Farewell my brothers, farewell my friends.
The first of you was the hardest for me. A short and narrow youth, of pale skin and black hair. Twenty one years old when his tank was struck by armor piercing rockets, fired from some fool's shoulder. His three comrades escaped the flames, they bailed out of their hatches and made themselves scarce I imagine, but M_____ never emerged from the gunner's seat. A teenage girl in rural Michigan became a widow, having only seen her husband twice since their marriage.
Then came P_____. A man I feared and hated in many ways, a stern man, a loud man. Every morning down the hall he stormed; tall black boots strapped and buckled and shined to perfection, trousers hiked just above the regulation waist, chest like a whiskey barrel, and massive hands that could touch both sides of the hallway at once. Both of those arms were taken from him, along with one stout booted leg. You warned that some of us would not survive, and you were right, but we never thought They would get You. I imagine the explosion lifting him into the air, I imagine Their cheers, I imagine his last blank stare into the rain clouds, thinking his last thoughts, uttering his last 'motherfucker!'
The third was in his middle thirties, a troublesome sergeant, a packrat. Two or three times he was promoted to staff-sergeant, each time quickly demoted. He'd been a good boxer in his youth, and still liked to fight, and he was also a believer in heavy drinking, both of which caused him much trouble in the service. I knew him for the length of time it took him to ascend from sergeant to staff-sergeant, and then back again, one full turn. He was tormented by many demons in life, the final demon, I hope, being that sniper's bullet which pierced his body and left him to bleed in the pale dust. I think not of old H_____ himself, but of the young soldiers under his care. They probably hated him, despised him even, but what on earth will they do without him?
Today brought news of the death of the mime. An unusual kid, among so many other usual and unusual kids in the '1st Regiment of Dragoons.' We were all unusual in the sense that we had all turned our backs on the world; we had all bitten the hands which had fed us for so long. For some reason I always had a feeling about S_____, I never actually thought he would get it, but I did often find myself pondering his demise. I was relatively unsurprised this morning when I read his name beside, "... 23, of Bismark, Arkansas, died July 5 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device."