As a soldier, you’re trained to see the world in a special way; it’s a dangerous place, you look for all possibilities of danger. As a sniper, you sharpen those skills to the max. You survey a field and you don’t just see brush; you see anomalies in that brush, and realize you’re about to be attacked.

That morning, as I scanned the countryside beyond the roof, I saw things as a soldier and a sniper, as an officer in charge of an elite team of fighters, and as a human being. I saw a beautiful sun rising over a desert, a shallow canal filled with murk and rushes, a cluster of hovels that under other circumstances might have seemed bucolic. I saw shades of yellow and brown, light blue streaked with white, drab gray, deep black. I saw red blood stains turned black; I saw rusted wrecks of a once promising enterprise. I saw waves of heat filtering upwards in the distance. It was a beautiful morning in an ugly place.

I got to work. From my vantage on the top of the roof I eyed a half-constructed building tall enough to command the countryside. It would also offer some shade, an important consideration in the Iraqi summer.

I dropped to my knee to make my call to the battalion commander. At that moment, something exploded to my right.

It was a mortar round. It had fallen next to the building, hitting the ground a few yards to my right.

“Get off the roof!” I yelled to the men nearby. “Get off!”

The words were still in my mouth as the next round landed square on the roof.

Excerpt:  Major Ivan Castro Fighting Blind