A few weeks had passed since we’d been ambushed. The squad was itching for a fight. The problem was we couldn’t get in one even if we tried. Since the ambush, our squad was limited to guarding towers and filling in for other squads that were short of men because our numbers were so small. We didn’t have the men to load our trucks or to perform a patrol of any kind. We were trapped on Spartan Base, and it was driving us insane.

Thankfully, Ginger put together a convoy to take us to Kandahar Airfield to visit our wounded brothers. At least what was left of them.

Gunny’s injuries were so extensive that he was put on a flight to Germany and then on to the States. According to Guapo and Bama, as Gunny was wheeled out of the hospital and onto the tarmac, he fought with the medics trying to take him away and screamed: “I’ll be back, boys! I’ll be fucking back!” If anything the guys had said was true, it would never happen. Gunny had suffered neurological damage to his hand from shrapnel and would most likely require extensive surgery.

I didn’t care if it was true or not, but I wanted to believe he would be back.

That left Walrus, Guapo, and Bama sitting in a cushy hospital at Kandahar Airfield with no supervision and raising absolute hell. The hospital staff had sent Rocky several warnings that if his soldiers didn’t start behaving, they were going to send them back to the States.

Which, knowing Walrus, may have been his goal in the first place. We all laughed when we heard about what they were doing. Stealing food and drinks, shamelessly hitting on all the women, smoking indoors, and spitting dip all over the floors. I think it actually made Slim proud.

Our convoy pulled through KAF and journeyed deep into the strange pseudo-city to try to find the hospital. It was the only brick and mortar building that I remember seeing on the airfield. It was painted a blinding white and named after some dead soldier from years before. It could have almost passed for a stateside hospital.

We all piled into the hospital and surprised a woman who was manning a desk at the front door. “What unit are y’all in?” she asked, looking up from her magazine as if we were rude for making her do her job.

We told her what unit we were in, and who we were there to visit.

“Oh. That makes sense,” she said in a smug voice while eyeing us up and down. “Third floor. Room two-twenty.”

We didn’t have to look hard for them. Ear-splitting Lil Wayne music was pumping from one of the rooms. The door was wide open and we could hear Guapo’s unmistakable high-pitched cackle. When we stepped through the open door we found Walrus and Guapo watching porn on a laptop and Bama sitting by himself across the room reading a book.

The room was probably the nicest one I’d ever seen overseas, even if a thick cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air. It was probably better than the barracks room I had back in Texas.

“About time, assholes!” Walrus yelled when he saw us. He limped to his feet and hugged Slim and me.

“How are you guys feeling?” Slim asked.

“Bored as shit,” Bama said, lowering his book.

“I don’t think they like us here,” Guapo cackled.

“Bro, you guys are about to get kicked out of this place.” Slim stifled a laugh.

“How the fuck do you almost get kicked out of a hospital?” I asked, shaking my head.

“Man, these guys suck,” Walrus sneered. “They’re just pissed because we tried to bring bitches in here.”

“And they put a bunch of wounded guys on the third floor. I’m not limping my ass downstairs if I need to smoke,” Bama said.

Slim cut to the chase. “What are the doctor’s telling you?”

“Nothing good,” Bama said. “My limp isn’t going to get any better, but they aren’t sending me home.”

“So you’re going to be gimping your country ass around the battlefield?” I asked.

“They’re talking about sending me home,” Walrus said. “I guess I fucked up my back somehow.”

“Explosions will do that,” Slim pointed out. “At least you’ll get to be there when your son is born.”

Walrus was one of the only people in the company who had actually deployed with his significant other. She was in another platoon, but that didn’t stop them from banging whenever they got the chance. Walrus’s son was probably conceived on a rickety bunk bed somewhere on Spartan. His wife was sent home soon after they found out they were expecting.

“Stop making sense, Slim, I don’t want to leave you guys,” Walrus said.

“You guys are high,” I laughed. “If someone was offering me a ticket home, I’d be out of here so goddamn fast all you’d see was a smoke trail.”

“You love it here.” Slim slapped me on the shoulder.

“I know, but if I say it out loud, I get depressed.”

We hugged it out one more time and had to leave. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to bring any of them back with us that day. A few weeks later Guapo and Bama would rejoin us at Spartan. Unfortunately, Walrus was on the next plane back to the U.S. with a serious back injury and shrapnel wounds all over his body. As much as it hurt to see him go, it made me happy to know my friend was going to be safe.