The Binding of Dirt and Blood

In the desolate mountainscape of Afghanistan in 2011 through 2012, “Savage” a word used by the French to describe the wild landscape, the wild man, and the wild spirit became our moniker. Historically “Savage” was used to disgrace the indigenous people. Yet “Savage” was now our name. Our military radio callsign. The Cherokees of RECON were back upon the warriors’ path.

However, this time the path would test us through countless firefights, explosions, and deaths. It would forge us not only into “combat veterans” and “feared, Light Infantry Scouts,” but also into proud Cherokee Warriors.

While many of us had war experience before now the journey we were on was unrivaled by any of our past exposure to battle.

Jesse James Savage — U.S. Army Sergeant (Med. Ret.) standing in front of the Seal of the Cherokee Nation, the proposed “International Flag of Planet Earth”, and the U.S. flag.

Photo Credit: Antoinette Lee Toscano.

A prelude to war

Photo Credit: Unknown Source

It all started at a location that I will not disclose, when our unit began mobilizing for the mountains of Afghanistan. The platoon was still “forming” and nowhere near “storming” or “norming” when “Creek Command” issued our first callsign — "Blackfeet."

Our young platoon felt in our collective bones that “Blackfeet” was not our true name. We were formed of Cherokees.

Some were card-carrying members of the Cherokee Nation — like me and some were not. After several days of push and pull with our command we were given a name most soldiers would not have considered.

Making a savage

Jesse James Savage — U.S. Army Sergeant (Med. Ret.) at Red Rocks, Colorado, USA Photo Credit: Lexi Green — Savage Grey Studios.

We chose to be called “Savage”.

It was not yet apparent how much this name would play a role in our path through war.

On a day in July 2011, the dust was still working its way into our boots. Yet it was flying all around us when we took our first hit. It was just a few days into our deployment. The explosion was a rude awakening to the war we were about to begin fighting.

As the days went on we gathered our bearings and prepped for more long-term missions “outside of the wire”.

On July (redacted) 2011, our fire-base was set and we were now patrolling the local villages when the second blast stopped us in our tracks.

It was hours until we could clear the area, only to find out our battalion had lost two great men.

August (redacted) 2011, was the day we became “Savages” — the wild men.

Four-hundred and fifty pounds of explosives sent one of ours, Staff Sergeant (redacted) home to the place on the other-side.

Our overwatch

The Warrior Ethos Statue. Photo Credit: Mais Engraving.

Or as we endearingly refer to it — "overwatch."

The rest of us were sent on medevacs — medical evacuation helicopters to get medical attention.

The days following were a blur as we recovered.

Then yet again, “Fallen Angels” and crashed helicopters felt one-thousand pounds of explosives that levitated us into a nearby hard structure. And we lost three more brothers from our battalion.

September (redacted) 2011, slowed everything down as we received the call that one of our “Savages” was hit during a joint mission with (redacted), another Company.

Specialist (redacted) was one of three soldiers who “reported for overwatch” that day.

A day that we "Savages" will always remember.

We sat waiting in complete combat gear, fully loaded to rain down hell, for hours. We were hoping the call to recover our brother would come through.

The call never came.

And the days grew longer as we proceeded to interrupt enemy maneuvers until a different call was heard.

Two more from the battalion, Private First Class (redacted), the youngest soldier, and the only female in the (redacted) to pass on to the other side.

And Specialist (redacted) had fallen to the ravages of war during a support mission in the same area of operation where Staff Sergeant (redacted) had fallen.

Then, “Creek Command” tasked us “Savages” to take the valley and secure the route for future missions.

Routing the enemy

Days and days were spent going from house to house. And mountain summit to summit until every inch was secured and overwatch was set.

We were deprived of sleep, without supplies, and living wild upon the land at times.

During our tour in the area, we are proud to say that no additional deaths had happened.

As winter set in, we began the second half of our deployment. We “Savages” were revered as the experienced warrior — the Cherokee Warriors. We had helped everyone that needed it, taught combat skills, and led units into battle as “the wild men”. The experienced men.

We spent a year at war.

Coming home from war

And coming home felt lost on us.

Yet we pushed and strove, faltered and overcame, stumbled, and stood up again.

After the war, losing one of our own, Specialist (redacted) to self-inflicted, rational lies, we still pushed on to set the example and to be leaders for our unit.

The seal of the Cherokee Nation. Photo Credit: CRW Flags.

Because that is what a Cherokee Warrior does; they adapt, overcome, lead, and take care of their family.

Our time at war turned all of us into Cherokee Warriors — regardless of ethnicity and bloodlines.

Some of us have a “Savage” tattoo. Others use Savage as our name. Still others have found artistic ways to show that they are now and forever will be a "Savage."

I have redacted names and places to protect those still serving and those who are on overwatch.

For theirs is not my story to tell.

The Veteran Command

Read more about Jesse James Savage — U.S. Army Sergeant (Med. Ret.) in Culturs Magazine. And the "Veteran Command” a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose focus is to create a one-stop, online, application process for Veterans, that "Savage" formed to assist other veterans and families.

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