The Sailor's Stories

1012 Chapter twelve – The Sailor’s Awakening.

with 2 comments

The lighter opened with that, very distinctive…, shhlink. The thumb stroked the wheel twice, before that dark yellow flame ignited. A flame that was brought up to kiss the tip of Virginia’s finest, casting a weak shadow on the back door. The first draw yielded a strong ember and as it was exhaled I let out a long…

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh….”

I hadn’t had a cigarette in five years, I had quit when the boys arrived, but the last few weeks had taken their toll. It was late, the sun having long since gone down. The boys were in bed, asleep, tuckered out from the day. After our talk, Carl and I had walked hand in hand back to the house. When he got there he rushed into the arms of Dale. The embrace was heartfelt and loving. I had told them to go have some alone time and they were still in each others arms as I came down to get this fix.

“Those things will kill you…, you know that right.”

“Yeah…, about as much as sneaking up on an old friend.”

“You heard me coming?”

“Not until you came round the side of the house.”

“Shit…, must be losing my edge.”

“That’s what sitting behind a desk does to you, Doug.”

I turned to face my old friend, he hadn’t changed a great deal, he was still strong and lean. Though his hair had gone from a deep brown, to a grey streaked brown. I hadn’t seen him in four years, not since he had taken up the role, of Commander of the SEAL CRT School.

“Gimme one?”

“Sure pal…” I said as I handed him the pack and the lighter. “What brings you my way sailor?”

“Just in the neighbourhood…”

“That’s bullshit…, in fact that transcends bullshit.”

“Ok you got me, can’t a guy come visit his friend?”

I reached out to take back the pack, and motioned him towards a chair…

“How are the kids doing?”

“Just fine…, there’s three of them now…”

“Ah what…?”

I spent the next ten or so minutes going over the last few weeks, I even told him about Dale and Carl. He just sat there and took it all in. I don’t know why, but it felt kinda good to unload. Especially to someone I had known for so long. I flicked my third cigarette onto the lawn, as I finished my tale…

“Fuck…, shit…., Jesus…, they’re so young.” Said Doug, reaching out for the pack again.

“Tell me about it! I have a hard enough time believing it myself, but there is no denying how they feel about each other.”

We sat there for a little while longer, the burning tip of the cigarette, the only light illuminating us. It was reminiscent of the several times both home and abroad, that we had done this. I can’t say if we communicated, but we were certainly in tune. After several more minutes, Doug broke the silence…

“Jaime Patterson is dead.”

“What? … Jaime? No.”

Lt James Patterson, had been my replacement as commander of Team 14. He had taken over after I had left. He was a good friend…, we had worked together several times, and he had saved my life more times than I could count…

“Yeah…, Afghanistan. Went looking for a training camp, and walked into a serious shitstorm. He was the only one not to make it out.”

“Who’s taking over?”

“Why…, you want the job?” He said, with a sideways glance.

“Doug you know I can’t, I just want to know that’s all.”

“I know, but I couldn’t help asking. Don’t worry it has been taken care of.”

We both sort of went quiet after that. I couldn’t help but miss Jaime, he was a good man…, I remember one time, we had been doing recon in the Afghan hills….

Through my binoculars, I looked out at the enemy. By my count the insurgents were at least company strength. To make matters worse I had already counted enough looted tanks and support vehicles to make another. My Team was nestled in the outcrops, having dug in along a small hilltop. From our perch we could see quite clearly out over the plains to the east and south. For two days we had made good progress, as we moved silently through the crags and outcroppings of the mountain range. Though, ever vigilant of danger, we had met nothing untoward on the trail. I crawled back from the edge leaving CPO Andy Semper, our team’s sniper, on watch.

“How’s it looking boss?” Lt JG Jaime Patterson said as he handed me a freshly brewed steaming mug of coffee.

“Not good, that’s how, the army boys are going to shit bricks when they hear about this.” I took the mug and sat down reaching for the radio. “No point delaying the inevitable, eh?”

I fiddled with the dials, but I was no radio man, though McGhill was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him. Finally giving up in frustration, I woke the boy.

“What the…, who the hell is…., oh sorry boss.” PO2 Mike McGhill mumbled as he transitioned to fully awake.

“It’s alright sailor, keep it down. I need you to get me a secure link to shadow base.”

“Yeah ok, sure thing sir.” McGhill twirled a few dials then handed over the handset, “All yours.”

“Good man…, go back to sleep.”

McGhill was asleep before his head hit his improvised pillow.

“Hello…, Wolf lead to Shadow base? Wolf lead to Shadow base?”

“Shadow base to Wolf lead, authenticate please?”

“Wolf lead to Shadow base…, ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”

“Authenticator accepted Wolf lead, what can we do for you?”

“I need to talk to the Shadow lead.”

“Very well, reconnect on this channel in one five minutes, confirm?”

“Confirmed Shadow base, Wolf lead out.”

“Hello Wolf lead, this is Shadow base.., do you copy?”

“Go ahead Shadow base, this is wolf lead.”

“Wolf lead, stand by or Shadow lead”

“Roger that…”

“Wolf this is Shadow, what’s the situation?”

