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GUNS Magazine August 2010 - Page 78

PaPer orPHans ii Things I meant to say sooner or later. agged, homeless notes and quotes; vagrant scraps and R scribbles pulled from pockets, rifled from rucksacks. I found one in the sweatband of a cap I hadn’t worn in years. The poor little word-urchins have nowhere else to go, so…. At an ancient caravanserai on a slickrock Afghanistan road several small convoys stop for cool water, fresh melons and head-calls. Four Marine grunts escort a gray-haired British lady to a concealed point between tall rocks. They check it out, then turn away and stand guard while she answers nature; then walk her to a shaded place. Fluent in Dari and Pashto, she works for an NGO helping women and girls get back into work and school. “Out of the bourkha and back to life,” she smiles. She looks like she’s been dragged through a Ghazni gutter and dried with a dust storm. Her convoy has been traveling tandem with some Marines, and at one point they took mortar and small arms fire. “These boys are so profane!” she says in clipped, proper English. “They curse incessantly and play the most devilish pranks on each other! I thought them uncivilized brutes. But then, they are also so gentlemanly; very, very wellmannered toward ladies, you know. And they are killers! I saw that when we were ambushed (“ahm-booshed,” she said). They were gleeful at fighting the Taliban, can you imagine?” She suddenly flutters, bird-like, “And do you know what they did when the mortar-bombs fell? In an instant,” she snapped her fingers, “They shielded me with their bodies! When it was over, I was frantic, I know, and I asked this boy—lovely boy, really—Why did you do that? You could have been killed! What would your mother think if you’d been killed saving me?” The lady’s eyes went soft and moist. Blinking tears, she whispered, “He said, ‘Ma’am, what do you think my mother would think if I didn’t protect you?’ Oh! There he is!” she chirped and pointed to a nice-lookin’ kid walking toward us. A patch stuck on his armor vest read, “JUST POINT AT WHAT YOU WANT *%#@&$’ DEAD.” She 78 saw it too and read it aloud, omitting that one word. “You see,” she breathed, “Profane and brutal—and yet, pure and noble. These are the only people I know—the only people I’ve ever known—who would give their lives without hesitation to protect me. I’m sure I don’t know what to think. It’s all quite complex, I suppose.” “Perhaps,” I said, “It’s like your countryman, Winston Churchill said: ‘The great things, the best things are simple and often expressed in one word: freedom, bravery, sacrifice, faith, mercy’” “Quite,” she murmured, her eyes tearing again and looked away. A newly-promoted Marine gunnery sergeant’s tattoo read, “If I advance, follow me. If I flee, kill me. If I fall, avenge me!” He laughed, “Man, when I got that I had no idea—I mean, I was clueless, like, I didn’t really understand it; didn’t feel it in my blood. I just thought it was cool.” Then his smile turned to stone. “Now, I know” he said. “And y’know, it’s OK with me; all of it.” He waved toward his troops. “Like, some of these kids got Death before Dishonor tattoos before they really knew it, felt it, too. Now they know, and I know they get it.” On the edge of a field of opium poppies, 10th Mountain Division soldiers talk about the two greatest sources of terrorist funding: Wahhabi Muslim oil money and drugs—and the fact the world’s most profitable market for drugs is the USA. “Bad enough we pay for terrorism at the gas pump,” says a young rifleman, “Even worse—y’know who helps bankroll these bastards? My stupid doper oldest brother and his doper friends. Victimless crimes, right!” he spat. “How ’bout some death penalties for druggies, huh? They’re killin’ us, right? Just by proxy, right? Might as well be pullin’ the trigger.” He spat again. “If we can hunt Taliban here, we oughtta be able to hunt dopers in Illinois, right?” His pals nodded; old faces on young men, aged with bitter knowledge. Ink And Dust This is the Veteran’s shirt from ranger uP. If you buy one, enter Promo Code: “gunwriterguy15” at checkout, and get a 15 percent discount. you’re welcome, and thanks for your service. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • AUGUST 2010

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