By Brett Gillin
It’s rare to hear an unfiltered story from a soldier detailing a mission that went wrong. That might be a good thing, as these stories could serve to lessen morale or even accidentally give up tactical information. Most of the stories we hear come filtered through official press releases from the military, and they are almost always short on detail. They’re always completely lacking the personal, human element of the story. That is not the case when it comes to Staff Sgt. Steven M. Tessitore’s account of the events on November 15th in Kabul, Afghanistan.
According to the official press release, via The Gazette Times, Staff Sgt. Tessitore’s story began when the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard, were on a security patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. The release goes on to state that the battalion was engaged by a single gunman, who was subsequently killed, but not before seriously wounding one soldier and harming two others.
The story, normally, would have ended there with a sigh of relief that no U.S. soldiers lost their lives. Thankfully, Staff Sgt. Tessitore took to social media to give his vivid account of the incident. Rather than recap what he wrote, we are going to publish the entire post below, as it deserves to be read in its original form. A word of warning though: some of the language is NSFW, but the post is well-written, humorous, and deserves plenty of recognition.
From Staff Sgt. Steven M. Tessitore’s Facebook Page:
“HEROES CAN MOVE FASTER
Hi, Internet. I am sorry I haven’t been on much lately but I’ve been experimenting with drugs and staring at a lot of ceilings lately. Which was stupid, because without my glasses I wasn’t able to make out the hallucinations or the finely textured ceilings the army provided for my viewing pleasure. Imagine my surprise on returning from across dark waters to find out that I had somehow gained a reputation for badassery, remarkably undeserved. I’d like to take the time now to fix that, as the army is flying my parents and I to the states on the same plane soon, and I’ve never heard of anything army related that sounds good up front working out for me, so I hope they can swim better than I can currently, because I am assuming we will all perish in the ocean forthwith, my badass reputation uncorrected if I don’t take this chance to educate you.
By the way I am still on some really sweet drugs so please forgive any spelling or grammar errors. I will read this sober later and cringe I am sure. Also be aware some facts are obfuscated to protect my brothers who still labor mightily in the trenches and some are fuzzy because I was DYING and my panicking and oxygen starved brain wasn’t the most reliable recording device, and some facts are wrong because its funnier that way, and I’m the one who got shot, so you can suck it. Politely. Unless you outrank me. Did I mention the drugs? Disclaimer the third, while I have been lying about lollygagging since Saturday my boys have probably been subjected to endless briefings and paperwork, for which I am very sorry, AND still doing their jobs, so I haven’t been able to compare my recollections with theirs yet. I’d like to, but they are busy, and imminent ocean place crash, and all that. I miss them terribly.
So Saturday, I was on a combat patrol, LIKE YOU DO, and things went horribly askew. We had been on the ground for a while, and we were wrapping things up. Our primary mission to the area was finished, and now we were finishing up, some pulling security, manning the trucks and the turrets, some on the ground scanning the crowds and vehicles passing by, and me? I was cheerfully smoking with my linguist and a couple of shop owners. As the platoons highest ranking smoker, I had quickly worked out a pretty sweet gig where I go offer smokes to the local soldiers and shop keepers, and we chat about the weather, the events, local things, anything that sounds interesting. I always had a security element with me, and sometimes my info was significantly different then the “Official Line” my LT and Platoon Sgt got fed. I like to think it was useful, and I was getting better at it. I am pretty good at reading people but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect from completely different cultures. “Haha yes! I DO like high fives! And smoking! I am good at my job!” “Haha Abdul, foolish American has just agreed to sell me all his smokes for 5 afghan, and I will resell them here individually! WE WILL BE REECH, I TELL YOU! Now ask the grinning idiot how much for his knife.”
