Life nowadays is so weird you can never know what to expect. We were walking down the middle of County Road C007. We had passed by Horse Trap well, which was dry. It was about 1.5 miles to Little Gap Well when I heard Jared come over the radio telling us to hold up. We did our IAD (Immediate Action Drill) to get off the road and set SecFor. When that was done I called him back and he told me to bring my team forward and he would meet me on the road…there were people at Little Gap Well.
I questioned him on what he had in mind but he told me to just head his way, he would explain when we got there. I don’t like that kind of stuff…walking into the unknown…but what was I going to do, debate him over the radio? We reset SecFor with Ken’s team, Matt’s team was RIT and my team headed his way “walking with a purpose.” I found out that is military terminology for walking quickly.
We ran into him about 15 minutes later, my team set-up security while Jared explained to me the situation at the well. Turns out the people weren’t exactly at the well, they were camped about 1/4 mile away. And “camped” was a very generous term according to him. He and I headed that way to recon. I was trying to act all stealthy military ninja…he was just walking casually along. I would soon understand why.
He said they were around this bend on a cattle trail that ran off the two-track county road. I got all ready like we were about to go into a firefight. He said I could stand-down, even fall asleep, and I would be safe. What?????
So there they were…a family of eight!!! Mom and dad that look like dirty, skinny, vagrants. The two adults were talking, throwing sticks on the fire, like they were on a campout over the 4th of July. They were oblivious that we were walking up on them. Six kids clustered around a campfire all asleep, none under blankets, although blankets were not needed, there were none anywhere around. And you could smell them…yeah, smell the people.
When they finally saw us they just sat there looking at us. Both had pretty blank stares, their eyes were tired, those eyes belonged to people who were burned out…maybe a faint flicker left. But, that’s it, nothing more. These folks were at the end of the road…literally.
The wife/mom just hung her head down and started to cry softly. The husband/dad tried to get up holding a stick in his right hand but he fell back down, his right leg couldn’t hold his weight. The mom began to plead with us to not to hurt the kids. She would do anything just please don’t hurt the kids anymore.
Hearing her plead and sob, begging for mercy touched my soul so deep and so profoundly I started to cry right then and there. Jared had a tear as well. I called on the radio to Annie to bring up the team double time but there was no threat, no danger.
Jared and I walked over and offered water from our water bottles while we dug our food rations out of our vest pockets. The parents both refused the food for themselves but got the kids up to get a drink and eat the meager food we offered them. The kids were inhaling the food and drinking the water as fast as they could…but they weren’t fighting each other for it. The youngest got to eat/drink first.
Annie, Mike, and Allen came trotting up, rifles at the ready. Then it hit them as it had hit us. They did the same and dug their food out. The family had enough food that all were eating at the same time. But they ate like animals…starving animals.
I told Annie to get the team to set up a 3-sided SecFor, I asked Jared to sweep the area for anyone else (I didn’t want us walking into a trap of some kind), and I got on the radio. I told Jim to bring up a half days’ worth of food, water, and bring the Medical Unit with them but hold everyone else in-place. I asked him to “move with a purpose.”
Ken was asking me for a SitRep and I told him that we had run across some folks that desperately needed our help. I stated clearly that we saw no danger or threat here but to set a good SecFor for now.
I took a minute and just stared at the family…they looked like some of the worst refugees that you ever saw on TV. The kind like they use where trying to raise money for some cause in Africa or something. They were pitiful…at best. These folks were unbelievably hurting, starving, and mentally beat into nothingness. Hopeless would be the right term…hopeless, starving, and dying slowly would be more accurate.
As they were eating the last of our food I was walking around their area…I couldn’t call it a camp…nothing about it was a camp. It was a dirt spot in the desert with a fire…nothing else…no gear, no equipment, no guns, nothing, absolutely nothing but them and the clothes they were wearing. And the clothes were nothing to brag about.
Once they were done eating the last of the food they just sat there all 8 of them in once mass huddle. The dad had thrown some more wood on the fire and it was crackling louder and the area was a little lighter. I just stood there…still stunned. I had seen a lot of crap in my last 70+ days but nothing compared to this.
A minute or two later Jim and the others, Kim and Daniel among them, came trotting in. They stopped at the edge of the light as astonished as we had been. I gotta give them credit…they had been training as well. They all got into gear, Jim, Morgan started getting some food out, Kim and Daniel broke open their med kits and started looking over the kids. I saw tears in both Kim’s and Daniel’s eyes. What has happened to the world!?!?!?!
It was an hour later I called and told Ken to get everyone moving again, keep heading south on the road. I told him Allen would meet him on the road and he would walk them around where we were. Ken really wanted to ask why, I could hear it in his voice. I told him Allen would explain when he saw him. I instructed Allen to keep heading south on the road but pull up about half a mile short of I-10. By then Jared would have found a camping spot for the day. Jared nodded at me, asked if there was anything else, and then headed off when I told he we had this covered.
The family is the Jones family…a family of 4. The other 4 children are not theirs but 2 sets of orphans the best they could tell. The kids ran in ages from 3 – 12, 3 boys, 3 girls. The parents had been caught on I-10 while heading on a vacation in Phoenix when it hit. They had been on the outskirts of Las Cruces, not far from the airport. They had walked to the truck stop that had the Subway in it. It was OK for a couple of days till the food started running out. Then it turned ugly.
