This is one of those stories that I’m filing under “Huh?” It’s so incredible that it’s hard to believe it happened, but at the same time stranger things have been known to occur on the battlefield.
I’m allowed to tell this one on the condition I mention no names, no locations, or dates, so here goes.
The guy who told me this story has recently been discharged from the Army. After twenty years, he decided he’d done enough. He has a lot of unwinding to do, and so I listened to him talk. As a counselor, my biggest job is to get the pump primed, and then let it flow on its own.
Too many times people don’t talk about the trauma they’ve gone through. I guess most folks think if they don’t talk about it, then it never happened. Or maybe their just afraid to grab the trauma by the scruff of the neck and look at it.
Either way, getting someone to talk about it, especially soldiers, police, fire, EMTs, or the victims of sexual abuse can be a little like pulling teeth. People have built up dams and dikes around their traumas, but once the wall gets breached, there’s a flood.
Only then can they really leave it behind.
So it was with him. I don’t even know what I said to start the flood, but it was like putting explosives on the dike and opening a hole in it. He started talking.
My friend was Special Forces in Afghanistan. I already knew that.
Special Forces or SF as it’s often called draws some odd missions. One of those mission was for my friends to take two other guys, and establish an observation post overlooking this one small town. They went in, but avoided contact. All these men would pass for residents of those parts, and spoke the language.
They were dropped in miles away, hiked into the area, and established their site. They’d been up there for an uneventful week when one evening they saw two men holding a white flag approaching their location.
They identified themselves as locals and wished to speak to them. My friend went out, and that’s when the leader of the two identified themselves as members of the Taliban.
“We know who you are. But because you haven’t bothered the villagers, and your behavior has been good, we are here to give you this warning. About nine tomorrow morning, we’re going to attack you.”
What can you say at that point except “What?”
“Yes, there’s going to be ten of us. We’ll be coming from that direction.” He pointed, then went on to describe how they’d be deployed and would be backed up by a single mortar deployed there.
“No one from the village should interfere. No one should coming charging out, no one should fire at you from there. We’ve warned them not to. But if someone does, then you have to do what you have to do.”
“Thank you. Why are you telling us this? Aren’t we enemies?”
“Enemies, yes. But you seem to be honorable men, and we’ll honor that. All we ask is a fair fight. No aircraft, no helicopters. Just you and us.”
My contact said he just nodded. Even without aircover, he felt the odds would still be in his favor. His team had a long range sniper rifle, and that was a good equalizer.
“We’d like to ask one more thing.”
“You share a meal with us.”
“Yes, some lamb and rice. Then we go our way, and come back tomorrow.”
It was so outrageous, my friend agreed to it. The leader turned and made a motion to a treeline.
Two men carrying pots and a rug came out, stopped about twenty yards away near a small tree and placed the items on the ground. The other man who was with him, unrolled the rug to show nothing was in it, and set up a place for a small meal.
“Like you,” he told my contact, “we have our security element.”
He invited my contact to tell his men to get their mess kits. Sitting, the leader got out his, a battered mess kit from the former Soviet Union. He served them all, blessed the food, and began to eat.
When he noticed my contact wasn’t eating, he said, “I can’t blame you. Understand, yes we are enemies, but I can understand why you’re here. I can’t read so I don’t know what exactly happened. All I know is what I hear on the radio. But if someone attacked our cities, we would do exactly what you did. We’d come and fight them. But this is our land, and even if you are right, we would still have to fight.” He used some flat bread to sop up some juice. “It’s all we know.”
Then he told my contact what they thought of Osama Bin Laden. “He’s a coward. A troublemaker. He starts something, then leaves others to do his fighting for him.”
After the meal, the two men packed up the rug, and left, reminding my contact that they would return tomorrow. My friend was left wondering why these men did what they did. It made no sense to him.
Good to their word, they came, exactly as they said they would. The three men employed their “secret weapon,” the sniper rifle.
“It was unreal,” he said. “I’m looking through the scope at the men firing on us, and I’m looking right at the man I’d shared a meal with the night before. I squeezed the trigger, and I killed him.”
Then my friend cried for an enemy that under different circumstances, might have been a friend.