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“Engineer Up”

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It was hot, 130 degrees hot, and it was the day 3/25 Lima Company launched our kinetic battle in al Anbar, Iraq. My squad had been staged on sun bleached sand dunes for hours feeling the shock wave of bombs dropping on the nearby city of insurgents. The only thing more powerful than the bombs was the searing sun that baked through bulletproof vests and dirty camouflaged uniforms. Desert wind is like a blow dryer, it pulled sweat from our faces leaving thick layers of dust.

The only thing clean was our weapons. Mine was a glistening black 24 year old 249SAW machine gun affectionately called Daisy. She was a burdensome best friend. Everyone was cleaning dust from their rifles and you could hear the mechanical clanking of bolts sporadically racking a bullet into a worn but clean chamber. And the copper coated lead zipping towards us through the baking air made a whizzing laser sound in our ears. We were impatient… and hot.

The assault began with a 500 yard sprint over scorched and blindingly bright desert. A couple Iraqi Special Forces soldiers and I carried a car frame into the road to block car bombs from reaching our position. The metal from the frame was so hot it blistered our hands. The first building we came to was a small house made of mud coated stone, and the doors were all locked. Getting in was my responsibility and I had a key that would open any lock. Each Marine Engineer carries 20 pounds of plastic explosives and ten igniters that look like green tubes; mine were in the top left pouch of my vest. You pull a ring at the top of the tube that sets off a fuse and in four seconds a sharp cracking explosion opens the door. Our guns were up as we went in.

We had a foothold in the city and it was time to let the other Marines catch up with us. They had been slowed by a small focused group of Syrian fighters and their conversation was crackling and deafening. Iraqi houses are like brick ovens, soaking up the sun’s heat in the walls, cooking everything inside, at least I could take off my heavy helmet. I wore a sweat soaked bandana with Psalm 91 printed on it. That do-rag protected me more than layers of Kevlar and 15 pound plates of bulletproof ceramic. I kept it on.

Every Marine wishes they could have their battles recorded. Why I don’t know, we would never need a .mpeg file to remember those times. Maybe it’s for the sons we’ll have after we leave this scorched evil part of earth. Maybe it would provide an unneeded proof that we were at war after the years pass and make it seem like a dream. Regardless I snap a picture, put on my gear, and look at the next building… I wonder if the door is locked.

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