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Bernard Peasley

The soldier quickly lifted his eye from the rifle sight to face the sound and piece it all together: the roar of the rocket, the flash of the green dress down the fire escape, and the two rugs wafting back together after letting the RPG through, with its one terrible eye and smoking tail. It clipped the cable-stay supporting a radio antenna, detonated in mid-air, and hurled its searing pulse into his wide-eyed face.

If it hadn’t hit the tensioned wire, it would have passed to his right, hit the wall behind him, and that would have been that: no bandages, no CASEVAC chopper, no morphine, no nightmares, no future.

The first thing he heard above the ringing in his ears was Moreno, swearing somewhere nearby, and yelling instructions.

‘Bag it! They’ll have ice in the dust-off chopper!’

But the soldier couldn’t see anything, just wild flashes of light synchronized with unholy pain. He felt his body rise on the stretcher, level-off and lurch forward, rocking from side to side in rhythm with the boots pounding the concrete. He heard the desperate grunting of his bearers and the approaching chatter of a chopper’s blades. Within seconds came the giddy tilt and swirling rotor-wash of the Sea Knight as it lifted off, frantic twin rotors scattering the vultures from the sky.

Unfamiliar voices circled him, urgent but calm. Deft hands parted his battledress, searching his body for hidden wounds, broken bones and leaking arteries. The onboard Navy corpsmen had a reputation that quieted him – angels from above who can somehow make lumbering choppers fly faster than anyone else. They had just one golden hour to deliver him alive to the field operating theatre.

From the moment the chopper touched down, he sensed a new urgency: the wild rush across the concrete apron, the rattling wheels of the gurney, the drip tubes slapping on the IV stand, and the hushed voices reporting his vitals.


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