Thomas Calabrese –Gunnery Sergeant Kirby Boone was born in Virginia City, Nevada. His father Zack, was a big and rough and tumble kind of guy, who was bigger than life. He was the kind of man who meant what he said and said what he meant. He never went looking for a fight, but ready if one came looking for him. During the fire season, Zack worked with the Sierra Smokejumpers, an elite team of forest firefighters. During the rest of the year, he drove a gasoline truck, sometimes navigating his eighteen-wheeler over black ice, through blinding blizzards or down narrow mountain roads. Zack Boone never shied away from a challenge and took great pride in getting the job done. He was the kind of man that never let fear interfere with his decisions-making.
Kirby’s mother, Michelle was a charismatic woman who started off as a blackjack dealer at the Gold Dust Casino in Carson City. She quickly built up a reputation as a proficient and honest dealer and now only worked high-stakes poker games. She spent the rest of her time caring for her family.
The Boone home was filled with good times, laughter and plenty of horseplay, Kirby had two younger brothers, Sean and Danny. Zack and Michelle made sure that their three sons learned the value of hard work, self-sufficiency and following their own dreams. There was no pressure put on them to follow in anyone’s footsteps, they just gave an abundance of parental guidance and support and let the chips fall where they may.
Kirby was like his father, he loved the outdoors and it didn’t matter if it was in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, he could usually be found racing down the ski slopes, shooting the rapids on the Truckee River or rock climbing in the Sierras. He also learned how to drive big rigs and fight forest fires. Sean and Danny were more like their mother, calm, collected and looked at problems from an analytical point of view while Kirby was more spontaneous and free-spirited. Every member of the Boone clan brought something different to the table and it was their differences that were as important as their core values of God, family and country in making this a tightknit family.
When Kirby told his parents that he wanted to join the Marine Corps, they knew he was up to the physical challenges, but what concerned them was, could their free-spirited son handle the disciplined lifestyle of being in the military.
Zack told his son, “I fully support your decision, but…
“I know what you and mom are thinking…can I take orders on a regular basis? I wish I knew. You and mom raised me to be an honorable person and now it’s time to see if your hard work went to waste. I’m joining the Marines with the mindset that I’m going to have to grow up in a hurry. How does that poem go…when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. If I want to be a man, I’ll need to change away from childish things.”
Wade Ouincannon grew up on his family’s 50,000- acre cattle spread in the Northern High Pains region of Texas, often called the Panhandle. There were no free rides on the ranch, no entitlements, no special privileges and everybody did their jobs without complaint. Wade worked, played and lived hard, often burning the candles at both ends.
After an exhausting week on the ranch, Wade’s idea of recreation and relaxation was to ride Brahman bulls in weekend rodeos. Being bruised and battered was the only life he knew, but he was a red-blooded Texas cowboy, rawhide tough, standing strong, tall and proud. He came from a patriotic ancestry that firmly believed that military service was a rite of passage to manhood. His great-grandfather, grandfather, father, older brothers and uncles had all served honorably in the military. So when he came of age, there wasn’t much to think about, Wade enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Kirby and Wade first met at Basic Recon Course on Camp Pendleton and became friends and fierce competitors, pushing themselves and each other far beyond what either one thought they were capable of. It was the kind of rivalry where they didn’t mind losing to each other, but hated losing to anybody else.
After finishing BRC, Kirby and Wade went to Scout Sniper School, widely regarded as the finest sniper training in the military. The course was 12 ½ weeks long and included nine straight weeks of shooting qualifications, before field training even began. The first phase was marksmanship, the second was stalking and the third was advanced field skills. After completing these requirements, Kirby and Wade honed their craft by taking urban and high angle shooting training and attending the British Royal Marine and Israeli Foreign Forces Sniper Schools.
They fired expert at the 300, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, and 1000 yard lines and alternated between being shooter and spotter. They also became extremely proficient at identifying wind, weather and atmospheric conditions so they could make the necessary adjustments to their long distance shots.
The Marine Corps is unique in its consolidation of reconnaissance and sniper duties for a single Marine. Most other conventional armed forces, including the U.S. Army, separate the reconnaissance soldier or scout from the sniper. As the years passed and their missions added up, Boone and Quincannon entered the upper echelon of the brotherhood of Marine Corps Scout Snipers as their confirmed kills added up. Their names were mentioned in the same breath as leatherneck legends, Carlos Hathcock, Chuck Mawhinney, Eric England and Dakota Myer.
