Darkness falls. Choices made.
MEANING OF INSTRUMENTS:
Whistle + Insects noise: The desert at night.
Base Guitar: Heartbeat
Lead Guitar: Mind/brain at work.
Drums: Gunfire, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG’s) and Anti¬Aircraft Artillery (AAA)…the pace of the moment.
Cymbal Crashes: Aircraft bombs dropped out of the night sky exploding all around. Supporting our movements on the ground, aircraft attack from the sky to the ground.
Scratching Guitar: Tension…growing anxieties. Sun set an hour ago, darkness covers the desert with stars sparkling in the night blanketing the sky…on the ground, snaking rows of headlights as vehicles filled with native forces corralled like cattle deep inside the valley…deadly ground. Vehicles stop coming to a halt, my radio chirps with chatter from the aircrew approaching the drop zone. In the distance an MC-130 cargo plane flies at low altitude approaching our location preparing to parachute lethal aid (Weapons and ammunition)…“three minutes out”…
At first, unwelcome frustration and anxiety grows coming on slow….too many confusing questions mixed with brief statements and bits of information streaming in complicating the already confusing situation… tension spikes. Progress and movement on the ground abruptly slows to a halt. Flashlights wave in the distance…
Confident I know what must happen, the situation becomes more chaotic…. like herding cats, in two’s and three’s, native Afghani soldiers emerge out of darkness appearing from nowhere speaking in hushed “Pashto” voices I no longer understand…
Crossing into new territory never witnessed before, my mind registers unfamiliar feelings, piecing together broken statements, partial information, contemplating complicated choices and making critical decisions without enough information, chaos is rampant creating confusion, frustration with fear spreading in an instant. Ultimately choosing to attack versus being killed. The sound of a scratching guitar resembles my mind tearing like cloth as my brain injects complex chemicals. My core temperature sky rockets, body feels hot, covered in sweat flooded with adrenaline pumped throughout my entire body. Lost in a sea of unfamiliar Afghan faces, I’m getting no information.
Hank, a fellow American, our commander, emerges. As we walk together, the Afghans part, our Afghan interpreter raises a finger to his lips making a “Sssshhh” sound….He points towards the ground…revealing three individuals sitting with their hands tied behind their backs, dressed in black. ”Taliban!”
With black eye liner highlighting the piercing rage in their eyes, these individuals make eye contact with us…I instantly wonder….”My friends, where are they?” ”Where are the other Americans???”
MEANING OF LYRICS:
Went astray: Too little guidance, can’t wait any longer for the commander to decide…Going alone on my own, making my own choices. Breaking free of old or outdated tradition, disregarding an officer knowing I am enlisted now making decisions on my own. Never turning back, kicking in the door to new ideas on how to fight.
Hands of Love: Family, child, wife, lover and being a warrior…trying to balance. It is why we are in Afghanistan and war…defend each other and what we love. What may sicken most, to us we understood. We searched for Arabs (Slang for Al Qaeda) defending our way of life.
Howling Wind: Desert
Deeper into Black/Deeper into White: Wrong/Right. Grey is what we seek.
Healing: Being healthy and strong at peak performance both physically and mentally. Able to withstand and overcome even manage abnormal levels of stress. After hit by overwhelming stress, the body and mind heals itself.
Stars Shine: Desert sky at night under green Night Vision Goggles (NVG).
Hands in the pocket: Digging for a weapon…hyper awareness, eyes dilated, sights are sharper, sounds are deafening, everything touched becomes lost, instincts say something is wrong.
Finger on the steel: Grabbing weapon…no time…reach for radio to control aircraft and bombs orbiting overhead…
Pistol weighed heavy: Natural human resistances to attack even kill another human being.
He’s not paying attention…the commander is too distracted by the Afghans. No one is listening…
Repeatedly, I make it clear….“We need aircraft now!!!”
Surrounded, feeling threatened, becoming aggressive…(Like a mental sprint)….searching for my own solutions…
We walked into this trap, we can’t tell who is who. We’re about to get fucked up!…
I hate not being prepared. I need my radio…Fuck him, If he’s not gonna do it. I will…”
There it is again. Fuck this shit, what the fuck. I fucking told you. HOLD ON…I’m doing it.
Reality hits…I’m about to kill for real…
Heart was beating: Self explanatory…no time, under control slowing my mind the world moves at a crawl. Too much happening, cannot see, discern who is what or where. BOOM! Flares fired towards violence… gunfire, Rocket Propelled Grenades all mixed with repeated bursts of long streams of Anti¬Aircraft Artillery (AAA) red tracer rounds spraying like an enormous dragon spitting toxic flames all around us.
Oh my love: Committing to my choices and split second decisions…going alone…I must decide. Piercing images of my wife. My son.
Separating work from home life Reality of warfare is how everything you value rushes back. The choice is made…taking in all information available… senses and instincts heighten…training…values kick in…at some point I chose to act and attack…body and mind become one flooded with bodily responses never witnessed before. Going through with split second choices one moment overwhelmed the next fiercely focused holding on for the ride searching for an exit.
“Stand by!” “Helens flight (F-16 aircraft pilot), are you there?” “This is Texas 17, “I got you Lima Charlie (Loud and Clear)”….”Cleared hot!” (Attack). “You are fucking cleared hot!”….BOOM!…out my hand I shoot and repeatedly fire flares into the night sky. Over and over I’m going from chilling cold shifting to extreme spikes in body temperature boiling hot in seconds. A storm of activity of body and mind functions flooded with hormonal streams of adrenaline injected throughout my body and brain as. Fighting to attack even survive. Hunt and kill.
Each stress overload adds weight to the body ripping at your mind. Everything collides. “That choice to go alone”, “Under fire”, “Afghan soldiers begging me to stop attacking fearing I was killing their men.” Throughout the destruction and violence I cause, people everywhere scream pleading me to make it all stop. People who were cocky and confident before this attack now crawl in silence nearly in tears frantically begging me to stop. All of them are frightened that we would be overrun… I too am in fear yet choose to attack more…”Where are my friends???”, Where are the other Americans?” Alone, pushing away the resistance of confusion, I’m rattling off decisions real-time shaping an unfamiliar situation desperately trying to regain control. All of us nearly crossing the edge breaching the line of no return… time progresses forward and falls backwards…images and unfamiliar faces flash in moments yet lasting a lifetime.
Mother: Fiercely sharp memories of my wife and son… ( In time war, single men resort to brief final thoughts and mental images of their mothers in their mind. A way for warriors to comfort themselves and put themselves at ease the moment they sense and feel they are about to die).
On a battlefield of resistance and severe threat to life, time collides like chemicals mixing in a bottle.
Your surroundings on the ground move very fast buzzing with activity, people yelling and screaming begging you for information or to do something. While talking to pilots, time slows to a crawl. From the moment the words “Cleared Hot” leave your lips they spill into your radio, those commands are broadcasted, announced echoing to the world. Your orders specifically to attack are released never recovered again. Choices are made, no going back, no stopping the domino effect. No matter if intentions are genuine or the consequences unforeseen. Moment you order a person in the sky over six miles high to attack near your location, everything changes. Someone you’ve never met.
That night I ordered all Pilots to attack positions all around us. When the ambush and our counter attack was over with, no one would speak to me. All I cared was no one had died on our side. Other American’s believed we would get in trouble for what we did. Others are surprised by the enormity of the situation. Regardless, sitting in silence afterwards…grateful for my training….never have I felt so alone.