Three A.M., a few nights before Christmas, 2004. The war in Iraq is approaching its second anniversary, and the conflict in Afghanistan is into year four. A soldier sits in a small suburban house. He is a baby-faced 21-year-old but has a look of exhaustion that can’t be concealed. He should feel safe here. But the young man has lost his ability to reason. He closes his eyes as if to tune out the chatter from the other people in the room, and when he opens them, he snaps. “The hajjis are coming!” he screams. “The hajjis are coming!”To those around him it’s clear that Army Specialist Andrew Velez has been sucked into some dark corner of his mind. “They’re coming!” he repeats. “They’re coming!” Andrew stands up and runs around the house, turning off all the lights. A young woman is standing nearby, and Andrew ushers her into a bedroom, hollering at her to duck for cover. He drops to the floor and slides across the room on his stomach. At some point he produces a rifle, albeit an imaginary one, and squeezes the invisible trigger. “I’m not gonna die!” he shouts. “I’m not gonna die!” Then Andrew runs for the back door. The woman chases him. When she steps outside, Andrew pulls her to the ground to protect her from enemy fire. “I’m not gonna die!” he screams. “I’m coming home to see my babies!”
This is why pirates don’t join armies and ninjas work alone.