Flat on their bellies with no cover and mortars raining down on them, two Oklahomans, Sergeant Shane Ayres and Staff Sergeant Tyler Mobra, looked at each other and communicated an unspoken message, “What the hell are we doing here.”
It was October 31, 2008 and Combat Outpost Lowell, Nuristan, Afghanistan was under attack again. Lowell is the most attacked U.S. base in Afghanistan and on Halloween day, Afghan insurgents treated the scouts of 6/4 Cavalry, Ft. Hood, Texas, with a barrage of mortars. The enemy mortars were particularly accurate this day and one shell exploded near two Afghan soldiers. Both were bleeding to death from severe shrapnel wounds.
Out of nowhere, across 100 yards of open space, Ayres, from Bixby, and Mobra, a Claremore native, raced to save the two dying Afghans. Mortars were falling everywhere and Ayres and Mobra hit the dirt. Ayres, instinctively grabbed something to cover his head. It was a piece of plastic. There were howls of nervous laughter from his fellow scouts who, from their battle positions inside the base, witnessed this insane run to save fellow soldiers.
With mortars still falling around them, Ayres and Mobra reached the two wounded Afghans, administered initial first aide, then hoisted them on their shoulders and made a harrowing dash back to the base. The mortars kept coming, but so did the two Oklahomans. Both can remember thinking about family, but everything else is a blur.
However, their fellow scouts, who witnessed it all, remember every detail. The two Okies, who, that Fall, were driving their fellow scouts crazy with talk about the Sooners, themselves ran the ultimate 100 yard dash, not once, but twice. Both were awarded Bronze Stars for their actions that day.
One of the Afghan soldiers later died from his wounds. But one lived – a second chance at life for a Central Asian county boy, courtesy two Oklahoma country boys.
When I asked Sgt. Ayres how it was that two Oklahomans made the dash side by side, he said, “maybe we’re just more stupid than most people, or maybe we were brave that day.” Maybe they acted from a sense of duty and decency. That they did, and on a Halloween they’ll never forget, they were honest to goodness Oklahoma All Americans.