Lance Corporal Jordan Bachle recalled the quiet of a September morning in Afghanistan suddenly broken.
“I remember seeing the mushroom cloud of thick, black smoke,” he said. “It was a big pressure plate; I’d say it must have gone 500 to1,000 metres in the air.”
Bachle, 19, was serving in the 2nd Light Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Division of the U.S. Marine Corps.
At the time, his platoon had established a blocking position on enemy vehicles. The explosion, about a mile away, struck a sister regiment, the 2nd Light Armoured Renaissance Battalion. It killed three fellow soldiers. Bachle remembered the surrealism of the incident and the chaotic events that followed.
“We had a clear, plastic bag full of body parts that we had to collect off the road, and bring to the medevac helicopter… I witnessed one bag get handed over to our captain who handed it to another lance corporal, and then the captain promptly threw up,” he said.
Bachle, and others who were unharmed, quickly got to work saving as many wounded comrades as possible. He was credited with saving several lives that day. One he couldn’t save was a close friend, L/Cpl. Christopher Baltazar
“Seeing Chris like that was surreal. I remember thinking he was just passed out. Then reality sunk in and I realized that he wasn’t moving on that stretcher because he was dead. He wasn’t coming back with us,” he said.
Bachle, now 24, was born in Toronto, but when the Canadian Forces told him that there was a two-year wait for the infantry, he opted instead to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“They drove over the Canadian border to interview me, and I signed up when I was 18, fresh out of Durham College,” Bachle said.
Bachle received his training at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. His first deployment, at 19, was to Iraq as in 2008. A year later he was deployed to Afghanistan.
Despite witnessing trauma, Bachle doesn’t let it spoil his overall impression of the army.
“Death smiles at us all,” Bachle said, “but Marines smile back…I’ve accepted mortality. … and whether it’s in combat or not, death is always just a part of life.”