This is actually part two of the thus-far three book Proof of Our Resolve series. And, oddly enough, it’s the book I wrote first. This is from the same book as the car chase excerpt I published a couple months back. I’m not sure now if I’m going to release this book, because it might not help with the current debate about rights and freedom America is having. But who knows, maybe I should put it out there. It’s titled Safe From the War, and I’d like to hear what you guys think of the beginning. Thanks and hope you enjoy it.
SAFE FROM THE WAR
“North patrol dispatch to 1243.”
Jerry Nunez knew what was coming. He had seen the call holding when he checked his patrol car’s computer a minute earlier and while he hadn’t avoided it, he hadn’t volunteered for it either. He picked up the radio mike, keyed it and said wearily, “1243, go ahead.”
“Family disturbance, 1803 Hanley, apartment A. Caller reports hearing a woman screaming. I’ll get you backup as soon as I find someone.”
Fuck. Another ghetto family disturbance call that I’m not in the mood for. Nunez wasn’t familiar with that address, but if it was a family disturbance at an apartment complex in North Houston, it was bullshit. After thirteen years in the ghetto, it seemed to Nunez that all the calls, even the real calls that involved guns and knives and dead gangsters, were bullshit.
“That’s clear, show me en route. And don’t bother anyone else, I’ll advise if I need backup.”
“That’s clear, thank you.”
Nunez pulled into a parking lot and turned the car around, then shifted side to side to get the weight of the duty belt off his hips for a few seconds. Years of pressure from the Sig Sauer pistol, spare magazines, radio, handcuffs and flashlight had left dark brown spots the size of fists on his hips, and he had recently begun to worry that his wife might find him unattractive because of them. He was in his late thirties, not very tall and not nearly as skinny as he had once been. His face was showing the stress of years spent alternating between sitting for hours in a police car, unexpectedly facing sudden threats of death or injury, and twice going off to war.
He took his time getting to this call. It wasn’t anything high priority, just another disturbance in the ‘hood, one of hundreds across Houston every night. He leisurely drove north toward Hanley, following the highway service road and running the license plate of any vehicle he saw, hoping he would find a stolen car or something else that was interesting enough to get him pulled off this call. After several minutes of driving, his radio beeped again.
“Dispatch to 1243.”
“1243, go ahead.”
“We just received a second call about that disturbance, from a different caller. Are you sure you don’t want me to get another unit for you?”
Nunez thought about it a second. Generally, he was of the opinion that you never turned down backup. But patrol had been stretched thin for years, and if he asked for a backup unit dispatch might have to pull someone from ten miles away and leave some other officer uncovered who might really need the help.
“1243 dispatch, nah, I’m good. I’ll advise as soon as I get there if I need someone. Thanks for looking out though.”
“Dispatch 1243, anytime.”
Nunez jumped on the freeway, took the first exit and then turned east onto 1700 Hanley. As he approached the stop sign separating 1700 Hanley from 1800 Hanley, the radio beeped again.
“Dispatch 1243, we just received a third call, this one says a female ran out of the apartment screaming and a male assaulted her and dragged her back inside. Who’s available to check by with 1243?” The dispatcher wasn’t asking Nunez this time, instead she was doing her job and getting a backup unit whether he wanted one or not.
“1243 dispatch, got it and I’ve arrived. You can get a unit en route, I’ll let you know if they can disregard.” Nunez looked to the right as he passed the stop sign, and saw the little apartment complex on side of the road, across the street from an old, shabby-looking church. This road was very quiet, and he didn’t remember ever seeing this complex. It was very neat and clean, and as he turned into the parking lot he saw that it consisted of only ten units. Five apartments were in one block facing east across the parking lot at a block of five apartments facing west. The block facing west held apartments A through E, with A on the left end as you faced the front doors. The light inside A was on but the porch light was off, and he saw and heard nothing coming from the apartment. The lone window, to the left of the apartment door, had closed Venetian blinds hanging inside.
Nunez drove further into the parking lot than he had to so he could park his car out of the immediate danger area in front of the apartment. He stopped the car and shut the engine and headlights off, leaving the parking lights on so any officers responding to back him up could easily spot the patrol car. He stepped out of the car and looked all the way around. Almost directly behind the car, at apartment F, four gangster-looking Hispanic teenagers slouched on the front porch. Apartment A was silent, with nothing there to demand his immediate attention, so he walked toward the teenage thugs behind his car. As he got closer he saw that all four of them had shaved heads and homemade tattoos on their forearms.
“Hey, we got a call out here about a disturbance, have you guys seen anything?” Nunez asked just in case they might actually be helpful, but he expected to hear the usual Naw, dog, we just got here.
“Yeah man, some guy was beating up a girl or something,” one of them answered. “We heard screaming and shit, and then she ran out the door, but the guy grabbed her and punched her a buncha times in the stomach and dragged her ass back inside. We was inside looking out the window, and when we got outside they was already back in the house, so we couldn’t do nuthin’. I’m the one that called though.”
“No shit,” Nunez said. “How long ago did this happen, that he dragged her back inside?”
“Uh, maybe 5 minutes ago. Not that long, y’all got here pretty fast.”
“Okay,” Nunez said. “What’d they look like, black, white, Mexican?”
“I don’t know, they’ve been around for a while but they speak some weird shit, like Russian or something. They’re both young, maybe in high school. They kinda look Mexican.”
“You ever see any guns or anything around there?”
“Naw, man,” the spokesman answered. “They stay inside and real quiet mostly, I’ve never seen nuthin’.”
“Alright, thanks,” Nunez said, “If you can stay here for a while, I might need your name for a report.”
The mini-thug nodded. Nunez turned and headed toward the front door to apartment A, and dispatch piped up on the radio again.
“Still need a backup unit for 1243.”
“1113, I got it. It’ll take me a little bit, I’m at the far west end of my beat.”
Nunez groaned silently. 1113 was officer Edward Calhoun, a young, violent, pissed off egomaniac who treated everyone like shit, whether they were turds or not, and was the kind of officer who could show up to a peaceful scene, turn the calm and cooperative into the angry and combative, and within five minutes twist the scene into a shit festival for everyone involved. Plus, he drove like a fucking idiot, and Nunez knew that Calhoun would be at this moment flying ninety miles an hour down quiet residential streets, sending any area residents who happened to be walking the streets fleeing into front yards in panic, sliding through intersections and leaving skid marks at every turn to get to 1803 Hanley.
Nunez had at first thought highly of Calhoun since he had been a Marine infantryman before joining the department and had some mad tactical skills and a lot of drive, but his abrasiveness and bad judgment had soured the initial good impression within a month. Nunez figured he better get this call figured out so he could call Calhoun off before he screeched sideways around the corner and started motherfucking everyone in sight.
Nunez approached the door, watching the window closely for shadows against the glass, eyes peering through gaps in the blinds, anything; he saw and heard nothing. The door had no windows built into it, and it was dirtier than the rest of the apartment’s exterior, with dirt streaked across it at waist level. He pulled his flashlight from his belt and strobed the door with it once.
The streaks were drying blood, not dirt. It looked as if someone had reached for the door with bloody fingers, smearing it from their hands as they were pulled inside. Nunez strobed again, looking at the doorstep this time.
