The ambush on the convoy had occurred at the point that any military strategist could predict: a choke point on a very narrow road where it started its ascent up a hill. The lead vehicle, a Rhino--named for its Rhinoceros-like horn appendage-- triggered the IED well before the convoy passed the detonation point, but murderous sniper fire rained down on us from the hills bordering the site. Even as the Colonel ordered the rifle team to return fire and to go after the Taliban members hiding in their fortified positions on the heights, a lucky shot seared through his right forearm, severing an artery.“We have casualties,” the radio operator spoke into his helmet microphone. He had called for Medevac as soon as he established radio contact, and was now giving the standard nine lines of information that identified to rescue personnel, the situation, location, and other pertinent information. While the Forward Observer called for close air support, a senior NCO took over the direction of the operations. As white fog from the smoke canister blanketed us from enemy view, I crawled out from the up-armored Humvee in which I was a passenger and joined the unit’s medic at the Colonel’s position on the ground. He was semi-conscious and still losing blood despite the quick clotting sponges used to combat such injuries. The medic had to turn away to treat another wounded soldier.A raw primitive grief overwhelmed me. It was as if I were losing Chad all over again. “No,” the silent scream had echoed in my subconscious, “I will not let another good man die.” My instinctive reaction took over and I seized the opportunity. I visualized a double circle of rose-tinted light around our bodies. I laid my hand on the bleeding wound, supporting his arm with my own, and using the heat generated by the clotting product, I chanted the spell.“O gracious Goddess of day and night, protect us now with your might. Twice around my protection’s bound, let all that’s evil flee this ground. I call on the Spirits of earth and sun, make wellness and I now as one. Rising energies I now merge, painful injuries I now purge. As I will, so mote it be.”A flash of fire seared my arm as the heat transferred some of the cauterization to me. Color seeped back into the colonel’s face, my vision grayed, and I slipped into oblivion. I regained consciousness in the chopper and with it, the realization that my actions had saved a life, but upset the balance. I’d changed two destinies—both the Colonel’s and my own—and created a link stronger than the usual one comrades in arms forge with wartime intimacy. The noise of the ice cubes melting together in my glass recalled me to the present. The attendant had refilled it during the long flight and I hadn’t even noticed. I heard the pilot’s announcement from the cockpit that we’d land in thirty minutes. My reflections had filled the long hours of the flight but they had given me no peace. For that, I knew I’d need absolution from the Goddess.
(To be continued next week).