A sad song plays on the radio. The lyrics reflect a life that was not his, but his memories wander anyway. Eventually they find their way to two specific points in time.
The first, the first time he had seen a dead body. He was a soldier, but the death had not been caused by combat. The woman had merely been a victim of a car accident. An accident in some Latin American country. The woman's daughter stood nearby, crying as she watched her lifeless mother placed on a gurney and loaded into the ambulance, red and blue lights glistening off her tears.
And then the tears became his own. Tears in another time, another place.
This time, the dead body was on his back. His best friend. He carried his companion across the desert, ditching his own survival equipment along the way in order to bear the weight of the man he shared drinks with not three days earlier. This death was from combat. Many more deaths surrounded the incident, but the man did nothing about the others. It was only for his friend that he was concerned.
No, that isn't true. He remembered the rage he felt when blood splattered from his friend's neck onto his uniform. He remembered the decisive, yet chaotic, response of firing half-aimed shots into the crowd where their assailants were firing from. He remembered the woman with the baby. He remembered her falling. On that trek through the blistering heat, he remembered replacing the baby in his mind with a bomb.
Until the song, he would remember only the bomb, and not the cries of a baby crushed under the weight of its mother.
Then, however, he only knew one thing. He had to bring his friend home. It was only 70 more miles to the nearest border. His friend had to make it home.
Later, he would be told that the actions of he and his team saved many lives. At the cost of many. At the cost of a dead friend whose body lies less than 15 miles within an enemy country, for the weight became too much to bear.
A sad song plays on the radio. A man some call a hero begins to cry. He doesn't stop until he falls asleep. A hero... shamed.
He never talks about what happened. He doesn't talk about what he did or didn't do, and when he does his replies are inconsistent, shrouded in self-mystery. He won't admit to being a hero. For he was, is, a soldier. And the world doesn't need to know his name.
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