The bombs were landing everywhere. “Jimmy, crawl towards me. Come on! Move now!” I shouted to my best friend. “Gary, I’ve been hit in the leg!” he shouted back. “Stay there, I’ll come to you.” I started to crawl towards Jimmy. I was almost to him and could see his helmet through the thick dust. “Jimmy, take my hand; I’ll pull you towards me. I am almost there!” I said stretching my hand out to his. Our fingers were nearly touching, when the sound of another incoming shell hit.
“Jimmy! Jimmy!” The blast was so close my ears began to ring like bells in a clock tower. I knew he was gone. I starred at the dust filled wind and knew this could be the end. We we’re under attack with no way out. Looking to my left then to my right, I could see we were pended in. “Keep low. Keep low.” I shouted out to my troops waving my arm up and down. Searing bullet fire wizzed by my helmet as I tried to look up and see a way out.
Spits of dirt from gun fire forced me back down. “Roger five, roger five, this is Red Dog leader Charlie six, over?” I whispered into my radio. “Go ahead Red Dog”. “Roger five, we’re pent down at co ordinance alpha, three, five, delta two. We need a flyby.” -- “Roger that red dog, we’re sending in the Hogs, over”. More fire from the enemy was flying over our heads. “Keep down, the hogs are comin’. Get ready to pull back on my command!” I said to my men. “Red dog, Red Dog, this Papa Bear, over” I heard come on my radio. “Papa Bear, this is Charlie six standing by”. I responded. “Set the table we’re bringing in diner, over” – “Roger Papa Bear. Men prepare to pull back!” The screaming sound of the approaching A-10 “Warthog” turbines could be heard in the distance. “Pull out Red Dog, we’re comin’ hot and heavy”.
“Pull back now! Move it, move it!” I shouted as we leaped up and started running back to the bunker line. The Warthogs were coming down at the same time laying down suppression fire behind us at the enemy before dropping there full load of bombs. “We’re clear Papa Bear!” I shouted into my radio as we ran and jump behind the bunker line. “Roger Red Dog, dinner is on the table” said the leading A-10 as he dipped his left wing and swooped down like a hawk going after prey. They released their bombs diving in, out and over the enemy. I pulled out my binoculars to check the fire line. The gun fire from the enemy was silent as red plumes of smoke and fire burned across the line.
“All clear” I said to my men walking towards them pulling up my goggles onto my helmet. “Sir, I am sorry about Lieutenant Struthers” said Sergeant Bender. “Thanks Sergeant B, it was a collective effort of on all of our parts.” I said shaking his hand. Now the tough part was yet to come, writing his parents. I knew no one else could write the letter but me. I reached in my pocket and pulled out is dog tags. “I am sorry buddy. I just couldn’t reach you in time” I said to myself clinching his tags in my fist. I went to my tent and opened my laptop.
Part 2 “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Struthers”
I pulled off my helmet and wiped my eyes. “Jimmy. I’ll never forget you buddy. Everyday that I am here, it will be for my country, you and Shelly.” I said to myself looking at my laptop waiting for a secure channel. The glow from the screen with the words “SECURE CHANNEL ACCESS GRANTED” symbol washed over my face as I waited for the final clearance to start my letter. “SECURE CHANNEL CLEARED – YOU MAY BEGIN”.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Struthers,
You already know by now, that if you are receiving this email from me instead of from Jimmy, we had problems on our last mission today. “I swallowed hard as I paused before continuing”. We were under heavy fire from the enemy and Jimmy was pent down. I could see him, I could see his face, I could see his love for you, I could see his memories, and I could his words on his lips… “Tell mom and dad I love them if you guys can’t get to me in time”. I do realize that at times it seems unrealistic that our government may ask us to put upon the alter of freedom our lives, so that others may live in peace and our fathers, mothers, and future children will live without knowing this terrible part of humanity that ask us to kill fellow human beings, so that in this moment in time when we pull triggers that take lives, means our country will live in peace.
Jimmy and I would be play war in each others backyards. Little did we know that one day in our future it would come true ? We enlisted together. Side by side we stood pledging that we would defend our country without question. Now both of us have to answer the question without question. “Are you willing to die for your country?” The answer is and always will be yes, yes, yes. I know that this is terrible news and if I could trade places, I would have without question. It could have easily been Jimmy typing this email instead of me.
But, it’s me and we promised each other that we would be the ones to write our letters and no one else. My heart is heavy, my soul is in pain, and my eyes weep endlessly for him. But he’s coming home to you. I know you may be angry, but I know you are proud of him. Know that his words to me when we had to be silent were that he loves you both as he reached for my hand. There is and never will be no greater love than the love Jimmy had for you.
I will fold his flag myself tonight. I will salute him for his country tonight. I will bless him with father O’Malley tonight; I will say good-bye to my best friend tonight. The stars are bright and shining for Jimmy. I pray to God that he will bring me home safely so that I can tell you both how so very sorry I am that this is the place were me and my best friend had to leave each other. I want to come for Jimmy to let him know that his gift that he gave to his country was priceless and that I would have trade places with him without question.
Captain Gary McGowan
Infantry Division, “Red Dogs”
To be continued ~ Part 3 coming soon.
List of characters
Captain Gary McGowen – Leader of the “Red Dog” ground support team
2nd Lieutenant Jimmy Struthers – Gary’s best friend
The Hogs – U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aka “Warthog” – “Don’t be home when we come a knockin”