The area afforded the two soldiers no shelter as insurgents unloaded their weapons on them.
(Spc. Ty) Carter was waiting for (Sgt. Bradley) Larson to cue him, to tell him he could move, when he saw (Sgt. Justin) Gallegos come back around the corner, returning to the Humvee.
Bullets were splashing all around his feet, and then one hit him. Gallegos turned around and fired; another round hit him.
He kept firing.
(Spc. Stephan) Mace, on the ground, on his elbows, was also struggling to get back toward the truck. He'd been hit with small-arms fire and RPG shrapnel. Both of his legs had been shredded with enemy metal, and thanks to two bullets in his back that had exited out his front torso, he was bleeding out of his abdomen.
As Larson aimed his fire to try to provide cover for Mace, a sniper round hit his helmet.
Larson felt his head snap back, but the Kevlar worked: the bullet stuck in the helmet. He kept firing, yelling to Mace to follow Gallegos back to the Humvee.
Mace turned and started crawling in the direction he'd indicated, but Gallegos was hit a third time now, in the head, by machine-gun fire. The bullets spun him around as if he --- a man so enormous he was nicknamed Taco Truck --- were practically weightless.
As Gallegos landed on the ground, Larson turned around and saw two insurgents walking in the general direction of the Humvee, one with an RPG, the other with a PKMg machine gun. Larson snuck around the truck --- apparently they hadn't seen him --- and waited until they were 10 feet away, and then he stood and shot each one in the head. It was the first time he'd ever killed anyone.
"Gallegos is hit!" Carter yelled. "He's down!"
"Get the f--- back in the truck!" Larson yelled back. "I just smoked two dudes back here! They're in the wire! Get the f--- back here!"
Carter scrambled back into the Humvee. The gunfire continued steadily showering down upon the camp; more RPGs fell on the truck.
"Gallegos was hit," Carter told Larson. "I don't know what happened to Mace or Martin."
Then Carter saw Mace, 10 to 15 yards in front of the truck, crawling on his elbows, trying to reach them.
"Mace is there," Specialist Carter said. "I'm going to get him."
"No," replied Sergeant Larson.
"I can see him; he's right there," Carter insisted.
"You're no good to him dead," Larson said.
They argued. Larson said it was senseless to try to get Mace. He made a crack about Carter's wanting to earn a medal.
"F--- the medals, he needs my help," Carter said.
"No," Larson repeated.
The indestructible Gallegos had been killed, Mace was gravely wounded, and neither of them knew what had happened to Martin. Larson wasn't about to let Carter be a fourth man down. It was just too hot out there.
Trapped once again inside the Humvee, the two men tried to secure what they knew could very well end up being their coffin. The turret was jammed, and they couldn't close it. The radio wasn't working. They wondered if any of the other Americans at the outpost were still alive.
Larson and Carter began to lose hope.
"Can you swim?" Carter asked Larson.