helmet off. Followed by two blows to the head I was dazed, the man took out a knife and was trying to drive the blade into my heart, one arm holding him back, my muscle fibers slowly fading away as the blade drew closer to my chest. Looking at the pure hatred in the man's eyes was breathtaking and terrifying, then seeing the hate be drained away as his chest exploded was something I cant explain. Shoving the body off of me I look to where the shot came from. It was Anna, her tiny hands grasping my pistol with tears grasping her face. Before moving, I tried to give her a hug but she had no interest. Her body was still and cold, I was angry with myself, two things I have taken away from this poor girl.  This moment of reflection didn't last very long as the shot alerted every Taliban fighter to our position. The chase is on again, but the embassy is so close I could see the white bricks one by one. I'm almost there, lights shine upon us, intercoms shock the rocky atmosphere “Stop where you are, Identify yourself!” They are unable to notice I'm U.S. as my uniform is in complete disarray.  I have no choice but to keep going or will be shot by the Taliban. Another command followed, then a bullet fired near my feet. I'm almost at the gates, the trucks and foot soldiers don't stop following either luckily and machine gun bullets peppered them. The gate opens, soldiers point guns at us, I identify myself and the tension is eased. A rumble disrupts the air, then a whistle, “Sniper! Get Down!” The gates slam shut. Kneeling down with the girl beside me , blood comes up from my esophagus, I'm a goner, the girl hugs me tightly, crying, as we have been through so much together. I was able to utter “You’re safe now Anna, this much I can do for you” before collapsing. Another drop of fuel spent  in this gigantic machine of war.

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