Alpha: Chapter 14

The more information one gathers can also lead to less and less confidence in that said information. This is even more true when the information gathers to a particular moment of time. It all becomes a judgment call more than what the genuine truth is. Most often it’s an estimation given with the copious amounts of skewed facts. It can be mining or panning for gold. Scooping everything told into a tray and then sifting it down to the few shimmering nuggets which count.


Words and words, guesstimation and conjecture. Most battles have these details recounted but everyone has their own take. Some really believe it all or think it’s what they saw or experienced. Many will start with the truth, but add a coat on top; thinking it’s what was wanting to be heard or read by whoever. In most cases in those times of war it’s best to be completely honest since more often than not nothing needs to be hidden.


The most pivotal moment of the group is known no more or less as “the incident” rather than anything descriptive or symphonic to the ear. Most every man in that convoy had an obscure view of it all. Few saw, but the mind has coping mechanisms. The same way the mind tries to mask the pain of a lost love or only drawing the happy moments from a person who passed on – the same is done to shielding the mental trauma and anguish by holding on to an entire scenario; locking it away and parsing it out in minute details if anything. Later it may trickle out in the worst of times. Some toss the words battle minded or a number of other cliches to mask what it really is. Mental trauma. The brain thinks it knows best even if it doesn’t feel like it to the owner of that mind.

Each of these men went through their own internal experience despite all of their motivation stemmed from the exact same point. Those who figuratively walked away were of course the luckiest of all. Not all of them did. Many men who were more along for the ride rather than initially assigned.


It all happened while on a vehicle patrol. Things still had a lot of fluctuation and some routes had more inherent danger than others. In reality, it was all a roll of the dice and how accurate information as a whole would be at any particular time. Some paths became hotter than others but it was the most mundane of intense tasks. Being on the highest of alert for the faintest of danger while moving at the bumpiest of a snail’s pace.


A variety of methods were used to disrupt a patrol. Sometimes the cause for the patrol was the very ruse for an ambush to occur. The intelligence was always a questionable thing to accept. Sometimes those individuals would intentionally lie. Others were passing information with the very best of intentions; only to discover later they were being lied to and placed deliberately in a surrounding and fed disinformation. It would happen after the person already proved useful and created a unique situation on both sides. The person feeding the information would be known he had been tagged as a person to snitch information. On top of that, those who were relying on this information would be skeptical once getting something fabricated. It was a common situation which led to no winners.


The only real solution was to stay alert for the slightest inconsistency and hope it was stopped in time. Where they patrolled, there were no easy roads or routes: only a differing set of obstacles which could be employed to keep the missions from achieving success and an end to the war against the oppressors and the misguided freedom fighters who aided often against their own will in fact.


Of course the dwellers of the sand had nothing against the technology which was brought out to flush the garbage out of the unwantedly occupied land. The mightiest of mountains can crumble if chipped upon the rock night and day. This was the mentality, not knowing how dug in and undaunted the men were. The only recourse was throwing sticks and stones at the men’s technology and steel. The only thing aside from their archaic and substandard munitions was the IED: their own twist on hiding in holes with machine guns within the jungle’s dark depths.


The acronym stands for Improvised Explosive Device. There were many different types but they were all the same. Fuse or initiation type system; explosive fill; detonator; power supply for said detonator; and the container for it all. In other words it was nothing more than a bomb. The only difference being where it was placed.


Most commonly these are buried beside the road. They can resemble a package or piece of debris, or camouflaged from easy detection with any sort of combination of sticks; rocks; sand; dirt. Other times they can be plain as day on the side of the road as a package or even inside another object which may or may not draw attention; based on how innocuous it seemed in its placed surroundings. The other more extreme alternative was to actually dig out a patch of the road and sneak the device underneath the path for the sake of extra stealth: detonating from a remote type of ignition or a pressure plate which activates very similar to a land mine. This particular situation bombarded the group with three separate versions of IEDs.


Conjecture is the only way to know the whys of the incident, as well as the who and hows of it. So many vagaries which tranced science and math – leading to nothing more than a best guess. There is no standard for an IED: no specific measurements or exact playbook. Especially in the event of a blast dealing with multiples.


