“Okay Diesel, it’s time for us to move cross the river, I want you behind me and Tex while we cross. Tex, is that radio and computer secured?” asked Gunny as he surveyed the rest of the men.

“Radio and computer are secured and watertight Gunny.”

“And just why am I to stay behind you two during the crossing?” asked Diesel.

“I don’t want to give those two yahoos any chance to draw a bead on you at all. I don’t have the time or the energy to break in a new officer.”

“Fair enough, once we got over, Gunny I want you to take the men there and head for the OP. I will stay and bring the balance with me once the rest cross. Tex you’re to go with Gunny.”

The river crossing continued without a hitch and the rest of the platoon crossed over quickly. Diesel stayed at the river waiting for third squad as Gunny and Tex headed for the OP with the first and second squads.

Gunny set a ground eating pace for the men with him. This pace would allow them to fight a pitched battle if need be once they got to the OP. They only had to stop twice on their trek to the down men. On one occasion it was to gather the supplies to make two stretchers. The other was when he stopped on the same hill crest that Greywolf and Doc paused at. Gunny noticed the disturbed earth and crushed plants where Greywolf fell.

“Jefe this is Gunny. Over.”

“This is Jefe. Over.”

“We are at the crest of the hill overlooking your position. We are coming in. Over.”

“We copy, you are coming in, over.”

Gunny then turned to the men gathered around him. “First squad I want you to setup to provide covering fire. Second Squad you are with me.” Gunny changed his radio back to the command freq. “Diesel this is Gunny, Over.”

“Go for Diesel, over.”

“We are on the hill behind the OP. First squad is in overwatch on the hill. Second squad and myself are heading in. Over.”

“Contact me when you get there. Out.”

Gunny turned back to second Squad. “Second squad move out.” The Marines quickly made it to the OP. All they needed to do was to assemble the stretchers and put the men on them. Gunny called Diesel. “Diesel this is Gunny, over.”

“Go Gunny, over” Came Diesel voice through the radio.

“We are loading up the men now. We will be ready to move out in less than five mikes. Over.”

“How are they Gunny? Over,” asked Diesel.

“We’ve seen worse, a lot worse. Over,” stated Gunny grimly.

A vision a firefight from over a month ago flashed through Gunny’s mind. This one in particular really hurt. Joker was lying on his side. Tuffs of dirt were kicked up around Joker as the enemy was trying to stop him. With one bloody hand Joker was holding in his steaming, oozing guts that kept sliding out through the gaping wound to his stomach. The smell was horrible, and the sight sickening. Jokers other hand was squeezing off 20 rounds bursts from his M-384. Even as grievously wounded as he was Joker kept up his withering fire to support his fellow Marines that were pinned down by a superbly executed ambush. Joker knew his life was slipping away, as his guts keep slipping past his hand. Joker roared as he directed his fire into the enemy, his volume of fire increased as the weapon started to cut down small trees as well as the enemy.

Gunny ran to up to Joker and took cover next to the wounded Joker. Gunny could hear the enemy round passing him. Some of the rounds were striking the ground and trees about him. Gunny felt and heard two rounds slam into his body armor. Gunny was firing his weapon one handed as he motioned for the corpsmen to get up there. Gunny started yelling orders and directing the Marines that were with him to form up in a skirmish line. He knew speed and mass fire were the keys to getting out of the ambush. As one the men in the skirmish line opened up on the enemies positions.

Joker knew this also. Joker felt the enemy rounds punching through his armor. Some had pass through his body where there was no armor to slow the rounds down. Joker wedged his finger into the trigger to keep his weapon firing as he died. Gunny saw a blood and dirt covered Grumpy running towards the fallen Joker.

In Grumpy’s hands were two, 2000 round box mags for the M-384. Joker’s weapon had finally run dry. The corpsmen did a quick check on Joker then he was quickly moving off to help other wounded Marines that were screaming for help. Gunny moved off to the right to give Grumpy room to reload the M-384 and take over for Joker.

Gunny, from his new position could see that Surfer had moved his fireteam up into cover, Where they were reloading their weapons. The enemy had planned on this and executed a well timed ambush as three men jumped upped from the bushes and thick undergrowth and made to attach with bayonets. Gunny snapshot one of the three. Surfer bashed another one’s brains out using his rifle. Pipes meaty hands quickly grabbed the barrel of his opponent’s and shoved it away from his body as Pipes stepped in to close the distance. Gunny watched as Pipes’ opponent let his hands slip from the weapon one hand grasping for a combat knife as his other threw a haymaker for Pipes’ face. Pipes slapped the man’s attempt to hit him with a haymaker inside the two of them thus blocking the man’s knife attack. Pipes left hand shot out and the edge of it struck the enemy in the throat with enough force to crush the man’s windpipe. The man dropped the knife and gave Pipes the opening he wanted. Then as quick as a striking snake, Pipes stepped in even closer and grasped the man’s head in both of his massive hands and with a sharp jerk, the man’s neck snapped.  Gunny stepped to his right to get into cover. Doing a quick look around Gunny spotted the platoon leader Lieutenant Smith.

Lieutenant Smith was hunkered down behind a massive tree. He was shouting incoherent orders into the remains of his radio. Gunny looked back to Grumpy, that’s when he saw the grenade looping through the air. Gunny screamed out a warning and dove for cover in a depression. The grenade landed less than 5 feet from the body of Joker and Grumpy. Then the grenade went off. Joker and Grumpy were now a large bloody mess of mangled flesh.

Lieutenant Smith was not even hit.

With a slight shudder Gunny was back in the present “Yeah Diesel we’ve seen worse. Over,” said Gunny.

“Understood Gunny. Out,” replied Diesel.

Gunny turned to look Doc in the eyes. “Will they need a dust off or can they continue with the mission Doc?”

“I don’t think they will need a dust off. The human ear is really an amazing thing. Given time it can repair ruptures. They may have a loss of hearing now, but they might get some or all of it back. I really don’t like calling for a dust of this far into Charlie’s backyard and this close to the objective to boot.”

“I can understand that,” replied Gunny.

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