Blood. Lots of it. Not in a pool, but scattered in large spots, each several inches across, those then surrounded by dozens of smaller drops, spread out over a six foot area. Red footprints covered the gaps between the larger spots of blood. The random pattern of the drops and the area they covered suggested to Nunez that there had been a violent struggle at the doorstep, rather than someone just standing still and bleeding at the door.
Looks like that little thug was actually telling the truth, Nunez thought. But the guy was stabbing her, not punching her. The blood was dark and thick, so Nunez recognized it as venous blood, what most untrained observers thought was arterial blood. Nunez knew from previous experience on the street, and from a bad incident in Afghanistan, that the girl was hurt bad but hopefully not badly enough to bleed out before help got there. Nunez reached for his radio shoulder mike and lifted his eyes back up from the doorstep.
Fingers were inside the window, reaching through and separating the cheap venetian blinds, and dark eyes behind them were staring intently and hatefully at Nunez. Nunez spent a quarter of a second looking back into the eyes in the window, registering the threat before dropping his flashlight and drawing his pistol in less than one second. He brought the Sig-Sauer pistol up to his chest, where his left hand met his right to get the proper grip, then thrust the pistol straight forward at the eyes in the window. When his arms were fully extended, he hit the rocker switch on the light attached to the frame of the Sig, under the muzzle, and lit up the eyes in the window from about five feet away.
The eyes closed, the hand was yanked out of the window through the blinds, and a shadow sprinted away. Red smears were on the blinds where the hands had been. Nunez was pissed at himself for a second; he had missed a threat while he was looking at the blood. He reached for the shoulder mike again, keeping the pistol aimed at the window.
“1243 dispatch, there’s blood all over the place and someone inside the apartment. I think it’s gonna be a stabbing. Go ahead and get me more than one backup unit, and start EMS.” Then he turned to the thuglets at apartment F, hoping they would still be sitting outside. Of course they were, if there was the possibility that there would be any violence they had to have a ringside seat.
“Hey!” Nunez shouted. “Do these apartments have back doors?”
Their spokesman answered, “Huh?”
“DO THESE APARTMENTS HAVE BACK DOORS OR WINDOWS?”
“Um, naw, not in mine.”
“Alright, cool.” Nunez keyed his mike again. “1243 dispatch, one of the callers here says there are no back doors or windows to these apartments, but I want 1113 or whoever gets here first to check the back and make sure.”
“1331, I’m en route, 32 is with me. Jerry, we’re about eight minutes away.” Two more officers, coming south from Greenspoint, known to locals as “Gunspoint”, the high crime area at the far north edge of the city.
“1113 1243, I’m about three minutes out.” Nunez could hear the motor racing in the background as Calhoun tore through the streets to the west.
“That’s clear, don’t kill yourself getting here.” Nunez pulled his weapon in toward his chest and ran sideways past the window, going toward the left side of the apartment. Because apartment A was at the far left end of the apartment block, the left wall faced 1800 Hanley and didn’t adjoin another apartment. If there was a window on that wall, the suspect could escape from it. Nunez reached the left corner and looked around it. There was an upstairs window, closed and covered by a screen. Nunez posted up at the corner, eyes darting from the front door and window to the side window, preparing to jump one way or the other and use the corner as cover if someone started shooting at him.
After two minutes of watching the door and window and seeing nothing, Nunez heard an engine and tires screaming. Suddenly officer Eddie Calhoun’s patrol car screeched from the service road onto Hanley, blew the stop sign, passed Nunez’s position on the corner of the apartment and slid to a stop as it turned into the alley behind the apartment complex. The car’s spotlight flicked on for two seconds, then Calhoun spun his tires as he backed out of the alley, turning the rear end of his car toward the complex’s parking lot. He started backwards down the street but Nunez stopped him with a radio call.
“1113, stop right there, stop right there! Light up the second floor window that faces Hanley.”
Calhoun’s car jerked to a stop, the spotlight came on and rotated up toward the window. “Clear. Dispatch, show me arrived,” Calhoun said. “Jerry, there’s no back door or window.”
“Okay, clear,” Nunez said into his radio. “1113, leave that light on. I need a sergeant on the air, we’re going to have to make entry now, this one can’t wait.”
Dispatch was on it. “Sergeant on the air for 1243 for forced entry. 204, you there?”
“1243 204, we’re about to make forced entry to an apartment,” Nunez said. “Looks like a stabbing, I saw a suspect inside, there’s a lot of blood outside and we have a witness who saw the suspect drag the female complainant inside the apartment after assaulting her. I have one backup unit with me and two more on the way.”
“Clear. Make entry and find the complainant if you can but don’t clear the entire apartment without additional backup unless there’s no other way. I’m en route to you. Dispatch, get us a K9 out there.”
“1243 clear.” Nunez released the transmit button on the shoulder mike. “Eddie, come to me.”
Calhoun crab-walked sideways from the driver’s side of his car where he had taken a covered position, and Nunez saw that he had his pistol in his hands in a proper grip, covering the second floor window as he moved. He kept his eyes on the window, not on Nunez, and as he reached the corner he put his right hand out to make contact with Nunez, to confirm that he was in the right spot, without ever taking his eyes from the window. Nunez had to admit to himself that asshole or not, Eddie Calhoun was the perfect guy for a situation like this.
Nunez grabbed Calhoun’s arm and said to him, “Alright, we do this quick. You kick the door, I’ll cover the door and the window while you do it. I’m going in first, to the left, you go right. First priority is to find the stabbed girl, second is the suspect. If we find the girl we bring her out and wait for the Gunspoint guys and K9 before we go back in for the suspect. Got it?”
“I’m all over it,” Calhoun said, not looking at him. “Tell me when you’re set.”
Nunez reacted silently to the word set, because it wasn’t a cop word. It was an infantryman’s term, a grunt word, and it took him back to some other places, where he had to clear other houses, and what happened inside some of those houses wasn’t always good. He let go of Calhoun’s arm, walked sideways to the right side of the door but about ten feet back, where he could watch both the door and the window and hopefully have enough clearance to fire into either one without hitting Calhoun if the need arose.
“1243 dispatch, we’re about to make entry, clear the radio.” He let go of the mike and said “Set” to Calhoun.
“Moving.” Calhoun moved swiftly to the door, pulled his pistol close into his chest and delivered a tremendous kick that shattered about two feet of the door frame. Nunez sprang forward as the door bounced off inside wall, and had the presence of mind to be impressed by the fact that Calhoun instinctively pulled his pistol into muzzle down position as Nunez passed in front of him. Nunez went left, scanning the room as he moved to a position about two thirds of the way down the wall. When his area was clear he looked at the right and saw Calhoun on the right side of the room, scanning high and low for threats. The living room was easy to clear, with an open main area and the bulk of the furniture along the walls. The threat areas were the entrance to the kitchen, on the right side of the room near Calhoun.
Nunez noted the huge pool of blood on the floor near the center of the room, the bloody footprints, smears and drag marks leading to the kitchen, and the bloody footprints leading to the front window and stairwell. There was no question of what to check first. The entire downstairs would have to be cleared, before anyone went to the second floor.
