The Camels Heart: From Fitness to Death in the Adirondacks

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It was like the Superbowl! We don't know how you did it! We call you Superman! As soon as the telephone's up , Rivera calls Krystal. She says, "Hello? Someone called from the 10th Mountain Division. He said they'd heard a medic was hit. How bad, they didn't know, but I was cryin' like crazy. I called your mom, and she was cryin', too. She called the Red Cross. I was scared.

But now I know: I don't want to live away from you. As soon as I'm back I want an apartment with you. I want to live with you, I want to marry you, and I want to have babies with you. I'm so glad you're okay. All day we're takin' fire. All day my buddies gettin' hurt. All day my buddies tellin' me, 'Help me, Doc.

I helped them. I was scared, and I didn't know if I'd get out, but I helped them. All that stuff that I thought I'd forget, I remembered. I did what I was taught to do. I can't believe it," and Rivera, tears in his eyes, slams his fist on the telephone table. All of 'em, they didn't die! No one, but no one, thought this in Company B as it listened in distant tents to the "Superbowl" and the vicissitudes of Rivera's buddies.

Why, these were B's buddies, too! Were boys who B had partied with in America, had played dominoes with in Uzbekistan, had slumped on red canvas seats with on the plane to Afghanistan! All day, B sat entreating its lieutenants, "We gotta help 'em! We gotta join 'em! Just get us a Chinook! The next day, B got its Chinooks. Quite typically, B has three platoons, and in the avenging lieutenant's platoon is a boy who saw the events at the World Trade Center in real life and not on TV.

He was on leave in Paterson, New Jersey, fifteen miles away, and was asleep when his brother awoke him. In his boxers the boy went upstairs, looked out the window at New York City, and said, "Holy shit! What happened? Born in America to Albanian parents, he's a Muslim like them. Even before the Towers fell down, a Muslim was often picked on in America. In grade school, in high school, his coevals laughed at Mahmuti, "Ha-ha! Pork is good for you! Fuck Mohammed! It wouldn't. His face was dark , his nose was sharp, his brows were a Mesopotamian's: thick, black, unbroken.

A hood is what these features meant to many policemen in Paterson, and Mahmuti at age fifteen in fact dealt marijuana, cocaine, crack, in New Jersey. He was often arrested, and in April last year, telling himself , I gotta change , he needed a half dozen waivers from three courts to join the American Army. He took basic training in Georgia, took graduation leave in New Jersey, saw the great tragedy in New York, and one week later joined the 10th Mountain Division at its frantic camp near the Adirondacks, frantic due to his sergeant's announcements of "Here's your packin' list!

One fellow soldier asked him, "You know what side you're on? It wasn't the Muslim side, Mahmuti sincerely believed. He believed he could aim, fire, and kill a Muslim even if, as he also believed, the Muslim would go to paradise while all Mahmuti's fellow soldiers went to Muslim hell. In his own pocket, the Koran said, "Lo! The worst of beasts in Allah's sight are the Unbelievers," but also the Koran told how Muslims killed Muslims without the Koran's complaint.

Nor did Mahmuti's parents demur at Mahmuti's killing another defender of Allah. But one doesn't know, does one? To kill the Qaedas was what every soldier brooded about as, on the first night of Anaconda, the casualties came in.

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I've got these young soldiers with me. Guide me so I can take care of 'em. The next day, the sergeant wears on his helmet a G. Joe, a doll his son mailed from Texas, and, while walking to the Chinooks, the whole platoon devoutly touches it. At two in the afternoon, the Chinooks drop onto the same corrugated place that Rivera's did, and the sergeants cry similarly, " Get out!

But now the Qaedas on the grim mountain are to trust the American Army dead, dispatched by white lightning bombs, or to mistrust the American Army alive on snow-crusted trails into Pakistan, and the Chinooks take off, the platoon's exposed, and for the moment no one's shooting at it. Lest someone does, it starts digging what it calls Ranger graves, which are foxholes one foot deep.

His digging done, Mahmuti lies in this shallow grave, the sun setting, the evening constellations setting, the Qaedas if any firing no bullets, grenades, or mortar rounds, but our Afghan allies firing tracers of red, orange, green, and blue at if any the Qaedas, and the American Air Force bombing them. At two in the morning, Mahmuti rises like Lazarus and, with his platoon, walks east until dawn, then west until noon.

At last the durable order comes to Mahmuti's platoon, Dig in on top of this small-sized hill. A small-sized but oh-so-steep-sided hill, a hill for alpinists with rope. His helmet, Interceptor, rucksack, and rifle encumbering him, Mahmuti with his platoon climbs up, the gray shale crumbling underfoot, turning into gray dust. On top of the hill, surprise—the Qaedas rematerialize, the Qaedas start shooting at the startled platoon from God knows where. And ffft! The first of them falls where the soldiers just were, Mahmuti thinking, Holy shit!

