"The rocket zoomed across the yard, tearing through the bunker and killing two of the five shooters inside. Most important, the blast bought us a much-needed 10- to 15-second break in action that gave my teammates the time to drag Gardner out of the line of fire.

"But even as our guys were scrambling to get Gardner to safety, the three surviving terrorists began firing on the half-dead Gardner and the Marines struggling to drag him to safety.

"Something inside me snapped. I went primal.

"I ran directly for the enemy bunker, firing my M-16 as Garcia and Jaramillo laid covering fire. When I got 15 meters from the terrorists who'd paralyzed our brother, the bolt on my rifle locked to the rear; I was out of ammo. I dropped my weapon, which hung from a sling around my body, and prepped a hand grenade while running the final seven meters. I could hear the shooters yelling in Arabic. They ducked down behind the bunker wall and blindly sprayed rounds out of the window.

"When my body slammed against the outer wall of their bunker, I threw a grenade as hard as I could into the open window and stood with my back against the wall, waiting for the blast. The concussion from the explosion jolted me forward. A pink mist and body parts flew past me. There had been no outlet for the explosion to go anywhere. It was like those guys got put in a blender.

"I wasn't sure if I was alive or dead. It was the most surreal feeling I have ever experienced. My ears had liquid running out of them and my head ached. I was silent and calm. So was the yard. There were body parts all around me. Two of the bastards who'd shot Gardner lay mutilated on the ground in front of me. I glanced down. Their intestines, slathered in blood, were hanging outside their stomachs.

"I reloaded my M-16 and walked behind the blown-up structure. I turned the corner and something moved. Lying on the ground was a severely wounded Fedayeen fighter with an AK-47. As he drew his weapon into shooting position, I fired four shots -- two in the head and two in the chest.

"Seconds later, Garcia ran up to me.

"'Holy shit!' he said. 'Did you see what you did to those guys?'

"I was exhausted -- more tired than I'd ever been before. I don't know if I ever really replied."

<Part 2< >Start>

From "Hard Corps" by Marco Martinez. Copyright 2007 by Marco Martinez. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.