Now I want you guys to picture this because it is important. Rifle, cradled casually yet menacingly at one side. Hanging off my three point sling, pistol on the other hip, badass Knife (my translator was always getting it back for me) “Look im really sorry he thinks it’s a gift, because it WAS, a gift to MYSELF, from MYSELF, and I cherish it deeply. Also my LT is calling on the radio and I will TOTALLY shoot him and claim he started it so figure it out.” (Side note dear readers. Check out ZOmbietools.net. Excellent work and craftsmanship) cigarette poised just SO in the crook of my mouth, so as to intimate to fellow smokers that “Why yes I had killed men before, some where better men then you appear to be, and it’s a fine day to smoke a menthol and lets all stay calm ok?” It’s a dying art, smoking angles, full of subtlety of pitch and yaw, which side you smoke on and how much like clint eastwood you could look when you got smoke in your eyes instead of just crying. See? Picturing it? I WAS A BADASS. Asking gripping tactical questions, slamming my tea cup forcefully down on the table. “THIS IS REALY HOT!” “ABDUL YOU SOCIOPATH YOU HAVE ANGERED THE CRAZY AMERICAN WHO COMES BY NOW AND THEN AND ASKS ABOUT THE WEATHER TELL HIM IT HAS BEEN THE SAME FOR 3 THOUSAND YEARS!”
Alas, Like Icarus I flew too close to the sun, and in my pride was humbled. I had just finished my latest round of questions at some of the local shopkeeps “So.uh..you sell stuff huh? You like selling stuff? Oh its better then starving, cool, cool” My internal alarm began freaking the fuck out. I actually DO have one, I’ve been a soldier semi professionally for 18 years and I picked up a few things other then a bitter sense of cynicism and a habit of crying myself to sleep in the tub, wondering where all the whiskey has gone. So when the man came into my view wearing a full length scarf over his arms, I started back peddling immediately. Unfortunately What I should have been doing was closing with, grappling and destroying the enemy like the rangers of old, but hell, I lived and he didn’t so I think we are going to call this one even. You see, I couldn’t see what his end game was, I could clearly see he had some bulk under there, but not enough to be a vest that was going to do anything but kill me and him, and surely he’d want more than one of us I just had to keep calm and get my security element to look over here and maybe I was wrong after all there was a little girl next to me OH FUCK HE HAD A PISTOL. THE LUNATIC WAS REALLY GOING TO SHOOT ME NEXT TO A LITTLE GIRL AND THEN GET BLOWN AWAY THAT’S INSANE WHY ….Ow he punched me.. That’s not fair I Hadn’t gotten away from the civilians yet and id kept the distance and the pistol ROARED again and blew fire and death and he mouthed something and I grunted as my body took the round fuck that was above my armor wasn’t it. That was bad but at least the lights still seemed to be on and OH. Fuck, I Was looking at the pavement. My world had shrunk to about 8 inches of pebbled street. All that training, the very classes on keeping mental flexability and my brain literally couldn’t process that this man was willing to die in what amounted to single combat suicide in a busy street on a crowded market. My animal brain knew what was happening almost from the first but I literally couldn’t process the information soon enough to make a difference in the about 4 seconds I had from seeing him and him shooting me. Learn from my mistake, children. I will gladly go to my grave embarrassed and mocked if by example one of you can make that mental leap quicker then stodgy old I, the tired old soldier who wasn’t fast enough.