We could've been dead! On the hilltop, most soldiers look for the Qaedas, shouting, "I don't see 'em," but some soldiers in this sudden baptism of fire just cower behind boulders, among them the soldier who in the Adirondacks asked Mahmuti, "You know what side you're on? Mahmuti is looking for the Qaedas. So is his Sergeant Fuentes. Borrowing someone's binoculars, the sergeant suddenly cries, "I see 'em! All are standing, walking, or running in the old corrugated valley below the Americans, reversing yesterday's hierarchy and, in consequence, reversing yesterday's odds, for now it's Americans sitting pretty and Qaedas sitting ducks.

I'll shoot tracers, that's where he's at. The sergeant fires at a Qaeda six hundred meters away, and the gun functioning now the first machine gunner fires that way. The sergeant then fires at a Qaeda five hundred meters away, the Qaeda who's running toward trees. In the valley, the Qaeda's shadow is longer than the Qaeda himself. The two rifles almost touching, the sergeant fires once and Mahmuti twice. The first bullet hits the Qaeda's chest, the second two hit his stomach, and he falls down undisguisedly dead. We got the bastard!

I'm proud of ya! A few days later, Mahmuti sees another Qaeda and, far from dispatching him, has a conciliatory conversation with him. The man, who Mahmuti meets in the valley in an adobe building full of Americans, is an American prisoner. He's shoeless. His hands wear plastic cuffs, and, in lieu of a proper blindfold, his head wears an empty sandbag like an empty grocery bag.

By accident, Mahmuti in his combat boots steps on the Qaeda's bare foot and tells him, "My bad. Man , thinks Mahmuti, I'm not gonna kill you. But , thinks Mahmuti, what if you weren't the prisoner and I was? My shirt says Mahmuti, my dogtags say Islam, my pocket carries the Koran. You'd call me a Muslim traitor. You'd say, "So you're against the jihad! You'd torture me. Not reciprocating at all, Mahmuti gives the man water, socks, blankets, and asks him, "What's your name?

At home , thinks Mahmuti, I've got a Muslim friend named Tadik. He's mocking me , the Qaeda quite clearly thinks. His teeth start to grind as if they're chewing betel nuts. The man, is an American prisoner. His hands wear plastic cuffs, and, in lieu of a proper blindfold, his head wears an empty sandbag.

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Mahmuti assures him he's Muslim. You aren't Muslim. We're pure, we Muslims. We don't go killing innocent people like in New York. That shit, we Muslims don't do. Mahmuti walks away. He has little love for the Qaeda. But having met him, met Tadik, could Mahmuti do what five sunny days ago he did to another human being, another believer in Allah—could Mahmuti shoot him and say, "That's good fuckin' shootin'"? No way. That isn't what soldiers feel or Mahmuti feels. He thinks about the Qaeda he killed sometimes. He tells himself, It either was him or me. I won't let Mom sit and cry because some fuckin' terrorist took me out.

Just as Dad said: Who cares that he's Muslim? He's wrong. At night Mahmuti prays to Allah, "Thank you for keeping shaytan , the devil, away from me. Thank you. Or why did Mahmuti protest to his sergeant one day, "We did the right thing. The seventh day out, Mahmuti and his platoon return to their camp, and Mahmuti calls up his father in Paterson.

No one got hurt. None of us. Mahmuti's sergeant calls up his wife in Texas. He doesn't tell her "I took one," but tells her, "A few things happened but I'm okay. You've earned your feathers. Why the fierce resistance to Company C? Why the continued resistance to Company B? To catch Osama, his subordinates, or any of his foot soldiers becomes the mission of Company A of the 4th Battalion of the 31st Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division.

In one platoon, known as the Misfits, are two boys who, when the towers fell, still were in Georgia learning their Right face, Left face , were in the same exact barracks and, by extraordinary chance, in the same exact double bunk. Two Private Andrew S. A baby-faced boy , Simmons has oval glasses, scholarly looking black rims. In high school he sang in the concert choir. The other boy, Starlin, is pink-nosed, pink-cheeked, round-faced. His innocent eyes say, Me?

I know nothing about it. In junior high school he played in the band. Simmons and Starlin played football, too, Simmons guard and Starlin center. Last year Simmons graduated, Starlin got his GED, and, for money for college, the two joined the Army, doing their basic training together in Georgia. The two didn't know it, but precious little of basic training would stand them in stead in Afghanistan. Using their hands reciprocally, all in the service of Right shoulder arms? More folderol for Port arms and Port arms salute?

