A day later, at 0440
Wearily I walked to Alpha's tent, I had on all my battle rattle with my rifle slunf over my shoulder. Just my luck that they were standing next to the chow hall. Three smiling faces greeted me, Alpha's Staff Sergeant Mick, Lance Corporal Young, and lastly, Sergeant Perez. They always were a cheery crew.
"Morning Corporal!" Young grinned, patting me on the shoulder.
"Morning Young," I turned my attention to Mick and Perez, "Sirs." The both chuckled.
"Micahart, just call us by our names. You've earned it after all that shit you went through in the Yellow District." I nodded. Mick started walking but passed the chow hall, instead heading for Motor-T. At first I didn't voice my protest but eventually my stomach got the better of me.
"Hey, when are we gonna get some chow? I'm starving!" Perez looked back to me shifting his rifle to his left hand.
"We're on Bag Nasties today Micahart. Courtesy of the Captain Kujo himself." I grumbled in displeasure. Bag Nasties were normally given to Marines sitting a vehicle checkpoint in the Green District. If a civvie were to look at it, the might think of a kindergarten kid's packed lunch. Often they contained a sandwich, a hard boiled egg, fruit, and a small bag of potato chips, and finally a small carton of milk.
"Shit!" I whined as we walked into the garage. One of the mechanics looked to us from under a Humvee.
"Morning Gents, you want the Mark-19 or Ma Deuce?"
"We'll take the Deuce today, Chase. Thanks." Chase tossed the Staff Sergeant a set of keys and we loaded inside the vehicle.
"Micahart, man the gun." I said nothing climbing into the vehicle and standing up where the gunner rested, a butterfly trigger controlled .50 caliber machine gun as my weapon. It was welded to a special rotating weapon mount, giving the gun 360 degrees of rotation. The rest of the Humvee's doors shut and it's engine started with a growl.
"ROE sir?" I asked looking down into the vehicle.
"Hearts and minds, Micahart. If the keep coming when we say stop, give a warning shot. If they keep coming then light 'em up, I don't need to lose any more Marines because some Hadji wants to play chicken, understand?"
"Aye, Sgt" I said standing back in the turret. The vehicle lurched forward them moved at a steady pace towards the front gate. I just relaxed in gunner's position while we rolled through the camp and out the gate, the guards giving us a thumbs up and some cheers. Mick drove us down the main road that lead away from the camp, it was known as Angels Rd. Most of the roads had been named after wives or girlfriends. Angels lead us to a road on our left, Victoria St, where we parked the vehicle off on the side of the road. I still had full view of Angel Rd. and all the intersecting roadways.
Three hours and still we had seen nothing but children and herds of goats being shepherded. It was growing boring.
" 'Ey Young, you got a-" I stopped instantly, smelling something sweet in the air. "What the fuck is that?!" I half shouted looking down from the vehicle. Mick and Perez looked back to Young. The three were standing in a triangle formation around the vehicle.
"Is that a charm?!" Perez growled at the kid, Young leaned to his left and spat something into the sand, kicking up a bit of dirt.
"Maybe," Young whispered.
"Never, EVER, eat fucking charms!" Perez scolded.
"Not a single Marine touches Charms, not one in the entire damned Corps!" Charms were known as bringers of very bad luck, eating or even touching one could bring bad luck. Superstition or not, everyone adhered to the safe better than sorry mentality.
"Sorry," the Lance Corporal replied looking back towards the road. "Contact, moving right for us!" he shouted. Mick, Perez, and Young leveled their weapons on the small, tan beater driving right for us. Mick shouted in arabic for the vehicle to stop, it didn't.
"Warning Shot." I said, losing a burst to the vehicle's left. The car swerved a bit but continued coming, it's speed increasing.
"Light him up!" Young shouted, his voice fearful and edgy. I pressed my two thumbs on the butterfly trigger, allowing the gun to go fully automatic. From the tracer fire, I saw bullets smash into the engine compartment, tires, and the passenger cabin. The car jerked right and drove off the road, coming to a halt in the not too deep ditch on the side of the road.
"Clear," I yelled still high on the adrenaline rush. Young, Perez, and Mick closed on the vehicle ready to fire, while I watched the road for any other vehicles or suicide bombers. The three circled and looked inside the vehicle.
"Aww hell, Micahart." Mick said dejectedly over the comms.
"What?" I asked, still keeping my eyes on the road. Young hung his head as they returned to the vehicle. The thousand yard stare on all their faces. "What!?" I begged.
"You shot two kids, man. Shwacked 'em in their guts. I'm assuming that the woman in the passenger seat was the mom and the driver was the father. They're dead too." I jumped out from the gunner's spot and hopped onto the road, sprinting to the vehicle. "Corporal!" Mick shouted after me, but I ignored him. I had to see if what he said was true. My steps slowed as I neared the vehicle, it's main windshield ripped open by the .50 caliber rounds.
Blood was splashed all over inside the tiny car. Tears brimmed in my eyes as I looked into the back seat. Two young girls were still in their seat belts with grapefruit sized holes in the middle of their tiny bodies. One clutched a tiny stuffed dolly covered in tissue and bits of organs. The mother was slumped over in the front seat, a black veil covering her face. When my gaze reached the father, I realized he was still alive but barley.
"Mick, get over here!" I shouted desperately. The rattle of his gear mixing with the gurgling of the father, slowing choking on his own blood. Mick reached my side and looked on in horror at the dying man. My chest filled with emotions unimaginable to those who have never been in war.
"Ask him why he didn't stop!" I demanded as tears poured from my eyes onto the steaming Iraqi pavement. "NOW!" I could tell Mick didn't want to ask but he did anyway. The two spoke for a few moments until the driver stopped breathing his eyes rolling to the side and glazing over. "Why?" I asked through gritted teeth. Mick turned around and looked back to the rest of Alpha squad.
"All he said was that he was sorry, that he was just scarred and didn't know what to do. He said that he hopes...his god will forgive him." I fell to my knees, my eyes shutting tight.
"He had a wife and two fucking daughters! And because he was sorry and scarred, I killed them." Mick crouched next to me, while Perez and Young moved to my side.
"Micahart, I know it sucks but there's nothing we can do. According to the ROE you were right wh-"
"Fuck the ROE,"I pulled away from Mick and the others, taking a few steps away. "I just shot two kids! Arrgggh!" Right then and there I just wanted to go home, to see my parents and their dog. To watch a sunset from Pendleton and not have a care in the world. Fuck Iraq, I though sadly, I just want to go home.