Take Me Home

by Chris de Serres

We hunkered down next to a dry river bed.  It was cold.  We had been outside for weeks.  Long enough to feel it in your bones.  We lived in it.  I couldn’t remember how it felt to be in a warm room.  All we do is get up and move around, then try to lay down and take a nap until we got too cold again.

1am

I was at the tree line taking a piss.  Everything was quiet.  I look over and see a bunch of bodies in huddled gray masses off in the distance.

“You need to drink some water.  I can smell your dehydration from well over here,” said Sgt Smith.  He was up lurking around again.  Never sleeping.

The crackle of the radios broke the early dawn quiet.  Slowly we broke camp, lined up our gear so we could move quickly.

It was time.

I could already picture the cheese and pepperoni melting in my mouth.  I had been dreaming about it.  I could see a mug of hot chocolate in my numb hands.  Soon.

We could hear the thrumming revertebrations of the rotor blades miles off.  They were coming.  It got louder and louder.  It  filled the valley with it’s mechanical sound.  Then we saw them crest over the ridge.  Black Hawks.  Fast moving black masses in the sky, their outline discernable by blinking lights.

They came right for us through the night sky.  Hovering over the stream bed, showering us with a blast of dust and debris.  I closed my eyes and blindly reached back for my goggles.

They hovered for almost a full minute.

As they landed, the thrumming blades started emitting sparks in a long arc.  Like thousands of fireflies flying in a circle.  It must sand and pebbles striking the fast moving blades.

There was alot of yelling as we grabbed our gear, ducked our heads low, and rushed forward into body of the helicopter.

We loaded into the Black Hawk like puzzle pieces, just like we were trained to do.  Delay was not tolerated as it left the copter vulnerable to attack.

I adjusted my seatbelt and barely had time to situate my pack when a strong sideways lurch indicated we were up in the air.

We were always so glad to see our Black Hawks.  It meant we didn’t have to walk home.  It was like hope.  It always filled my heart with relief to see them and how they were able to land into the tightest spots to get to us.  It took skill and more than a little daring.

I sat exhausted, just receding into my own world.  The loud thrumming of the blades overhead was meditative.  The sudden movements to the left and right.  The open bay revealing shadowy terrain blurring quickly past us.

“Hold on tight!”  The pilot squawked through the intercom.  I pulled my pack close to my body.

We started climbing upward into the air, then we lurched sharply downward.  I was weightless for a second then the g-forces yanked me violently against my seat.

I yelled out, “YEEEHAWW!!” and we all drummed our feet loudly in approval.

Just like that it was over.  Our Hawk landed and we extricated ourselves with surgical precision.

I wanted to thank the pilots.  I didn’t even know their names.  But they were gone.  Already flying away to pick up the rest of our comrades waiting in some remote valley somewhere.

I got to my beloved barracks room that had heat(!) and running water(!).  These were all miracles in that moment.  It took me 40 minutes to wash off the dirt and grease of my ordeal.  It felt a little weird to have my clean body back after all these weeks.

We rushed to the pizza place and I savored every mouthful.

I had no idea that, in a place called Mogadishu, a Black Hawk just like ours was shot down and soldiers were desperately staging a rescue of the pilots in a section of the city filled with hostile forces.  The roles had been reversed.  The foot soldiers were trying to bring the pilots home.  This was all happening as we were celebrating our own return to civilization.

This all came back to me as I woke up this morning to some recently released footage of one of the Black Hawks that was shot down decades ago during the Battle of Mogadishu.  The events were later memorialized in the movie Black Hawk Down.

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