In the beginning…God created War and Earth. Now the War was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the Earth and the spirit of God hovered over the rolling fire and ash. Then God said, “Let there be Man,” and there was Man. God saw that Man was good and He separated Man. He called the darkness “Man” and the light, “Woman.” Evening came and then morning: The First War. Then God said, “Let there be an expanse between Man and War and Earth and Woman.” And it was so. God called the expanse “Solitude.” Evening came and then morning: The Second War. Then God said, “Let the breath and the solitude be gathered into one place and dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land, “Home.” Evening came and then morning: The Third War. God said, “Let there be a continuation of My Creation” and beastly Man made love to beastly Woman. God then breathed the warrior spirit into beastly Man, making him the Son of God. Evening came and then morning: The Fourth War. God realized the sweet depth of His Creation and celebrated with fierce rage, turning Man into His Son of War. Evening came, then morning: The Fifth War. For the next Ten Thousand Years the Son of War walked the red-scorched poppy fields, his fire spread across the honeyed acid breasts of Babylon and beyond, far past the Sea of Galilee, and into the tall waters where the whispering willows cast shadows across the ford where the wild horses of Arabia ran free. In the Sixth War, God witnessed what He had created. In the dark confines of a forest deep inside middle earth, the soil ripped Man’s fabric apart, consumed him whole, grew him back and repeated the bio organic process until he had nothing left for the planet to digest. In the Seventh War, Woman cried over Man’s blood-drenched Earth of tomorrow’s bend. Man, whilst standing in the Evening’s Shade, pleading for God’s approval, sacrificed all he had left to give, his hardened soul. In the Eighth War, God looked down on His Son and His Son’s Woman and His Son’s Earth. Man in his Father’s disapproving isolation now wanders across the empty desert trails of Solitude, forever searching for the love of his Father. God blessed the Eighth War yet declared it forsaken, for on it He restlessly rested from His Creation and from Man.
The living watch themselves as the winter dawn rises. Hoping, waiting, longing for the cherry blossoms of spring to capture their soul as another fades away. Man will lean into his past only seeing what has come and now what is gone. This is where his story begins. This is where our story begins…
I feel myself gripping his cold hand as if not letting go will change the outcome. It’s as though death is the groom of every warrior, brides ready to be given away by the hands of his brothers. Bride of life, walking down the aisle to meet his Groom of death. He looks at me, tears in his eyes, unyielding. I see his daughters giggling, laughing. His wife packing lunches smiling, sighing, her eyes suggesting. I see him wrestling with his dog after a long trip, best of friends loving, confessing. His son…oh, his brave little boy…straw cowboy hat, plastic six-shooter, flannel-covered little arms around Dad, wrapping, longing, as he walks through the front door. The door which will never again open to Dad. Here he is now, my hand tightly gripping. Eyes locked on mine, forgiving. In too much pain to make an audible sound, his love sinking into this frozen desolate tundra ground. I tell him, he did good, he did better than good, don’t worry about Cynthia and the girls, they will be okay, you’ve been a great father and a better husband, I tell him I’ll make sure their hearts are taken care of, I’ll make sure his little boy remembers his father as a true grit cowboy. We hear Cynthia and her last words spoken, “If you love me…Come home, come home to me.” With his answer, as we all answer, “My love, I am home, home in the deep blue sea.” I then lie, telling him all is under control, the crew has it, we’re getting it done. He grins and I see his forty-two-year-old soul inhale, savoring creation, then slowly exhale itself back into the stardust unseen by mortal man.
