The Firing Squad

We got our flight date- about a month and a half out. It’s almost over. I told myself that I had until the end of the deployment to figure this out, to see if anything could happen. I got much further than I thought I would but still failed. I promised myself that after this year I would give her up. I went digging through a journal, read an entry from right before all this started.

From “Read Me,” 22 August, 2010, 2201hrs

To begin with what is foremost in my mind right now, I am afraid. And I am worried, and I will not cease being either until we have completed the mission that looms before us.

In the cardio room of the gym, SSG Owens mustered our entire squad, first to witness Bennett being punished for disrespect, then to inform us of a dismounted patrol to raid Omar. Omar is a very hostile village inside the Korengal valley. Our platoon, at least in the time that I have been here, has yet to enter it. I do not even know what it looks like. Bravo’s third platoon, however, sustained two casualties there. We will be raiding the houses, the most aggressive and dangerous action we can take. SSG Owens said, “There will be casualties.”

I was on the firing squad today, for the memorial of PVT High and PFC Chisolm, from Delta company. They died in an IED blast synchronized with an attack on our platoon. High was 21 years old, Chisolm was 24. We practiced yesterday and all day today, and during the ceremony we stood at parade rest for a very long time. They played the bagpipes, faintly. After committing their names, we turned half-right and raised our rifles, flipped the safety to semi, one click, one synchronized movement. Aim! We lifted the rifles to our shoulders. Fire! The blanks crackled off as one explosion. Ready! We charged the next round. Fire! Ready! We charged again. Fire! Then we move to front and Present Arms, holding the weapon out in front, vertically, while taps is played by a trumpeter that came in by helicopter only an hour before, along with the command all the way up to General Townsend, and the other Delta platoons. Then we go to order arms and return to parade rest. LTC Ryan shakes our hands, and then we pay our respects.

When SSG Owens told us about the Omar raid, I knew I should call my parents just before. I would tell them that I love them, and that is nothing new. What could I say that would ease the pain of burying a son? I thought of saying that I have enjoyed my life so far. But in truth, I have not. For whatever reason, I have spent most of it miserable, shut off, and alone. Happiness was something I always projected off into the future, something that I hoped would come to me. And now I am alone and I am afraid, and I have no one’s hand to hold, and no one to confess my love to.

Should it be me, then? Would that be fair? Everyone else free to lead lives that would content them, with passion, with romance. How many times have I contemplated vaulting over the gunwale to lose myself in the dark expanse? Would it be fair, then, for me to live?

There is some reason I want to live. There is something that always kept my feet planted on the deck. Something that makes me fear the mission, makes me want to over-prepare and triple-check everything, that will keep my head on a swivel and my finger on the trigger. There is something I want to live for. I just don’t know what, yet.


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