“Eddie, check this out. We’re going to clear down here, starting with the kitchen. I want you to pie the kitchen off, I’ll be at your back watching everything behind us. Cool?”
“Got it. Moving.” Calhoun stepped forward to the left side of the kitchen doorway, which was open with no door, and looked as far as he could inside while Nunez backed up until their backs touched each other. Calhoun started to pie the room off, peering into the room from one spot and then moving slightly forward so he could see just a little more of the room, then repeating that movement, cutting a little more of the pie each time, leaning as far to his right as he could and leading the movement with his pistol, his right eye directly behind it. If a suspect was inside the kitchen, the first thing he would see was a muzzle pointed at him.
As Calhoun moved, Nunez watched the threat areas, the doorways, and took in details of the apartment. Sparsely furnished, a set of small glass teacups on a coffee table in front of a sofa, several pairs of cheap plastic sandals on a small carpet just to the side of the door, a book with what looked like Arabic writing on the cover laying on the sofa. Nunez swept the room, stopped and assessed, swept the room the other way, caught sight of something red and green and obviously unimportant and dismissed it. He swept back the other way, suddenly realized what the red and green object was and jerked his head back to it, and took a long look at the small Afghanistan flag on a stand on one of the end tables next to the sofa.
“Jerry, I have feet.”
“Laying down, standing up, what?” Nunez asked.
“Laying down,” Calhoun said. “Little feet, all bloody. I’m continuing.” He took another three steps in the arc and said “It’s her. She’s dead. No question. I don’t see anything else.”
“How do you know she’s dead?” Nunez asked.
“Jerry, she’s dead. Trust me.”
Nunez said, “We’re going to trade places so I can take a look. On three. One, two, three.” And they quickly traded places, taking their eyes off their threat areas for only a second. Nunez took a look into the kitchen and knew immediately that Calhoun had been right.
“Damn. Yeah, you’re right,” Nunez said. “She’s dead.”
“I told you so,” Calhoun said.
From the doorway, Nunez could see the entire length of her body, the slashes on her thighs and arms, intestines protruding from at least three places on her lower abdomen, the way her neck and head were tilted at the wrong angle from her shoulders. Her throat had been cut so deeply that she had almost been decapitated. Nunez thought that it looked like the suspect had tried to saw her head off and had given up. The pool of blood around her body went past her head and almost to her feet, and reached the walls on both sides of her torso. She was small and thin, and Nunez thought she couldn’t have been more than 14 or so, but with all the damage and blood it was impossible to tell.
“Fuck,” Nunez said. “Okay, we’re backing out, we’ll let the dog do the rest of the work. Go ahead and start moving to the door.”
The radio beeped as they started their move. “1331 and 32 arriving. Jerry, where do you want us?”
“1243 1331, I need you to cover the window on the side of the apartment that faces Hanley,” Nunez replied. “Tell me if it’s open or if you see any blood around it. 32, come to the door, we found the girl and we’re backing out.”
Dispatch jumped on the radio. “Dispatch 1243, I need patient information on the girl.”
“1243 dispatch, she’s DOA.” Dead On Arrival. Street cops in Houston usually say DRT, for Dead Right There, usually pronounced dead raht thar with a Texas twang. But in any case where there is an actual innocent victim, Houston cops will use DOA instead, feeling as if that shows a little more respect for the dead. “I can confirm, we just need an ambulance to pronounce her. We just backed out, the suspect should still be inside. What’s the deal with K9?”
“Dispatch 1243, he’s coming from southwest area, gonna be a few.”
“1243 clear.” Nunez and Calhoun backed out of the door and took positions on either side of the doorway with their weapons pointing inward as Officer John Mata, unit 1332, approached them. Mata was a young, handsome and healthy officer, less than two years out of the academy, one of the college guys with no military experience that the department was trying so hard to recruit. The administration had made a conscious decision to bring more educated people into the department, and those officers who had a bachelor’s degree or higher, regardless of their job performance, made more money than those who didn’t. Nunez was fond of expressing his bitterness about the department’s apparent lack of respect for veterans by saying things like I foolishly wasted my time serving my country in the military, including in combat, when I should have been in college binge drinking, smoking pot, date-raping sorority girls, buying my research papers off the internet and badmouthing America, because that’s what makes you a good cop. But then there were officers like John Mata, with his college degree and absolute cluelessness about all things military, coupled with an earnest desire to do a good job and plain good sense on the street, and Nunez had to admit to himself that a lot of the college guys were pretty good cops.
“That window looks clear, Jerry,” Mata said. “It’s closed and there’s nothing around it.”
“Okay, good,” Nunez said. “If he had tried to come out of there that window would look like a mass murder. That fucking scene is bloody as shit. He’s still in there, probably upstairs.”
“How bad is it?” Mata asked.
Calhoun answered, “Dude, it’s a fucking slaughterhouse in there. Fucking girl got butchered, guts out and head cut off. Fucking suspect was trying to eat her or something. Fuck man, I never seen any shit like that before.”
Mata looked shocked. “He cut her fucking head off? Seriously?”
Nunez interjected, “No he didn’t cut her head off. Eddie, it’s bad enough, don’t exaggerate.” He thought for a minute and then added, “But he damn near cut her head off.”
“Jesus. Fuck that shit man, I’m getting my shotgun.” Mata turned and headed back to his car, still parked on Hanley. Nunez heard him telling Officer James Wesley, unit 1331, “Dude, he cut her fucking head off.”
“912 to the primary unit on Hanley, orient me.” 912 was a K9 officer named Jones, getting close to the scene and looking for more information.
“1243 912, we have a murder, complainant is still inside the apartment and I’m pretty sure the suspect is also. I don’t have any suspect info, all I saw was a hand and part of the face. The murder was a stabbing, unknown if there are any guns inside. We backed out and we’re covering the bottom floor of the apartment from the doorway.”
“912 clear, I’m about 5 minutes out.”
Filed under: Cops, Writing | 7 Comments
My good friend and former partner, as in cop partner, not life partner, wrote this. I helped with editing and some other basics, but it’s his story. He said it’s partially based on a dream. Let me (and him) know what you think.
It was Monday, my day off, so I was surprised to hear my city phone ring. I screened the call and let my voice mail answer. The call was from a Sergeant Davis who said he was with from SWAT. He said it was urgent. I poured a cup of coffee and called him back.
SWAT was on an all night stand off with a suspect held up in a Starbucks. As Sergeant Davis talked I was thinking, what does any of this have to do with me? I wasn’t a negotiator and didn’t have any SWAT training. I’m a J.A.F.O., “Just Another Fucking Officer”.
Then he said the suspect was James Ritter. That caught my attention. I’ve known James for 35 years. We went to school together, from first grade all the way through high school. We were good friends, although we didn’t talk that often since our “real” lives took over after college. Once a month or so, James and I would hit a bar for a few drinks and talk about our lives, wives, kids, jobs and troubles, etc. I would do anything for him and vice versa. I guess that’s why he had requested me.
It was 0800 hrs and the stand off was in its twelfth hour. Apparently James came home from work to discover his wife had packed the kids and left him with an empty house. James went to the Starbucks and ordered a cappuccino. A twenty-year-old girl messed up his order and he snapped.
