“Wrap it up boys, we’re moving!” shouted one of the leaders on the ground.

“P” had grabbed up Kopps’ assault bag full of ammo and took up a position in front of me.  The men from Kopps’ machine gun squad proceeded to carry him out.  With two tourniquets wrenched tightly on his upper thigh, still losing blood and occasionally drifting in and out of consciousness, the team waded through the ravine.  I placed myself behind the men, ensuring that if anyone were to ambush us from our six o’clock, I would either take the round or eliminate the threat.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, the type of feeling you get when you’re walking in the dark by yourself as a child lingered over me.  I was completely exhausted, I hadn’t eaten a good meal in almost a week.  My muscles were tightening up in my lower back and legs as I tried to stay as low as I could in the water, as the incoming rounds snapped overhead and impacted the muddy walls a few feet from my face.

I had accepted the fact that I was probably going to die.  For some reason I didn’t care anymore, I was more frustrated than anything else.  I couldn’t stand watching my guys get hit and scream; the sound of them screaming was blood-curdling.

Every few feet we had to move in the water, the men carrying Kopp would have to submerge him completely.  I remember seeing the color of his skin turn pale and the guys trying to keep him awake.  Rage and emotion came over me to a point where I almost couldn’t control it. I heard him continuing to talk back to his mates, curse out of frustration because he wasn’t in the fight, and apologize for getting hit.  I knew Rangers were tough men, but this was a level of toughness I hadn’t seen before.  I felt as if I couldn’t move fast enough through the thick mud at the bottom of the ravine.  With every leg movement I made, it felt as if I was carrying 200 pounds of equipment.

“Come on bro, we got this shit,” P shouted at me as he looked back, struggling to swim in the now chest and neck-deep water.

I could hear the rounds impacting behind and overhead, snapping trees limbs.  The men carrying Kopp had it the worst.  They were not able to engage, and carrying well over 1,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, only relying on myself and “P” to engage enemy for them as we made our way 300 meters to a safe house.

If it weren’t for the amount of training and the daily 6-8 mile runs, weekly “long” runs, and monthly 15-18 mile ruck runs, I’m not sure any of us would have made it.