“You can shoot her…” the First Sergeant tells me. “Technically.”
We’re standing on a rooftop watching black smoke pillars rise from a section of the city where two of my teammates are taking machine gun fire. Below, the small cluster of homes we’ve taken over is taking sporadic fire as well. He hands me his rifle with a high powered scope and says, “See for yourself.”
It’s the 6-year-old girl who gives me flowers.
We call her the Flower Girl. She hangs around our combat outpost because we give her candy and hugs. She gives us flowers in return. What everyone else at the outpost knew (except for me until that day) was that she also carried weapons for insurgents. Sometimes during the midst of a firefight, she would carry ammunition across the street to unknown assailants. According to the Rules of Engagement, we could shoot her. No one ever did. Not even when the First Sergeant morbidly reassured them on a rooftop in the middle of Iraq.
Other soldiers didn’t end up as lucky.
Sometimes they would find themselves paired off against a woman or teenager intent on killing them. So they pulled the trigger. One of sniper teams I worked with recounted an evening where he laid up a pile of people trying to plant an IED. It was a “turkey shoot” he told me laughing. But then he got quiet and said, “Eventually they sent out a woman and this dumb kid.” I didn’t need to ask what happened. His voice said it all.
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Image courtesy of Benjamin Sledge
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