He is gone and a lie, passed through my lips, was the last thing he heard. I know it was a lie, because as I gripped his hand yet to be given away, I hear over the net that two more of us are down. I’ve been in shit shows before, but never like this, and never for this long. That was the mish. Get in, get out, quit fucking about, yo-ho your way home. Home never felt so far. We cannot take a down man with us, we all know this beforehand. We know to place a charge under the body. Going against all that is right and all that we know, we keep moving. Keep fucking moving. Never. Stop. Moving. I move to the other down brides and find our living brothers heads shaking as the Groom takes their lifeless hands. “FuckThis!” We’re now nine broken-battered down from twenty unbroken-unbeatable. I’ve got a baker’s dozen of half empty mags in my tacos with five different call signs on them, in my cargo pockets another half dozen frags…not counting the last one. I have maybe eleven pounds of shit in a ten-pound dump pouch, and my CRO med bag is all but empty. My most difficult task, the most gut-wrenching part of the job, triaging priceless medical supplies to friends that need it from friends that are going to die. TMEPs is not dead until warm and dead, not here. TMEPs is bilat needle decompressions before calling it, not here. Here, the only SOP still viable…can’t fight if you can’t move. Keep fucking moving.
Love her. Love her completely. She will ravish your soul and wheel your fate. As long as you keep moving, she will never let you go. She will never stop chasing. How did we get here? Seduced, crushed, defeated…. where does our tale actually begin?
Walking into terminal two is stepping off into the deepest darkest scariest wishing well of the International Taliban Convention. Find a coin, pick it up, make a wish, all your martyrdom dreams will come true. I’ve never been in the Wild West without a wheel gun. This brothel tells me to keep my pants tight. “Barkeep, give me a shot, of something, anything, I need my lips wet.” I scan my fives and twenty-fives. And keep scanning. And keep scanning. This is the conventional international travel hub of something unconventionally bigger than a geopolitical regional event. It’s a KLE Terry party, and I was not invited. For my first-time trip here, it vibes more like the warm, viscous drip of opium running down the back of my thirsty jihadi throat. Nauseous, I should be feeling the sour sting of my over-salivated mandible joint preparing mind and body for a dynamic homeostasis ejection. Instead, this feeling presents as a dry cottonmouth stab. I can taste the chilly ride of my sworn enemy, jamming his skinny pedal into my arm, drag racing through my track smacked veins. Hyper-aggressive full body hit realization of exactly where I am. Sharp. Localized. Systemic. I want to keep moving, but I’m in a catatonic overdose, frozen in place, still scanning.
The day prior, I was told to get packed up and head out the door, en route to terminal two. I wear what I always wear for interballistic travel: DriFIT polo half-tucked into my comfy as fuck chinos with DEFCON Ones for sleds, my ever-present Braves ball cap with my matte black Savage Eighty-Ones thrown on top like the cherries they are, Sangin Instruments keeping track of global rotation, my Toor shank—far, too far—in my check bag. The wild thing about living inside the wild is seeing another wildling walking about outside the wild. Bar saloon, pharmacy, garden market, train station, airport terminal coffee shop, a fog of amnesty when brushing shoulders with another soul you’ve angrily fired lead at, and him at you. But here and now, you’re fidelis patrons of whatever facet you may both be attending, in this case, The International Taliban Convention. I see him as he sees me. Locking eyes, he and I dance with the devil as our souls become entwined once more upon this frail off duty venture. Amateurs will lock eyes and get lost there. It’s where they think the story starts and stops. The story never starts and stops. It always begins and always ends.
The story being told isn’t all in the eyes, it’s in the hands. His hands, my hands, tell of our story, of untold battle, waged against each other’s brothers, fathers, sons, brides, against each other, fighting the groom. If he looks only at my eyes, we haven’t met on the battlefield, if he looks into my eyes and then quickly makes a subtle almost instantaneous glance at my hands, I know him as a gun slinging adversary.