This duo served all over the world; Middle East, Far East, Central and South America, Europe and Africa. The Marine Corps sometimes ordered Boone and Quincannon to support other branches of the military in their covert operations. When they weren’t on missions, Kirby and Wade were guest instructors at the Sniper School, where they willingly shared their vast knowledge and experiences with potential applicants. There was a special camaraderie in the Scout Sniper community that equaled the brotherhood of other elite combat units.
It was during a joint operation with Delta Force that Kirby and Wade saw the benefit of having trained dogs on a mission. These animals could detect the enemy far quicker than a human and were adept at locating IED’s (improvised explosive devices). This allowed the team to move quicker toward their objectives. After returning to Camp Pendleton from a mission in Nigeria where they killed seven high value targets in the Boko Haram terrorist group, Kirby and Wade checked in with their Commanding Officer, Colonel Glenn Yost, who congratulated them, “Good job, Marines.”
Kirby replied, “Thanks, it was a team effort and the Intel was accurate. When those two things happen, all we have to do is get ‘em in our crosshairs and pull the trigger.”
“We were with Delta and their dogs made a big difference,” Wade said, “We were thinking that if we had dogs, it would help us…what do you think?”
“I totally agree. During my career I worked with K-9 teams on numerous occasions and saw how many lives they saved,” Colonel Yost said, “You don’t have to convince me of their value.”
“So we can get a dog?” Kirby asked.
“There’s a lot of red tape to go through to get you another (MOS) to go with Scout Sniper. Even if Command approves your request they probably would want you to go to dog handler school. I suggest that you get own dogs, it will be easier for all of us.”
“ Okay…how we would start?” Wade asked.
Colonel Yost suggested, “There’s a retired Navy Seals who trains dogs…I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you out. I’ll give you his name.”
Kirby and Wade contacted Matt Rickland by phone, set up an appointment and drove to his training facility in Winchester, California. Cosmic Canines trained dogs for the military and Rickland’s Sanctuary was dedicated to providing a safe and happy environment for retired combat dogs after their service to the country. For the dogs that weren’t adopted, they could live out the rest of their lives in a peaceful environment and treated with the respect and dignity they deserved.
Mike gave a tour of the 25-acre facility to Kirby and Wade and eventually brought them to an exercise area where two Belgian Malinois were playing, “Two brothers from the same litter, the lighter colored one is called Freedom and the other is Liberty. Why don’t you go introduce yourselves?”
There was an immediate connection between the two dogs and the two Marines. After several weeks of training, the two dogs were ready to return to Camp Pendleton with Kirby and Wade. Even though a well-trained adult Belgian Malinois can cost between 45,000 and 65,000 dollars, there was no way that Mike was going to charge two active-duty Marines that repeatedly went into harm’s way that large amount of money. So he made them a gift of the dogs, “Stay safe out there.”
Kirby was quick to respond, “That’s very generous of you.”
“It would be rude and ungrateful if we insisted that you take money for Freedom and Liberty,” Wade said.
Mike smiled, “And it wouldn’t work anyway.”
“But you wouldn’t deny us the privilege of making a donation to your charity?” Kirby handed Mike an envelope.
He opened it and exclaimed, “Ten thousand dollars!”
“Five thousand for each dog,” Wade grinned, “I’d say we’re getting the better end of the deal.”
Mike responded, “This is a lot of money for a couple enlisted Marines to be giving away. You sure that you can afford it”
Kirby said, “You know what they say?”
“What’s that?” Mike replied.
“That Freedom and Liberty don’t come free,” Wade said.
The three seasoned veterans shared a good laugh as the two dogs played next to them.
Rather than live in a barrack, the Marine Corps leadership allowed Kirby and Wade to stay in a two-bedroom beach cottage at Del Mar Beach. This was extremely unusual, but Boone and Quincannon had earned some special privileges because of their unique abilities and extraordinary accomplishments. Being at the cottage allowed them to come and go with less scrutiny and decompress in a more tranquil environment upon their return.
Wade bought a quarter horse from a ranch in Ramona and kept him boarded at the base stables. He would often take him on long rides through the un-developed and open spaces of the base and Freedom and Liberty would sometimes go along. Kirby preferred to surf or take out the jet-ski and the two dogs would eagerly jump in the rubber raft and he would take them for a ride along the coastline. Kirby and Wade registered Freedom and Liberty as service dogs so they could take them wherever they went.
