I am not sure why I felt this so personally. I didn’t know him. I knew the places he knew and I knew his comrades faces – all those faces full of grief. The service and the eulogy were short. He was only a few days past his 19th birthday and had not been in Iraq very long, too young to be gone. They said that he liked to play football, wrestle and ride dirt bikes. The pictures showed a young man who liked to lift weights.
He could have been my son. In fact, his age falls almost exactly between Alex & Espen. I thought about the decision he had made. He joined the Army during a time of war, virtually certain to be sent where war was being waged. It was a brave and honorable decision. His parents were proud of him but their pride was tempered by anxiety about the dangers. I am sure that he told them that his chances of coming safely home were very good, and he was right, but no matter the odds, sometimes things go wrong.
And sometimes it just hits you. As I sat there I felt a deep sadness for the young man I never met and the heartbroken family I will never see. It was one of those everyman moments. “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” His best friend gave a tribute with all the eloquence of a 19-year-old speaking from the heart. His friend was looking after him and he was looking after his friend, but sometimes things go wrong. I watched his colleagues, Americans and Iraqis he worked with, pay their respects. They felt the loss. I offered condolences to his friend, but I don’t think he heard me. His thoughts were far away.
Back at the cans, a dust storm blew in stinging the eyes and throats.