Show 1 : JT Fowler

Veteran: JT Fowler

Written: R. Chambers LeHeup

Artist: Dre Lopez

Medium: Acrylic

Show: Vol. 1

“Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward. Whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both. For a wounded man shall say to his assailant, ‘If I live, I will kill you. If I die, you are forgiven.’ Such is the rule of honor.”

-Lamb of God

I was with 2nd Bn 7th Marines’ Mobile Assault Platoon (or MAP). We were supporting Echo company, who was doing a cordon and search operation in the farming community south of Fallujah called Al Ziadon.

MAP 1A’s job was to block a bridge to allow Echo to sweep the area and disrupt or interdict any insurgency operating inside. We had moved into our position the night of the 24th and I had stayed awake, walking the lines from truck to truck to make sure all my boys were keeping vigilant. As the sun came up and I was just getting to sleep, a call came from Echo 2 that they were under fire from some high ground to their south and that one “urgent” CASEVAC request was sent. CASEVAC meant someone had been shot. So, as the acting Quick Reaction Force, we were dispatched with barely tamed urgency.

We left all the spike strips and C-wire for MAP 1B, who would be taking over our position. They were taken care of. So we ran. Toward our fallen comrades. Toward not friends, but brothers. Since I was the section leader I always put myself in the first truck.

The Suicide Truck.

One kilometer to the south, our turn on the road and our turn of fate became one and the same. I couldn’t see exactly what was around the bend as there was a line of shops with garage style doors blocking my view. As we rounded the corner, we almost hit a black sedan which swerved erratically to our left. I jumped out of the front passenger seat to assess the situation. I made it to the front quarter panel and was confronted with my moment. I was confronted by The Enemy, 4 Al Qaeda, dressed in casual Iraqi clothes; their holy war garb.

As one of them in the back seat nearest me frantically tried to reload, he looked up. I saw the fear in his eyes. The wild panic we all feel when our mortality is tested. And he saw the blood in mine. The sweet nectar of justification, just seconds away. The driver hit the gas and sped past us. I button hooked right and brought my rifle up, firing while walking towards the fleeing car. I put the clear tip of the front sight post of my rifle inside the circle of the rear sight aperture both vertically and horizontally. In other words, I took a breath and aimed at my Enemy.

And I hit him. The car swerved to the side and stopped. It was then that they returned fire. I thought of my injured brothers-of-war and I continued to walk forward. My second truck was pulling to the intersection at this time , so I told the gunner to engage. The bullets from his M240 B flew through the dirty white car, making it look like the negative of a picture of the night sky. I kept walking forward and shooting. Aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire.

I approached the vehicle, recognizing that the two-way gun range had become one sided. There was one passenger still alive, covered in blood that was quickly soaked up by dirt. More eye contact, then one quick pop from my weapon. Was it a mercy killing? That I won’t say. I’ll tell you this, though. I sent his rag stateside.

This isn’t a typical story. There’s no arc where I change from one man into another. I was and will be forever on watch to protect my family, both at home and abroad. And there are times when I go to my footlocker. I take out the blood and brain matted cloth. And somewhere inside me I smile.