I'm dedicating this oneshot to the countless men and women who fight against the Enemy everyday in the war on terror in the foreign world of Afghanistan. Not many can do the things you do everyday, and overcome all of the life-or-death situations you do.

A special dedication to the Marines in the field and to their families, my father is a Marine, and he served honorably, as yours do.

Semper Fi

Dust. Heat. The sounds of foreign language was ripped away by whistling Afghani winds, peppered by the sharp rata-tat-tat of machine gun fire. The hot sun was obscured by billowing clouds of black smoke and dust, the heat of oil fires and the burning wreckages of the remains of convoy trucks colored the air dull sienna, blending into the reddening sand.

Camo figures loomed out of clouds of dust kicked up by explosions, dirt covered goggles and ragged uniforms only visible from mere feet away. Quick and fluid, a soldier whipped around a sandstone outcropping and sent a quick burst of death toward the Enemy. Cloistered in a small village, barely fifty yards of sand and scrubland away, the Enemy is cornered, and they know it.

A quick signal.

Silent battle cries, overlapped by fierce cover fire, erupt as soldiers surged forward, overrunning the small contingent of insurgents and quickly neutralizing the Enemy. The surprised and terrified faces of young boys armed with guns too large for their small arms and battle scarred adolescents with old eyes were hard to shut out. The cries of the wounded, screams of the enraged, and the soft weeping for lost ones were easily heard over the loud commands from superiors.

Gliding down brown urban streets, palms sweating, knees shaking, the young rookie soldiers looked around nervously, taking confidence from their composed, older comrades who kept the muzzles of their guns trained on open windows and broken doors. Ragged breathing could be heard over the earpieces of the radio set, static flooding the air waves with every rasp of breath. Inhale…exhale…inhale-

With a roar, the wind was crushed out of the street as chips of wood and stone thudded into heavy combat vests and scored deep scratches across grimy faces. Mushroom clouds of heat and debris from the bomb roared out of the windows, the blast sending men flying across the street into the gutter, crumpled like aluminum foil on the sandy ground. The silence was profound as some still forms stayed down and a few lucky ones manage to get to their feet, staggering, the street swinging in and out of focus.

Behind, the surviving company rushed up, shouting words lost in the ringing of the lingering blast, devastated faces barely comprehending how everything went so wrong, so wrong…words, sounding through hazes of grief and pain, move out, keep moving, safety…

Teeth gritted against aching pain in their ruptured ears, the survivors forced themselves to their feet, guns held like safety blankets in the nightmare of this seemingly beautiful country, eyes wary, looking left and right for-


A face, contorted by hate and fury, showed itself in an open doorway and reflex flicks the muzzle of a gun up, safety off. A quick spasm of a finger and the Enemy falls back like a target cutout, face frozen in death. The young soldier looked in horror at his handiwork, bile rising in the back of his throat as he turned away to continue through the rest of the deserted town. As they cleared that last alley of the labyrinthine village, the steady trop-throp of the helicopter pounded in exhausted ears.

A silhouetted helicopter slowly touched down, the waves of sand kicked up scoured away skin like a sandblaster. The exhausted soldiers hopped into the chopper cabin, buckling in, rifles slung across necks and held tight in tired arms.

Through the drooping eyes of the U.S soldiers, the liquid blood sunset spilled its last drop of life across the desert landscape, flaring brilliant red before slipping behind the earth. Plunging the Afghan countryside into purples and blacks, the only light came from the distant pinpricks of foreign stars.

Dedicated to Marine Lance Cpl. Mark D. Juarez, the first American to fall in combat this year. January 9, 2010.

My greatest condolensces to his family and friends, his country will miss him.