Another day at war
by Amy Stewart, aged 11
It’s morning ninety-nine out of one hundred and eighty days at our patrol base. Exhausted men from the stress of war are getting up and collecting their kit, following their daily routine almost on autopilot. There are all the smells of breakfast and the sounds of prayer from the mosque in the village a couple of miles away.
Engines start with a gurgle and a splutter, the air is filling with toxic fumes of diesel combined with dust. Orders are shouted and the first helicopter of the day arrives, no wounded soldiers this time.
I was up before most of them; I have already had my breakfast and my morning stroll. My patrol gathers, there are sixteen of us all in a line. We are to patrol the edge of the green area and through the village. Radios cackle, guns click and we move through the safety of the gate into the unknown. I am in the lead.
Not so far from the base we hear shouting from a solider in our patrol. We run and hide hoping we are safe and not seen. We are worried, everyone around us is silent, there is nothing to be heard but the sound of fear. I look, I listen, I smell the tension in the air. A boy runs, the guns swing, but he is safe.
We move through the long dry grass. It is our only camouflage and we keep off the path so we are not seen. We stop for a break, the water tastes good in the hot sun and then continue to move towards the village.
I stop, alarmed and I point not making a sound. Soldiers from behind move forwards and examine the ground, they carefully lift the object, report it in their notebooks ready for de-brief on our return, we move on.
The villagers are moving around and the children are playing with their kites. The breeze is calm but the children love it. The children made their kites with twigs and leaves. Oh to be a child and play; not knowing the dangers. It is quiet; it is safe for now, but not knowing what is going to happen.
I still look, listen and smell always alert as we move towards the base. We all stay alert. We spot a body but move on thinking that may be us one day. We think straight and concentrate on heading back to the camp for a well-deserved break.
We see the next patrol gathering as we enter the camp. We get checked to make sure we are not intruders. The gate swings opens and I lead the patrol into the safety of the base. As each man passes me he pats me “Good dog, you kept us safe today.”