Nothing stirred but dust.

Cutter's radio crackled to life. A supply convoy had just been ambushed a few clicks away, the coms man warned. Sixty insurgents, armed with AKs and RPGs, were bearing down on the base — a base with only two dozen soldiers.

Nick grabbed smoke canisters, hand grenades, and M16 clips. Then he hauled as many .50-cal rounds — each one nearly as long as a beer bottle — as he could carry up onto the walls. Known as Hescos, the barriers were little more than reinforced dirt.

"God is greatest," the muezzin moaned. "There is no deity but God."

Then the singing stopped and the shooting began.

Bullets hit the Hescos like rain on a windshield. Nick fired his .50-cal at anything that looked like a man in the dim morning light. But there were too many shapes scurrying in the darkness and too many incoming rounds. Soldiers screamed around him as slugs shattered their body armor and shredded their flesh. Nick tried to stem a buddy's bleeding wound. When he returned to his post, the gunmen were only a few dozen yards away.

One of them peered from behind a building. He had dark eyes atop a dense beard. He raised his rifle. Nick aimed his M16 and fired. The man's head snapped back with a spray of crimson. Nick kept firing and firing and firing until Anna burned in his hands.

The shootout seemed to last for hours. In reality, it was only minutes before reinforcements in armored trucks rumbled around the street corner like rolling thunder. The insurgents fled in a flurry of Kalashnikov fire. When the last bullet had buried itself into a Hesco, the soldiers surveyed the damage. Fifteen members of Cutter's platoon had been injured, and the base had nearly been overrun. But almost a dozen insurgents lay dead outside the walls. One of them was the man Cutter had shot.

"It was as if I hit a switch that I can never turn back off again," Nick later wrote of his first kill.

In fact, the assault was just one of many terrifying moments during 15 hellish months in Iraq that would wound Cutter physically, psychologically, and emotionally. He would watch his friends die. He would kill Iraqis until their blood drenched his dreams. He would grow angry, then numb, then suicidal. His switch had been flipped. And then it had broken.

Nick landed in the worst part of Iraq during the worst phase of the war. It was October 2007, nine months after President Bush's decision to increase troop levels in Iraq. "The surge," as the strategy was known, had not begun well. American deaths had immediately jumped 25 percent, yet in September, when asked how the surge was going, Bush said simply: "We're kicking ass."

In reality, American soldiers were paying for the progress with their lives and limbs. Samarra, Nick's new home, was the epicenter of the uprising against the Americans. It was smack in the middle of the "Sunni Triangle," a 200-square-mile stretch of staunch support for Saddam Hussein.

Life here was equal parts tedium and ­terror. Cutter slept surrounded by sandbags, woke up to the smell of raw sewage, and spent hours atop Patrol Base Olson's walls with nothing but energy drinks and dirty banter to keep him awake. At the same time, every moment outside the base was potentially deadly. Improvised explosive devices — IEDs — were hidden everywhere: in trash piles, ­underneath the road, even inside dead animals.

Sure enough, Cutter's first foray off base ended with an explosion. Before heading to Samarra, the 232nd Engineer Company was stationed at Camp Speicher, near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tik­rit. The outgoing company commander wanted to show the 232nd how to handle things. Nick suited up in his body armor and strapped into his gunner's harness.

Ten minutes into the tour, the afternoon suddenly seemed to tear in two. A fireball erupted beneath one of the vehicles in the convoy. For Maurice Jermon, an older soldier from Chicago, the world instantly went white and silent. When sensation returned, it was the smell of smoke, the ringing of his ears, and the taste of blood.

"Cutter was the first one to pull me out of my vehicle when we took a blast," Jermon says. "He was the gunner on another truck. Everybody else was stunned."

It would be Nick's time soon enough. A few months later, his vehicle was hit by an IED. The explosion shook his skull against his helmet so hard that it damaged his brain — an injury that wouldn't be diagnosed until years later. Twice more Nick would survive bomb blasts seemingly unscathed, at least compared to the soldiers who lost feet, legs, eyes, or hands to IEDs.

There were other close calls. Once, when Cutter was clearing a building, an insurgent jumped out of hiding and stabbed him. But his body armor took the brunt of the blow and Nick shot the man in the head, he later told his mother over the phone.

For the most part, however, his parents had no idea what he was going through — no idea of the night missions where tracer bullets lit up the sky like the Fourth of July, no idea of the pedestrian bridge near Tikrit that soldiers called either the "stairway to Heaven" or the "stairway to Hell" because so many IEDs were hidden nearby, and no idea what it was like to go on patrol in the morning and find a pile of Iraqi teenagers in soccer jerseys, their limbs chopped off and their eyeballs bursting from beneath mops of curly black hair.

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markie19
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10 days ago

READ SEE THE FRIEND IN THIS VIDEO CLIP THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON MOST PEOPLE HAVE BETRAYED ME CAREFUL IT COULD BE YOUR SPOUSE AND YOU COULD NEVER KNOW OR YOUR BEST FRIEND OR YOUR DOCTOR -MINE I THINK WAS GOING TO LET THEM KILL ME-HE IS INVOLVED DR BEACH READ MARKIE MC NIGHT I NEED DR PHIL DR BEACH HAD A CON MAN IN HIS OFFICE THAT DATED PEGGY AND WAS ON DR PHIL-MY MEDICAL RECORDS WERE STOLEN TOO-WATCH YOURS READ MARKIE MC NIGHTEdit (in 6 minutes)

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markie19

6 minutes ago

markie19

1 hour ago

Kerry Goad6 seconds ago via YouTube

LikeLike · · Subscribe on YouTube · SharePelican Brief TrailerPelican Brief TrailerDeleteShareLikeReplymarkie195 hours ago

Read new times uses my stories of the janbrewisms and then writes stories and gets me no help darrow k soll killed no suicide is Steve Lemons dirty or Matthew -google Markerry Soll Mc Night medium so i can get no law enforcement in most states they killed him not crazy 

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