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Sometimes, one may have daydreams such as having your own house, having your own business, improving the lifestyle of your family. Today, I have one of those thoughts fixed in my mind and my face reflects a smile
- Buddy, what are you laughing at? Asked my best friend, Rivera.
- No, nothing special. Just dreaming and remembering my family. Thats it. I answered.
It was May 18, 2012. My watch says 40 minutes of that day had already gone. It was foggy and rainy, but my company is working hard on the way from San Vicente del Caguán to San Juan de Losada, bordering Meta department.
Environment is very tense in that region. 24 hours earlier, FARC had attacked a military base by using cylinders. One NCO was killed and an officer was seriously injured.
There is a gunpowder smell in the zone. The combats took place all day long. Now, our mission is to take care of the highway. We walked carefully on both sides of the way, trying not to be a sitting duck.
I have to say that this situation makes me feel a little bit nervous, but I am encouraged by knowing that it is my duty as a Colombian Soldier.
We were moving slowly, silentlyfollowing the security protocolsclosely watching the highway. It was over one oclock in the morning.
Our squad was commanded by Corporal Molina who called the radio operator to contact our Commander in the rearguard:
- Alpha, this is Beta.
- Roger, Beta. What is your position and situation?
- Alpha, we are two kilometers away from the urban zone. Everything is normal. Nothing weird. Change.
- Ok. Beta. If possible, secure the perimeter, post some men on the way, and be alert to any movement. We have information that some bandits are trying to move through that sector.
- Roger, Alpha. QSL.
It is 1:30 in the morning. Corporal Molina distributes us based on the internal organization of the combat team. I stay with the team in charge of protecting the first part of the highway close to urban zone. My co-workers will go to the gateway to San Juan de Losada.
Corporal Molina stays with me in the sector. We have always been in the same combat team since we arrived at 72nd Land Combat Battalion. This makes us understand each other with a simple sign.
In desolate regions like this one, sound travels very fast regardless the source. Thanks to this fact, we noticed a vehicle was coming to us.
- Corporal, I hear a motor running, said Private Alvarez.
- Álvarez, are you sure?, said the Corporal.
- Yes, sir. I am sure. That is a motor running. You know I can distinguish any kind of sound in this region. I have been patrolling this zone for eight years, said Álvarez.
- I trust you. You know this zone better than anyone else. You guys, prepare the checkpoint, the security measures, and prey for help, said the corporal Molina.
Immediately, we took the security measures and prepared the checkpoint while the Corporal was communicating with other units so that everybody would be alert. It was a frightening situation. We remembered the night before and were really tense. However, we all performed the best
It is 2:00 in the morning. We have waited for the automobile for over five minutes. The lookout says, it is only one vehicle getting closer without any lights.
Finally, the vehicle arrived in just a few minutes. We stopped it, the driver did not like the order too much, but the four individuals got off the vehicle.
We identified ourselves as Soldiers of the Colombian Army and requested the IDs of the individuals and the vehicle as well.
I had to pat down the driver who seemed to be the leader of the group. With his hands against the roof of the vehicle, I found a revolver on his ankle which was immediately captured.
- Mr Perez. Thats your last name, isnt it? I asked.
- Yes, soldier, that is what I said.
- But you did not present the documents of this arm.
I was saying so when Corporal Molina told us to search in the vehicle because the four individuals were bearing weapons.
I got in the vehicle and searched everywhere, until I noticed that the rear seat had a false bottom. I lifted the seat and found a cove full of bills; I glanced at the Corporal and went to him.
- Soldier, we have 200 million pesos there. Half of that money is for you if you dont say anything. Imagine the many things you can do with that money, said the suspicious to me.
In that moment, the image of my family came to me, I remembered my mother, my wife, my four-year son. I remembered the time when we were talking about buying a house, to get a credit to guarantee housing for my little son.
- Sir, when I swore loyalty to the flag, I committed to my homeland. No money is worth to damage honor. I answered quietly.
Immediately, I went to Corporal Molina. I reported what I had found and of course, what the guy had said.
- My friend, that is the attitude, he said while heading for the vehicle and patting my back.
- Alpha, this is Beta. We have a vehicle which has a cove. There are four suspicious. I request the competent authorities to confiscate items, change.
- Beta, this is Alpha. The team will arrive in a couple of hours. Keep the area secured. Excellent job.
The suspicious guys began to offer things to me, to my co-workers, even as a group; each of you may receive enough money to live happily. We can even give you a cow to eat well. Think about it, this is a chance you wont have every day.
At six oclock in the morning, the competent authorities arrived. They counted the money; it was 200 million pesos, four firearms and four individual captured.
Even though, this is not a combat story. It is real. Im telling it because I want all Colombians to become aware that they may trust us, the soldiers, that we are honest, we watch for the national territory 24X7. We put national interest over our own benefit. Being a Soldier is an honor that many may desire, but just a few Colombians may hold it.
I am Ferney Méndez Dussan, a professional soldier part of 9th Army Mobile Brigade, 72nd Land Combat Battalion.