28 November 2007


The Soldier had lost one hand and most of the other. Took shrapnel to his face, and one eye is covered with a patch. Blood. Some dried but some fresh seeping out of his nose, ears, and from the shrapnel wounds inside his lips. Tubes coming out of his mouth and everywhere else.

He's not awake, but I talk to him.

Then, he tries to open his eye... first I see just the membrane, then the white of his eye, and finally the pupil rolls down and locks in on my eyes.

The look has the raw and naked intensity of a silent scream.

"You got hurt but you're going to be ok. You're at the Army hospital in Germany and we're taking good care of you."

The eye rolls up, then back down, and locks in on me again. I repeat what I'd just said, adding that his family and the guys downrange all know he's here and know that he's going to be ok, so he shouldn't worry about them.

"Joe! Joe!" The nurse on the other side of the bed says. "This is Lieutenant X... over here." The Soldier turns his head a little in the nurse's direction, but is reluctant to break eye contact with me. He finally does, but after only a second he gets lost and scared and has to look back to lock in on me again.

He lifts his arm, the one without the hand. Just holds it up, then starts waving it. His eye is still locked on to mine.

I see into the depths of a hell I can never understand. It's dust and smoke and fire and blood and pain and screaming and chaos.

I bend down close, put my hand on the side of his bloody face and say, "Your hand. I know." His eye rolls up, then back down. Lock.

He finally puts his arm down.

"We're going to take good care of you", I say. "Get some rest."

His eye rolls up, closes, and he slips back into unconsciousness.

No comments: