I scanned the nearby houses, desperately looking for enemy tangos. Lakes and Thane unloaded suppressing fire, allowing me to peek over my cover. A swath of bullets sped at us, peppering the building with the 7.62mm ammunition. Insurgents were firing from everywhere. Lakes yelped as the crossfire pelted through the window.
"Where the hell is that Stryker?!" The young PFC shouted frantically over the radio. I could hear Thane in the background trying to calm him. Tracers whizzed past Walsh and I, burning like hot embers from a fire. I seethed, I couldn't shoot anyone to cover my squad mates. My instincts screamed at me to run into the open and just to divert the heavy incoming fire. As I begin to move a loud engine rumbled and growled below, the Stryker! Walsh and I looked at each other, that machine sounded like a herald of angels.
"On three, you make a run for Thane and Lakes. I'll cover you!" Walsh shouted to me, I shook my head. We weren't out of danger yet.
"No, sir! If you take a shot were screwed. Go now, I'll cover you." Without giving Walsh a chance to retort, I broke from cover and began throwing rounds downrange. Groups of insurgents fell back into cover, they were like wolves closing in for the kill. Dropping back into cover, I reloaded my rifle. One more mag, I thought with despair. If my rifle ran out, I'd have to shift to my pistol. Glancing to the stairwell, I made a quick prayer. I may have not been religious, but at that moment, I wished for a guardian angel. Faster than I thought possible, I sprinted from cover and fell into the stairwell. My skin burned from scraping across the ground but it didn't hold my attention long. I hurried down the stairs and plastered myself to one of the walls. A loud rattling of heavy gunfire resounded from the streets. Thane smiled a bit when he glanced out the window. It was the Styker, the allied remote .50 caliber M-2 machine gun pushing back the sea of enemies. Walsh motioned for the room that held another staircase. Moving in pairs, we hurried into the stairwell and to what was left of the first floor. We had to get to the road and load up in the Stryker.
"Any day you ladies feel like leaving!" The driver shouted angrily over the radio, Walsh swore. The volume of incoming fire had doubled since the Stryker's arrival.
"Alright Thane, you and I will head out first. Micahart you and Lakes will come right after us. Check your corners and watch your fire!" Bullets tore through the ground as Sergeant Walsh and Corporal Thane took off, they never hesitated. Lakes leveled his rifle and unleashed a few bursts into an armored compound about 50 meters away. That's where the most enemy fire originated from. The drop door from the vehicle dropped promptly down allowing the two in.
"Let's go." I shouted. Lakes moved in front of me as we hurried into the street and toward our escape. Lakes turned suddenly to enter the vehicle and time seemed to freeze. His left arm snapped back violently in a cloud of blood. Not breaking step, Lakes shoved his rifle under his good arm and jumped into the Stryker, bleeding profusely. The sound of the bullet tearing through his flesh produced a grotesque ripping noise. I screamed out as I leaped into safety. The door shut us in the baking metal monster. Whining to life, the engine joined the mixture of noises that filled our ears. Lakes's screams and cries, Walsh's shouts over the radio for a MEDEVAC chopper to prep at base, bullets bouncing off the vehicle, and Thane's mumbling and sobs.
Without thinking, I pulled Lakes close and began to make a tourniquet. We had to slow the bleeding before he lost too much and slipped into unconsciousness. Blood was already covering both Lakes's and my cammies, I pressed hard against the wound. With so much blood, the bullet must have struck and artery. Lakes stifled a sharp scream as the Driver shouted back to us.
"RPG!" No one could do anything, we had to accept the inevitable. We were going to get hit and maybe even die. The rocket came quick, slamming into the rear of the vehicle. The shock wave from the explosion crashed into our ears, the Stryker groaned against the massive blow but still kept rolling, it's rear door indented severely. The sound of gunfire diminished into nothing. Breathlessly, the driver came over the radio.
"We are now in the Green District, 2 mikes from base! That MEDEVAC ready?" Walsh filled the driver in as I tried to comfort Lakes, telling him every joke I could remember. I had to keep his mind off the mind numbing pain he was experiencing.
"What do the Master Gunnery Sgt. and a slinky have in common?" I yelled to him over the choking engine. Lakes shook his head weakly as his eyes watered, he didn't know. "They’re both fun to watch tumble down the stairs." Lakes smiled lightly, wincing as I pressed a bit harder against his wound.
"We're here, get that kid on the helicopter!" The Sergeant shouted as the Stryker shuddered to a halt and it's busted rear door fell off the hull. The corpsmen were already waiting with a stretcher and IV.
"Help them!" Walsh shouted helping Thane. I nodded quickly and helped Lakes from the busted Stryker. His face contorted in pain as he laid on the stretcher. A tiny whimper escaped the kid as they rushed him to a black UH-60 with a red cross on it. In minutes he was loaded and ready to be rushed to the main base in Fallujah, about 40 miles away.
"Be strong Lakes! I yelled squeezing his hand tightly. "You haven't finished telling me those stories from Boot Camp." He nodded and I exited the helicopter, watching it soared away. Please let Lakes be ok! I just stood there and stared into the sky, watching the aircrafts silhouette grow smaller and disappear.
"Corporal!" I heard the Sergeant shout. He placed a had on my shoulder, looking me in the eyes. "You gonna be alright Micahart?" I nodded, finding that my voice had abandoned me. There was a huge lump in my throat as I turned to see Thane, his eyes were glassy as tears poured down his face. Walsh released a heavy sigh and told us to follow him. We had to debrief with the SNCOIC before we could hit the showers then our racks. This day had become a living hell.