Nick responds in a way that I will never forget and in a way that I will not repeat here.
Just about the time that incident is resolved another call comes over the radio requesting my presence on the north side of the target house. As I approach I see Eric, Nathan, and our interpreter standing over the boy who I shot earlier. He is still breathing, in fact he is talking. As I kneel down to assess his wounds I ask the interpreter what he is saying. I notice that he has more than just two holes in him. He was hit from multiple shooters.
For some reason I now feel less responsible for his situation. The interpreter says that the kid is 14 and came to Iraq from Saudi Arabia. I asked him what he is doing in Iraq. As long as I live I will never forget his response.
“I have come here to kill Americans!”
“Then why did you run?”
“There are too many.”
“How did you get here?”
“They paid me to come.”
“What would your parents think if they knew that you were here?”
“They would be proud.”
Without hesitation I turn and walk away. I have the power to help and decide to do nothing. To this day I have yet to fully process this decision. Guilt, shame, ambivalence? I don’t know to feel about it. I am not sure what emotion to affix to such an event. I know that he lived because of the efforts of one of our other medics but I did nothing. A fact that keeps me up some nights still.
As I walk back to the target house I see the severed head of the suicide bomber, fully intact. It doesn’t even phase me, I just walk by it.
Once back in the house I link up with my friends from first squad. They have just finished searching the house for any possible links to other insurgent cells in the area.
The place is an absolute mess. I notice something that I can’t help but laugh about. At the feet of one of the dead terrorist lay a couple of bottles of a 7UP knock-off drink called CHEER UP. I pick it up and Matt takes a quick picture. Someone cracks a joke:
“Feeling down about getting blown the Fuck up?? Have a refreshing glass of CHEER UP!”
Josh takes a bottle back to the states and uses its contents to make mixed drinks in his barrack room.
Just as we are calling for ex-fill a call comes over the radio. We are getting an add-on mission. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has allegedly just been seen entering a chemical warehouse less than a hundred miles away. We make our way back to the ex-fill point and wait for the Black Hawks to return. As we wait a thermobaric bomb is dropped, courtesy of an A-10, on the target house which on that night served as a crucible for 1st platoon, erasing it from existence but never from our memory.