Latrine Break

One night, early in my tour in Iraq, I had to use the latrine. Nothing unusual. Except for this night. I was hot, tired, miserable, which was normal there. Brought something to read. Went into the male latrine trailer. Took off my sweat soaked shirt and pistol, laid them carefully in the floor and sat down. Thought I was going to have a quiet few minutes. The guys out there know what I mean. How Wrong I was. Suddenly, mortar rounds started screaming in and peppering the area around the latrine. The ground was shaking under me as each round exploded nearby. Wasn’t my first or last time under mortar attack. However, this one and only time I was frantic! And I panicked. All I could think about was the indignity of getting my shit scattered (no pun intended) while I was, well you know. I did NOT want to be killed sitting on the toilet. Getting killed in action was one thing. All kinds of embarrassing scenes flashed through my mind, kind of instantaneously, while I scrambled to get myself together. Hadn’t had to dress myself this fast since the cop caught my wife and I making out in the car at the airport in Cleveland many years ago. Master Sergeant Swirko United States Army, killed, by enemy fire, not in action against the enemy, but while taking a crap. May not even qualify for a posthumous Combat Infantry Badge. Funny how my mind works. This possibility…it was more than I could handle. I must have been quite the sight. Hope nobody saw that spectacle. Trying to button up, while simultaneously carrying my shirt and shoulder holster, all the while fleeing the latrine searching out some decent cover, only to find some fool outside yelling “Incoming, Incoming” as though we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. Yeah, it was bad. I scrambled to get myself together and out of the latrine and into the open and into incoming mortar fire, where I ACTUALLY FELT better, if not safer. So were the indignities we were forced to endure…ah, the sacrifices we make. War is hell, for sure!

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