Any Tali-Con contender over the age of thirty, that is worth any weight class in his warrior culture, would have at some point in the ring, in his career, met the man he is encountering now at terminal two, on the field of battle. Some of the weathered elders walk with an interrupted gait, as does the man in the other corner. Some of the young bloods walk with suicidal purpose, as the other fighter once did. But they all play with untamed lions in the “Pistol Circus”. If The Greatest Show on Earth lives under a massive canopy colored blood red blended into sunset orange with dark pink elephants ready to be uncaged, then terminal two is the low-lit whisper of backstage. The closed door where the main events, the main attractions, the headliners, the circus’ most marvelous set of characters, all primp and pomp applying their baseline foundation under the heated bulb mirrors of relaxed chaos. Here we stand, inches from each other at the coffee counter. Looking with rods, only. Noticing every detail, intensely. We stand, we wait, we stand longer, we wait longer. I look over at him at the exact same instant he looks at me. I extend my right hand while pressing my left hand against my chest as an earned sign of utmost respect. Our clean hands, touch roughly, gripping firmly, “As-Salaam-Alaikum.” “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam.” I point, coffee, he hand gestures with a half-smile, repeats, “Kafe.” I hand him the honey bear. I grin because it’s a yuck of sticky. He grins back, but the grin is done uninterrupted with his superior look of my first world discomfort. I pass him a wooden stir stick piece. He hands me a cardboard hot cup protector, another apparent dig at my first world comfort pleasures. I then quickly get out a sharpie and scribble our greatest Nazarene symbol onto a brown paper napkin, folded, and slide it across the sugar infested counter to where his coffee now resides. He unfolds the cruciform in front of me and grins yet again, showing me his third world lack of dental hygiene.
I admire his humor amongst many other things but now mostly notice his complete lack of medical readiness. There in Tali-Con, two warrior poets, backstage of the circus, paper cup clank cheers and part ways, both of them adamant on making sure the other is the first to turn away. As the infidel swivels to get the final look, the true believer is already looking. His eyes, looking at hands. Boldly, “May Abraham bless your profession,” and the weathered man in weathered leather sandals simply replies, “Qad yubarik ‘ibrahim lak,” capturing one last glance in the eyes, without saying a word. Silently, “Arak fi al ramal al nnaeima.. eaduiyi al bar.” He exits stage left, the other exits right, in opposite directions they proceed. Both Men continue their long journey to the same destination. Home.
Wide open roads, two lives cross, one continues. What we do today determines our tomorrow. As the night leans heavy onto the blades of feathers, scraping across the perpetual breasts of mortality, where are we headed, where does our pavement end?
Home couldn’t be further from us at the present. Covered in my teammates cold, dried blood, I keep moving. We all keep moving. Sledging our way in knee-deep thickly packed powdered snow. Frozen legs, frozen minds. Any viable lifesaving medical equipment that could have been used, now rests as ice blocks in my pack, unusable save maybe the phantom litter, ace wraps and SAM splints none of which are truly life saving for polytrauma patients. We finally find a terrain feature that can hopefully shield our heat signatures from third gen thermal optics. Heavy breath expelled under the moonlight freezes in the ambient air. Creation silent. Keep moving, no… don’t make a fucking sound. We hear the dogs of diesel engines howling in the distance. My ATL slowly crawls to the unpaved roadside. Exfil location still far off. Overheated bodies, drenched in sweat, start to cool, hypothermia the ever present enemy when high knee exhaustion sets in. We cross the road as one organism. Weapons slung, packs tight, silence, mobility, agility is our firepower. Exfil just on the other side of this ravine, the mountain peak beyond, the frozen lakebed beyond that. Armstong, our alternate exfil, might as well be on the moon., which at the moment seems to be as big as my fist in the night sky. Yet I feel her fire walk within me, I spend a fraction of a second searching, learning, thirsting for her rush of Man’s eighth day inside our late December storm. Thrill, speed, haste, shatter before me, behind me, as waxing, waning, cursing turns to a blue leaning harvest moon. Will she not appear over me? Crawling, seeking, laying on pale fragile glass which Ten Thousand Years previously, Man formerly, was learning to grow over the hard-frozen ice of low idle disparity. Solitude, a feeling against high idle conformity. Right Now, fuck life’s beautiful poetry. Keep moving among the righteously worthy. My mind slides back into the playground of youths past, I land in my red radio flyer and hear my grandfather again. I dread telling him leaning down and letting the fear flow over me and through me is long gone. It has consumed me. This time I dread seeing his smile is lost.
