A short story about my friend Jason, on our tour in Afghanistan. Jason charges a hill while a friendly base is being attacked. We all thanked the Lord when he returned. I hope you enjoy, please let me know what you think.
It was another scorcher in the Afghan desert. Well north of 110 degrees this afternoon. So we were all in our air conditioned Alaskan shelters to escape the heat of the day. Dirty, filthy, tired, we were all lazily laying around in our racks. Brett and I had been working on a carpentry project for some of the brass in the CP (Command Post). The two of us would keep busy on the mornings we didn’t have another mission. Usually by building desks or bookshelves. It was our way to pass the time. Working until the heat was unbearable.
Just a normal day for us, evading the heat and upper management. Brett and I were always the first to volunteer for almost any assignment. Accept when it was that hot. So we relaxed and had a movie going on one of our laptops. The other marines in our tent were doing the same. Some were sleeping, others were going over gear or reading dirty magazines. Two of the four squad leaders, who were all sergeants, slept by the door. I was about halfway down on the same side.
Laying there. Half naked, and half asleep. I had my PT shorts on, watching the movie. Then I heard it. The sound of the Sergeant Major yelling. Over and over. “STAND TO! STAND TO! STAND TO!”. This was a pretty common occurrence for us. Each unit had a specific spot to defend the FOB if we were to be attacked. Sometimes it was just a drill. If it was “for real”, it was usually an IED blast that was close, or a pot shot or two.
This time was different. An extremely small Patrol Base that watched the main supply route to India company was under a heavy barrage of small arms fire. We where about four clicks up the road from them. Separated by a large hill with a radio tower on top. The hill was an oddity being the only measurable elevation in sight. It stuck out in the landscape. They were being hit with AK and RPG fire.
In the tents we figured this was just another drill. You know. To inconvenience us lower ranking Marines. I looked over at my squad leader and he hadn’t moved. So I followed his lead. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and the door busted open! Our platoon Sergeant pushed the door open with a crash and started yelling at us to “GET OUR ASSES UP” and “STAND TOO, MEANS YOU STAND TOO MARINES!” I felt like I was in boot camp again. The way he was coming at us. He had a T-Shirt, and shorts on, boots untucked, and had his gear to top off the outfit.
Now i’ll admit I was still moving slow for about the first 30 seconds. I lazily started putting on my pants. Putting them on as he got in my face and yelled “FORGET THAT SHIT! GET YOUR GEAR AND GET OUT THERE!” So I threw on my gear and boots, grabbed my weapon and ran out the door. Marines filing out of the tents in a unorganized gaggle. Half dressed and getting excited now. I could hear the brewing fire fight a few clicks out. I passed a civilian reporter, he yelled “GET SOME MARINES!” That got me going! We hadn’t had a good fight in a month or more.
We ran over behind BAS (Battalion Aid Station), and onto the berm that surrounded the base. Facing out into the dessert. Ready to take on the hoards of the Taliban should they attempt it. That’s when I got that twisted, butterfly feeling in my stomach. It usually comes before a fight. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been in a fight in over a month, I don’t know. I was ready none the less. Sitting there, the feeling starts to go away, and slowest turns into that “this is BS” mentality.
The Firebase called in an air strike over the radio. The jet on station was an A-10 Warthog. It came in low and dropped flares over the enemy first. The Angel formation of the smoke left behind is pretty spectacular. Normally it is enough to strike fear into the screaming fanatics. This time the enemy kept on shooting. The jet was called back, only this time he wasn’t shooting flares. First I heard the engine of the jet come in and then BBBRRRRRRRRRRRRTTT—- BRRRRTTTTT—BRRRTTTT. That’s the sound of the Gatling gun that sits in the nose of the plane, laying hate to the enemy, and chewing up anything the exploding rounds reach.
That got them! Losing their will to fight, the cowards didn’t fire another round. The Sergeant Major called out for all Marines to Stand-Down. I got up and went over to the huddle of engineers that was forming a few meters away. Our squad leader began counting us, so that he could report we where all accounted for. Soon realizing Lance Corporal Jason Shriner wasn’t among us. He sent Brett to the tent in a hurry, to see if he was there. Brett returned after a few minutes and reported that Jason wasn’t there. A few minutes went by with panic brewing. Our squad leader was about to radio in that we had misplaced one of our Marines. Which would be very bad.
When with a giant Shriner smile, He comes trotting up to our now organized formation. Our squad leader yelled “SHRINER, FALL IN!! Then commenced to laying in to the 5’6” skinny Lance Corporal. Asking him where he had been, and why he wasn’t at our boring, but designated spot. Of course his version was much more colorful and lacked the word boring. Jason, now in formation and standing at attention replied “there were some guys running to take the hill! I thought we were attacking so I went with them!” The sergeant just looked at him with a blank stare, reaching for the words to destroy this perplexed Marine. After several seconds of staring, the Sergeant relented. He then gave the command for us to fall out. With that, we all returned to our tents. Asking Jason about his adventure as we walked.
Jason had fearlessly charged the hill with almost no support, looking for a fight! If that doesn’t describe the courage he possessed, then nothing will. Looking back, it could have been a complex disaster, but Jason was alive with a great story to tell. He would have stepped in front of a bullet for any one of us. The higher ups didn’t reprimand him. They just explained why he should have been with us. Realizing they to were at fault for not properly explaining the details.
It makes me smile to think back on the work we did. Jason Shriner was one of my closest friends I made while in the Marines. He was 6 years older then me. He claimed the name “Old Man River”. Wearing the title proudly, complete with a tattoo in Japanese on his back. He was a character, and always had a smile on his face. Always projecting positive vibes, even when the situation sucked. Jason battled PTSD and took his own life fall of 2016. Myself and a dozen other Marines flew in to Phoenix, Arizona to attend a service, and spend time with his family.
In memory of Corporal Jason Shriner.
February 20, 1982 – October 17, 2016
I know I will see you when I get to heaven. Guarding its streets with a warm smile.