After serving two tours in Iraq and returning to civilian life in 2006, the writer decides to embed as a journalist in Afghanistan seven years later:

“We humped the three kilometers back to the school. It was early afternoon and there was plenty of light left, so we loaded our packs into two ANA trucks and began our march back to the compound for the night. By then the Afghans appeared to have all but lost interest in the mission, scattered around us, groups of them disappearing behind qalats, walls, and buildings, then reappearing in smaller numbers. As we pushed on through another open field, in a wedge formation, machine-gun fire opened up about a kilometer away from a small village to our three o’clock. It was followed immediately by mortar fire. The gun rounds were close, kicking up dirt and rock as we rushed for cover. I jumped into a hole with Ray just as several rounds snapped between us, cracking inches from my head. ‘Holy shit, Ray!’ I gasped.”