There was a NM Highway Patrol trooper there…he was the first to be killed. Five teenagers, tough Hispanic kids from El Paso took over the place. They all had guns, pistols and two of them had full automatic AKs. After they killed the trooper a couple of truckers tried to stop them. All four of the truckers were shot to death, 6 more were beat to death. Two days later the raping started…the wife being one of the victims. The original group of five teenagers turned into 14 teens and early 20 somethings. The original 5 turned out to be Mexican Mafia kids…young guns. The other 9 were just new comers, wannabes….but a violent gang all the same.
The Jones’ escaped that night. They had managed to get a little water and couple bags of pretzels before they left but that was it. No weapon, not even a pocket knife. They walked all night west on I-10. That morning they saw a mini-van with kids milling around outside of the van. They thought with the kids there with the van that it would be OK. As they walked up the kids ran off but people were in the van. It was two men and a 12 year old girl. She was being brutally raped by both men. One of the men got out and he had a knife. Brian Jones (the dad) just lost it, he lunged at the guy and somehow managed to stab the guy with his own knife as they wrestled. The guy in the car with the girl sliced her throat from ear to ear and got out. Brian slammed his head in the car door, the guy was out cold. Brian stomped the guy’s head until it was mush. His kids had been standing right there and had watched it all. The Jones’ mom had run after the two young kids. She caught up to them and walked them back to the van after convincing them she wasn’t going to hurt them. Now they were a family of 6. The older of the two kids they just adopted was 8, she had been raped the day before. The boy was 6, it was obvious he had been beaten multiple times.
A couple of weeks later found them with a group of refugees in a place called Fairacres on the outskirts of Las Cruces. Life was very tough, food scarce, but the refugees had water, a little to eat, and others to be around. Then their food ran short…and the killing started up again. The evening the killing started a child was the first to die. Evidently, and I am not sure I have it right, this kid of 4 or 5 was staring at one of the adult men who was eating a piece of rabbit that they had caught in a snare, cooked over an open fire, and was eating. The man yelled at the kid to go away, the kid didn’t. The man stabbed that kid in the face with a hunting knife. The Jones’ gathered their kids and ran right then and there.
They stopped not too far from the main area of the group they had been with and watched as turned into utter chaos. There was shooting and people dying. They said there was no reason to any of it. It was as if everyone was killing everyone else. Janet (Brian Jones’ wife) saw two kids just standing there outlined by the firelight. She had felt this overpowering need to go get them. She did, their family grew by two more…10yo girl, 8yo boy. Both had been raped over the last couple of weeks. So there was the Jones family…Brian, Janet, girl/12, boy/3, then girl/8 and boy/6, finally girl/10 and boy/8.
They had been wandering around ever since. They found a stock tank and set-up camp with things they had scavenged along the way. They put out snares with which they caught a few rabbits. The actually were able to catch some quail, found a couple of quail nests with eggs, and generally managed to stay alive (albeit slowly starving to death). Their mistake was camping at the stock tank. They were found by some area tough guys.
It was a week of nightmares…Brian had been tied up and regularly beaten. The boys had all been beaten multiple times and made to be nothing more than servants. All the females Janet and the three girls had all been repeatedly raped over the course of a week. Any resistance on their part brought a beating. They still bore some physical scars. The mental and emotional scars were obvious. Janet thought she might be pregnant as well as the oldest girl. Kim wasn’t able to tell one way or another.
The men left to go find and steal some cows but said they would be back and the Jones’s were to stay there. They promised lots of food when they got back, they left no food when they left. Brian and Janet had been tied up too well. It took more than a day for the older girls to get the parents untied. Once untied they ran…and ran…and ran. They finally found someone’s old campsite. There was a bear box that had a bunch of canned goods in it. That was a couple of weeks ago. They ate all the food in one long multiple-hour meal. They realized how much of a mistake that was…but it was too late. Most of them threw up a couple of times due to all the food they had eaten. Their starving bodies just wasn’t used to it.
They struck out again looking for another campsite…never found one. They came across stock tanks that provided them water and occasionally some meager food with a desert tortoise now and then. They said they ate a dead coyote once. They were eating mostly cactus after that. About 3 nights ago they were found again by some younger men, 20 somethings. The men all had guns and were mean. This time the girls were beaten and the boys raped…Brian as well. The bad guys all got stoned smoking pot laced with meth that night, really stoned. They passed out and the boys untied Brian and then they untied the girls. They ran off. They didn’t take any water, didn’t take any food, didn’t take any weapon. They’ve been running ever since.
The way I see them and listen to them…they are all dead men walking. This new world has beaten them so badly that they are dead mentally, physically, and spiritually. They have nothing left in their soul as far as I can tell. They seem like little more that animals…the kind you see at animal shelters from homes where they were abused. Now, what do we do with them?
I feel as if that each one of these horrors we encounter showing the degradation of mankind…well, I feel as if another black hole or black mark hits my soul. I just fall into this blackness of despair a little more each time. I wonder how many more I can endure. How much more does this ugly world have to offer?
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