(Dedication for this write goes to our SOFREP family sister Ms. Charlotte)
Preface: my recent 36-day stay in the hospital began with an emergency surgery that left my entire abdomen open for a period of 3 days before surgeons were satisfied with the disposition of my sepsis to close my abdomen.
Following surgery, I remained unconscious for just over 14 days in Intensive Care. I recall those 14 days in a spotty fashion surviving in a parallel world of dreams overlapping reality and a bout of events that I will only describe as hallucinations due to their stronger-than-normal realism as they existed and executed in my subconscious.
Such was the power and realism of these hallucinations that I remember distinctly that, as they grew increasingly bizarre, I dreaded the possibility that they would overpower my sense of reality once I regained consciousness back into the “real world.” 14 days is a long time to pass in a parallel world, especially for someone like me who on a least one occasion gave zero fucks and challenged the hereafter… the meta-world where there was no tunnel capped by the bright beacon and loving, coaxing gesture… sorry real world for compromising the end if you were reading the book.
There exists a cluster of notes produced at the first opportunity beyond the unconscious realm, notes that I scrawled at the firm recommendation of my brother and author of the book, “A Tale of the Grenada Raiders Memories in the Idioms of Dreams,” Stephen Trujillo.
The following then, is an account of the time as it passed across the 17 days of surgery and subsequent recovery in ICU, with as much detail and chronology as I can muster. Not every line will be believable, as it should not all be believable, that which ultimately lurks just below the cranium, in the very delicate threshold of the subconscious.
…and in passing there came a unique and fanciful weapon system that was brainstormed and brought to fruition by the brothers of the Delta Force. It was a 120mm mortar that was fixed on a huge donut-shaped ring ~10 feet in diameter, painted a drab desert tan color.
The “mortar ring” was (of course) largely computer-controlled with an internal set of weights and ballast that shifted under computer command to establish vertical balance as well as forward momentum. The system was slow to head up steam, but at cruising speed was an equivalent to a brisk jog, all of which was not a miraculous feat for a CPU of only MIPS (millions of instructions per second) capacity, a modest morsel by today’s computing standards.
I was selected by Delta in our forward base to accompany this weapon system as it rolled toward several enemy positions on the Iraqi front lines. I would go alone due to a manpower shortage. Singleton operations are far and few, if not completely non-existent under the circumstances. Delta neither followed “the book” nor even read the book; Delta wrote the book as it went, turning page after page. “Be part of the book or merely serve the book,” I always said. I was only too pleased to add a page-yeah!
“Any hesitations to taking on this task, geo… it is not a long-distance venture and will be under near-constant overwatch,” the head shop queried. “Oh, not at all; I only regret that I am not Nathan Hale,” I responded. The history-keen in the room grinned, while the history-challenged frowned. Grin or frown, I was going and soon. One foot in front of the other is all its about, just like Selection in West Virginia. That’s all there really was to getting through any adverse situation, I always maintained.
I would be following the weapon system as designed by the brothers of the Unit specifically for this fight in the desert against Iraqi aggression during the second invasion of Iraq. It served as self-propelled mobility when vertical, as well as a stable firing platform when horizontal flat to the ground.
The mortar system was programmed to roll toward the front lines, navigating itself smartly by way of Global Positioning Systems (GPS). It was fed constant targeting data, and, once within striking distance of a viable target, would flop itself flat down on the sandy ground prepared for a fire mission.
The gun tube of the mortar ring laid flat on the starboard (right) side of the ring when in traveling configuration, and was mounted breech down in the center “X-Ring” of the system. Once the weapon laid itself flat to the ground, the gun tube would flip up to a firing position ready to adjust fire on a target.
Behind us was a drone trailer that served as a limber chest toting ammunition for the mortar ring. It was programmed to follow the beacon on the mortar ring at all cost. Ammunition was stripped of all shipping packaging and ready to fire in the limber chest. All that was needed was to cut to the proper charge and drop the rounds down the muzzle of the mortar tube.
That was one of the main reasons why I was sent along to supplement the mortar ring. There had to be a live body to cut charges* and drop the rounds down the tube. The other major feat that had to be accomplished was to lift the mortar ring from its flat firing configuration back to its travel mode on the edge of the ring.
There was a jack attached to the limber chest, but it was always a challenge to stabilize and support the jack such that it could successfully recover the mortar ring to its travel configuration. The task was back-breaking work which took a resourceful and spirited man of conviction to accomplish. The mortar ring could catch its balance anywhere less than 15 degrees off of vertical center line.
If the mortar ring was compromised it would quickly and easily self-destruct its vital components. I would then escape and evade myself back to the Forward Operating Base (FOB). The limber chest too would destruct, an event that was best observed at several hundred meters distance.
Drones flew over periodically to check on the progress of the rolling mortar ring with me jogging briskly 100 feet behind it, assault rifle either at port in my two hands, or shoulder slung when I was getting tired. The drone was able to jettison a small 10lb payload to me when needed. For the most part it was bottles of water. It could just as easily drop ammunition if I was in a running gunfight post the destruction of the mortar and limber. Sometimes there in the cargo mix were sappy messages from my bros at the forward support base.
(drawing courtesy of author)
I always increased my pace and tightened up my posture just a bit as I looked up and waved to the passing drone. It never failed to wing-walk in acknowledgment to my greeting. It was after all, my boys and the command having a peek at how I was faring in the head and under a light combat load. I resumed my slouch and trudge once the drone was beyond eyeshot.
I could electronically pause the mortar ring’s travel with a remote controller. I did so when I felt I was being overcome by heat and exhaustion from the constant running. Nobody I was aware of could endure that measure of running through a blistering desert like I was expected too, but it was well-known that a Delta man would keep up the run, like a barking Retriever, until his heart exploded.
It was mildly entertaining and even a tad creepy watching the mortar ring twist and turn its way as it selected the easiest route through the topography; it looked just a bit human as it moved. I spent the rest of the time with my head hung staring at my exhausted boots as they picked themselves up and put themselves down for an eternity.
By God and with honor,
(continued in part two)
Featured photo courtesy of Wikipedia