Reporting Afghanistan

John Wendle

The Rush

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Suddenly the air is glowing with energy. Guys start huffing adrenaline out of their gaping mouths in neon bubbles.
The shooting keeps going and these young soldiers start bursting from nowhere. Like electrons released from the pull of a nucleus.

Flashing out of their rooms, into the command center in all kinds of battle-rattle – and out again.

Flashing into a beam of sunlight – climbing up a ladder, through a hole and onto the roof.

Bursting into the sun on the porch.

One runs out dressed only in shorts, black wraparound shades, a grease-stained flak vest and a belt of bulbous, gold-tipped M-203 grenade rounds bouncing on his skinny hips.

Others come out in helmets rimmed in white crusts of sweat like a shot of tequila you’d never want to drink – the residue of 12 months of long haul foot patrols in 110 degree heat.

Flip-flops snap and crack as guys run over the dirty concrete floor, shouting questions and orders in breathless inhales. Eyes wide like they can’t get enough air fast enough.

Sprinting over the yard of crushed gravel and dented, dirt colored armored vehicles – they are frozen in my pictures – suspended inches above the ground, toes pointed, calves flexed for the next stride, mouths open shouting for friends, or to fuck off and find your own spot.

The .50 cal up on the roof of the old Japanese school we’ve infested starts jack-hammering – pounding heavy rounds out into Afghanistan. They shatter branches, leaves – and maybe even bodies out in the shaggy rows of the pomegranate orchards.
Up on a shooting platform the young kids in their ruined body armor and Army Strong tee-shirts smile and grimace all at the same time while, slack mouthed, they stare down the scopes of their rifles, through hoops of sun-hot barbwire, in search of targets to engage in the dark green shade of the bush.

All around the roof and platform monologues and dialogues whisper and shout like the rounds passing overhead as stories of close calls and an end to boredom are passed around like cigarettes.

“…I was racked out, laying in my cot, listening to music, thinking about masturbating, then r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rrrrraaaatat tat tat tat a tat tat….fuck you, mother fuckers…”

“…Fuck. Adrenaline rush. Best fucking drug ever…”

“…Can only keep our fingers crossed that it keeps up like this till we go home…”

“…Just like the good old days.”

“I couldn’t count how many rounds. Somebody just let loose. Fucking pussies. I swear to fucking God I hate it when they fucking run. This country has nothing but bitches in it…”

“…It was from the northeast. I want to say September. I was, fucking, behind the Mark-19 and, fucking, I’m like this, and all of a sudden I hear whmmm…duh! and it hits the sandbag right next to the Mark-19 and the dirt from inside the sandbag hits my face. I’m like, oh, hell no. And then, the second shot was from a little further away but it was closer to me. Hits the sandbag. And I was like, ‘yo, I don’t want to be on this fucker anymore.’ I had to get out. I’d had enough. I couldn’t focus after that. I was just smoking cigarette after cigarette in a corner on the roof…”

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Written by johnwendle

August 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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