The Gulf War was over.
My platoon was taking the first real steps towards moving 1st Armored Division out of Iraq, through Kuwait, and back to Saudi Arabia. It was a major step towards going home.
We’d made it.
But despite an outbreak of peace, we were a long ways from being in the clear as our British allies soon found out.
We’d driven down from Iraq as a small convoy of seven Humvees. Despite a ceasefire, we were still running under combat conditions. That meant the weapons were loaded, and gunners were in the turrets.
We’d come down through the Highway of Death, and had even taken a little trip into Kuwait City. We’d looked out over the Persian Gulf and seen the reception Saddam and his Merry Men had put together should the Marines try a beach landing, and seen the damage done to this beautiful city.
Now we were heading west into Saudi Arabia along Highway 70. Long black scars crossed the desert. These were anti-tank ditches the Iraqis had dug. They’d been filled with crude oil, and the idea was to form a flaming barrier that in theory our tanks wouldn’t be able to cross.
The tactic hadn’t worked at all.
They’d also torn gashes across the road, but those had been filled in by our engineers. We’d been assured that the roads had been swept for mines and were clear.
The roads might have been cleared, but no one said anything about the shoulders.
As we drove down the highway, we saw a bus directly ahead of us. It looked almost like any other school bus in the world, only it had been painted the sand color we used in the desert. A placard in the window had the British Flag printed on it.
It pulled over, and several men got out. It was a simple bathroom break in the middle of the desert. God knew, we’d done enough of those ourselves.
We slowed for purely safety reasons lest someone not see us and step out in front of us. It would have been a shame to survive the war, then to die or be injured in a simple auto accident.
We weren’t much more than fifty yards away when an explosion echoed through the desert. There was a puff of smoke and dust among the British troops. Several of them fell down.
We knew right away what had happened. The Brits had pulled over and walked right into a minefield on the side of the road.
The LT ordered us to stop and render assistance. Three members of our platoon had gone through a down and dirty combat medic course, and we had everything we needed to render assistance. We were most definitely in a position to help treat their wounded.
But as we started to pull over, a Brit NCO started yelling at us to stay on the road and not to get out. The LT shouted we had medics. He answered, “So do we. It’s too dangerous here! We’ll treat our own wounded.”
As we drove past, we all felt completely helpless. A few meters away, allies and fellow human beings were hurt, maybe dying, and there was nothing we could do about it.
There was very little we could have done given the circumstances except maybe to add ourselves to the potential casualty list.
Thank God for a Brit who kept his cool in a bad situation and warned us off.