I’ll fly away

Scores of roaring cams, pistons and props raged against the night, spinning in infinity through the dark, and through the miracle of flight, held our steel sarcophagus aloft.

In the hold, sixty-some odd troops sat in the windowless black, sweating in the – Kuwait air? Iraq yet? Hot, regardless. Even altitude was no respite. Summer had arrived in spirit, at least, and so had we, back from our two-week ticket in the states – a tease of life sans war.

It was good and bad, the two weeks – long enough to feel like you had returned from another type of life, and long enough to get used to not being at war. Now, glum faces all, back in the bosom of hell, bound for our respective posts, we gasped and shifted in the stifling heat, paying penance for our time away.

Butts numb, packs at our feet, sitting side-to-side in tight rows, legs interlocked with the Joe across the aisle. Legs start to cramp, helmet slips down from the sweat. I reach up and pull on the cargo netting along the walls, trying to take the pressure off my lower quarter.

I would ask what the time was, but the C-130’s screaming turboprops limited any bout of communication in the dark to taps on the shoulder for air-sick bags.

Someone hit their Indiglow watch and flooded the cabin with a blue-hued daylight, our eyes hypersensitive to the light.

Four-ten, visible to all, still an hour out. God help us! I had an iPod in my pack, but that’d mean I’d have to lose my ear plugs, and I didn’t think shoving music into my head at a volume above the ambient engine noise was that great of an idea. Still, anything to take my mind off of the leg ache and heat!

My uniform had become a wet, lubricating layer between my skin and armor. I’m sure I was less than kissable. But you know what? I was in Iraq, dammit. To hell with all that showy, play-it-up-for-the-ladies crapola.

In four or five centuries, we’d arrive in Balad, the nearest major airfield to my group’s various posts in theater. Once in Balad, we’d schlep through a few dozen more lines and manifests to score a chopper flight home. Once home, we’d put out of our mind any recollection of the time away in efforts to keep time speeding along in the same numb haze.

At least that was the plan. No use in dreaming ahead, though, there was still life in the bird, second after second, each throbbing engine cycle leeching more heat into the sweltering cabin.

If this thing had sprinklers, I’d torch the damn thing for a hint of showered freshness.


About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

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