An Essay on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society


I Remember 
by Tom Ray (Apr 2009)

 

So much time has passed that I sometimes find it hard to recall everything that we went through. The sleepless nights, exhausting days, incredible heat and bone chilling cold that seems to grip us in its icy hand. Sometimes there would be a lull in the action long enough for us to catch our breath and laugh about things that had nothing to do with anything. It seemed that we were looking to laugh at something to keep from crying.

I can still recall the first time that I pulled the trigger and watched a man fall from my bullet. I recall the nausea that overcame me as we walked past rotting corpses seemingly strewn about the street and the stench that only a decaying human being has. Funny how full of life a personís eyes have when they are alive and how empty and sad they appear when death has besieged them.

I recall seeing a dead man lying against a building and when we went to check for information, his head rolled toward us and a single tear rolled from his eye. I guess even the dead weep. I will never forget moments like that.

I recall mission after mission when we would all but have given up hope of making it out alive yet somehow we did and could even laugh about it too. I remember having newbyís go out with us thinking they wanted to be a member of our team and seeing shear terror on their faces during a firefight. I remember the smell of shit as we rode back in the helicopter and seeing the embarrassment on their faces as they admitted that they had soiled themselves. I remember that.

I remember just about every person I have ever killed in the name of all that is Holy to preserve the freedoms that we share as Americans. I remember it well. I remember marching through hell for no other reason than having been told to and the youthful ignorance in my reply as being, "Yes, sir."

I remember the time when the first man of my unit fell to the enemyís bullet and the feeling that a part of me had died too. I remember writing the letter to his family telling them what a good soldier he was and how sorry I was to have to tell them that their son was dead.

I remember having stopped and thought long enough to get us out of a situation and having just a few seconds to decide on the path to take. I remember when my good friend Phil died as a result of having made the wrong choice. I remember.

I can still recall the good times and the times when stress and grief would overwhelm us and we ourselves would settle things with fists and when the dust settled, just holding each other with a brotherly embrace. Too proud to cry, yet no tears would dawn our face. I remember everything.

Thousands of memories that I donít want haunt me still. Those dreams and thoughts that hold me captive and have caused me to falter along the way and the fear of failing again that seems to strangle me day after day after day that could cost yet another life. I remember.

I still see your faces. I still see those stupid looks that you all used to give me when we would go out on yet another mission. I remember the pride that we all once felt thinking we were doing our country a great service.


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Revised April 2009.