When we last left the members of the First Calvary Division, Fort Hood in the National Geographic series The Long Road Home (Tuesdays 10PM/9 CT [note the time change] and on demand), two separate divisions of the brigade were heading into Sadr City to rescue an ambushed unit. The third episode brings the viewer closer to the fighting—and it’s not pretty to watch.
First Lt. Shane Aguero (EJ Bonilla) and his men are attempting to hang on until rescuers arrive. That means going back into harm’s way to retrieve flares to indicate their position to the other units. The problems are many–first, the attack is well-conceived and each of the other units are walking into a trap. In addition, the units are ill-prepared for conflict of this nature, be it communication (some vehicles have no radios), armor (one truck is completely open, leaving at least twelve soldiers in the line of potential fire), or experience (the fear some of the soldiers display is palpable). Camp War Eagle knows it’s not going to be pretty, so they start preparing a medical unit for treating injuries. Problems exist there as well—their main doctor is a pediatrician and there are no units of blood available in case something happens.
The focus of this episode is Captain Troy Denomy (Jason Ritter), who feels remorse for sending Aguero’s unit out and learning one of their own has died in the process. He’s married to Gina (Kate Bosworth), who sits at home with a newborn while trying to recover from a C-Section. Troy does what he’s been trained to do: rushing into the middle of the fray in order to rescue people. However, he soon finds his group pinned down as bullets rain through the sky, injuring himself and multiple members of his vehicle.
Gina knows being the head of the Family Readiness Group has its blessings as she finds out what’s happening before the rest of the wives. Then again, it has its trials when she learns the team has been attacked. Because of her husband’s status, she knows Troy is going into harm’s way, but she no clue that he’s been wounded in battle. However, she has to stay calm and let the rest of the wives know an attack has occurred–something nobody on base expected or wanted to occur.
I struggled with this episode, especially one scene where one of Aguero’s men keeps watch while on the top of a building. He sees a young boy playing with a machine gun, then watches in horror as he points it directly at the soldier. When the gun is fired, the soldier shoots the kid. His father hears the commotion, sees what is going on, then takes up the gun to fight—he is also killed. Finally, the grandfather grabs the gun and is killed. There’s significant remorse in the soldier’s voice as he laments he killed three generations of a family. In split-second decisions, how do you know what’s the right thing to do when neither option is truly acceptable? This is where moral wounds arise. I could imagine this being the reason why so many of the soldiers found a measure of comfort from the words of David in the Psalms. Green pastures and still waters (Psalm 23:2-3) are a whole lot peaceful than desert sands and dry streams. But the soldiers have to be vigilant, knowing one wrong move could be their last. That vigilance will be further tested in the next episode; that’s for sure.