I saved this post for last not only because it’s an excellent story and is brilliantly written, but because this whole BlogCuba thing is about one thing: freedom. And right now, Sgt Hook is sacrificing his so that we may enjoy ours.
Serving in Afghanistan, away from his family and friends, collecting shoes and clothing for the children of Afghanistan, leading his men and in harm’s way, you have to admire and respect Sgt Hook. I wasn’t sure if I should have even asked the Sgt for a BlogCuba entry given how full his plate is. But good friends come through for you in the clutch. Not only was I touched by the fact that Sgt Hook sent me the following entry, but I was moved by the beauty of this wonderfully written story. Gracias Hook, Ill shave my head for you any day, man. Any Day.
Private First Class Peter Martin lay on his cot made of an aluminum frame and green nylon, dressed only in his desert camouflage trousers and a brown t-shirt and tan suede combat boots. His blouse hung on a hook fashioned out of 550 cord and an expended 7.62 shell casing tied to a section of the tent’s metal frame. He lay on his back, with his hands behind his head, staring at the canvas ceiling, tiny rays of sunlight piercing the many holes in the tent, waiting. He’s been there waiting for three days now while his platoon was on patrol in the village to the east of their forward operating base. The tent flapped violently in the wind and dust settled on everything. Pete Martin tired of waiting and tired of the heartache he felt within.
He had joined the Army just less than two years ago, shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. He signed on to be an infantryman, he loved being an infantryman. The day that he raised his right hand taking an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies was one of the proudest moments in his life, he was twenty-one years old at the time. He had trained hard after enlisting, first at Fort Benning’s school for boys during the Army’s basic training, then with his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky before coming to Afghanistan two months ago.
It was quiet at the FOB, save the occasional helicopter landing to bring supplies, more beans and bullets. With the sound of each aircraft coming in, he found himself hoping that one might be carrying his lawyer. He was told to wait in his tent for his lawyer and that he was only allowed to leave his tent to eat or use the latrine. He was not allowed to make any phone calls, but he didn’t have anyone to call anyway. He hadn’t felt this heartsick since the day he left home.
Pedro Martin had been working in his native Havana driving a bicitaxi for peanuts barely making enough money each day to buy bread for the evening meal, the only meal he and his family really ate each day. He would have coffee and whatever leftovers he could find for breakfast and lunch was usually a fantasy. His sister would make dinner before going to her job each evening, she was a waitress at one of the ritzy establishments catering to foreigners, Europeans mostly, visiting Havana. At least that’s what she told the family, her brothers and mother.
Pedro’s heart broke the night he found out she was doing more than waiting tables for the wealthy foreigners, Europeans mostly, who came to his country because everything was exotic and cheap, even the women, even his sister. He was so sick to his stomach when he saw Gabriela enter the hotel with the tall, blonde, German tourist, his hand on her rump. He wanted to shout to her, to attack him, to die. Instead he found the courage to do what he’d been dreaming of doing each day pedaling his three-wheeled rickshaw in the hot Havana sun.
Pedro Martin ran to the beach grabbing a pack of bread and water he had stashed weeks before and slipped into a row boat that had been moored in the same location since he first started struggling with the idea of leaving. But now he had to leave, he couldn’t face his sister or his mother, he was sick. He fled.
Lying on his cot, listening to the wind beat the canvas incessantly, he longed to be home again. He longed for stale bread, rice and beans. He felt that sickness again, scared to death that he’d spend the rest of his life in jail. They think him a spy. They think of him in the same regard as they think of their enemies. He wanted to explain, but the officer who read him his rights, including the right to remain silent, did not want to hear his story, so he waits. He waits for a lawyer to come to this Godforsaken place in the desert while his friends put it all on the line our there, all the while thinking him a spy. But how did they find out his real identity?
He had excellent documents, a driver’s license, high school diploma, birth certificate, even a library card as Peter Martin of Tampa, Florida. If you looked in the phone book you’d find him listed. The Army had never questioned his identity before and surely they couldn’t question his patriotism, his loyalty. He loved his new country, he swore an oath to defend it. In his heart, his soul he was Peter Martin.
