As fate would have it, Ivan took over for the regular driver that day in Afghanistan. The Insurgents were patient and set off the IED when it would do the most damage – as the bus of 17 rolled over it. The bus was tossed and caught fire. Ivan hung upside down by his seatbelt. There was only one way out – over 16 dead soldiers. This fight to the back of the bus choked him. As he stumbled out, the bus exploded. Even though he was in a convoy, he waited for thirty minutes until his group found him. He was presumed long gone – He proves them wrong even today.
When a United States Army General flies in to see how a communications station is working and needs a driver, he gets one. Javier drew that assignment on that November day in Afghanistan. With his infectious smile he, his best friend, and the General loaded up and headed through the pass. There was one way in and one way out, with a choke point along the way. The first vehicle missed the pressure plate. Javier’s did not. The explosion left Javier badly burned and the other two dead. He still has a smile, because not even the Fires of Hell can take that from him.
As the eldest son in a Samoan village, Alex’s destiny was to be the Manaia, or Chief. However, he gave that honor to his younger brother in order to enlist and fulfill an even greater calling. In the process he exchanged one legacy for another. The first explosion came and took its toll. So did the next two, each on different tours. His deployments as an Army gunner resulted in Alex being blown up not once, but three times. Obviously, “The third time’s a charm” doesn’t apply to a man who refuses to break.
Routine was rarely routine in southern Iraqi. As the Humvees slowly followed each other keeping their staggered distance, it happened. The air was suddenly sucked out of the cab. Flames shot out of air vents. The vehicle erupted, tires and bodies blew skyward, gasoline and ammunition ignited. Shilo battled to get clear of the exploding wreckage as his body began to char. He was instinctively shouting orders while his body armor melted to his skin. What Shilo would learn over the next years and 60 plus surgeries was that flames can transform you into something even better.
Being engulfed in flames was just the painful beginning. Losing a limb stole another piece of who Mario was. But laying on the table, heart not pumping, legally dead, that’s where it all started to unravel. Mario remembers sitting in Hell talking to demons before the doctors revived him. After that, Mario’s life became a blur of pain killers, alcohol and days of complete self absorption. His life became a medicated memory, until one night he overdosed. He flat lined but this time when he came back he chose another path and dedicated himself to live in the light. Fire forges steal. The Fires of Hell can forge a man’s destiny.