What they would do in Afghanistan Simmons and Starlin didn't learn in Georgia: running into icicle-sided caves where maybe, maybe, would be Osama, firing their rifles automatically, firing their machine guns, and throwing their hand grenades like Bata pitching machines. From Georgia they went to Kuwait, another training place for the 10th Mountain Division. There they learned to eschew all Kuwaiti women. They learned to stand aside of Kuwaiti prayer rugs. Their shoe soles they learned to expose to no Kuwaiti. To run into caves behaving deranged—no, Simmons and Starlin didn't learn that in Kuwait.

They flew by cargo plane to Afghanistan, then by Chinook to Anaconda's sometimes disastrous, sometimes felicitous locale. The sergeants yelling, " Get out ," the two soldiers did—the two soldiers do, and their first thought is Oh my God! Their shock isn't due to bullets, grenades, mortar rounds, or any other manmade devices but to God's mountains around them.

Mountains like this, the Andrews who scarcely have seen the Adirondacks, much less the Rockies haven't known except in National Geographic. Steep, snow-sided, cragged, the mountains tower above them like heaven's immaculate parapets. Or how some people, like Osama, their quarry today, Osama who pleads belief in God, look at these sacred mountains and say, "A good defensive position.

The soldiers are in the Qaedas' often-visited valley. To the east is the Qaedas' notorious mountain, and to the west is a humpbacked one the Americans call the Whale. It's there that Simmons and Starlin and all the Misfits deploy. Their helmets, Interceptors, rucksacks on, their rifles carried like quarterstaffs, the two tenderfoots in army argot, crispy critters start up the Whale's precipitous side.

Like marbles, the pebbles skid downward and the two critters skid with them like Jack and Jill, first on their boots, then on their seats, then stoutly stand up and retrace their route, the top of the Whale two miles away whatever they do. On top of the Whale with guns, grenade launchers, mortars are, in all likelihood, the Qaedas. To keep them down, Starlin's squad halts, and Starlin fires an antitank missile. His squad fires rifles, rifle grenades, machine guns as Simmons's squad approaches where the Qaedas should be. A white flare a star cluster signals cease fire, and Simmons's squad assaults the top of the Whale.

Simmons's sergeant passes a cave that a Qaeda could at any moment storm out of, his Russian rifle smoking. Get back! Oh, fuck! Chaos is king. Dead, dead, dead at Simmons's feet are one yellow-blanketed donkey and two Qaedas, none of whom is Osama. Farther away is a Qaeda who Simmons, bang bang bang! Such is the Great Osama Hunt for Andrew number one. Still downhill is Starlin's squad. It sees another cave on the Whale's side.

The Misfits conclude it's a man-made bunker: three walls of interlocked rocks, the fourth wall the Whale, the roof perhaps plywood and, on top of that, more rocks. The question is, Where's the doorway that at any moment the Qaedas with Russian rifles might hurtle out of? Starlin's squad searches for it. In the interlocked rocks it sees some interstices for the Qaedas' rifles, and Starlin tosses a hand grenade expectantly into one.

He cries, "Frag out! Uphill, downhill, uphill, he's on a crazy gymnastics machine at an altitude twice that of Denver. He's winded. He breathes like a dog whose tongue's hanging out, huh huh, huh huh. At last Starlin finds the Qaedas' perilous doorway. Into it Starlin's sergeant throws another grenade— bang! And through the doorway goes Starlin, shooting, apparently, at a Qaeda: a Qaeda's chest, a Qaeda's shirt, well, that's what the target appears to be.

In comes Starlin's sergeant, shooting shooting a shotgun at the same man, and another sergeant shoots, too. Oh, Lord have mercy! Not falling down, the man keeps moving as Starlin and the two sergeants shoot. The smoke from Starlin's gun, the other gun, the shotgun, the crumbled rock, and, who knows? No one sees anything, but on Starlin's rifle, attached with duct tape, is a small flashlight, and Starlin cuts through the darkness with it. The little that's left of the target, which, it develops, is hanging by rope from the ceiling, might have been a T-shirt, blanket, sandbag, or Pillsbury flour bag but by no flight of anyone's fancy was ever a Qaeda.

Damn , Starlin thinks. I can't believe it! It's some days later, and Starlin sees something amazing.

The Camels Heart: From Fitness to Death in the Adirondacks

A bunker, a Qaeda bunker, is a true treasure house that Starlin, merely an American, might even envy. The tents aren't cheesecloth, the blankets aren't cotton, the sleeping bags could emanate from the U. Army Quartermaster Corps. In one corner is a propane stove—a cooking stove—and pots, pans, forks, spoons, teapots, teacups and saucers, and in another corner are scissors, needles, catheters, syringes, all the supplies that Rivera has plus Chap Stick and Vaseline. On the floor is no Persian carpet, but in some other bunkers even on other bunkers' walls are many, and, so help me God, in these other bunkers are Korans, boom boxes, audio recorders, audio players, video cameras, night optical devices, gymnasium bags from Adidas, sneakers, boxing gloves, punching bags, fingernail clippers, toenail clippers for Goliath, sewing machines, money—both Afghan afghanis and Pakistani rupees—a Russian sword that Starlin's sergeant appropriates, and a Casio watch with altimeter and compass that Starlin appropriates.

