The medics from the 54th arrived within minutes, only to discover another, unexploded IED -- "about the size of a case of longneck beers" -- planted 4 feet from the still-smoking Humvee. The scene was so fraught that ground troops setting up a perimeter around the wounded men did not dare venture closer than 50 yards for fear of being blown to hell themselves. The medics charged in, literally stepping back and forth over the live bomb as they worked. One tended the unconscious man, pounding his chest and administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while the other attempted to extricate the gunner. Their efforts were for naught; both soldiers died at the scene.
Afterward, back at the air ambulance company's headquarters, the mood was somber. I watched as the medics blamed themselves for taking too much time to remove the turret gunner, and for failing to summon a backup medevac to pick up the unconscious soldier while they worked. One medic wept in fitful, silent heaves, surrounded by his buddies. The other went off to sit alone in the sand and pound his forehead.
Captain Michael Myers, another Black Hawk pilot, sidled up to me. We stared silently at the disconsolate medic sitting apart from everyone. "We all need time alone sometimes," he said, softly.
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