Moral injury – the distressing psychological, behavioral, social, and sometimes spiritual aftermath of exposure to such events. This is was a new term the army threw at us coming out of HKIA. And for the first time I believe the army hit the nail on the head. The events that unfolded at that airport are something of a story to be told but to be never understood completely.
When we landed the morning of 16th, we immediately were instructed to make link up with the marines to the south by the domestic terminal. From across the flight line it sounded like a firefight with rounds even coming over head.
Once we tied into the Marines we went right into a riot control posture due to the fact we had tens of thousands inside the airport perimeter at this point. I remember my young team leader with a new born back home looking at me and saying, “Hey serant’, this shit is fucked.” as we are instructed to push woman and children back as they cry and beg for water and to be saved. But we knew we had a job to secure the airport, we had to put our morals behind us.
A Turkish airliner took off and all hell broke lose. The civilians made a break for the plane, something only to be compared to a a scene from world war Z. We tried to push the company ahead of the wave but nothing was working. I lost contact with half my squad at this point as they took off with the rest of the company. I find a random army medic amongst the crowd.
I pick him up and link with a group of Marines and a squad from our sister platoon. We find what I believe was the air traffic control center complex between the two flight lines. We start breaking into the couple hiluxs there and got them running. We finally made link up with the rest of my company and get accountability of my squad.
We are less then 100 meters away when the C17 takes off with the people running along and holding on outside the plane. We watch In awe as 8 people fly off it as it leave the airport.
Everyone is speechless.
A random Marine Gunny comes up to me and my team leader and asked if we can clear the flight line. Confused by the question due to the tens of thousands of civilians running around at this point I ask him, ‘What?’ He says the bodies… We drive to a body on the flight line with a Marine standing next to it. The body was something that doesn’t really represent a human form anymore.
⁃ Squad leader 1-504th PIR. HKIA. August 16th, 2021.