Staff Sgt. Matthew Loheide heard the sound and looked up. He had expected the bomb falling from the sky to target an insurgent position 200 yards away. Instead, it was going to land perilously close to Loheide and his men.
“Ambush Alley.” That was what they called this side street. It was nestled in the Sangin district of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold. The street was just 8 feet wide, with 10-foot brick walls lining either side.
Photo by the 122nd Public Affairs Operations Center
His hands were burning. His weapon’s hand guards had been blown off during the explosion, and the bare metal was searing his skin. Yet 18-year-old Christopher Fernandez didn’t let go. He knew the suppressive fire provided by this machine gun was the only thing giving his wounded comrades a chance.