By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
That might be the most heroic thing they’ve done.
Fuck yeah. It’s better than any celebrity I’ve written about who, you say one little thing that they find offensive, and they threaten to sue you. Oh, here’s a great story: The Marines, they’re getting busted down. They put their lives on the line. They’re accused of cowardice for what they said in my articles. The one person who’s infuriated by my articles and is threatening all these horrific things is Justin Timberlake. Because one of the Marines dissed him. And Justin Timberlake’s people threatened all these horrible things because Corporal Person mocked Justin Timberlake’s musical abilities in the articles. It’s just a perfect comment on our culture.
You end the book after you and the Marines have come back, and some of them have returned to Iraq. Later, your old Humvee ran into some trouble in Fallujah.
Sergeant Kocher became the leader of Team One, in the point Humvee, which always rolls a little bit ahead. They reveal their positions, and then the ones behind it race in and kill the ambushers. That’s the classic way it should work. So they’re doing it again, and their intelligence officers say, “Expect ambushes, but there will be no more than 12 attackers.” So they’re rolling along, and Kocher is in the front right seat, and suddenly he sees these berms about 150 meters away on the right-hand side. He sees some movement, some weapons possibly, and he puts his M4 out the window, squeezes off three three-round bursts, and he sees the plumes of all these RPG rockets coming toward them. RPGs move very slowly, amazingly so. And he very quickly realizes that there’s between 75 and 125 ambushers out there.
One of the RPGs detonates outside the Humvee and blows up the tires. But another one actually comes in behind him. In the seat where I used to always sit, there’s a guy whose last name coincidentally is Wright, who’s sitting there with his weapon. The RPG hits his weapon, blows up inside the Humvee. And then the guy in the main gun, his nut sack is blown open. There’s another guy at the back window, he’s knocked unconscious. Everybody is sprayed with these penny-size pieces of shrapnel. They’re sticking out of their necks. And as Kocher later described it, the guy sitting in my seat, both his hands are blown off and most of one leg. He said it looked like a butcher shop — meat and fingers everywhere.
Kocher tells me that they finally come to a stop, and they’re taking this fire, and he turns around and the guy with no hands says, “Jeez, Eric, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning.” And then he looks down at his stumps, which are spouting blood, and says, “Uh, I don’t look so good, do I?” The humor these guys have.
So Kocher jumps into the back seat. They’re now taking fire, and guys are advancing on them. And he takes bungee cords and he ties off Wright’s stumps and his legs, and he also does himself because he’s bleeding profusely. And then gets in the driver’s seat, because the driver was in shock. And the Humvee is burning, and the radios are all smashed. And the enemy’s advancing. Everybody’s disabled. And he turns the Humvee off because he thought it was in the “on” position but wasn’t running. But he realizes the engine had been running. So he’s trying to start this Humvee, which is burning.
What happened is, the rest of the platoon, as soon as Kocher’s team took fire, they drove part way into the berms, and then got out of their Humvees and advanced on the Iraqis and decimated them. But in the process of this, their new commander, Captain Brent Morel, took a bullet sideways under his armpit across both lungs. Kocher took his hand, and they poked a hole in Morel’s chest because he couldn’t breathe. Kocher said that Morel was 27. He was a redhead. That he was so pale, he said, even his hair seemed to turn white. And then he died.
But the weird thing is that as Kocher tells me this, he’s relating the jokes that they’re telling in the middle of this ambush. The guy with no hands is joking. These are guys who would tell jokes about kids with no arms and legs, you know, like those old bad jokes. But it shows me that even when they themselves land in that situation, their humor is still there.
Was the writing of this book cathartic?
Well, it’s really weird, because I was never this very emotional person, but there’s some stuff, like when Colbert treats this girl in Baghdad. We were outside of this insane amusement park, and this girl comes with shrapnel. I cried that day, and when I dictated the notes, I cried. And then, every time I would rework those paragraphs, I always cried. So, I think the catharsis is always there for me.