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Dust, danger, death
Staff Sergeant Ruben Villas was spitting mad, all 6 foot, 4 inches of him. Villas
and two members of his crew in Able Company were back from their 16 hour duty in Kadhimain, a medium sized city just north of Baghdad.
The tall, angry Army sergeant and his two buddies, Pfc. Jonas Shields and Spc. Franklin Borse were miserably tired as they leaned
against the battered hulk of a wrecked Humvee. The three tired and dust covered men and 2 dozen of their Army comrades had been sent
to Kadhimain to stanch an attack on the local police force headquarters by members of a well-trained terrorist group believe to be
Al –Qaeda trained and equipped.
The trio had just returned to their company
base in the countryside east of Baghdad city. Alpha base was reasonably safe from terrorist attack as it was situated on high ground
and under the protection of a constant patrolling assemblage of soldiers, abetted by motion detectors and highly trained dogs.
The filth and grime of the battle covered every inch of the three from the top of their helmets to the tips of their worn ankle boots.
They hadn’t had time or the energy to head for the showers and some fresh uniforms.
Sergeant Villas, born and raised in Inglewood, California, a veteran of 2 previous tours in Iraq, took the last puff of his cigarette,
threw it down and crushed it with his left foot. Pfc. Shields was still wide-eyed and shaking from his first brush with an enemy.
He had arrived in Iraq only a week before he was thrown into battle against the well-trained foe. Shields was a skinny 145 pounds
for his 6 foot height. The heat didn’t bother him as much as it did the others as he grew up in muggy Ocala, Florida. Spc. Franklin
Borse was the shortest of the three, barely reaching 5 foot 4 inches. Borse was from Beloit, Wisconsin and had joined the Army after
dropping out of high school as a sophomore to work in his friend’s auto body shop. His life was going nowhere when he decided to join
up at age 19. The oppressive daily heat and humidity was similar to the hottest days of summers in Wisconsin.
The three were downing their second beers when Villas angrily kicked at the dirt in front of him and said, “Ya know, I signed up for
this man’s army and I knew what it meant. I’d be going to this f---ing hell hole and fighting these terrorist sonsabitches. I knew
it would be hot and sweaty and I knew it would be f---ing dangerous, but I’ll be f---ed if I thought that our own government would
be sitting there in Washington and those assholes would be debating whether or not to send us help to defeat these muthers.”
Shields and Borse were surprised by the loud, raging outburst from Villas, although they knew he was a crusty, irritable, opinionated
Villas took a long swig and emptied his bottle of beer. He turned
his back on Shields and Borse and slammed his right palm flat against the fender of the Humvee. He was clearly overtired and mean-
“Can you f---ing imagine that those sonsabitches in our own government
in Washington are actually debating whether to f---ing vote on a resolution against the f---ing President’s decision to send more
troops to help us here in this f---ing hell-hole of a hotbox.”
The skinny Shields,
nearing his first anniversary in the Army, attempted to cool down his bitter sergeant, “Hell, I know what you mean Sarge, seems as
though those politicians in Washington are just lookin’ for votes. They know that this friggin’ war is unpopular with most Americans,
so they wanna act as though they’re against it too, so everyone will vote for them, but they don’t want to look like they’re not supporting
us, so they came up with this bullshit referendum that don’t mean a thing.”
Villas stiffened at his buddy’s explanation and said, “Well, it f---ing means something to me. I don’t care what they call it. Just
seems to me that those bastards in Washington should either give us everything we want to win this f---ing war or, if them and the
President don’t think we can win, then pull us the hell out of the f---ing place and let these suckers fight among themselves. This
is my third tour in this damn dusty, dirty, crap place and I haven’t seen much of an improvement over my first tour here. So, I say,
let’s blow up everyplace we think a terrorist or anyone fighting us is and let’s clean this place up. If we’re not going to do it
that way then let’s haul our asses out of here and go home. I’ve lost too many of my buddies in this joint, including my brother,
an uncle and my best friend.”
Spc. Borse had taken in the conversations
of his two mates, but had not added a word until he said, “Let’s face it, men, part of the reason we’re here is because America doesn’t
know how to fight a war like this and America doesn’t want to admit defeat. We came here because of lies and dumb f---ing information.
I’ll give that Bush credit – he doesn’t give up. Problem is we don’t belong here and nobody knows how to get us out and still make
it look like we won this f---ing war. I, personally, don’t think we can ever win here.”
Shields, removed his helmet, wiped his forehead and answered, “I wonder how those f---ing politicians would vote if they had to live
for a month in this dusty, dirty goddam place against those shadows firing at us. What do you think they’d say if they lost a few
of their friends or brothers to those f---ing IED roadside bombs. We’re not fighting armies or tanks, we’re fighting shadows and ghosts
and people who don’t mind dying. Think of those assholes, not minding if they die or not. We’re good at fighting armies, not ghosts.
We can’t tell the f---ing difference between our friends or our enemies.”
Villas, who grew up in one of the most dangerous, gang-infected areas of southern California, placed his empty bottle of beer back
in the case next to the cooler and took a moment to look at this two buddies. He looked in the eyes of Borse, then Shields. A slight
grin grew on his face. He was dead tired. Tired of the long days. Tired of the close encounters with death. Tired of the dirty, choking
air. He longed to be home. To be safe again. Anyplace was better than this f---ing evil place.
He put an arm around each of his buddies and said, “Men, let’s go wash up and get some grub. And let’s hope that tomorrow those f---ing
guys in Washington will figure out a way to get us back home. I’m tired.”