There were about seven or eight of us in the bunker I was in and not one of us really knew what was going on. We could hear gun fire and see the tracer rounds along the perimeter of the base be we had very little real information. We knew missiles had been fired at us and that base security was returning small arms fire.
While the reality of possibly being hit with chemical or biological weapons was heavy on my mind, realizing that I could not defend myself should the base be over run was foremost in my mind. Yes I had a machine gun. Yes I was fully trained and ready to use it. But without ammo, it was just a hunk of steal weighing me down. The scariest part of that night was realizing that I had no control over the situation. If I lived or died was not only not up to me, there was very little I could do to increase my odds of survival. The only thing that any of us could do was pray and wait.
As we sat in that bunker, we understood that we were going to die. If not in this bunker, or even in this war, then someday. Some people smoked a last cigarette while others tried to laugh and tell jokes. What did I do? I prayed that we would live through the night. And after that, we all ate and enjoyed the breakfast cereal bars that I had with me. For the first time in my life, I lived for and in the moment. The past was forgotten and the future not worried about.
I was a different man when I climbed out of that bunker. The attack was over and I was still alive. There was no special feeling of being a survivor or anything like that. I was alive and that was that, time to head back to the tent and get some sleep. I didn't realize it at the time but part of me did die that night and that part of me is still lying there dead in that bunker. But like a sapling growing out of the ash after a forest fire, a new seed inside of me now had room to grow. I have been sheltering and watering that seed ever since and slowly, it is growing.
I spent almost two years at war and that night was the only time I was ever scared. I honestly knew no fear during the rest of my time in Iraq. That was one of the good things that came from that night. One of the bad things is that I know almost no-one now that I knew then and the relationships that I do still have are strained at best. Like I said, the old me died that night.
It has been about 6 1/2 years since that night and the growth of new life inside of me is demanding that I let go of this last little patch of dirt I've dedicated to this moment in my life. Now that I am almost whole again, I have started to take bigger steps in life. I feel I can open myself up to the world and I am not afraid to follow my dreams. Through out the last 6 1/2 years Firefly has been the warmth and sunlight needed to help my heart grow…first as my friend and now as my wife. Her words of encouragement were and still are like rain to my dry roots.