Muskrat and I hustled up the rocky hill in southern Afghanistan looking for the right position to see what was going down in the village below. Marines were making a move on this 4x7-mile stretch of land that was crawling with Taliban, and our job was to eradicate them. I was in charge.
We came to a tiny clearing and stopped. As I looked through my rifle scope to find the Marines, I picked up their position but in the visual search, saw that the Taliban had figured out the Marines’ location and were in the middle of making a move on them. Things were moving fast. Our guys were about to be blindsided.
Muskrat was my J-Tac, the guy who directs our air forces should we need support, and man, did we need support, pronto. Muskrat was working his dials, setting coordinates while I talked him through what I was seeing, when all of a sudden I heard him go silent. Then he delivered a sharp elbow to my arm.
I looked at Muskrat who looked back at me with the most solemn face I had ever seen. “What’s up?” I said
I looked at Muskrat who looked back at me with the most solemn face I had ever seen. “What’s up?” I said. He simply pointed to our feet.
He simply pointed to our feet.
I looked down at where we were kneeling shoulder to shoulder. It was unmistakable. Two wires coming out of the ground and going back in. We were standing on an IED. I looked at him and he looked back at me, both of us saying nothing. He certainly didn’t need to tell me what was going on inside. It was the same thing that was going on in me. Both of us had been in many fights, running and gunning and shooting our way out of all kinds of situations. Cheating death was a part of what we did as SEALS, and we did it all the time. But now, holding still like two statues on this Afghani hillside, death by IED made no sense. “Like this?” I thought. “After all we’ve been through, we’re going down like this?”
Time was running out. I was responsible for those Marines down below, and the Taliban were closing in. The EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit) was hours away, and we were exposed and on the hill too long—we should have already been seen and taken out by an RPG.
I looked down as the seconds were ticking by. There was no way out of this. But there had to be. I had to think…
Then suddenly, “I got you,” I heard a voice say, calmly, resolutely.
I looked around. What?
“I got you,” the voice said again.
I had given my life to Jesus many years before, and He changed me deep inside. I believe that is the only way I would have any idea who it was that was talking to me.
God? I spoke silently within.
And just like that, a calm descended over me like a cool mist. I turned to Muskrat who was still wide-eyed and staring at me. “Go,” I said to him. Both of us knew I had him by 60 lbs. If he were to step off, he might make it. But at 295 lbs. with all my gear, if I were to step off and remove my weight, both of us would likely go up in a blaze of glory.
“Just go, dude,” I said. “It’ll be alright.”
Muskrat was about to argue, then, as if realizing it was our only hope to save one of us, he slowly backed off the IED. When it didn’t go off, he turned and bolted away, scrambling down the hill to a safe place where he could continue his job. The situation I suddenly found myself in was intense. If I stayed where I was I’d be shot off the hill. If I stepped off the IED, the only question would be how much of me would be left to try to save. Meanwhile, the fate of the Marines was in the balance. I had to make a decision now.
Suddenly, “I got you,” the voice said again. With no time to think, I assumed God was asking me to act in faith. “Lord,” I said, “I think this is you talking to me. I’m stepping off this thing. If I’m wrong about it, all I ask is that you take care of my wife. Let her always know how much I love her.” And just like that, I held my breath…
and stepped off.
“Lord,” I said, “I think this is you talking to me. I’m stepping off this thing. If I’m wrong about it, all I ask is that you take care of my wife.
The air support took out the Taliban, and we didn’t lose one Marine that afternoon. The operation was a success. When the IED was ultimately dismantled, the EOD reported back to us that it was a 10-pound pressure release—which means that had it detonated and we survived, everything below our waists would have ended up in many places on that hill.
When the dust had settled, I met up with Muskrat, and we hugged it up and shared the moment. Terrific and memorable as it was, it is nothing compared to the moments I now share with my beautiful children—two girls and a boy, who, if not for the saving hand of Jesus and calming voice of the Holy Spirit, simply would not be here.
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