James had emotional problems for as long as I can remember. Once in sixth grade a kid started messing with him. James flipped out and started punching the kid. When the kid went unconscious, James started tearing up the classroom. It took three teachers to restrain him. He had been on medication ever since. Throughout the years I’ve kind of been his free therapist. More than once, I had made him stop searching the internet for instructions on how to build bombs. He had several people he wanted to kill, and had even joked about throwing a grenade into his wife’s office.
I arrived at the scene around 0830 and met with Sergeant Davis. They wanted me to talk James down. SWAT tried to put a vest and tactical gear on me, but I refused. James needed a friend, not a cop. I didn’t want a wire either but they insisted it was policy. James had two employee hostages and demanded to see me.
I called James on his cell phone, not the land line SWAT had set up. I told him I was there and I was coming in to talk to him. I ordered the patrol units and SWAT to back out of sight. If Jim felt pressured I knew he might blow up. I took a final drag off my Marlboro and walked in. My .45 was hidden in my waistband.
James was standing behind the counter, almost like he worked there. The poor girl who fucked up his order was on the floor behind him with the other employee. I made eye contact with the girl, winked and sat on a bar stool across from James.
He was holding a black .357, was obviously stressed and seemed almost out of it. He looked at me and I at him. We made small talk, just like we were meeting for a beer, the same way we had for the past fifteen years.
Twenty minutes or so passed and I made a suggestion to James.
“I tell you what, put your gun on the counter and I’ll put mine down on the counter.”
“You packing?” James asked.
“What do you think?”
He smiled. I knew then this would end peacefully.
“You first,” he said with a smile.
“I’m trusting you Jimmy, are you going to betray me?”
“What do you think?”
I placed my Colt on the counter, and almost simultaneously he placed his Smith & Wesson next to it. Neither of us was armed but we were both within reach of our weapons. Now we were friends, not a cop and crazed wacko – just two friends working out a problem.
He told me about his wife and kids being gone when he got home. He sounded like a broken man at the end of his rope. I almost forgot why I was there. I changed the subject and talked about old times, fishing, hunting and the many women we had throughout our lives. We talked about Gayla, an Amazon of a girl in the fourth grade who had a crush on James, and about Debbie, my psycho girlfriend in high school. We talked about his daughters and my son. I then asked Jim how we were going to solve this problem.
“What problem?” he asked. I honestly think, for a moment, he had forgotten about his immediate predicament. He asked what was going to happen to him. I just said, “I’m going to help you.”
“Naw, there’s no help for me.” His demeanor changed.
In a flash, I grabbed my pistol and knocked his off the counter. Stunned, James looked at the counter and said in a cold dark voice, “What the fuck have you done?”
“Nothing buddy, lets walk out of here, and I’ll make sure no one hurts you – or me for that matter.”
“You don’t understand… I have nothing.” As James said that he pulled a grenade from a pocket, held it to his chest and started to remove the pin.
Without hesitation I raised my Colt .45 Defender and placed one round in Jim’s forehead.
A trickle of blood ran down his face. His expression said, How could you shoot me? I’m your friend, I trusted you.
For that brief moment, I think Jimmy was the sanest he had ever been. He slumped to the floor. SWAT entered the store with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.
The grenade? A novelty paper weight.
I struggle every day with the realization that I killed a good friend, made a widow out of his wife, and left his girls without a father. But on that sunny day off from work, Jimmy committed suicide. He just chose to do it with my gun and my finger.
Filed under: Cops, Writing | 8 Comments
Tags: cop fiction
This is absolutely the last excerpt of Line in the Valley that I can release. Any more than this and I’ve given too much away. Hope you enjoy it, and as always I appreciate any feedback. Thanks guys.
“Reds this is Red 1, lock and load.”
Vehicles commanders acknowledged. Nunez called “Barney! Lock and load!” to his gunner, then grabbed his driver’s M4, yanked the charging handle and slammed a round into the chamber. He and Doc Corley loaded their carbines and stowed them, muzzles down. They had just weaved through the police checkpoint north of Arriago, the line of departure for their mission. The town was two miles ahead, out of sight on the other side of heavy brush.
The vehicles moved slowly. They had driven blacked out since leaving Edinburgh and slowed even more to get through the mass of police and military vehicles at the checkpoint, but from this point they could speed up. The rest of the convoy would take a while getting through, but Nunez’s platoon wasn’t waiting for them. The other vehicles would stay behind on the road anyway, and would have plenty of time to set their positions while Nunez’s platoon dismounted and walked into Arriago.
The drivers increased speed to thirty miles per hour, driving in the dark with a tiny amount of moonlight. The highway lights had been out for almost twenty miles. The lead driver had a good view through his night vision, but everyone else was doing nothing more than following the hazy outline of the humvee to their front.
Nunez checked his GPS. Quincy’s vehicle should hit the dismount point, half a mile north of Arriago, within a few minutes. He checked his handheld radio, which was jammed into a pouch on his left side. One last time, Nunez made sure his magazines were rounds-down and pointing right in the mag pouches. He slapped the forward assist on his carbine and made sure the red dot sight above his scope was on, checked his weapon and helmet lights to make sure they were in “safe” settings and wouldn’t be turned on by accident. Everything was in its place, he was ready.
The vehicles slowed, then the humvee ahead of Nunez’s swerved hard right. Nunez’s driver, Private Conway, said “Shit!” and spun the steering wheel to follow the other humvee’s move. The shadow of a car floated by on the left. Nunez was looking at it when the right side of the humvee bounced over something lumpy.
Bones crunched. The scent of decomposing flesh exploded in the humvee. Barnes, in the gun turret, said “Aw, fuck! What was that? That stinks like fucking crazy!” The men inside reacted in disgust, covering their faces and gagging at the rotten stench. Conway said, “God damn Sarge, what is that?”
Nunez blew outward, tried to get the imagined taste of maggot-infested corpse out of his mouth. All he managed to do was get a nose full of his own stale breath. He said, “You just hit a dead person,” as he grabbed the platoon radio handset.
“Red 1 this is Red 4, we need a heads up from your driver if you pass something in the road. We almost hit a car, and we ran over a dead body.”
“4 this is 1, roger that. Correcting that problem now.”
Nunez stuck the handset back on its mount. “Get a little more distance between you and the humvee in front of us.” Conway backed off. Quincy called out two more burned vehicles and four bodies during the next two minutes before he announced, “This is 1, we’re stopping at the dismount point.”
Nunez acknowledged. The convoy slowed and crept to the grid Nunez had marked on his GPS. No lights shone in the distance.
“Reds this is Red 1, no lights are on in Arriago.”
“This is Red 4, roger. I’ll call it up.”
The humvees eased to a stop. Nunez turned his dismount radio on and popped his door as Doc Corley got out on the other side. Nunez told his driver and gunner, “You guys stay cool, listen to Sergeant Allenby and stay the fuck awake. We might be screaming for help real soon.”
His men gave quiet assurances that they’d stay sharp. On both sides of the humvee soldiers jogged past Nunez, headed up front. Nunez dropped in behind them and keyed the mike on his radio to report, “Rapido 6 this is Red 4, we just hit our dismount point. How copy, over.”
“Red 4 this is Rapido 6, good copy.”
