“And let’s stay safe out there,” our lieutenant sounded as he ended his pre-mission briefing. I had heard those words hundreds of times before and this time was no different. I put the ear buds of my MP3 player in my ears while I finished putting on my body armor. It was a tradition to listen to some heavy metal before going out on a mission.
As my buddies and I joked about what might happen and whom we wanted to kill, a small amount of fear began to inch its way into my mind. I couldn’t help but be scared, but as I mounted my 240B machine gun onto the gunner’s turret and the music roared in my ears, fear was replaced with anger. The air was thick and cool in the dark early morning hour. The four Humvees began to rumble as the diesel engines cranked up. My mind raced as I contemplated what might happen that day. Will I be hit by another IED or shot at again? I asked myself.
As we approached the gate of the base a cool wind blew in my face, teasing me. It won’t be cool for long, I thought. Stopping at the gate, we made final combat checks of our equipment. I removed the ear buds and loaded my machine gun. “We’re up,” the squad leaders exclaimed to the lieutenant. The lieutenant gave the signal, the gate opened, and a new day began in Iraq.
The trucks crept outside the gate as the sun began to pierce the sky. As we traveled into the streets of Baghdad my senses were stimulated by the ever-familiar pungent smell of trash and the sound of morning prayers being recited over the loudspeakers of the mosques. I liked being the gunner on the truck, although it was the scariest place to be; it was the most important but vulnerable position to enemy fire. We patrolled hour after hour, weaving in and out of neighborhoods and markets like a never-ending maze, stopping only to speak to the local people and conduct searches of suspicious vehicles and houses.
The day was beginning to grow hot and dangerous. I could feel the 140-degree heat forcing the sweat to bead up and stream down my face, a familiar feeling but one you never get used to. Gunfire was all around us now. It was not uncommon to hear gunfire in the distance. I wonder who is seeing some action right now.
As quick as a lightning strike, a burst of AK-47 gunfire rang out from a speeding car, hitting the front truck in our convoy. We sped up and began pursuit of the small car. My senses instantly peaked; my heart raced. After losing sight of the car we found it abandoned outside of a house. The decision was made to block off the area, surround the house, and search the houses in the blocked-off area.
The truck I was on was positioned on the corner of a main intersection. Beside my truck stood this little white sign with Arabic writing on it, just hanging there on a little pole about four feet from the ground. I gave no thought to the sign for it was of no interest to me.
My job was to ensure no one from that main road got near the area we were searching. As I stood diligently behind my weapon in the sweltering heat, I scanned the road and watched for anything suspicious or any sign of danger. The local people began deserting the street in front of me. I felt my muscles tighten up, for this could mean only one thing. Something was about to happen and they didn’t want to be around when it did.
I continued to scan the street for the enemy. We had been sitting there for over an hour, giving the enemy plenty of time to maneuver on us. Time seemed to drag. In an instant my worst fears were realized. I saw a flash, and dust kicked up about a quarter of a mile down the street. Before I had time to process what was happening, I heard the dreaded whistle of a rocket-propelled grenade coming right at me. Everything instantly slowed down; I felt like I was seeing it in slow motion. The RPG hit that little white sign and ricocheted off of it. It flew right over my head and blew up the building behind me. Instinct and training automatically kicked in. I yelled out over the radio, “RPG! RPG!” I immediately got down behind my weapon, and without giving it a second thought squeezed the trigger, unleashing hot lead down the street. In less than ten seconds it was over, and my body was shaking from the adrenaline overload. I tried to catch my breath and communicate what had happened as everyone moved to my position to back me up.
As things began to calm down and another unit went in pursuit of the shooter, I started to contemplate all that had just taken place. All at once I realized how God was working all around me. I looked down and saw that little white sign lying on the ground. The Lord positioned me and the sign in exactly the right spot to avoid a direct hit from the RPG. The chances of me surviving such a hit would have been slim to none. I knew two things at that moment. I knew that the Lord had given me a purpose for my life, and I was ready to accept His purpose.
That defining moment set in motion a fundamental change in my life. I got on my knees before God and cried out as I expressed my thanks for saving my life, as well as my need for Him in my life. I started to seek His purpose and make Him Lord of my life. I began to regain the wonderful loving relationship with God that had been neglected. God worked in an amazing way to accomplish amazing results in my life, and all it took was an RPG and a sign from God.