Now that my world was an eight inch circle I had to make some choices. First of all, I didn’t like my circle. It was street colored and last time I had checked people drove like mad men on the streets here, and I didn’t think me laying there would stop them. So, lets move the circle. I began doggedly crawling towards where I figured dirt circles must be, nice, safer side of street circles, and guns were roaring around me and I sure hope the civilians are ok especially that little girl and heck, I’ll just stop here, I can decorate this circle with some red and it’s got some side of street brown mixed in “HEY! HEY SGT T! HEY I LOVE YOU MAN, ARE YOU OK!” Ah, Young Sgt Rott had made a much better use of his allotted seconds, perhaps owing to his youth and vigour, and had not only despatched my assailant with extreme prejudice, but was now on the ground next to me removing my armor in order to begin administering first aid. JOLLY GOOD OF HIM! I decided that I needed to show my appreciation, something that would convey my thanks at his assistance and timely shooting. “AM BLERTHY” are the words I believe I uttered, coughing wetly and spraying his blond freckles with speckles of red. Ah, lets try that again, mouth. “AM SHORRY” I wheezed, “AW SAW HRRM COINGG AND WASSNT FSST ‘NUFF” Now at this point my vocal chords are hamburger, im coughing up blood and everything I manage to get out is like the worlds most dangerous squeaky toy. He said he didn’t care, he loved me, and “Oh fuck that’s another exit wound there’s more blood” I meant to admonish him later for his lack of bedside manner, but considering my first time I came to in a truck full of smoke and ruin and my gunner dropped into my lap I yelled “Holy crap that’s a lot of blood! Er, I mean, you will be fine, Garcia” I may have to call that one even too.
After that things started moving quickly again. My platoon sgt was there, I swore at him, my medic fell out of the truck, I nearly died laughing, (No really, I was having some trouble breathing} somehow Sgt Rott went away and then fell out of the truck as well (Seriously, MRaps are the dumbest thing to charge into a firefight from. I’d rather it unfolded into a slide with some cover at the bottom) I flipped off Cutone for just looking so damn debonair while I was sitting there pathetic and smokeless, my LT was a jerk on the radio, he usually is, but he’s usually right and he’s OUR jerk, so nuts to you guys. My platoon Sgt was making all of the right choices and then like 5 extra ones a second that were completely unneeded like he does, It was weird. They were still all in “The Tick” which is that upswing where time slows and you make 6 thousand choices a second. I was out of “The Tick” because I was trying to not die, I’d had my chance and biffed it and my body was trying to keep the lights and power going until the helicopter got here. So I appeared calm and collected but really I was just doing a good job of delaying dying long enough for my medic who I have probably traumatized forever to make a difference. I love you Johnny Monks! I tried to pull security with my pistol because id heard we needed more, but Sgt Butler understandably decided I didn’t need to be holding a gun anymore, fat lot of good they’d done me earlier.
The helicopter arrived, and I stood up and walked out to it because I’ll be damned if I’d be carried, and it was easier for them to follow me then to punch me and knock me down like I deserved. Then the flight medic asked me who the president was, I said something bitingly political and insightful and realized she was a 1SG hopefully I was on drugs already, and then we landed at the air base, and they wheeled me to a room where about twenty unsmiling people were all waiting. I kinda gave a little half wave. Tough crowd, no response. I knew than I wasn’t going to like this room. Mostly they looked super serious. They descended on me en masse and removed the rest of my clothes, and held me down while a scary person shoved a huge tube into my mouth and the medication was kicking in but i couldn’t BREATHE I needed to let them know something was wrong and then, I was dead. Ok not really, but its what I THOUGHT. The lights faded just like in the movies and all the sounds slowed way down and I lost any sense of self, like, when you are sleeping you KNOW you are sleeping, if you really stop to think about it, there’s something still going on in your head. I’d lost that.
I woke up in Germany. I didn’t get to try the food. Tomorrow I fly further away from my boys. I feel like I have failed them. I slacked and now they will have to work harder. I get to go home with what may be the worlds luckiest lethal wound and and they still get to work every morning and perk up everytime they hear a shot or a scratchy megaphone. And I envy them. And I wish I was flying the other direction.
Thank you all so much for your well wishes, and support, I really appreciate it. It was humbling to wake up and see so many messages, but It drove me to write this as a sort of way to apologize, for I don’t deserve any stories, or accolades. I was just too slow, and then super lucky. Heroes move faster.”
We hate to disagree here, but although you don’t want to call yourself a hero, we proudly will. Anyone who willingly puts their life on the line in defense of our country qualifies as a hero in our book, no matter how fast their reaction time.
According to Tessitore’s Facebook page, he is continuing his recovery and remains in good spirits. We have reached out to Tessitore for additional comments and will report back if we receive more.