Vehicle is approaching from rear on the left, friendly forces. Passes, takes lead position in convoy. We fall in behind and set proper interval for this portion of the Main Supply Route – MSR Knight. It’s a familiar routine, comforting. Lead vehicle markings read Purple Heart, Special Forces, Combat Infantry; plate number – H0M 5AF3.
Coming up on three civilian vehicles. Convoy lead accelerates and passes threat. We follow suit, maintaining interval between vehicles. Ensure civilians stay 100 meters away or “You Will Be Shot! Use of Deadly Force is Authorized!” Can’t you read the signs? They better stay the fuck back. Breath. Vehicles diminish in the side mirrors.
Desert rolling past on both sides and the cambered road is straight and clear. It’s beautiful in its own way… No, damn it. Object on the roadside ahead. Move to opposite lane and identify – lead vehicle already shifted. Cardboard box. Look for wires. Anything else piled on the side of the road, in the median? Construction debris? Look for triggerman, anyone on a cell phone? Damn it. Hold breath, muscles tighten waiting for the blast – nothing. Clear. Breath. Should have had the gunner lay a burst into it just for GP.
Scan the median. Scan the roadside. Scan beyond. Desert is green from rain, pock marked red with wildflowers. Scan. Approaching intersection. Call in checkpoint. We are three minutes out. Lead vehicle, Purple Heart, Special Forces, Combat Infantry; plate number H0M 5AF3 turns left into point of lubrication. We turn right. All weapons on safe, unload and clear. Pass the apple tree, blossoms white like a smile. Back inside the wire. Mission complete. Four hundred fifty meters further and we call in touchdown. Brown stucco blends with the khaki sand. Home base… Home safe. Take that deep cleansing breath. Look back at crew, relieved. Dismount and lift him out of the car seat, Cheerios stuck to his cheeks. Basketball thumps on someone’s drive and dog comes from the side of the house, tail wagging. Wife is at the open door enrobed in the smell of dinner. Sun shines and sets on all of us. Wherever we are.