AUSTIN, Texas - 2019 marks the 26th anniversary of the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. It was the first time Americans were in sustained combat since Vietnam.
The battle was immortalized in the 1999 book "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War" and the 2001 film "Black Hawk Down".
Most are familiar with the movie but one man in Austin knows the story intimately because he was in the battle.
Steve Alsbrooks doesn't appear like a war movie hero but there's Hollywood and then there's real life.
In the Hollywood version it was one heck of a fight: Delta Force and Army Rangers surrounded by Somali fighters with gun fights, explosions and high drama.
The Americans had choppered in on a quick 30 minute mission to snatch a bad guy but they were ambushed and when two Black Hawks were shot down it became a 13 hour struggle to get back to their base at the airport.
A rescue convoy finally drove to them and got them out. That convoy is where Alsbrooks enters the story. He was in one of the Humvees.
Alsbrooks says when it was all happening for real that it did at times feel kind of cinematic.
"I was prepped for a lot of things but not this. It was almost like you're in a movie you can't understand it's real, it's happening people getting shot, people chasing you trying to kill you and your thinking oh my god...really?"
Alsbrooks wsa a soldier in the 10th Mountain Division in Somalia. They were the quick response force and drove in to the battle to recover the trapped troops.
"All we heard was bam bam bam and you don't knnow where it's coming from," Alsbrooks recalls. "They were shooting ak-47's at us. They knew what they were doing. We shot so much ammo that we had to retreat back to the airport and get back in and alot of guys were scared, nervious, didn't want to go back...hey we got a job to do."
Getting the job done was costly. 19 Americans dead. 74 wounded. Two of the dead were from Alsbrooks' 10th Mountain Division.
"We never dreamed going over there that we'd be running for our lives, shooting, protecting eachother having to retreat because we ran out of ammo. None of that ever resonated with us. We're there, we're gonna feed staving Somalis, we're gionna care care of business and go home. It's not how it happened," Alsbrooks says.
Now nearly 30 years later after all the books, movies, documentaries and his own post traumatic stress, Alsbrooks looks back on what was most important about the entire experience.
"This right here," Alsbrooks says as he points to an American flag.
"We got to take care of each other and I believe that showed the true brotherhood of this country, the military came together. It wasn't Delta, Special Forces, 10th Mountain...we were all of U.S. military that day."
While Americans were the primary forces in the battle there were other United Nations countries that participated including Malaysia and Pakistan. Both of those countries lost one soldier each.