Aside from a tornado, most men who put in modern combat time would agree an IED is the closest physics-bending thing to ever be witnessed. The pressure change alone is enough to kill a person: 488 meters per second spreading at 1,600 feet per second. This doesn’t even cover the debris which can be hurtled distances to seem ungodly; and a vacuum effect


Besides the actual detonation being devastating, waves from the blast can also create a partial vacuum; causing air to rush back towards the flashpoint and in that action, resulting in a high whoosh of shrapnel and debris to pull back after the devastation. This makes anything which already shot out during the blast to come right back again, creating a secondary explosion in that respect.


If all of those factors weren’t enough to make any person feeling the slight bit mortal to shudder in fear, there is another layer to this entity. On top of all of those aspects are incendiary effects. Heat from the explosion can cause fire. Additionally, that fire can also ignite secondary fires; from either the fire initially created from the blast but also the sweeping heat and pressure. This is all from just a single blast.


The moment of time known best as “the incident” was a series of at least three separate IEDs to the best of calculations. Men in lab coats have a rough enough time to estimate the effects of one improvised explosive device outside of the setting of a laboratory. Sifting the statements into a single report proved three distinct blasts were heard, but ti still could not be ascertained if it was a single IED each or even smaller clusters or daisy chains. The first being more than one attached to the original device and detonating at the same time due to proximity, and the other spaced apart to explode at a specific interval or with the same timer igniting all at the same instant. Devastation upon devastation being the most difficult to calculate.


No person in that convoy was the same afterwards. It was a mark of inhumanity and carnage which each would see at some point even after both eyes were closed tightly. Between death; lacerations; severe trauma; even that which was a wound to the eye – things lasted longer than any cut or wound.


Mildred Lisette Norman shed her birth name around the year 1953. Afterwards she became known only as Peace Pilgrim while dedicating her time to the cause which happened to be the adopted moniker. Between that time and 1981 she had been credited by walking over 250,000 miles as part of a self defined pilgrimage of remaining a wanderer “…until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” It may seem strange to many to describe a pacifist such as her in a tale of soldiers in a time of war. It is not because of her broad message or a viewpoint shoehorned into a tale to prove a lesson. Instead, it is merely for a sentence which had been written by Ms. Peace Pilgrim’s 1964 book entitled Steps Toward Inner Peace.


“The first step for one may be the last step for another.”


Books, cinema, and even songs can have a beginning and ending point. Life is far from the same short and usually quite linear path. Life very seldom ends as happily in the “ever after” sense. These words of Ms. Pilgrim constitute so much about life for all; whether these people know it or not. Many cling to their salad days as etched in stone. Accomplishments never going beyond a college graduation or triumphs made during high school. For some of those people, that is where the story tapers off of constitutes an ending in their lives. Others did as education originally intended: not as a sociology or anthropology experiment but as preparation for something larger. Accolades earned in the real world and not behind the confines of an educational institution. These are the people who used the last step of many as a first step towards a much larger picture.


This same example can be said of the fine men telling their combined “Alpha” tales of loftiest successes and the much less frequent missteps. And then what punctuated this specific group” the incident. Even though the men lived to tell their stories here, it did not mean all of them survived. At the same accord, those who walked away from it did not always think of their selves as living. Something shifted inside and ended a legacy or a certain part of life.


Many enlisted people can be compared to that of an athlete; such as a football player. Some are happy to have served their country, just as many were happy to have contributed to the lore of a football team’s franchise. One of the cogs of a great machine but later retired in all aspects. Whereas some people cannot left go as willingly or so freely. Those types cling to the stories as if holding time itself. Aging each year as every other man and woman in life; however harboring a feeling deep inside that a last step of a journey had been taken long ago… Even though time has marched on at the same pace it always had and shall continue to.


No blast is typical but this one was a significant guidepost for each and every one; regardless what words have been spoken on it. Friends reduced to particles, and a particular rein of this branch significantly altered. These men all saw the same unfoldings and had their own viewpoints: mentally and spiritually. No two pulled through it identically, and sure not all of them pulled all the way through the incident.


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