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Angel With One Wing: Part 2

December 12, 2018
BY CHUCK CLEGG - COLUMNIST , Wetzel Chronicle

The night air in the Afghanistan Mountains had a cold touch of frost. Above the high barren hills, the cloudless heavens allowed the heat of the day to slip skyward. This made way for the bitter night frost to settle on the ancient land. In the darkness, on the mountainside, Private James Hatfield awoke to find himself in a small ravine. His leg burned like fire just above his knee. It was hard for him to concentrate with a thumping pain in his head. Somehow, he had become separated from his patrol in the darkness when they came under fire. Jimmy could not remember what had happened. All he knew was that his leg and head had somehow been injured.

Whatever had hit his helmet damaged his night goggles, and he could no longer see in the darkness. He was blind in the dark, but could hear his buddies whispering his name. And each time they made a sound, the enemy covered the area with heavy gunfire. The white tracers from their rifles left a momentary streak of light in the inky blackness of the night. He could tell from the tracers that the enemy was all around them on the high mountainsides. He figured they had walked into an enemy ambush.

He knew his friends would not want to leave him behind, but in the black night, with no cover, they had little chance of fighting off a large enemy force that was hidden above in the rocks. He knew the words, "leave no one behind," but he realized he was lost and wounded and they could not see him. Every time they moved or made a sound, the tracers followed the bullets' path toward the patrol of men high above him. He knew his buddies would return; the only question was, would it be soon enough? At daylight, they could call in air support. But in the rough mountain terrain at night, it would be hard to separate their images from the enemy when they were so close.

As the gunfire settled and the white light of the tracers faded, his eyes began to adjust to the night. There was no moon, but the clear skies allowed the ground's heat to rise toward the stars. Jimmy, as his friends called him, lay back against the ground, and for a moment, looked skyward at the heavens full of stars. In this remote country, the night sky was not clouded by the lights of a city. The only light was from the countless number of stars that filled the sky.

His hand traveled down to his leg towards the pain. He could feel the wetness of the blood that seeped from his wounds. There wasn't a lot of pain, only a burning sensation. He could not tell how badly he had been injured, but he realized he needed to stop the flow of blood. He sat up slowly, trying to figure his location. As his eyes became more acute to darkness, the stars above gave his eyes just enough light to see some contours of the terrain. Jimmy could tell he was in a small washed out place on the steep hillside. After being hit by enemy fire, he must have slipped off the narrow path and over a small embankment; he still could not remember clearly any details.

In his backpack, he found the small first-aid kit he carried. He took his knife and cut his pants near the wound. He had dressed a buddy's wounds before at night, but this was the first time he had taken care of himself. He went through each step one by one, like he'd been taught. Should he become separated and wounded, stay calm, stop the bleeding, take a defensive position and wait for help. He knew what he was supposed to do. Still he felt very alone in the world that night.

Along the sides of the valley, he could see small lights moving. He knew it was the enemy. They may have figured a soldier was still in the area, cut off from his patrol. Why else would the American patrol remain in the area? Jimmy knew they would find a defensive position until daylight. Then they would return for him; all he had to do was wait. He hoped the darkness would prevent the enemy from patrolling the hillside, looking for anything the Americans may have left behind in battle. The enemy in these hills were seasoned fighters. For them, they had known very little else in their life. They were resourceful and cunning, and never missed an opportunity to make use of something left behind in haste. He tied the bandage around his leg; it had begun to hurt as he moved it to assess how badly he was injured.

He leaned back against the side of the small ravine and took a position where he could look along the hill and across to the other side. On occasions, he could still see small lights moving alongside the hill. They were searching, but how could it be them that called his name?

He rested his weapon across his chest and put his hands inside his jacket to keep them warm. After a few minutes, he noticed the bright star in the sky to the north. He also began to notice that his head was hurting, and his thoughts were fuzzy. He forced himself to concentrate on the star as he tried to clear his mind. While staring at the star, he began to think of Christmas back home. He pictured his family sitting together for dinner as they always did on Christmas Eve. He could see a chair at the table for him, even if he was not there. He had never given it much thought before, but he realized if something were to happen to him, how hurt his family would be. He missed his family and the home he loved in the hills of West Virginia. Again, he heard a voice inside his head calling his name. He whispered into the night, "Who's there?"

With his hands inside his jacket, he felt his neck chain that carried a small gold angel. Before he left for Afghanistan his mom had given it to him for good luck. She told him it would be his protector; all he had to do was ask for her help. The other guys use to kid him about his chain with an angel on it. But Jimmy never paid them any attention. He would take all the luck he could get.

A few weeks back, he caught the angel's wing on his clothes, and it broke off. He replaced the chain with the damaged angel around his neck and stored the broken wing in his foot locker. With his hand inside his jacket he held the tiny angel and thought about home. Just then he saw lights moving along the hillside toward him. He knew the enemy must be looking for him. He squeezed the Angel in his hand, and again, he looked at the North Star. Quietly, he said to himself, "How about it angel; this is a special night, and I could use a friend. So if you don't mind, could you please send me a little help tonight?"

Above the clouds Emma heard Jimmy's words. They were clear, and she knew she must go to him. For the first time, the angel with one wing knew her purpose.

Jimmy watched as the searching lights slowly moved toward him. Suddenly he felt a warm touch on his hand. How could he have allowed anyone to get so close?

His eyes adjusted for a moment as he looked at his visitor. He knew he must be delusional; it looked to be an angel. He looked down at his pant leg and saw it was wet with blood. He realized he had lost a lot of blood. That must be why he was seeing an angel. If he allowed himself to see angels and then pass out, he could be lost on this hillside. No one would ever know what happened to him. In his hand, he could feel the guardian angel his mom had given him; he closed his eyes to meet his fate. Then a voice asked, "Jimmy, can you hear me?"

 
 
 

 

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