Somehow, amid the chaos of the ambush, Greg Reynolds felt invincible.
It happened on Nov. 9, 2003, near Balad, Iraq.
“We were rolling up on a couple of Humvees that were broken down,” Reynolds writes in an e-mail. It didn’t take long to see that his unit was under fire. “I get out of the truck tactically and realize, ‘Holy shit.'”
Bullets whizzed by his head. Civilians hid nearby.
“We were about 50 yards behind the lead vehicle, taking hand signals from them,” he recalls. “Then we start raking rounds around the civilians. The enemy was dug in the brush, scattered around a 30-40 yard area. We hit it with everything we had.”
The Humvees kept moving. With two critically injured soldiers in tow, it was the only option.
Reynolds and his unit had provided much-needed help.
“Basically,” Reynolds says, “we provided cover fire for them to rush their wounded about 20 miles down the road to the nearest base.”
Reynolds says the injured soldiers survived. The civilians, who Reynolds noticed praying, were unharmed. For his efforts, Reynolds received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.
“I saw death many times over there,” says Reynolds, 25. “I should’ve died, but I didn’t.”
He spent 369 days boots-on-ground in Iraq.
“I’ll never forget that one,” he says.
He worked himself into impeccable shape, serving as a physical training instructor in his unit.
“I was all about my physical presence,” says Reynolds, who as a high school senior enlisted in the Army National Guard in Nov., 2001. “The military built me up that way.”
He survived sandstorms, camel spiders and insurgents, but one moment last summer, thousands of miles from the desert, tested his indestructibility. More than a year later, he’s still rebuilding himself.
“It’s so easy,” he says, “to crawl in a hole and just hide from the world if something like this happens.”