The young man lay alone in the dust. Around him could be heard the drumming of booted feet, the chatter of machine-gun fire, and the deep boom of explosions – but he was oblivious to all of this. All he was aware of was the fire in his chest which came with each breath, the gurgling he could feel in his throat, and the hot stream running down his chest and pooling in the dust beside him.
He didn’t remember how he got here. The last thing he remembered was charging over the top of the dune he and his buddies had been hunkered behind and rushing toward the group of tents marring the desert ahead. They had just entered the small camp to begin searching for the terrorist forces they knew were hiding here when the world went black.
The pain was too much – he couldn’t take it any more; in an effort to block out the pain, he allowed his memory to drift back to the day he boarded the plane to take him and his regiment to this God-forsaken desert. He was holding his wife in his arms, his hands buried in her long, blond hair while his two little daughters clung to his legs.
He could feel his wife’s tears soaking the shoulder of his BDUs, and he whispered as he held her, “I’ll see you again in a year.”
Still she cried, and held him that much tighter, “But a year is a long time,” she sobbed, “what if something happens to you?”
“God will watch over me,” he responded, “He knows the end of my days.”
Then, reluctantly, he had broken the embrace; crouched to hold his daughters one more time, turned, and boarded the waiting aircraft.
That had been nearly a year ago now. He was to have returned home in just two more days, but not before this one final mission.
When he returned to the present, the battle was over and the pool of blood beside him had grown. Still he was alone – or was he? He heard footsteps approaching; crunching in the sand; then a man in the blue helmet of U.N. forces with the red cross of a medic was kneeling beside him.
In a French accent, the man asked, “American?”
Weakly, the wounded soldier nodded, tried to speak; but all that came out was a strained gurgle.
“Do not speak, mon ami, I will do what I can.”
The soldier passed out as the Frenchman began working. In the distance he saw a bright light, and began to move toward it. The closer he got, the more his pain faded.
Unbeknownst to him, the Frenchman was fighting desperately to save this young man’s life, while knowing it was a losing battle. Finally, he had to stop. His patient had quit breathing several minutes ago, and there were other wounded to tend to. Rising, he said, “Bon voyage, mon ami,” but the soldier heard nothing, he had completed his homeward journey, and left this place of dust and blood for the light beyond…
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