"LOOK OUT, JOE! RUN LIKE HELL!" But I was already too late. Cpl. Joe Fredricks had reached toward the little girl to accept the flower she had offered to him. The explosion that followed had smeared his blood and hers, along with two of his buddies, all over the wall of the nearby mud brick building. Bits of body parts were scattered about the dust of the street, and they were slowly covered by the dust that settled from the air. That same dust that had been blown into the air by the explosives strapped to the body of the five-year-old girl who had no idea that she was a walking instrument of death.
I looked around wildly, trying to spot the bastard who had set off the bomb. There he goes, running between two buildings a couple of hundred feet away. I don't have to think as I toggle my M4A1 to full auto and send off 18 rounds into his miserable hide. I'm sure my third shot killed him, but I emptied my magazine into his filthy body, chopping him to mincemeat the way he had chopped my friends a few seconds ago. Then, I sat down in the middle of that God-forsaken street and cried for a good 15 minutes.
The medics picked me up and put me in the Humvee for a ride to the medical station. I guess that it was obvious that I was in pretty sad shape, even though I had no visible wounds. My hands were shaking and my teeth were chattering, but I was sweating in a steady stream. On the way, one of the other men in the Humvee gave me a drink from his canteen—that "medicinal" whiskey helped a lot. By the time we had gotten to the aid station 15 minutes later, I had stopped shaking and I was no longer sweating so heavily. A doctor looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and told me to sit in the shade and drink as much water as I could force down. I don't know how much good that advice did me, but it seemed to make the doctor feel better.
I heard later that the guy I had shot was carrying a remote detonator, so he had to be the one who had set off the bomb. Those damned bastards had found the perfect bomb carriers! What GI could resist a little girl who wanted to give him a flower? The troops had gotten smart enough that they would not let an adult, man or woman, come that close, but we never seemed to learn when it came to children, particularly little girls with flowers!
There was nothing for it, but we must sweep the village again. As sergeant, I was stuck with leading the door-to-door search of all 15 hovels in that God-awful little town out in the Afghan boondocks. I gathered up six "volunteers" to help me, and we started at one end of the single street, looking into every house we came to. I had three men on the north side of the street and three men on the south side of the street.
We payed no attention to the automatic rifles, AK-47s or AK-74s, that we found in every house. Hell, no Afghani male considered himself a man if he didn't have at least one rifle to his name. You might strip away his kids, or even his wife, but he would die before he gave up that rifle. Actually, I didn't blame him—Afghanistan is so dangerous that a man without a rifle cannot protect himself or his family, so taking his rifle was tantamount to taking his balls! At least, that was the way they felt about it.
The people knew what we were doing, and most of them sympathized with us and why we were searching. There was no way that we could look at a person and know whether he was an enemy or a friend, so we had to search for other signs. Mostly, we looked for hand grenades and RPGs, though we really didn't expect to find any, they were always too well hidden. We turned the people out of the house while we searched, and our search was thorough—it was our lives that were on the line! We were so thorough that it was nearly sundown before we finished with the last house. It takes time to do a careful search and then put everything back the way you found it, as much as you could. That's why most of the people didn't begrudge us our necessary search.