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In The Company Of Heroes Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
DOWN AND DIRTY
I WOKE UP IN THE SILENCE OF MY GRAVE.
At least that's what I believed in that first moment, because in my last flash of consciousness I had clearly seen the clawing hand of the Grim Reaper. I did not know where I was. I did not know who I was. It was like emerging from an altitude chamber with a case of hypoxia as my mind began to stagger, slowly, through the darkened hallways of my concussed brain. And when my eyelids finally fluttered open, I was stunned to take in the light.
The chopper's windshield was almost completely gone, pierced and disintegrated by a slab of corrugated metal that had stopped only inches from my face. Yet my first sense of emotion wasn't relief, but fury at the disfiguring of my helicopter by that rusty blade. I reached up to shove the thing from my cockpit, and then the pain swept over me like a wave of molten lava.
My back was broken.
Super Six-Four had come down like Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz, spinning fast, falling even faster, and finally slamming its nine tons of steel into the hard-packed ground. Two of my vertebrae had smacked together on impact, displacing the disk between them and pulverizing each other. Every muscle in my back must have tried to prevent that catastrophe and been ripped apart in the effort, and it felt like some evil giant had me on his worktable, squeezing my spine in an iron vise. I stopped moving and just tried to breathe without passing out.
I sure as hell was fully conscious now, although my thoughts and reflexes seemed to trudge through a sort of syrupy fog. Slowly I moved my aching head and glanced around the cockpit, and found I was sitting level with the floor. The pilot seats in a Blackhawk are designed to stroke downward in a major crash, and mine had done that and more. Its supports had snapped like the legs of a child's chair under the girth of a fat man. My right leg felt strangely numb, and as soon as I tried to move it I knew that the femur had broken clean in half over the edge of my Kevlar seat. My M-9 pistol was still strapped to my right thigh, and as its weight shifted I could feel the splintered ends of my bones grinding against one another. But it didn't hurt all that much. My crushed vertebrae were monopolizing my pain centers.
I was dead sure that I couldn't get myself out of the cockpit. A Blackhawk's hard enough to get out of when you're healthy. You have to contort yourself and maneuver your limbs around the seat and the controls. Now I could barely move. I unhooked my harness and took off my helmet, feeling rivulets of cold sweat running down my temples. Some guys come back from every mission soaked through, while I rarely break a sweat. Today was different. I peeled off my Nomex gloves and then, for some strange reason, I slipped my watch from my wrist, with my wedding ring still encircling the band, and laid them on the console. To this day, I'm not sure why I did that.
Maybe I knew that "time" was about to become a non-issue here. Or maybe it was the ring, and I didn't want to be distracted by thoughts of home. It was like something a man might do before surgery, or certain death.
I saw my MP-5 submachine gun lying on the floor near my left foot, right where I'd left it. If I had abided by written safety procedures, that "Skinny Popper"-our callous nickname for the compact German weapon-would have been behind me, strapped down somewhere in the back and inaccessible. So I was grateful for having a touch of the renegade in me as I reached for it, made sure it was locked and cocked and laid it across my lap. I could hear some thin, muffled shouts in the distance. The Somalis would surely try to overrun us, and it looked like I'd just have to fight it out right there where I sat. And then I remembered that I wasn't alone.
I looked over at Ray. His helmet was gone and he was slowly edging himself off his seat, which had collapsed to the floor just like mine. The acrid smell of spilled jet fuel mixed with dry dust was in the air, and I heard someone moaning unintelligibly from the back of the chopper. It was Bill Cleveland's voice, but nothing he muttered made any sense. There wasn't a sound from Tommy Field. Ray looked at me.
"I tried to pull them off." He meant the engines.
"I know it."
"Couldn't do it."
I glanced up at the power-control levers. "You got 'em halfway."
He didn't say anything for a moment, and then: "Left tibia's broken, I think."
"Right femur here. And my back, too."
"Yeah," he said, and then he slowly maneuvered himself until he was sitting in the door sill with his back to me.
"I'm movin', Mike," he said.
"I'll be right here."
Ray nodded, and then he gripped the sill with his hands and carefully lowered himself to the ground. I couldn't see him anymore, and I would never see him again.
I knew we were about to battle for our lives. We were down in the middle of Mogadishu, and there was no doubt in my mind that the Somalis were coming for us. I was dimly aware of the echoes of gunfire in the distance, the chatter of small arms, and the ominous double booms of RPGs. There was a badass fight going on out there, a real slugfest. But I didn't think, Oh my God, this is it, it's over. I was focused only on the things I had to do, setting my gun in position and getting ready to shoot it out. I felt no sense of despair or hopelessness, just a grim determination to hold them off as long as I could. I was ready.
And just then, Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon appeared on the right side of our chopper. They were Delta operators, and though I didn't know them personally or by name, I certainly knew who they were. More than once I had briefed them and other members of their teams prior to assaults into the city. Since they were wearing no helmets, I recognized them instantly. Randy was carrying a high-tech sniper rifle and Gary had a CAR-15, the short-barreled version of the M-16 assault rifle, and their load-bearing harnesses were slung with ammunition and grenades. They were the kind of professionals who could pick off a rabbit from a roller coaster with a BB gun. To me, they were Batman and Robin, only much better, and they just walked up to my aircraft like they were out for a stroll in the park.
Rescue Force! was the first thing that leapt to my mind. Already! I figured that only a few minutes had elapsed since Super Six-Four had been hit by the RPG, yet here were the Best of the Best, on the ground and setting up to get us all the hell out of there. Now there was cause for some real optimism, and a sense of elation swept through me. I was thinking that we'd all be all right, that it was over, and I assumed that Cliff Wolcott and Donovan Briley were alive and soon we'd all be swapping tales about what we'd been through.
Maybe it would be bedside by bedside in an army hospital, but what the hell. We took a couple of punches, I thought. But we're still rollin'.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00BFTV09A
- Publisher : Transworld Digital; New Ed edition (30 July 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 3221 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 481 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0552150940
- Best Sellers Rank: 221,136 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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I was also expecting more background detail on Shughart and Gordon and their valiant attempt in securing the crash site. They gave their lives to protect the survivors. At several times in the book it refers to them as the "two Delta men" which l found distasteful. There is a very touching letter from Shugharts wife which made difficult reading. The book could also have benefited from a bit more of a tactical review of the raid by Durant. Overall very good read