I can't believe the Qaedas got everything up it! And more. In and around the bunkers are cartridges, mortar rounds, rockets, grenades that the Misfits detonate. But there're thousands, and for hours they're exploding, hitting the Whale, nearly hitting the Misfits. One rocket hits a red cedar, the tree catches fire, and the smoke floats to a Navajo soldier.

Before coming to Afghanistan, he sat in a hogan in Arizona with a Navajo medicine man. In headband, turquoise necklace, crimson shirt, the man opened a leather pouch and on the hogan's earthen floor sprinkled red cedar shavings. He rattled a rattle, drummed a drumstick, sang a Navajo song the Navajo soldier understood, then set the shavings afire and, in Navajo, said, "Let mother nature help this boy. Let him come swiftly and safely home. And today in Afghanistan, the red cedar smoke and the words again envelop him.

It's mother nature's sign. I'll come swiftly and safely home , the boy tells himself correctly. To their sheltered camp come the Misfits. With time to reflect on it, Simmons is quite upset by his recollection of the two dead human beings, but Starlin thinks, They screwed with us, so we screwed with them. I hear they have a reward for him. I'd ask them, 'How much is each piece worth? But really, did Simmons and Starlin ever come close?

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Did ever Osama live in the Whale? No one knows, although the Qaedas' paperwork showed that he scarcely needed to to account for the Qaedas' commitment. In the rubble the Misfits and other boys in other ruins in Afghanistan found these papers, dirty, dog-eared, charred papers in both of Afghanistan's languages and six other languages, too, and army intelligence translated them.

At their camps in Afghanistan, at every morning, the Qaedas did exercises, averaging thirty push-ups, thirty sit-ups. In the afternoon the Qaedas studied the Koran. They weren't taught Right shoulder arms , but to A, B, and C's common question of "Why were they such fierce enemies? It simply is this: "We were good soldiers. And they were good soldiers, too. Three boys have died, none of them in Afghanistan, remarkably. Two were killed by errant artillery rounds as they breakfasted in the Adirondacks, and one committed suicide in Uzbekistan.

Another division, the st, from Kentucky, also fought in Anaconda. So did the Special Forces, and eight of its soldiers died. One fell from a Chinook as Mahmuti and his platoon dug Ranger graves miles away, and six boys died while trying to rescue him. Another boy died in a Qaeda ambush. Uninjured, undead, are all the Osama-stalking soldiers of Company A. They didn't catch him, but they neutralized his caves, bunkers, camps in Afghanistan, Osama becoming an impotent individual alive or, who could disprove it? Of the Andrews, Simmons is single, but Starlin comes home to his second son, twenty ruddy inches long and one day old.

His son says, " Wah ," and Starlin says, "Wow," astonished at this little human being, a boy who, thanks to Starlin's army, surely won't die in an unprovoked holocaust, as a two-year-old did last September in the Center's south tower. Also uninjured, undead, are the Qaeda killers of Company B. Mahmuti comes home to Paterson to a couple of younger cousins who ask him, "Did you kill anyone? Rivera comes home to Krystal's new many-mirrored apartment close by in Liverpool, New York.

He buys her a half-carat diamond ring. One night, lying together, his fingers exploring her eyelids, eyebrows, hair, as if he's just discovered them on Jupiter, he tells her the ultimate truth of Operation Anaconda. But also," Rivera says, "I love those guys. So much that I might have died for 'em.

Even those guys in cowboy hats and big-buckled belts, I love 'em. I don' listen to country music with 'em. I don' do the two-step with 'em. But when they cry, 'Doc! Because they are. Type keyword s to search. By John Sack. Nigel Dickson. On top of the hill, surprise—the Qaedas rematerialize. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below. Cocktails Before the Collapse. Pauline and Jim moved to VT in and have lived in Williston ever since. Pauline was an avid bowler in her younger years and loved all kinds of sports.

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Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P. You are not on HGTV, but your house could look like it is. Are you get-. The Eddy family of Chittenden, Vt. Jason Smiley presents the Eddy family story, including its ties to Williston. Learn how to stage your home. Bring your lunch and learn. Used a broom Tightness measure between How one line meets another Part of a play Newspaper Link 7. Competent Kitchen is one One taking orders in a PUB S Paper, — Shelburne News Divide Amaze — The Citzen, Rhinoceros description — Williston Observer Back problem Pre-entree course Observer Rigid See Insertion Order Like some Mech It hears Observer 4.

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