Quit and fear is in every man’s heart if he pushes hard enough, if the adventure continues long enough every man will question his worthiness before crossing the line. Yet here we sit just before the myths begin to step over the fold.
“Stay Dangerous” on the tarmac reads like an OAF postcard. Handshakes, knuckle bumps, closed-fist hug slaps. Brothers in the RBE, longing for glory. On the C-130, the wooden ship of yesteryear. Here they rest, their last leg as their greatest journey gently unfolds. Strapped to the inside of the aircraft like the cargo they are. Packed up, locked in. All engaged in whatever novelty keeps their minds busy. Some read, some watch a download, some listen to music. Some just stare, far off, into the steel covered curtains of the unknown abyss. Heavy load and a short runway combination will ensure a quick swig of bourbon tastes as though it’s straight from the wooden cask, pine on the lips, cedar on the tongue, fire coals in the belly, the dark as pitch alley way of wherever it was born. Something tells them they’re going to miss that burn in but a few short blocks from their departure. Constantly living in a continued state of readiness ensures the fear remains consistently. Five-hundred-minute flight time feels like a linear line of eternity passes by in but a few short moments. First three minutes are the critical three on any high-speed fixed wing aircraft. Get altitude, climb, have an out, if engines die, find your out, keep moving.
Lord be with us, Father, our Divine protector, watch over us, as we travel and fight in your Holy Name Lord. Offering ourselves up to You so that Your glory and all You care about inside Your creation is kept under the righteousness of the worthy. Above all Father God, forgive us for our sins, our iniquities and transgressions. By Your Holy Grace cradle our families in Your hands of love. In our darkest of times, keep Satan out of our hearts and keep Your chiseled Sons of War serving in You, by You and for You.
In Heavenly Father’s name we pray,
Does He hear our plea, is the eighth day of rest over, are we still alone?
The wooden ship rocks, lists, tilts, goes zero gravity into steep pre-planned dives and tightly triples our weight in predesignated hook turns. Stay focused. Stay Sharp. Stay Mindful. These men are the tigers in the lotus, riding the lightning to none of which have traveled. Blood in, Blood out. The critical three passes and all on board take a silent sigh of relief. Only thing noticeable amongst the brotherhood seated, like that of a thirty seconds out call on the backs of hawks rolling into target, our smiles exchanged. Stoic faces show no fear, show no change of emotion. Hardened Warriors, even when together, are alone in their thoughts. The proverbial battle headdress, especially that which covers the face of emotion, is more protective than the steel it provides. It is an emotional barrier for all those who surround themselves with grief, anxiety, shame, worry, doubt. The transparent steel face garment…a psychosomatic feeling of protection, not from blood but from emotional demons. Hard lines are crossed when in transit from home port to out station. Lines most will never know, and fewer still will ever see. It is a feeling that takes decades of constant stress and attention to even take notice…then another professional lifetime to truly learn. One cannot read about it, even as it is written here, one must experience the overwhelming amount of consistency driven by something greater than one’s self. These men here and now, some sit in their bobcat infancy, some sit in their fighting tiger prime, a few lounge, as the snow leopards they are, doing all they remember, all they know, the only thing they have left to love, crossing the line. Into the battle they carry, themselves, for all different reasons, they carry. Mainly they cross this sacred line, for each other. Alone, these Men cross together.
In the epic, glorious search of the line that defines who they are, greatness by Divine, the righteously created line, made for only those worthy enough to cross.
