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Thursday, May 21, 2015

"My First Firefight. And The One After That"

An article from John Wayne Taylor about his service in Afghanistan. His first fire fight, he says, was like something from Hollywood. Explosions, bullets popping all around, brave NCOs giving orders. But no enemy--at least in someone who he thought of as an enemy. He was just doing his job. Then it all changed.
Eventually, we became the de facto clinic for the Shajoy area. People came for all sorts of ailments. I fixed them the best I could. ...

Four girls and a boy had been injured in a local school. Their grandfather and another man brought them to me in two wheel barrows. That’s how small they were: five of them could fit well in two wheel barrows pushed by old men.

The Taliban’s local “Vice and Virtue Brigade” had punished them for their crimes. The crime of going to school, a madrasa even, to learn to read the Quaran. It was not a school operated by the West. But the school taught girls. Girls learning to read was unacceptable to those sick thugs.

To teach their own lesson, the Taliban “fighters” mutilated the teacher. Then they soaked rags in heating oil, wrapped them around the legs and genitals of these children and set them on fire.

Little kids. They set little kids on fire.

It took me a while to take that in. I remember thinking, “what sick fuck even comes up with this”? I treated them the best I could, and sent them on.

Over the next month, I worked with the father of the boy (I wasn’t allowed contact with the girls) to debried his wounds. I taught him how to do it every day. I provided antibiotic cream and bandages to pass out to the other victims.

Think about that: having to debried 2nd and 3rd degree burns on your children without any anesthesia of any kind for months. Think of holding them down, listening to them scream, every day, all for their own good. Because of what those men did to these babies.

I didn’t sleep well for many nights after that. Not because of how sad I was for those children, and I was, and I still am. I didn’t sleep because I hated the men who did that so much I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t rest while they lived.
Eventually they received intel on the perpetrators, and Taylor was part of the group that went to hunt them down.
This fight held none of the excitement of the first. Some evil thugs on dirt bikes picking up gear and explosives wound up facing hard, angry men with M2s and M19s. It didn’t last long. No one barked orders. Bullets did not crack over our heads. The first fight required a medic. This one didn’t.

One day, after hearing my story, someone said those thugs may have been evil men, but they had families, or at least wives. They probably starved or suffered some other hardship because of me and my team. How can I sleep at night knowing that we had taken their lives? When I think of the widows of these men crying out, cursing my name at night, I smile inside. I sleep real easy.

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