Paul felt an arm lift his shoulder, and another beneath his feet. He knew he was slipping in and out of consciousness; as a med student, he knew the theory but had never experienced it. Until now.
He tried to move, to stand up, to ask what was happening to him, but all his efforts were in vain.
Oh God what is happening to me, Paul tried to say. Blood sputtered from his mouth, his lips moved but no sound came out. All around him everything was getting dark and darker still. He tried to raise his left arm, but the pain was unbearable. Must be broken.
He tried to recall. There had been an explosion, a deafening one. That’s exactly when everything became dark. He tried to remember where he was and what must have caused the explosion but his memory was hazy.
People were talking all around him, “buddy … hold on …”, “hey … pull through …”, “hang on … c’mon bro …”
What is happening? Who are you? Where am I? He tried to ask all at the same time. Instead, he spit more blood.
Paul forced his eyes open; the surrounding light dazzled his eyes. He shut it immediately, and tried again after a few moments. With little effort, he began to recognize his surroundings. It was a village. And a war was on.
Oh God, please help, he prayed. Just like his Sunday school teacher had taught him all those years ago. At first his mum forced him to go but as time passed, he had started enjoying it. He still remembered the look on his mom’s face the evening he sauntered in grinning from ear to ear. The puzzled look on her face transformed to a radiating smile when he announced, “I just gave my life to Christ”. That was years ago, and remembering it now made him smile.
A sudden calm settled over him. He had given his life to a loving saviour, so even though he was in pain, Paul knew that he was in good hands. That assurance lulled him into a deep sleep.
The ‘deep’ sleep lasted all of two minutes before a jolt woke him again. Groggy with pain, Paul tilted leftward where a face hovered over him.
He recognized the face – Jack Rover. They were roommates and best friends right from their first year in the med school. In fact, Jack was the reason Paul chose to join the medical department of the defence academy. And together, they had opted for advanced military training so they could provide medical care on the war front.
Paul tried to speak, to ask Jack what happened. But his head protested. Jack smiled and extended a hand to soothe his chest. Paul couldn’t hear his words over all the noise but he saw the promise in his pal’s eyes: you will be fine.
Paul turned to his other side and saw more faces he recognized. He was on a stretcher being carried towards a chopper with whizzing blades. They walked fast, in spurts; severally, they stopped in a crouch behind a shrub or a shed, and crawled out again moments later. They were trying to avoid being detected. At the same time, they frequently glanced down at him with faces full of concern. They wanted to ensure their movement wasn’t causing him much pain.
A sludge of memories hit Paul, and he quickly shut his eyes as it all came back to him. The men – Jim, Cross, Jitsu and Dele; all of them infantry assigned to that regiment for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq.
They had been in Baghdad for three months, maintaining the order. That morning they had received report of an attack on a squadron in the neighbouring town of Karbala, and had set out immediately in a convoy of tanks, gun trucks and a medical Landrover van. But just as they were entering Karbala, an enemy jet fighter leaving Baghdad spotted them and dropped a ballistic missile. It missed them by a few feet, hitting a transmission pole instead. The pole fell on the medical van sending it somersaulting into a sandy ditch by the roadside. Paul was in the passenger seat.
Pain jolted him back to reality. Just then, Paul saw a figure that looked like … no, it was him. Col. Sanders. Driven by habit, Paul tried to lift his arm in a salute but pain crippled him and he yelped. The colonel touched his shoulder very lightly – at ease, soldier – the unmistakable glint of kindness in his eyes. The colonel was carrying him too? Paul looked around again, slowly.
Though his face stayed as stern as it did when he was supervising a parade, Col. Sanders indeed held on tight to one end of the stretcher Paul was on. How on earth could Col. Sanders suspend a mission to care for a wounded soldier?
Paul was puzzled.
Then he remembered. It was the colonel who taught them never to leave a wounded soldier behind. “No matter what, never leave a wounded soldier behind” Col. Sanders had made them yell it over and over again on their last day of training in Denver.
Impressive, Paul thought, that even the almighty Col. Sanders walked his talk. In fact, it was not just impressive, it was humiliating.
Guilt washed over Paul as he remembered his youth pastor referring to Christians as soldiers. While speaking to them from the second book of Timothy, the pastor had highlighted soldierly attributes that should be possessed by young Christians, like discipline, agility, sacrifice, etc. But he hadn’t said anything about wounded soldiers.
Paul remembered that time Sister Judy got pregnant, how he had quickly condemned her in his mind and never cared to visit her even after she delivered. He hadn’t seen her in church for months, but he never even asked about her. He also remembered when his fiancée told him of a church member that lived on her street who was dating two guys. They had laughed at her impending doom in his apartment that evening and written her off.
A warm tear escaped Paul’s shut eyelids. The more he remembered scores of other wounded soldiers he had left behind, the more freely the tears flowed.
Thoroughly ashamed, he cried out to God for mercy. With quivering soundless lips he prayed, “Lord Jesus, as long as I am a soldier in your army, I promise never to leave a wounded soldier behind again”.
And he drifted off to a deeper sleep.
By Toby Nwazor
Toby Nwazor is a freelance writer, public speaker and personal development blogger. He is the co-founder of www.tobyandkc.com where he shares tips for living a more productive life. And he thoroughly believes in networking.