In the midst of machine gun fire and explosions, while the medevac was finishing up, I pulled out my little sketchbook and quickly photographed the drawings I had done over the past two weeks. No telling what would happen in the next hours and I wanted to increase the probability that something I had created from all of this would survive should the worst happen.

Every Marine in F/2/1 knew that this day óNov. 16, 2005 ó was the Last Day. Weeks of non-stop fighting had funneled the remnants of the local insurgency into an isolated elbow on the southern side of the Euphrates. Navy Seals held the river and a blocking force of the regular U.S. Army controlled the opposite-facing north bank. Here among a 100-acre pocket of date palm groves, orchards, gardens, stock-yards and sprawling family compounds, an enemy with nothing to lose and nowhere to go, fueled by pharmaceuticals and religion, lay in wait like scorpions.

I woke early. My G.I. alarm clock, a full canteen drunk just before going to sleep, had worked like a charm. For a few minutes I lay in the dark, shuffling off the grogginess and orienting myself. Whatís the date? No idea. Day of the week? No joy there either. Does it matter? Not really. Itís Monday; every day is Monday. Where am I? At least I knew that I was in a farmhouse in a place called Ubaydi.

Operation Steel Curtain, 3rd Platoon, F/2/1, moving into position by moonlight ó Ubaydi, 14 November 2005