As he jogged forward the platoon formed two columns, just as they had been told during the mission brief. They would advance into town with one column on each side of the road, Quincy leading the column on the right, Staff Sergeant Burrows leading the column on the left. Nunez would stay about two thirds of the way back in the left column and was responsible for all the reporting to Captain Harcrow.
Nunez jogged to the front of the left column and spoke to each soldier, making a quick roll call, then did the same thing for the right column. Everyone was in place. He jogged to Quincy and whispered, “We’re accounted for.”
“Cool. Let’s roll.”
Quincy waved his arm forward. The signal was repeated down both columns as the soldiers began their move. Nunez fell into the left column as the men broke into a speed walk. He held his weapon in close, muzzle down, looking everywhere into the darkness and seeing nothing. If the enemy had another ambush waiting outside town, the platoon might lose a lot of guys.
The troops up front broke into a slow run, just faster than a shuffle. Nunez had already been hot and sweaty from the summer night humidity, but within fifty meters of starting the run he felt a layer of sweat cover everything. He and the others had been without a shower for days, and he could smell his underarm stink as he bounced down the road.
Ahead of him a few soldiers mumbled something unintelligible. Nunez was pissed at the breach of noise discipline until the smell hit him, causing him to mutter “Fuck!” like everyone else. His column weaved to the right around another body. Nunez caught a quick sight of it in the moonlight. A fat old woman on her face with her knees bent under her, hands clasped behind a hollowed out eggshell of a skull. Something inside her head bounced a dull reflection into Nunez’s eyes. He held his breath until his boots cleared the halo of stained pavement around the body, then forced himself to breathe normally again.
A man ahead stumbled, but kept his footing. Darkened structures lined both sides of the highway. Muzzles came up to cover the structures as they passed. Each one was an ambush waiting to happen. The town stayed silent at the platoon’s arrival, until a few dogs barked from a safe distance. Nunez wondered if the dogs were looking for bodies to eat.
The right column jogged around a burned-out truck. The faint aroma of charred flesh hit Nunez, nowhere near as bad as the choking stench of the dead woman had been. He recognized the smell, this wasn’t the first time he had been around it. The others didn’t seem to react.
Quincy’s breathless voice huffed over the radio. “Red trucks, halt your move. Red trucks, halt and establish security.”
“Red 3 roger.” Nunez heard brakes squeak as 2nd platoon’s humvees stopped less than fifty meters behind them. If the rest of the company was sticking to the plan, third platoon should be stopped about a mile to their rear, second platoon halting just behind first platoon’s vehicles to dismount their soldiers and run into town behind Nunez’s platoon.
The column slowed to a fast walk, then stopped. After five seconds everyone took a knee, faced outward and peered out into the night. A voice on the radio whispered, “Red 4 this is Red 1, come to me.”
Nunez rose to a crouch and shuffled to the front of the platoon. Quincy was on one knee at the front of the right column, looking through binoculars. He handed them to Nunez and whispered, “The maintenance convoy is about four hundred meters ahead. I don’t see any activity around it.”
Nunez took the binoculars. Straight down the road he was able to make out the silhouette of a five ton truck and two humvees ahead of it. The five ton was at an angle, nose pointing to the right side of the road, tailgate down. Nondescript clumps dotted the street. Even though Nunez couldn’t make out the shapes from this distance, he knew what they were. He handed the binoculars back to Quincy and keyed his radio.
“Rapido 6 this is Red 4, we have the convoy in sight. We’re holding our position until White catches up.”
“Rapido 6 roger.”
A harried voice jumped on the radio. “Red 4 this is White 4, we’re almost to you.”
Nunez rogered. In the distance, above the dull whisper of wind noise, Nunez heard the thumping of helicopter blades. Far south, on the other side of town. He looked into the sky, knowing he wouldn’t see them. The helicopters flew blacked out, lights visible only through night vision devices. Nunez keyed up again.
“Rapido 6 this is Red 4, we hear rotors. Can you confirm our air support is on station?”
“Red 4 Rapido 6, roger that. We just established commo with them on the air frequency.”
Boots slapped concrete to the rear. Nunez looked back down the lines of soldiers and heard the noise slow and stop, but couldn’t see second platoon.
“Red 4 this is White 4, we’re caught up to you.”
“Roger. The convoy is less than half a kilometer ahead.”
Quincy stood up and motioned upward. The platoon rose as one. Quincy gave the signal to move out. Nunez stayed on his knee, waiting to fall in to his spot in the left column. He keyed up as his soldiers walked past.
“White 4 and Rapido 6 this is Red 4, we’re moving to the convoy.”
Nunez looked back until he saw second platoon. They were in two columns, just behind first platoon. Nunez sidestepped into his column and moved out. The highway widened to three lanes. The men spread out, one column on each side of the street. The platoon passed short blocks of run down restaurants and convenience stores. The scent of dead fires followed them. The black outline of a five ton truck rose from the darkness, a hundred meters ahead. Nunez looked up as they passed a street sign: Nogales and 5th.
Arriago was silent. Nunez’s platoon slowed as they approached the five ton. Quincy keyed the radio and said, “White 1 this is Red 1, we’re stopping at the convoy, flow around –”
“St-stop, motherfucker! Halt!”
Two platoons of soldiers dropped flat onto the street. The noise sounded like thunder in the dark. Nunez popped his head up, wanting to yell at the point man to shut the fuck up.
Filed under: Writing | 16 Comments
Tags: cartels, military fiction, Texas border
There is no good reason for what I’ve posted today. Forgive me.
Sometime in 2006, not long after I came home from Iraq, I was at Barnes and Noble with my wife. We saw a flyer for Poetry Open Mike Night. I have no training in writing poetry, and the only poem I remember writing was a very bad one to my wife when we were dating. But for some reason, when I saw the flyer I thought, I’m going to write a poem about Iraq and read it to everyone.
So I did. I wrote a poem about being on nighttime convoys, with the imagery and sounds of those missions. I just dumped it onto paper, practiced a little, and read it at poetry night. It was pretty well received, and one woman in the audience even asked if she could write down one particular verse because she thought it was so powerful. I was moved by the fact that anyone liked it, much less thought any of it was good enough to remember. So I continued writing poetry for a little while.
And I discovered, as many aspiring poets do, that 90% of poetry is depressing as hell, and 8% is about nothing at all. At every poetry night I heard stuff like “So yesterday I saw a butterfly AND IT REMINDED ME OF DEATH!”, or “The clang of the bell was as lugubrious as field mice traipsing through unfettered shoals of a schoolgirl’s awakening loins.” Rarely, I’d hear something really moving or actually deep.
I remember one man, who told me he suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, reciting his really beautiful poem completely from memory. The poem was about him and his father at a bar, and his father’s advice to not be so shallow. They see a mildly attractive but not stunning woman, and the son dismisses her because she’s just “okay”. His father suggests the son go talk to her, to “look at what she’s got, don’t look at what she’s not.” That line stuck with me, because it’s the kind of thing my father might have said to me, and what I might say to my sons. That young man, cheerful despite his problems, delivered that line perfectly. I was impressed.
I wrote a few war poems, read them at a few events, and decided I didn’t want to write just depressing crap. I didn’t want to prove the almost-joke, “Death is the reason poets get up in the morning.” I needed to do something different.
