They said that he was hit by a stray bullet right above his heart. They said that he died a hero's death, as he was protecting his comrades. They said that he sacrificed his life for those four men stranded in the convoy. But I know what really killed him. Yes, it was true- he was hit in the heart, but it wasn't a bullet that killed him. It wasn't a bullet that you can hold in your hand and load into your M-1 rifle. . .it was an imaginary bullet filled with loneliness, fear, and sorrow. He was hit right in his heart. I was the one who fired that imaginary rifle filled with imaginary bullets. I was the one who constantly reminded him of home, our future family, our lives. . .together, after the war. I was the one who feverishly worried about him during the long hours of hardening days, and the long hours of many sleepless nights. I continually told myself that I was the reason for his loneliness. If only I had written him more when I had the chance! If only I had called him often. If only I hadn't just sent him away, without him knowing that I loved him. He was the perfect soldier. Everyone said that there's no such thing as a perfect soldier. There wasn't one. . .until the day he enlisted. He excelled at basic training and had a brilliant mind. He faithfully studies his MOS, and also aced all of his classes. When Infantry training began, he was ready to begin the grueling year and a half that he would have to master the skill. When he was asked a question, he was always ready with an answer. He was taught to always protect his boys during combat, and to always be prepared for the worse. He voluntarily worked with the inexperienced soldiers. . .to guide them, to lead them. Into what? An inhuman death zone?
But I suppose. . .if he was one of the four boys who were caught in the crossfire, would someone be willing to do the same for him and the unknown three? Would somebody sacrifice their future in hopes of saving four others’? Every night before I fall asleep, and every morning when I wake up, I see his body lying face down in the sand dunes, an unspeakable hole baring through his chest. I see his helmet cast aside, most likely from the impact of the bullet. His arms are spread on either side of him. I follow my gaze from his dark cropped hair down to his black combat boots. There is hardly any blood. . .the sand had absorbed most of it. As he is laying there, dying, one of his buddies scrambles up to his wounded body. I jump when he shouts for a medic. A few moments later, a man with a red and white band across his arm, rushes to the body. I hear a faint moan arise from his parched throat, and I see him begin to clench the sand with his hands. The medic carefully turns him onto his back, and tears open the camouflage fatigues that cover his wounded chest. I see him shaking, his hands release the sand, and they swiftly move upward, until he is grasping the medic’s collar. He’s trying to tell him something. Blood begins to spew out of his mouth. I can’t understand what he’s saying. . .
The medic bent his ear down to the marine’s mouth and listened closely. “I promise. I’ll let her know.”
I see his face begin to calm, and his breathing grows slower. Once every few minutes, a little trickle of blood will travel down the side of his mouth into his collar. I remember when he graduated boot camp. I was so happy for him, and he immediately sensed the elation in the way that I hugged him. I remember moving my fingers across each letter of his name that was sewed onto his fatigues. That name is covered in blood now. The medic hastily attempts to bandage him, but realizes that he can do no more. He is slowly bleeding to death. At least he is not alone. There are two men kneeling besides him, urging him to live and telling him stories about what his homecoming would be like. I hear him whisper something to them, and I still cannot hear. . .
“Yes, she’s going to be the first person that you’ll see as you step off that plane. Now, don’t leave her stranded in the airport. You need to live! Do you hear me? Live! We need you with us! We need you. . .”
His cries echo in my mind. You don’t need him- I do. I selfishly craved for him to be with me, instead of sleeping under the barren skies of the Middle East. Now I realize how hopeless it all seemed. . .the homecoming, the wedding, the family. It was all real a little less than a year ago. Now it was impossible. He now lay dead, his blood being continually soaked up by the sand.