My name is Joshua Castillo, it's been about 3 months I have been stationed in Syria. Let me rewind 3 months back to tell you how it all began. It started off as a regular day just me and my mom were home, my mom was in the kitchen cooking when the home phone rang. My mom did not speak English well so I was the one answering the phone most of the time, but the number was unknown so I didn't answer it. Almost spontaneously my cellphone started to ring, again with an unknown phone number, I did not answer thinking it was a spam call of some sort, soon to realize that there were people outside our door knocking.
I opened the door as the gentlemen introduced themselves as Lieutenant Green and Lieutenant Monroe from the U.S Army, and that I was sent a letter 10 days ago, but I never reported to them so that was the reason why they came. As they continued talking to me my mom came into the living room to see what was going on, and as soon as she saw them she started crying, at this time I knew that it was more serious than I thought. They told me that I was to report to the Army immediately, and they needed to catch a flight going to Syria in a couple of days. I started to question them about my fitness and endurance, and also because I never had any training to be a proper soldier, in other words I had no chance of survival at all. My mom was well aware of this as she was crying and hugging me apparently for the last time, and she kept telling me to be careful and that she will pray for my return home. I guess I had no options to choose between staying and going, so I packed my bags as I was trying to balance my emotions and feelings from being exposed. As I walked out of my room, I turned around one last time as I said goodbye to my mom and the house.
Fast forward to the first day of the hell I was about to get into. Our chopper started to descent unto the ground slowly as the pilot dimmed his lights in order for us to land safely without being spotted. They gave us our backpacks which were about 60 pounds each and also our weapon which was a Heckler & Koch 416. It was a massive weapon which was also heavy as well, needless to say I have never fired a gun before. All they taught me was how to switch the safety on and off, and how to load the weapon incase I ran out of ammunition, and that was it, I guess I had to rely on all the hours I spend playing Call of Duty but this time it wasn't a game, it was life or death. As soon as we climbed out of the chopper the first thing we did is find some sort of cover just in case Syrian troops were patrolling the area, and sure enough they were patrolling the area because that chopper never lifted off again. As we were hiding behind rocks and trees, we were facing the chopper as his propellers slowly started to speed up, but suddenly we just heard a gun go off hitting the pilot killing him instantly, at this point I knew that we would have to face these troops in order to move to our primary target so I clicked off the safety as I wiped the sweat off from my forehead and started to pray for protection, kissing the cross on my neck as I started to run forward.
As I finally reached the city point of where our primary target's hide out was, I ducked down for cover as I looked behind me realizing that most of our troops were dead or severely injured making it near to impossible to carry on. I was getting more nervous by the moment facing the reality that it wasn't Call of Duty, this was the real deal, shoot or be shot at no questions asked. My palms were sweaty making it hard to keep hold of the weapon as I checked the clip to see if I still had rounds in it, quickly realizing that I was nearly out. As I checked my surroundings to see if it was clear for me to enter the building, 2 troops spotted me and started shooting at me, one bullet ended up gazing my arm, but luckily it did not impact me at all. I immediately took cover again and started to shoot back hitting them both in the chest as they collapsed to the ground allowing me to enter the building. I got there and realized that nobody was inside, we had the wrong information, as I started to walk back out I realized that I was surrounded, the person who was our target knew that we had a mission to take him out, so he left the building in advanced and gathered troops to take us out instead. I still remember perfectly that the area smelled like gasoline as I was inspecting the so called target zone, so I knew that there were either gas barrels around the area which were highly flammable, or there was a tank leak on a truck that had a bullet impact in it leaking out to the floor.
As I took cover again trying to figure out how to get out alive, I heard the target telling me to drop my weapon and give myself up to them or they would terminate me, as he started counting down from 10 to 1, my eyes spotted exactly what I was hoping to see, a leaking gas tank from a Syrian army truck with a bullet hole in it. At this point I started bracing myself and checking my clip for ammunition, oh no the last bullet, I only had one chance to hit the tank and I had no additional bullets in order to reload the weapon, so it was my last chance to try and escape this nightmare I was in. As I stared at the sky asking god for help, suddenly I felt like the time went into slow motion, I wasn't sure if I was imagining it, or if it was god giving me a special power, but I cocked back the gun as he was counting "3, 2, 1", I got up and pulled the trigger and shot at the tank. I still remember yelling out "yippee ki-yay" as I suddenly felt the heat and a bright flashing light hitting my face realizing that it was the truck exploding to bits, and taking everybody around it as well. I couldn't believe it, I took out my target and multiple troops with the last bullet in my barrel, as I got up to check just once more making sure. I was so relieved knowing that the mission was complete, but at this point I was trying to figure out how I can reach the army base to tell them that the target had been terminated, and also to tell them that the few of us that were still alive needed to get back home.
After about 1 month of calling back and forth, it was finally safe enough for them to send us a chopper to return us back home. We had a memorial service held for all the fallen soldiers as soon as we got there, and as I went back home, I was unfortunate enough to be faced with another war. My mom had been fighting ovarian cancer for quite sometime, but after my leave she was so depressed and sad that it had multiply to the point where not even chemotherapy could help her, so she died shortly after, this was one war that we were unable to win, and I wish I would've died that night back at Syria, at least I would have been united with my mom "R.I.P".