Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The March

Zero three thirty. My cell phone alarm goes off. Why in the hell do they have to start these things so early? Sitting up is an effort. Shit, shower, shave. Tape the arches, tape the heels… it’s gonna be a long walk today. Double socks and lace everything up TIGHT.

Zero four thirty. Mile zero. Button up the flak vest. Check that everyone has extra ammo. Go over the plan - the route clearance guys have already gone in. Just another walk in the park, right? Lock and load.

Zero five forty-five. Mile two. Okay, we’re past the last guard tower now. Rifles port and starboard. We’re going pretty slow… this doesn’t seem so bad. I can’t believe how dark it still is. We started in the pitch black and it’s still pitch black out. A little spooky, actually. And getting warmer. I am glad I brought extra water.

Zero six eighteen. Mile three. Do you know what’s strange? The buildings aren’t lit. I just realized that’s what’s been throwing me off – the street lights are on but the buildings have been dark all along. No lights going on as people get up to read their papers, no mothers flicking on the bedroom lights to tell their sons or daughters that it’s time for school…

Zero six fifty-two. Mile five. “Thwump!!” A mortar goes off, everyone freezes. Just one round, waiting…. then the star shell bursts far overhead, off to the east of the river. It’s one of ours. Collective sigh of relief as the little ball of artificial light ever so slowly floats down on its parachute.

Zero seven eighteen. Mile six. The vest is starting to get heavy. Back in the rear you get a ten minute rest to catch your breath for every 50 minutes of marching. We’re not doing that here, for obvious reasons. This area is supposed to be secure, but standing still is almost like asking for a sniper to take a pot shot, secure or not. They say Juba is always watching, and he uses a very powerful scope.

Zero seven twenty-six. Still mile six. Sun rise. I am breathing through my mouth now – we all are. My shirt is soaked. My hips ache. Watch out for the damn gun trucks, they take up almost the entire width of the road as they barrel by, trailing diesel fumes…

Zero eight fifteen. Mile nine. One foot in front of the other, over and over. Head hanging down with the weight of the helmet. Sweat drips off of the tip of my nose. I wish that I’d remembered my knee brace. Quite a few guys are limping, and my own feet are just screaming. Some Iraqi was on the corner passing out bottled water as we passed. Most just stare…

Zero eight fifty… not sure where we are. The IPs on the corner point us in one direction and we just go. Shoulders aching, legs moving on their own…

Zero nine ten. Somewhere past mile thirteen or so. I so want to just dump this vest on the side of the street. It feels as if it weighs sixty pounds and I cannot breathe. Feet blistered, legs numb. Tripping on every rock or curb. No one is looking around, everyone just stares at the ground in front of them. The sweat from my shirt chafes my arm pits as I swing my arms…

Zero nine eighteen. Mile fourteen. Oh God I can see the end. We did it. You wouldn’t think 14 measly miles could kick your ass so much, but it does. All this extra gear doesn’t help. Stand up straight. Oh, just fuck it. I can’t wait to sit my ass down and take my boots off. And when I do, I am never, ever, going to move from that spot again.

Post script: I carried Our George the entire way. He traveled in his usual green laundry bag, but I did take him out several times. He was very brave.

3 Comments:

Blogger lalavoie said...

The way you write - you make me feel as though I am right there with you. I can feel the grit, I wince from the blister pain and the legs feel sore. I love your writing. I love you more!! Our George makes me smile, too.

April 26, 2007 6:30 PM  
Blogger LePensure said...

Yoiu can always give me a back rub!! I quite am sure that would help.

April 27, 2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger LePensure said...

You can always give me a back rub!! I quite am sure that would help.

April 27, 2007 10:06 AM  

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