The two men spent a lot of time at the rifle range, careful never to become over-confident or complacent. If anything, they were even more dedicated now than as they were at the beginning of their careers. Why…because they had experienced firsthand how important it was to be at the top of their game at all times. Lives and missions depended on their marksmanship and reconnaissance abilities. Sometimes they had to place a bullet in a space no bigger than a quarter and had to do this in all types of weather and at distances that sometimes exceeded 1000 yards.
It was extremely unusual for active duty personnel to keep their weapons with them. They are usually kept in a heavily fortified and guarded armory. The battalion commander, division general and the base commanding officer all had to approve Kirby and Wade’s request to keep their weapons with them.
To get that approval, they had to get a gun safe that was equipped with biometrics, voice recognition, optic scan and a combination lock. It was also secured to the concrete floor by eight inch titanium bolts and an alarm system that went directly to the Provost Marshal.
Kirby and Wade were sometimes required to leave on short notice and needed their weapons to be accessible at all times. When they got the call they would drive down Vandergrift Boulevard to the base airfield where a helicopter or small plane was waiting to take them to Miramar, March Air Force or North Island to catch a military transport for their destination.
The President’s decision to withdraw American military forces before civilians were safely evacuated was a strategic error of epic proportions. Now others had to fill the breech. The State Department was not notified about Kirby and Wade’s trip to Afghanistan because Colonel Yost knew that the bureaucrats would deny or sabotage the effort. He further jeopardized his career by allowing the illustrious sniper team and their dogs to support the Mighty Oaks Veterans organization efforts to evacuate stranded Americans.
Colonel Yost emphasized the risk that Kirby and Wade were taking, “If you don’t want to go, nobody is going to hold it against you. You’ve saved enough lives in your career, it’s somebody else’s turn now.”
Kirby responded, “Leave no man behind, that’s always been an unbreakable rule in the military. Just because some politicians in Washington believe it’s every man for himself, that doesn’t change our code of conduct.”
Wade added, “We’re trained for this, there are Americans with no combat or surveillance experience that are going downrange. If we can help them, we have to do it.”
Colonel Yost sighed, “Here’s the official explanation, you are both are on leave and I don’t know where you are. If anybody ask, you were hiking, fishing and meditating in a dead cellphone area. Unofficially, I’ll make sure that you have everything you need. Good luck, Marines.”
The overland evacuation route was extremely dangerous. Several rescue groups were ambushed recently at a chokepoint where three roads intersected. They suffered casualties and had to turn back. The plan for this mission was to give Kirby and Wade two days to navigate over rough and mountainous terrain and get into position where they had clear fields of fire over the dangerous intersection and surrounding areas.
Wade radioed back to Mike Cameron, who was in charge of the rescue operation “We’re in position.”
There was new technology developed for special operators and Colonel Yost made sure his sniper team were among the first to get a prototype model before it went into mass production. It was a camouflaged tent that bent light waves to match the surrounding foliage on a continuous basis. It also had filaments inside the material that could heat or cool the interior of the enclosure. It was powered by a lithium battery the size of a cellphone. Kirby, Wade, Freedom and Liberty were inside the state of the art tent, high up on a mountainside.
It blended in so perfectly with the countryside that a person could be ten feet away and still not see it. Only the tips of their rifle barrels with their flash and noise suppressors protruded outside it.
Wade held a control module in his right hand, “How about 72 degrees…that should be comfortable.”
“Just like being back on the beach,” Kirby took out an energy bar and began to eat it, then handed Freedom and Liberty some duck jerky to chew on, “I wish we had this tent earlier in our careers, it would have been a lot easier on our bodies.”
Kirby and Wade leaned back, closed their eyes and took a much needed rest for the next 45 minutes. They were completely confident in their canine companions’ abilities to stand guard. Freedom and Liberty ears went up and they pawed at their masters to get their attention. The two Marines sat up, pulled out their binoculars and scanned the area. Enemy fighters were moving into position around the intersection.
The two snipers got behind their rifles and sighted in on their targets. One by one, the Taliban fighters began dropping, never hearing the sound of a weapon or having any idea where the bullets were coming. Kirby and Wade eliminated 47 enemy combatants over a 64 hour period. In frustration, the terrorists gave up and withdrew from the area. This allowed rescue caravans to continue on the airfield without further interference.
Kirby, Wade, Freedom and Liberty packed up their gear and double-timed to the extraction point. They were fatigued, but the mission was a success and that made it all worth it. As they sat in the back of the plane and made small talk. “The first thing I’m going to do when I get back is get in the ocean and let the salt water ease my troubled mind and aching body,” Kirby said, “What about you?”