So I wrote the piece below. It’s not as long as it looks. I don’t know where it came from, other than maybe my Catholic School years. I had zero connection to or interest in pirates, but there they are.
I read this once at a poetry event, and actually got a standing ovation. It wasn’t expected.
I hadn’t looked at this poem or written any more poetry in about five years. But this poem has been on my mind. So I decided I’d post it, just to see what the reaction is. I’m genuinely curious to see what you guys think.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to praise or brutally criticize at your whim.
They were stalwart an’ brave
fightin’ and thievin’ each day
Each’d lived a pirate’s life since a child
They sat at the tables
And spun sailors’ fables
In this tavern where sea stories run wild
And seated at their head
Was a tall figure of dread
A captain whose evil was known all ’round
He was fierce, he was fearless
In battle he was peerless
And his pirate’s killer instincts were sound
But trouble was afoot
In sailors’ heads doubt’d been put
Rumors their stalwart cap’n was afraid
Of what, no one knew
Yet the rumors rang true
So for the cap’n’s courage, they prayed
The captain looked up from his ale
And said, with face pale
“I’m a-hearin’ some scuttlebutt from you lot
Ye’ say I’m a-feared
been brought near to tears
by demons, serpents, spooks or some rot
So I’ll tell ye this night
An’ set all yer’ minds right
There’s no man, devil or beast on this earth I’m afraid of
I’ve never backed down from cannon, musket or knife
I’ve slept through more tempests than you’ll see in your life
An’ I don’t flinch at grapeshot screechin’ down from above.”
The captain leaned in
Gave his men a sly grin
Then suddenly his face turned the pallor of stone
“But alas, me fine crew
I’ve held a wee truth from you
There was once one who could turn me’ blood cold
‘Twas many years past
when I was but a wee lad
Before I ran to a life of crime on the sea
And tho’ I’m loathe to admit this
For I’ve no wish to look skittish
Sad fact is, the one what scared me, was a she.”
The men gasped, and they gaped
Such talk they could not take
Their captain could never be ‘fraid of no wench!
“But lads,” said the captain
“You’re not understandin’
this lass was more wicked than me own stench
She was round as she was tall
Maybe ten stone in all
With the white hair and grey eyes of a ghost
Not younger than eighty
But I say to ye, mateys
This woman had fists like fenceposts
She dressed in black cloaks
And she praised all the popes
For lads, this terror, this wraith. . . was a nun
She taught at me’ school
An’ at any break in the rules
She’d fly at ye’ like a banshee at a dead run
If she caught yer soul strayin’
She’d come a-swingin’ and prayin’
Aimin’ to rattle your teeth in their sockets
Ye’d dare not fight back
Cause when she’d attack
Ye may’s well try to fend off a rocket
“I forget her proper name
so many nuns’ sounded the same
but hers it was Mary, Mary somethin’ Irish, and odd
McPherson? McDade? McAllister?
O’Grady? O’ Sullivan? Oh, it’s no matter
We lads called her Sister Mary; Sister Mary, mother o’ god
But not to her face!
Of ye’ there’d be nary a trace
If she heard any such blasphemy roll off your tongue
Per’aps we could be brave
With her eyes turned away
But before them we stayed silent as the sun
“She was so fearsome, so mean
She’d stamp out the obscene
Enflamed she was with the power of the lord
An’ if she suspected
Yer brain evil thoughts had infected
She’d slap them right outa’ yer’ gourd
She’d stalk down the hall
At the pace of a crawl
Flailin’ to an’ fro with a switch
An’ if contact she made
It’d sting like a blade
Then she’d hiss the shrill laugh of a witch.”
The men mumbled and grumbled
The first mate stood and stumbled
Took a drink, drew a breath, and demanded
“But cap’n, how could she,
no matter how pushy
cause a man, such as ye, as a coward be branded?”
The captain spat a reply
“True, it sounds as a lie
But lads, ye didn’t know her, and I did!
She could bob, she could weave,
She held a crucifix up her sleeve
And could scare ink from a giant squid
“She’d warded off Satan
and sworn off of matin’
and lads, against a woman like that, ye’ can’t win
She’d swim through hellfire
And swallow barbed wire
Before surrendering our wee souls to the sin
And tho’ it’s odd to me too
I’ll swear that it’s true
This woman, she loved us without pause
She’d beat us like fools
Leave us blackened and bruised
But never make a mark without cause
The captain drank from his ale
And wiped a tear’s trail
Before saying “Then one day, I saw me’ chance and I ran
Straight down to the harbor
Found the first hirin’ marauder
And sailed quick as I could from that land
I escaped her, I did
And I’d not give two quid
To ever again see me’ childhood home
But, curse me, I see her!
With that pious demeanor
She hounds me on any land or sea that I roam
“Late in the night
I’ll see her alight
In the rigging! In the sail! On the mast!
In the hold, on the bow
She stalks me, even now!
On me’ very soul her shadow’s been cast!
Mates, she must be long dead
But I’ve not lost the dread
She whipped into me when I was but a lad
And I’ll go to me grave
Not courageous or brave
But humbled, shamed, fearful an’ sad
“Lads, I fear for no god
And the devil’s a sod
I care not what level of hell, send me wherever there’s room
But try as I might
I can’t hide me’ fright
At the thought of meetin’ Sister Mary in me’ tomb.”
The captain gave a last look around
Then he rose without sound
And strode out past the men he commanded
He gave no glance back
As the voices went slack
And the gathering of sailors disbanded
When they set sail at dawn
Not a comment was drawn
’bout Sister Mary, the cap’n, nor his fear
But the sailors now knew
That the myths were untrue
’twere no krakens, no serpents, ’twas clear
the howls in the night
that gave sailors such fright
were no goblins, no demons, nor Neptune’s rod
But the wail of an immortal soul
Who the accursed captain would forever know
As Sister Mary; Sister Mary, mother o’ god
Filed under: Writing | 18 Comments
Tags: pirates, poetry, sister mary
According to the current media fad, we veterans are PTSD-stricken rapists on the verge of suicide. This is a major downturn in our status, as just a few weeks ago we were merely PTSD-stricken and suicidal. I guess those were the golden days.
Every time I turn around, I’m slapped in the face by stories about PTSD, suicide, or military sexual assaults. Not long ago I mentioned to a civilian that I had been in Iraq. He looked concerned and asked, “Are you okay?”, as if being a veteran automatically means I’m a basket case. It doesn’t. In fact, I and the vast majority of vets I know are doing quite well.
Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to notice the huge number of veterans they see living normal lives. And nobody pays attention to the Army’s statistics showing that the vast majority of suicides are Soldiers who never deployed. The public isn’t listening to the female Marine captain in the Judge Advocate General office who points out the extraordinary leaps required to extrapolate 26,000 sexual assaults from a flawed survey (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323582904578484941173658754.html ["The Pentagon's Bad Math on Sexual Assaults"]). No, it’s much easier to just consider us an army of psychologically damaged sexual deviants.
The supposed cause of this damage is our experience in combat. I wasn’t aware until I came home from Afghanistan that simply being in combat destroys one’s soul. But, what do I know? All I did was serve in combat. I didn’t study it in a classroom, or something serious like that.
