Jim felt that the sun was unbearably hot today. His army fatigues was sticking to him like glue, among other things. Sand fleas seem to really relish his flesh today. He could not wait to shower tonight. Hopefully it would be a nice hot shower. The water tanks back at the barracks sometimes yielded hot water sometimes not. Since his deployment to Iraq, hot showers were one of the things he missed the most. It was as though he tried to wash away not only the dirt and grime but also everything unpleasant he had experienced throughout the day.
Today he and his squad of about twelve were assigned to the voting polls. The building and the surrounding area had to be secured so that the Iraqi people could come to vote. The ride into the villages always frayed his nerves. He was riding in the Humvee with his best friend and confidant, “Josh the Man.” That is how Josh always referred to himself. He would always say, “I’m the Man, send me, I’ll go, I’m Josh the Man.” He truly was fearless and when you were around him, his confidence was infectious. When Jim first met Josh he did not like him, he thought Josh was a braggart and overly cocky. But the guy just grew on you. If he seemed pushy, his pushiness would push something out of you that you did not know about yourself, good or bad.
Jim hated these convoys, it seemed to him that they were just sitting ducks right out in the open with a bull’s-eye on their backs. Everyday they heard reports of sniper fire and roadside bombs that either wounded or took the lives of soldiers. His training had taught him to always be vigilant and alert, but his gut wanted him to stay out of harms way.
Josh had taken the wheel today claiming that he knew this road like the back of his hand. Now he was asking Jim something about what he wanted to do with his life.
“What did say you man?” Jim asked, shouting so he could be heard above the engines of the Humvees.
“I said, what are your plans when you return to the states?”
“Oh, I hope to finish school and go back to track and field so that I can start competing again. Then I hope to marry the most beautiful girl in the world, who happens to be my fiancé.”
“Hey man, don’t just hope, make it happen.” Josh said. “Don’t let this little inconvenience get you off course. Do what you have to do to realize your dreams.”
“What about you? What are your plans?” asked Jim.
“I’m already doing it, I planned years ago to be of service to people, what better place than to be in the Army, serving God and country. I love it! I look at everyday as an adventure and even if it’s my last day I love living everyday without regrets.” Jim could see that about Josh, he really did love life.
The convoy ahead of them had come to a stop and Jim could feel his insides tighten. Sniper fire had struck the driver in the first truck. As the men from the truck tried to pull the injured driver to safety there was a barrage of gunfire that hit several more men. Josh jumped down from their Humvee and shouted to Jim to cover him as he ran toward the truck that was under fire. Jim started firing his M-16 towards the hills where the sniper fire was coming from.
Josh pulled three men to safety behind the wheels of a Humvee. As Jim and the other soldiers returned the fire, one of the bolder insurgents showed himself and started running towards them firing all the while. Josh saw him and he ran into the open to draw the gunfire away from the wounded. Jim tried to follow to cover Josh but the rebel stepped on a land mine and the explosion took him and Josh. Jim was covered in his friend’s blood. The battle that ensued felt surreal. Jim’s mind was on autopilot, he had to rely on his training to function. The words “make it happen” kept echoing in his head. He wanted that future he had hoped for.
In the end the Americans won that skirmish with the lost of only one, the one who always ran towards the fight. Thankfully, that night the showers were hot.
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