Tattered, torn, tarnished myself and my teammates bound our way past the final checkpoint over the frozen lakebed. HMG rips through the ice, blasting any remaining hope of our departure into the early morning yawn. Controlled. Deliberate. Under haste and duress, we reactively, proactively seek any cover we can find. Calm. Poise. Trust. Get us through. Each one of our returning shots must be accurate and true. Only able to visualize silhouettes, they move and are getting bigger, as they rapidly get closer. More heated heavy brass rips into the ice. Turbulent savagery contorts our present world into a Christmas snow globe dropping, turning, twisting, shattering as it hits the hardwood. All float as gravity suspends itself in the violent centrifuge of disrupted disturbed reality. I grab my second to last hand grenade, pull back the black electrical tape off the circumference of the jolly green baseball, appropriately labeled ‘WithYou.’ Thumb pin pulled, spoon against palm, I throw the motherfucker as far as I can while harnessing every bit of Bo Jackson I have. Hitting home plate from outfield, silhouettes explode up and out, blanketed in powdered ice. That was the LastToBeThrown. The Last_Actual, as we all have, is for ourselves and whoever the fuck else has overwhelmed us. BroKnowsBro. No capture. Ever. The efforted result of the home plate tagout, allowed the few of us desperately seeking the dugout, to bound further still. The team trailing in the ninth always hopes for the comeback but we’re just fucking ready for this game to be over. “CREW SET!” Loud barbaric screams of volley. “CREW MOVE!” We make space between ourselves. We turn. We press. We lean hard into the silhouettes, dropping one, two more appear. Keep moving. Never stop moving. I think I hear the quiet whoop of birds in the distance, do I? Doesn’t fucking matter, just keep moving. Where are we headed? Where does the pavement end? Doesn’t matter as long as we get there together. Then I hear it, the drop dead click of my bolt locking to the rear. “FucKk.” Checking my ejection port, I see it. The end of the aisle, flowers in hand, the Groom smiling as he catches my eye at the bottom of my empty mag. My Last Grand Stand. I’ve said fuck before but never like this. This one I felt in my frozen bones. Like my heart walking through the forest of positive outcomes, it suddenly steps into a bearskin jaw trap. Then, another trap springs shut, clawing and ripping out yet another heart. “I’m OUT!” And then another slams shut, “I’m OUT!” We’re crouched. Looking at each other. All inside each other’s souls. Eyes locked solid, focused. Time standing frozen, the opus. Our opus, frozen in this frozen wasteland. ALL PAX, Winchester…. “FuuuuuuucKk.” My mentor pulls out his knife, another mate immediately asking, “And what the fuck are you gonna do with that?” Mentor replies, “Really hoping we run into a box of MREs, I’m fucking starving.” We laugh. Hard. For the first time in what seems like ancient histories past. We laugh hard together. In those few seconds I’m not sure if it’s the laughter or the cold, but tears roll down my face freezing before I can tell the difference. More heavy rounds rip through the snowy hell around us, quickly replacing our laughter. Wiping my cheek, I do what my brothers do, reach for my last frag. We keep moving.
Those quiet whoops now long passed. Gone. Just another piece of hope that never was. We keep moving. Dead Snow, Frozen Ice, Blood Dirt, Hard Clay, Soft Mud, Thirsty Earth. Our opus shattering around us, under us, through us. Backstage terminals, war ship travel companions. Grenade replacing coffee, heavy rips replacing metallic music, unconditional love replacing steel curtain void. Under the vertical fringe scorched circus canopy of The Greatest Show on Earth. In desperate sinking suffocating salvation, moon set before us. We keep moving. We are the Oar in Water, longing, digging, pulling,.. moving under the Evening’s Shade creating hope that the end of Man’s eighth day is near. Our battled soul long ago given as ancient sacrifice. In solitude, together, we keep moving further still. Brides given away behind us, the Groom before us waiting for our hand, in love as the end of the aisle draws near. Crossing the divine line,.. we worthy few,.. keep moving.
In the beginning, God created Man. In the end… Man created War.