The Soldier: Sudden Warrior

With 40 other soldiers and their 80-lb. rucksacks crammed into the rear of a Chinook helicopter--a space designed for 33--Randel Perez barely had room to breathe. As they thundered through the darkness toward the Shah-i-Kot Valley in eastern Afghanistan, the dim cabin lights cast pink and purple shadows on Perez and his fellow infantrymen from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. Some chattered about the fight to come, while others managed to catch a last-minute nap. Perez was far away, hugging a baby he had never met. It was early March, and the 30-year-old staff sergeant had seen only a grainy...

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