Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Project ECHO - Quiploth

SOLDIERS DESCENDING UNTO THE QUIPLOTH - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Pen & Ink 9X12”
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Quiploth - written in 2007, by Jin Kong

I was on a week-long mission with Charlie Company, Second Platoon in Telfar helping 1-5 Infantry settle some local violence. There had been numerous bold attempts on American convoys and local police forces. Our mission was to secure the peace, engage the locals, and help build police stations.

Within our first hour in the city, one of our up-armored humvee was hit by a foo-gas IED/Bomb. The humvee was cut in half, and I remember hearing on the radio we had one KIA and another was completely amputated below the knees.

At the time, we put news like that in our hip-pocket and drove on. There was no time to show any emotion, or to let fear get the best of us. There was only one thing on our minds: the mission. My mission was to keep my platoon safe in the event of emergency. I prayed that I'd never have to work.

As soon as our convoy pulled into the Combat Operating Base (COB), we unloaded our gear, hurried through some chow, and gathered for a quick mission to scan the landscape to determine where would be the best position to hold for the night for over-watch and securing the small town.

It seemed like just any other mission, we knocked on doors, asked to come through and search… we accessed residential roofs to get the lay of this land… I simply followed, reciting my ABCs, Airway, Breathing, Circulation…

On one of the rooftop, I was taking a knee enjoying the scene of a peaceful neighborhood. Funny, there was not a single person out on the streets. The generator was not humming, and the air carried a strange tone of silence.

I felt a gush of hot air rush pass my face… I heard a swish and snap behind me…

“DOWN!”

“Doc! Get the FUCK DOWN!”

Then it registered: we were under small arms fire.

The hot air and a swish was a AK round passing my face by inches, and it made a snapping sound behind me against the mud wall. I was too scared to think at the time how close I had came to face death. I will never forget that sound as long as I live.

In an instant, I dropped to my stomach, as low as I possibly could… moving my ammo pouch out of the way to get even lower… I crawled to the edge of the roof, against the half-foot high mud-rail along the edges… I looked at the direction of fire… I heard bullets snap against the wall beneath me, and M4 charging behind me…

“It’s coming from the white building across the street!” someone shouted.

“Fire!” someone else yelled.

“I remembered silence after that… deep breath, prone-firing position, in through the nose, hold, trigger… I can smell the gun powder…

I put my M4 on automatic, I pulled my trigger and my life depended on it…

… …


“Cease fire! Cease fire!” someone shouted…

“Doc, go with team one across the street…”

I don’t remember running down the stairs… I don’t remember coming around the door to knee next to the corner of a wall.

There were four of us, two by two, we covered and ran… I ran as fast as I could across the street… I ran thinking this is where I will get hit. This is where I take a bullet…

I made it across the street, turned around the corner of a wall surrounding the white building. We entered the main gate, and ran as fast as we could up the few stairs and into the belly of the beast…

Silence…

“Clear!” “Clear!”

Room by room, we checked the building… then, suddenly:

SCREAM!!! Children are screaming!!!

My heart sank, I felt the weight on my back from my first-aids… my vest is getting tighter, I can’t breath…

The next room we reached, there were at least twenty or so kids huddled against a corner. There were two older women, teachers perhaps, leaned against the masses and attempting to protect these kids…

They were young girls… this was a school.

I had fired aimlessly on a school… a school where kids were still in classes…

I had pulled the trigger against children…




I remember that night having a cup of coffee with Mark, brewed at a house where we "took control." I remember we reflected on how f'ed up it was for these families to just lose their homes. Some of them had no where else to go, so they just started walking.

I feel remorse.

I had a dream last night! What you just read was not a dream… it was real… it is part of me, and forever will be.

I had a dream last night about those kids, and the time I dropped to the ground and pulled my trigger, open fired on a school… I had a dream last night and woke up confused about my duty as a human being to the welfare of this nation, of this generation…

Last night, my dream was hazy, was confused, was almost a nightmare… I saw the kids through the building walls... and I pulled my trigger anyway... I saw the kids screaming and I saw myself looking through their eyes at us on the rooftop... I saw myself firing my M4 with a blank stare across the street... across the world of the living...

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