Wade replied, “I’ll probably go get some Mexican food at the harbor then go see my horse. What about you guys?” Freedom and Liberty wagged their tail.
“They’re flexible …they’ll go with the flow. “Kirby petted both dogs and they jumped up into the laps of the two Marines.
Upon their arrival to Camp Pendleton, Kirby and Wade noticed extra security at the man gate. There were extra military police vehicles along the road to the Del Mar Beach.
A military police officer and an FBI agent stopped their vehicle. The MP said, “The beach is closed until further notice.”
“We live down there, I’m Gunnery Sergeant Boone and this is Gunnery Sergeant Quincannon,” Kirby said.
The MP recognized the names, “Sorry, proceed ahead.”
The FBI stepped forward, “Hold on, my orders is that no one gets through without special authorization.”
Wade asked the MP, “What’s going on, Sergeant?”
“The FBI is using the area.”
Kirby shook his head in resignation, “Say no more.”
It took about 15 minutes before word was passed down the chain of command to allow the Kirby and Wade to proceed to their cottage. Over the next few days, the two Marines found out that several National Intelligence Agency analysts had been giving top secret information to the Chinese government about our South China Seas military capabilities. They were being held under heavy guard in a building just north of the amphibious vehicle repair facility.
Kirby, Wade and their dogs were sitting outside their cottage one evening and Wade pondered a question, “I wonder why they chose this area? There’s a lot of other they could have taken them”
“The only thing that make sense to me is that they wanted quick ocean access.” Kirby replied, “Maybe they’re waiting for a ship to get here.”
It was 2AM and Freedom and Liberty awakened, which alerted Kirby and Wade. The two Marines got up, walked to the back door and looked out. It was pitch black and visibility was limited. Kirby reached into a cabinet and pulled out two pair of night vision goggles.
The two Marines put them on and looked out over the ocean. In the distance they could barely make out something in the ocean moving toward shore.
“We need a closer look,” Wade commented.
The two men calmly walked over to their gun safe and got their customized M4A1 assault rifles with laser scopes and customized grips. They inserted loaded magazines into their weapons then looped a bandolier with five more magazines around their necks and left the cottage.
Kirby commented, “The good news is we don’t have to travel for this mission.”
“And the bad news?” Wade asked.
“I don’t like fighting in my own bad yard.”
Wade turned to Freedom and Liberty, “You know the drill…stay on our six.”
The foursome disappeared into the darkness. Kirby and Wade found defensive positions behind a retaining wall and waited patiently for the swimmers to exit the water. Wade called out, “Drop your weapons!”
This demand was immediately met by gunfire and Kirby and Wade responded in kind. Of course, their shooting was much more accurate and deadly. When two men attempted to run south toward the jetty, Kirby said, “Those two are yours” Freedom and Liberty raced off in a full sprint and took the men down.
When one of them struggled to get in position to shoot the dog, Wade shot him through the head. The sound of shooting brought the FBI security detail rushing to the location and they engaged in the firefight.
By sunrise, the entire area was filled with military police and FBI personnel. Colonel Yost found his Marines at their cottage. Kirby was relaxing on the patio with the dogs and Wade was in the kitchen cooking over the stove.
“Want some breakfast?” Wade called out, “I’m making omelets.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Colonel Yost walked outside and sat down in the chair next to Kirby and began petting Freedom. He looked out over the beach and saw bodies lying in the sand and commented, “Nice morning.”
“There’s nothing like looking at the ocean when the sun’s rays first hit it. It’s a great way to start off the day. It’s relaxing and invigorating at the same time.”
“Any idea who those guys were?” Kirby asked.
“Chinese mercenaries, probably hired to kill the prisoners before they could talk,” Colonel Yost answered, “I’m out of the loop on Intel, but one thing is certain, they definitely picked the wrong beach to go for a nighttime swim.”
Kirby responded, “This was a bad location to keep prisoners in the first place.”
Wade walked out with a tray of food, he handed a large juicy steak to each dog and plates to Kirby and Colonel Yost.
Colonel Yost commented, “Thanks Gunny, how come I don’t get a steak?”
Wade joked, “No offense Colonel, but we like dogs better than officers. Our boys have immeasurable value so giving them steaks for all that they do is a small price to pay.”
“No offense taken.”
“It’s our duty as Americans and Marines to protect Liberty and Freedom,” Kirby smiled as he took a bite of his vegetarian omelet.
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
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