I get the impression that the public holds a mental “PTSD stamp”. Whenever they meet a veteran of the War on Terror, the stamp comes down. “Oh, you served in the war? Thunk! Uh-huh. PTSD.”
I hate to contradict the media narrative, but it certainly seems to me that most veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are living normal lives. God forbid I shatter the cherished beliefs of anyone who hasn’t served, but gosh darn it, I just don’t feel like the war screwed me up. And I wish people would stop assuming my wartime service makes me tainted meat.
So I’m going to make a statement. Even though this will likely raise a few eyebrows, I’m going to say it anyway. Because it’s true.
I liked being in combat. No, I loved it. I went on every mission hoping for a firefight. I volunteered for dangerous missions I didn’t have to go on. I was disappointed when we didn’t get into a contact. It’s not an exaggeration to say I have never been more satisfied in a job than I was as a Soldier in combat.
That doesn’t mean I was the best Soldier in the world; I wasn’t. I don’t claim I was great at being in combat, I just loved it. I also know that I have the luxury of having enjoyed combat, because all of mine was at a distance. The men who cleared houses in Fallujah probably feel different about combat than I do. Some veterans undoubtedly hated being shot at. But when I think back to the fights I was in, I don’t shudder in fear. I smile in satisfaction. I cherish the memory.
No, that doesn’t make me psychologically damaged. It means I discovered what other men have discovered throughout thousands of years of history. I learned that combat is exhilarating, challenging, intense, the realm of men whose dedication to their cause and comrades would make any Fortune 500 CEO look lazy by comparison. In battle I found a sense of meaning that would have made my death, should it have occurred, worth it.
This discovery didn’t damage me. It enlivened me. It gave additional purpose to a life I thought was purpose-filled already. And every brush with death highlighted the importance of my wife and children, made me appreciate everything waiting for me back home.
Yes, I had terrible days in the wars. I have changed in significant ways since I was called up the first time in 2004. To say I’m not the same person I was before I deployed wouldn’t be accurate, but differences are there. War leaves a mark on everyone who truly experiences it. For some people, that mark is permanent, disfiguring and life-changing. For others it’s a temporary redness, no more severe than the sting of a slap on bare skin. I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum; not crippled but not untouched, slightly marked but happy to carry on normal life.
I’d like to remind America that we grew up surrounded by veterans of terrible combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Most of those men, who lived through the horrors of such battles as Tarawa, the Chosin Reservoir or Operation Junction City, were as much a part of our communities as any lifelong civilian. I grew up across the street from a World War II veteran and two Vietnam veterans. For many years, both my next door neighbors were Vietnam vets. Almost all my great uncles had served in World War II or Korea. What stood out about almost all these men was their utter normality. That normality is also evident in the vast majority of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I like to think those we lost, had they survived, wouldn’t have been considered somehow lesser for their service. In Afghanistan, the casualty that affected me most was of a man I never met. He was a Marine Corps pilot serving on the ground as a forward observer, a Naval Academy graduate who had been married less than a month earlier and died a hero’s death only seventeen days after arriving in Afghanistan. If he had survived his deployment, he could only have gone on to be a dedicated husband, father, leader and citizen.
Today isn’t a day to cry over pitiful victims whose deaths in combat saved them from being emotional cripples. Today is that Marine pilot’s day. It’s a day to honor men and women who so loved their country and comrades, they sacrificed their own full and bright futures in order to defend ours. They literally gave their lives for us.
On this Memorial Day 2013, I’d like to ask anyone reading this to keep something in mind: we veterans of the War on Terror weren’t forced into anything. We volunteered for combat service which in many ways made us better people. We aren’t, in general, suffering in silence and desperate for a way to stop the emotional agony. We’re not on the verge of suicide. And we damn sure aren’t sexual predators.
So please, stop with the pity. Stop walking on eggshells around us. Stop thinking war crushed the life out of us. It didn’t. It made many of us better citizens. Better Americans.
Happy Memorial Day to my military brothers and sisters, to all those who have lost loved ones in our nation’s service, and most of all to those men who died bravely on our shared fields of battle.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Iraq | 21 Comments
Tags: Afghanistan, iraq, Memorial Day 2013, military veterans
I am using this post to unashamedly beg for help. My fundraiser to print Proof of Our Resolve begins today. I have 60 days to raise $750 copies for the first print run. I figure if I can’t raise $750 in two months, my writing just sucks!
There are rewards for different contribution amounts. If anyone is crazy enough to donate $500, is male and doesn’t have too odd of a name, I’ll name one of the characters in my next novel after you.
If anyone wants to donate, you’ll have my eternal gratitude. Thanks in advance for any support, monetary or otherwise.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Writing | 4 Comments
Tags: Afghanistan, Chris Hernandez, military fiction, proof of our resolve
“I was pinned down by sniper fire.”
No, I’m not quoting a Soldier or Marine who served in Iraq. I’m not talking about the incident I personally experienced in Afghanistan, where a sniper barely missed me. These aren’t the words of a Vietnam veteran describing one of the most terrifying incidents of his life.
So who spoke these words? It was actually someone who has never encountered the dangers faced by our troops. It was spoken in a joking, dismissive manner, on a television show. The person who uttered this phrase was our esteemed former First Lady and Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton.
Clinton to Jay Leno: “It’s so great to be here, I was worried I wasn’t going to make it. I was pinned down by sniper fire.” Har har, yuk yuk.
Mrs. Clinton spoke these words as a humorous way to address an absolutely unforgivable, blatant lie she told earlier. In a transparent attempt to convince voters concerned with national defense that she somehow understood what it was like to be a soldier at war, Mrs. Clinton claimed that she had been under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia.
“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
She made this claim more than once, and stuck to it when challenged. The comedian Sinbad had been with her on the Bosnia trip and firmly refuted her story. But she still held on, until video surfaced. Only then did she laughingly back down from the claim.
Mrs. Clinton showed, with her stupid, pathetic lie about snipers in Bosnia, that military issues mean little more than political points to her. Her claim had nothing, nothing, to do with the brutal reality of bullets being aimed by an enemy who has chosen you personally as his target. I’ve been under sniper fire. It’s not something you forget or “misremember”.
Afterward, she gave these explanations: “I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.” “I have been in the public eye for many, many years, and this is something that I think happens to anybody.”
Well, that’s good to know. I guess that time I claimed to be a Special Forces Recon Ranger Delta SEAL who was awarded my 12th Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Fallujah in Afghanistan during the Vietnam War, I simply misspoke. It was just a misstatement. That sort of thing can happen to anybody.
I like to think I’ve made an honest effort to be moderate. I refuse to join either party, although I lean right. I have no problem calling out a republican for being a moron or defending a democrat who is being unfairly targeted (for example, I thought the Monica Lewinski thing was ridiculous; the only reason that became a national issue rather than a private problem is that republicans made it one). As I’ve said before, I’ve known way too many good republicans and democrats to classify either party as all idiots, all cowards, all liars, whatever. I have plenty of liberal and conservative friends. I take them as the individuals they are.
