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Angel With One Wing (Part 2 of 4)

December 7, 2011
Wetzel Chronicle

The night air in the Afghanistan Mountains had a cold touch of frost in it. Above the high barren hills the cloudless heavens allowed the heat of the day to slip skyward. This made way for the bitter night frost to settle on the ancient land. In the darkness, on the mountainside, Private James Hatfield had taken position in a small ravine. His leg burned like fire just above his knee. It was hard for him to concentrate with the dull pain in his head. Somehow he had become separated from his patrol in the darkness when they came under fire. Jimmy could not remember what had happened. All he knew was that a bullet had entered his leg just above the knee.

Whatever had hit his helmet damaged his night goggles and he could no longer see in the darkness. He was blind in the dark, but could hear his buddies whispering his name. And each time they made a sound the enemy covered the area with heavy gun fire. The white tracers from their rifles left a momentary streak of light in the inky blackness of the night. He could tell from the tracers that the enemy was all around them on the high mountainsides. They had walked into an enemy ambush.

He knew his friends would not want to leave him behind, but in the black night, with no cover, they had little chance of fighting off a large enemy force that was hidden above in the rocks. He knew the words, "leave no one behind", but he realized he was lost and wounded and they could not see him. Every time they moved or made a sound, the tracers followed the bullets' paths toward the patrol of men. He knew his buddies would return, the only question was: would it be soon enough? At daylight, they could call in air support. But in the rough mountain terrain at night, it would be hard to separate their images from the enemy when they were so close.

As the gunfire settled and the white light of the tracers faded, his eyes began to adjust to the night. There was no moon, but the clear skies allowed the ground's heat to rise toward the stars. Jimmy, as his friends called him, lay back against the ground and for a moment stared skyward at the heaven full of stars. In this remote country the night sky was not clouded by the lights of a city. The only light was from the countless number of stars that filled the sky.

His hand traveled down to his leg and he could feel through his pants, the blood that seeped from his wounds. There wasn't a lot of pain, only a burning sensation. He could not tell if it was bad or not. But he realized he needed to get a bandage around it quickly to help stop the flow of blood. He sat up slowly, looked around and tried to focus his eyes. The land around him held a darkness that almost had a blue tint to it. He could make out shapes and some contours of the terrain. Jimmy could tell he was in a small washed out place on the hillside. After being hit by enemy fire, he somehow slipped off the path and over a small embankment; he just could not remember it at all.

In his backpack, he found the small first-aid kit they each carried with them. He took his knife and cut a small place in his pants near the wound. He had dressed a buddy's wounds before at night, but this was the first time he had taken care of himself. He went through each step one by one, like he'd been taught. Should he become separated and wounded, stay calm, stop the bleeding, take a defensive position, and wait for help. He knew what he was supposed to do, but he felt very alone in the world that night.

Across the valley, he could see a couple of small lights moving along the side of the mountain. He knew it was the enemy. They must be confident the American soldiers had left the area. He could even occasionally hear distant voices in the night air. It seemed at times he could hear his name being called from somewhere in the darkness. Their tactic was to shift position from where the Americans last knew they were hiding. All this told him the enemy knew there were no more of his friends around, so who could be calling his name? But Jimmy knew in the morning they would return for him, all he had to do was wait. He hoped the darkness would prevent the enemy from patrolling the hillside looking for anything the Americans may have left behind in battle. The enemy in these hills were seasoned fighters. For them, they had known very little else in their life. They were resourceful and cunning, and never missed an opportunity to make use of something left behind in haste. He tied the bandage around his leg; it had begun to hurt as he moved around it in the cold on the hillside.

He leaned back against the side of the small ravine and took a position where he could look along the hill and across to the other side. He still could see the small lights moving alongside the hill. They were searching, but how could it be them that called his name?

He laid his weapon across his chest and put his hands inside his jacket to keep them warm. After a few minutes, he noticed the bright star in the sky to the north. His head hurt and in the pain he thought it must be Christmas back home. His family would be getting ready for the dinner they always had on Christmas Eve. He could see the chair at the table that his mom and dad always sat for him even if he was not there. He never had thought about it before, but he realized now if something was to happen to him, how hurt they would be. He missed his family and the small home he loved in the hills of West Virginia. Again he heard someone calling his name. He whispered into the night "Mom, is that you?"

His hand inside his jacket felt the small gold chain his mom had given him just before he left for Afghanistan. It was a tiny angel, his mom told him she would be his protector if needed. The other guys used to laugh at his chain with an angel on it. But Jimmy never paid them any attention. He would take all the luck he could get.

A few weeks back, it had caught on his clothes and one of the angel's wings had broken off. He put the broken wing in his foot locker and planned on having it repaired when he returned home. He held the angel in his hand and thought about home. Just then he saw lights moving along the hillside toward him. He knew they were looking for something or someone. He squeezed the angel in his hand and looked at the distant bright star. Quietly, he said to himself, "How about it star? This is your special night and I could use some help. So if you don't mind, could you please send me a little tonight?"

It was as clear as any words she had ever heard. Emma knew in her heart she was needed; the words were clear and she knew where she must go. For the first time, the angel with one wing knew her purpose.

Jimmy was looking along the hillside at the distant lights moving toward him. Suddenly he felt a hand on his. He almost cried out as he jumped away from the touch. How could he have allowed the enemy to get so close as to touch him? And why didn't they shoot?

His eyes adjusted for a moment as he looked at the visitor. He knew he must be delusional from the blood loss. It was an angel standing beside him. Not only did he see an angel, but she was bright with light. He looked down and saw red blood on his leg. It was as bright as if it was daylight. He was dizzy. He must be going to pass out and be lost on the hillside. His mom and dad would never know what happened to him. He could feel the guardian angel his Mom had given him in his hand; he closed his eyes to meet his fate. Then the voice asked, "Jimmy, can you hear me?"



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