I glanced over to Sergeant Walsh as our squad occupied an abandoned table. His face went from calm to somber. I knew that look, things hadn't gone well for the previous night's patrol. Suddenly breakfast didn't sound all too appetizing.
"Shit," I growled stabbing my fork into some scrambled eggs. Thane cocked his head as he stuffed some waffles into his mouth. Lakes, still not paying attention, began babbling on about some made up story he supposedly experienced in Boot Camp. That was Lakes though, just like a little kid trying to impress his big brothers.
"What?" Thane asked, mouth still full. I shook my head, better he find out from Walsh than me. "If you're talking about the food," Thane swallowed, "it's not that bad. Remember when we got stuck at that Air Base, their food was almost like being home again. " I smiled lightly, the Air Force did know how to feed a guy some quality chow. Lakes paused long enough to agree, then started his story again from where he had left off.
"Complaining, Corporal?" Walsh teased as he sat across from us. Thane sheepishly grinned and shoveled more food into his mouth. Lakes fell silent, watching Sergeant Walsh intently.
"So what's the skinny about Alpha's patrol, sir?" I asked, Walsh sighed.
"Alpha lost a man last night." Everyone froze, some in the middle of eating. The shock of loosing a man explained the look on all the men's faces when we walked in. Thane swallowed hard and looked uneasily at me as Walsh continued. Lakes was frozen in his seat.
"They had just finished up making rounds to the local police stations. Enemy mortar fire erupted while they were making their way back, pinning them down in the Yellow district. Alpha managed enough suppressive fire to move to better cover and call in air support. The problem was the fly-boys couldn't figure out where Alpha was and therefore couldn't provide ordinance. They didn't want to chance a Danger Close drop." I felt my stomach do back flips, Ramadi had been relativity peaceful for the past few weeks. Now we were about to jump feet first into whatever had been stirred up.
"What about the Strykers?" Lakes spoke up. Walsh nodded his head.
"I'm getting there. Since the air support had failed to help, Alpha called in one of the Strykers. It managed to roll out to their position, load up the men, and throw some rounds down range for good measure." Walsh clenched his fists. "Since it was dark, the driver took a wrong turn and ended up in IED alley. The sad thing is they almost made it out unscathed till an IED detonated under the Stryker. It blew a hole about the size of a basket ball in the floor and severely injured one of their men. By the time they made it back it was too late, the kid was gone. " Everyone looked to the floor, not wanting to meet each others eyes. We knew it was part of the job, that one day one of us might not come back. But it still hurt whenever it happened. Thane looked up to Walsh, a fire burning behind his eyes.
"We going out today, sir? I think Alpha would be happy if we paid back those bastards!" Lakes and I nodded in agreement.
"Lock and Load," Walsh replied. "The COC sent down orders this morning that we're going into the Yellow District. Our mission is to locate, capture, and bring back the men who orchestrated the attack on Alpha and if we're lucky, find their weapons cache."
"Oohrah!" I resounded, picking up my rifle. "Let's go get some payback!"