Pete Martin’s daydreaming was interrupted by the whoosh of an incoming rocket followed by an explosion that rocked his world throwing him from his cot which landed on top of him, he spit dirt from his mouth. His ears ringing, Private First Class Martin reacted instinctively as his training had taught him, running from the tent and tripping over the private who had been assigned to guard him. He was dead. The sound of AK47s firing kept him from dwelling on the dead Soldier at his feet, he grabbed his guard’s M4 and magazines and ran to the HESCO wall of the FOB. A 240B machine gun began returning fire from the observation tower twenty meters to his left. Another rocket hit inside the compound, this time taking out their ammunition supply point throwing dirt and shrapnel everywhere. Pete felt his flesh burn as pieces of hot metal pierced his back. The enemy fire increased on the other side of the wall. The FOB was devoid of people, where the hell were all the Soldiers?
Pete saw SGT Williams running across the open compound shouting something but Pete’s ears were still ringing, he couldn’t make out the words, but he understood that SGT Williams was trying to organize a defense force so he ran to him. The squatted at the base of the observation tower that was frantically firing the machine gun, Pete thought that they would melt the barrel if they didn’t take it easy, five to seven round bursts he thought to himself. SGT Williams told him to run to the chow hall and grab anyone he could find, even the gottdamned cooks, and get them out here on the wall. He did.
Returning with three cooks and an Afghan worker they linked up with SGT Williams and the four Soldiers he was able to find, two looked pretty shook up, probably from that last blast. An RPG landed ten feet away from the group but didn’t explode. It was enough to get them moving though. Pete Martin began returning fire, deliberately taking aim and picking off one attacker at a time. After killing two aggressors, the attacking force quickly took cover, their assault stalling momentarily. They hadn’t expected much resistance. Pete saw a man dressed in black stand up with a rocket launcher on his shoulder, he shot him, dead. As the man dressed in black fell to the ground a hail of AK47 fire erupted nearly taking Peter Marin out of the fight before he ducked back behind the thick, sand filled HESCO wall. SGT Williams was yelling at the cooks to start firing, only the Afghan dish washer was engaging targets in a fight for his life. SGT Williams suddenly fell to the ground, grabbing his shoulder and screaming in agony. Pete grabbed one of the cooks and threatened to kill him if he didn’t render first aid to SGT Williams immediately. Then he took the remaining Soldiers and placed them, firmly, into position shoving a weapon in their hands again threatening them with bodily harm and even death if they failed to shoot the enemy. He told the Afghan dishwasher to keep an eye on the rag tag defense force and to cover him, he was going to try and flank their attackers. The machine gun in the observation tower went silent. Another rocket took out Pete Martin’s tent as he ran to the far end of the FOB, climbing over the wall unseen by the assault force.
Crouching behind a large rock to the left of the attackers, Pete was about to make his assault when he noticed movement from up the valley to the East. He was unable to make out if more enemy soldiers were joining the fight or his platoon had heard the attack and returned to help. He decided that he had to make his attack now for if it was his platoon he would distract the attackers away from their approach, and if it wasn’t, well he was dead anyway. Slamming a fresh thirty-round magazine into his M4, Pete jumped to his feet. Taking notice, the Afghan dishwasher opened fire, inspiring several of the cooks to do the same laying down a covering fire for Pete.
Lieutenant Marks watched in amazement from atop the slope above the Al Qaeda bastards attacking the FOB as Private First Class Martin ran shouting and firing at the attackers wearing only his trousers and a tattered, blood stained brown t-shirt. The young officer quickly signaled for his men to join the fight as he watched Pete kill six of the enemy before finally falling to his knees, and then on his back laying with his head down slope towards the FOB. Seeing their brother in arms go valiantly fall, the Soldiers of 2nd Platoon yelled a collective war cry and annihilated the group of attackers dressed in black.
The body of Peter Martin, draped with the flag of the United States of America was carried to an awaiting UH60 Blackhawk helicopter for transport to the rear, and ultimately home to Arlington Cemetery. The men of 2nd Platoon rendered honors to their fallen comrade as did an Afghan dishwasher. Lieutenant Marks reported to his superiors that he was unaware of any file on a Pedro Martin and that just about all the records in the FOB had been destroyed by a rocket blast. He then wrote a letter to Corporal Martin’s family in Havana, Cuba, getting the address from the file of which its existence he was unaware, describing Pedro’s heroic actions under fire and how he had saved the lives of his platoon and the Soldiers trapped inside the FOB. SGT Williams also sent a letter to Cuba, and with the Lieutenant’s help, put CPL Martin in for a Silver Star.