As the sun was slipping below the distant horizon, I awoke a few hours before the calendar would change to 2008. The cool, crisp evening air was going to be a welcome change from the unbearable heat that bore down on us during the day. I didn’t really have the time to dwell on that I had gotten up late. Now my meal was going to be a dry muffin and some water that felt close to boiling in its bottle.
Shoving the food down as I walked over to a dusty shipping container. I thought about what I was going to change this year. Maybe I will quit smoking or, get in better shape, and I really need to start some college classes. As my mind raced my hands did what they had done so many times before. I didn’t even need look at the thirty-pound medium machine gun that I was disassembling, and wiping down on the hood of a Humvee.
As I placed the weapon into its mounted position I noticed the night sky was one of the most beautiful I had seen in a while. The moon was bright and the night was completely lit up with stars. My thoughts changed quickly as I ran through how difficult it was to use night vision goggles in these conditions. We would be running by sight tonight, not good when your job is to find bombs with pressure triggers the size of pencils buried in a 60-mile stretch of torn Iraqi highway.
We left the base checkpoint, the small security team of five vehicles snaked their way up the service road. We headed toward the main highway passing the abandoned town in an eerie silence except the sound of rifles being loaded and checked. The bombed out store, and rows and rows of pancaked homes sat silent. I had seen them hundreds of times, and probably helped flatten most of them the last time I was here. For the next 12 hours I would be staring at rocks, chunks of curbs, and pieces of trash as if they were objects of a great passion. I had them all memorized the shapes, sizes, locations, and even the sand rippled around them. We...