“Situation is…, perilous to say the least shadow. Recommend forces insufficient.”

“Calm down Wolf…, what’s the count son?”

“Count is in excess of forty plus plus…, four zero…”

“Confirm count Wolf?”

“Count confirmed Shadow. We are bugging out, we’ll keep eyes on for as long as we can, and try to delay

where possible. Eta home patch around dinner time.”

“Understood Wolf, good hunting Son.”

We waited for about another thirty minutes, then packed our gear, when the insurgents began to move towards the pass. We set up several moving ambushes that afternoon, but each time the enemy got closer to us, and things were getting hairy. As I praised God’s name for the fourth time that afternoon, the large rock that I had only just been using for shelter blew apart, showering the immediate area in blackened sharp stony shrapnel. Slowing them down is one thing, I thought to myself, getting killed in the process is quite contra to the long and happy life I have planned!

The insurgents had made it to the pass, where the scout team had been prepping charges for the last hour, and were beginning to scour the sides with patrols. I took a quick look out from behind a new outcropping; the enemy were spreading out to make better use of the surrounding cover. This posed a greater problem for our ten man team, as we couldn’t hope to cover the now spreading line. As an insurgent sprinted between two large rocks, I sprayed off a quick burst from my M4.  At that moment my earpiece chirped…

“All charges set and ready Boss!”

“Right! Pull back by twos, bounding cover!”

As the team started to move back, several of the looted tanks poked their noses into the pass. The flash and the deep roar of the main guns, as they fired filled the pass with riotous echoes, making it hard to hear the foot soldiers, not to mention scaring the shit out of us. Professionals to the last though, we held our ground, long enough for each pair to slip a little further back. At a thousand yards from the ridgeline, I ordered the charges be detonated.  Having taken advantage of our apparent retreat, the insurgents had advanced quite a way up the sides of the pass. When the charges went off, around twenty of the enemy were caught in the killzone. Like I had almost been earlier, bodies were shredded as rocks and outcroppings exploded and expanded outwards. The valley side had become a charnel house of death and destruction. There was no respite for our team however, as several more of the enemy streamed in to fill the gaps in the line,

“It’s like an unholy unstoppable tide of death!” McGhill yelled over the radio.

“FALL BACK, FALL BACK! COVER FIRE!” I Screamed.

“The mouth of the pass is a mess, at least the tanks aren’t going anywhere for a while.”

“Jaime…, you are a master of the understatement…, lets go!”

We broke cover as one firing from the hip, three insurgents went down. Skidding behind the stump of a long outcrop, we both popped shots from cover, as the next two men broke cover. On and on it went, and we almost got away with it…, almost. On the fifth run, I dove for cover. Thinking I had landed in a puddle, I wiped the wet off of my face, when I looked at my hand I saw deep crimson. My heart sank as I looked down into the eviscerated body of CPO Tom Jansen. Screaming with rage, I picked up my friends weapon.

With an M4 in each hand I turned and loosed the last of the clips at the line of insurgents behind me. One went down, the others simply ducked.

“This is no good,” I said into my headset. “Run! Try and get Back to Shadow Base, I’ll hold them off as long as I can.”

Replacing both clips I propped the M4’s against the fallen stone I was sheltering behind and fired. Bright yellow streaks of hot tracers streamed through the valley, as the rest of the team fired a quick volley in retreat. Waiting as long as I dared, I dropped a white phos grenade into the chest cavity of my fallen comrade, silently intoning a prayer for the fallen as I broke and ran. I didn’t make it far; you know they say that you always hear the one that gets you…, load of bullshit. I was running, then I was falling, and that is all I remember of being shot. I came too, a minute or two later, to find myself being dragged into cover, by Jaime…

“I told you to run!”

“So you did…, funny, can’t have heard you, you know how crap these ear pieces are.” He said smiling down at me. “Andy two at ten, I can’t get the angle.”

We heard two shots, then “Two down, your clear to the next to next ridge.”

“Come on.” He said, as he reached down, picked me up, and threw me over his shoulder.

We made it back to Shadow, only to be evacuated shortly after. The Army only had a light platoon in the area, and it was deemed too much of a risk to engage. A few days later, two companies from the 4th division, and a platoon of tanks went in to clean up what we had left behind. All they found was the evidence of the battle. I spent the next six weeks in hospital, then four months to get me fitness and movement back…

“Where are you staying?”

“Hadn’t thought that far ahead, actually.” Doug said, grinning at me.

“Well I’m wiped out…, you know where the couch is.”

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Written by bigct/Octavius

November 26, 2009 at 11:43

2 Responses

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  1. Intense reading! Thanks!

    biki

    November 27, 2009 at 23:04

  2. Whew! Pretty intense. But, then war stories are that way.

    I hate it when the blood of a friend is right in front of you.

    I will never forget the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

    What a gut-wrenching scene, and or the most part pretty much reality.

    We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan anyway.

    I spent three years active duty in the Army. Thank God, I never had to shoot another human being. That would really have sucked.
    –carlitos

    carlitos

    August 23, 2010 at 03:03


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