But sometimes, like this past month, it’s hard to maintain that moderate stance. What’s making it extremely difficult now is the left’s steadfast defense of Mrs. Clinton’s actions, or rather failure to act, during the Benghazi attack. Liberal commenters on the Huffington Post, which is NOT a far-left, fringe publication, are in a wagon-circling frenzy. As far as they’re concerned Benghazi is a non-event, notable only as more proof that republicans are vicious liars out to get Hillary Clinton at all costs.
HP published “Campaign 2016 begins in Benghazi” on May 8th. This article exposes the “real” reason for the Benghazi furor: republican terror at the thought of “President Hillary Clinton”. It absolutely could not be righteous anger over the needless deaths of two brave men, who called repeatedly for help that nobody bothered to send, over six hours after the first shots were fired.
“13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News” appeared on HP May 9th. This article lists thirteen attacks on diplomatic facilities that occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency. Author Bob Cesca briefly describes these attacks, notes the lack of Benghazi-like anger in response, and concludes the only possible reason anyone would make a big deal now is to unfairly target the democratic party. Mr. Cesca doesn’t get a basic truth: many of us aren’t angry that an attack occurred. We’re angry at the pathetic way it was handled.
As a soldier, I made a conscious decision to risk and if necessary lose my life rushing to the aid of other soldiers who needed help. So have hundreds of thousands of other troops. In my twenty-plus year career, I had to back that decision with action one time. Others have done it many times. We expect that level of dedication from each other, military leaders and elected leaders.
“I would rather die trying to save my fellow soldiers than live knowing I abandoned them.”
I understand Ambassador Chris Stevens willingly took a dangerous job in a dangerous place. I understand measured risks, and have taken many myself. I know our diplomatic personnel can’t wrap themselves in body armor and barbed wire if they expect to gain the people’s trust. I know attacks will occur in some countries no matter what we do. I understand that the situation was confusing. I understand mistakes being made. I don’t expect perfection from anyone making life and death decisions; I just expect them to make the best decisions they can, based on what they know at the time.
I’m not angry the Benghazi attack happened. I’m angry the State Department utterly failed to respond to it.
And the depressing thing about this whole disgusting affair is that I shouldn’t be surprised. Why would I expect Mrs. Clinton, who shows no understanding of warrior mentality, to make a warrior’s decision? And on an even more depressing note, why would I expect liberals in general to care that she left two of our best troops without help, for hours?
“But airplanes couldn’t have gotten there in time.” Oh yeah? Did we have a schedule telling us “this attack will end at exactly this time”? Did we have any way of knowing how long “in time” was? Did we ask any of our NATO allies to send planes from closer airbases? Did we ask the Libyans if they had aircraft that could fly over Benghazi? Did we make any attempt at all to save those men’s lives?
And if any of you liberal military geniuses who never served a day in uniform scream, “But airplanes couldn’t have dropped bombs anyway because of collateral damage”, please swim back to the shallow end of the pool. Airplanes making low-level passes and dropping flares are a deterrent. It’s called a show of force. Our planes do it all the time in Afghanistan, because it works. America is the most airstrike-happy country in the world. Muslim insurgents know this. They’re probably not going to fire a mortar in the dark and risk getting a daisy-cutter down their throats.
This tears me up. Mrs. Clinton lied about being under sniper fire and kept lying until she was trapped by video. No worries, the left tried to make her President and did make her Secretary of State. And the left still supports her now, after she utterly failed to handle the “2 a.m phone call” and told transparently stupid lies about a video causing a protest that somehow turned into an assault with machine guns, RPGs and mortars.
This is a pattern. Representative Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut tried like hell to stay out of the Vietnam War by getting five draft deferments, then managed to join the Marine Reserve. Like almost all reservists at the time, he never deployed to Vietnam. Then he made numerous speeches where he said “when we came home from Vietnam”, “when I was in Vietnam”, “we Vietnam veterans”, etc. He got caught in his lies while he was serving as a senator. So what did the left do? They reelected him.
Last year a former Soldier named Ken Aden ran for office as a democrat in Arkansas. He falsely claimed for years to have been a Green Beret. After being hounded by real Green Berets who tracked down that documents proved he was lying, he finally admitted it and backed out of the race.
One democrat’s response? “It is better to vote for the worst Democrat than the best Republican,” [Pope County Justice of the Peace Gordon Thornsberry] said. “America will be ahead. I’m giving people permission to vote for ’ol Aden.”
Well, damn. The left keeps insisting they’re serious about defense. They cherish the military. They play videos about their love for the military at national conventions. They claim to have the utmost respect for our troops. And then they blindly defend lying losers like Hillary Clinton, Richard Blumenthal and Ken Aden. They don’t call out those who make up pathetic falsehoods about military service for political gain. They give people who pretend they’d never leave a man behind a pass for abandoning warriors in battle.
When I say I’m trying to stay moderate, I mean it. Many of my relatives are democrats. Some of them served in WW2. I served with democrats in Iraq and Afghanistan. They can’t all think what happened in Benghazi doesn’t matter.
I refuse to join either party because die-hard democrats and republicans are like warring ethnic groups in the Balkans. Their party is totally innocent and always has been. The other side is pure evil and always wrong. I can’t deal with people who refuse to acknowledge what’s wrong on their side and right on the other. So, all you minions who are blindly standing behind Clinton just because she’s a democrat, get this: I don’t hate her guts because I’m republican. I’m not republican. I don’t hate her guts because she’s a democrat. There are good democrats.
I hate her guts because I’m a soldier who pledged my life to defend my country and my people. I knew I might die carrying out that pledge. But I also knew that no matter what happened, no matter where in the world I was, my country would move heaven and earth to save me. I knew that brave men and women would accept the risk, gear up and march toward the sound of my guns.
When men who were hit, bleeding and scared called on me to come to their aid, I did it. If I was hit, bleeding and scared and screaming for help, I knew someone else would be there. That’s not bravery or heroism, and it damn sure isn’t politics. It’s a promise.
On the morning of September 12th, 2012, two very brave former SEALs called in that promise. They had more than lived up to their end of it. They had every reason to believe their call would be answered.
What arrived in Benghazi? Nothing. No teams of Special Forces. No low-flying fighters. No helicopters. Nothing but mortar rounds, fired by insurgents who were absolutely unchallenged.
When I imagine Hillary Clinton with the phone in her hand listening to reports about the Benghazi attack, I can see the “This is going to make us look bad before the election” thought bubble. I don’t see her saying, “Do whatever you have to in order to keep our people safe.”
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe Mrs. Clinton is still so traumatized by sniper fire that she froze when she heard about the Benghazi attack. Maybe she actually had a crystal ball or Gypsy fortune teller on her staff who looked into the future and told her, “The attack will end in exactly seven and a half hours. Don’t bother sending help.” Maybe the talking points were translated by an Eritrean Foreign Exchange intern who inadvertently removed all references to terrorism. Maybe Susan Rice just decided on her own to appear on five talk shows and say, “All this crap was caused by a video.” Maybe.
But there’s also this possibility: Hillary Clinton is a lying party hack who cared more about democrat reelection chances than the lives of former SEALs Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods. Whether you’re democrat, republican, independent, libertarian or whatever, that should bother you as much as it does me.
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Tags: benghazi, hillary clinton