A soldier in Iraq with his dying friend

September 2, 2008
By Erin Albert, Miami Beach, FL

I had been trained on what to do if I was kidnapped, I had been trained on what to do if I was attacked, I had been trained to not fear death. But how do you train somebody to not feel anything? I've been trained to shoot and kill and to protect and to aid, but not this. No one can ever be prepared, let alone trained, for something like this. It was supposed to go off, it should have been quick. Why isn't it quick?! They trained us for what to do if a grenade were to go off, but it just won't go off. I feel him going limp and I see the thick blood slyly seeping out like a turtle looking around before slowly coming out of its shell. This is what is is; slow.

My roommate, my friend, my brother. The Hummer is off, a car I once found to be intimidating and cool is now his final resting ground. We're hours away from camp. His head is warm and swollen but his body is cold, sweating, losing grip. Training is lost next should be instincts, but they don't work too well either. My instinct says to run; to save some part of the holy relationship that I feel slipping away with every hitched breath he makes. Values ... that's what's important. I must cherish my values and stay with those I value most. Training is physical, instinct is psychological. But value ... value is life. I won't leave him. My glance switches between his melancholy face and the grenade with work still yet to do. Is it worth it without him? Is there a point after I just become another witness? After he becomes just another victim? A number to the government that shows just how badly they've messed up? I know it won't last much longer. No sudden movements, no flinch, no nothing. Training, instinct, I don't know what it is. My eyes are open, but I finally see. I let go, watching him. I step back, out of the car, a safe distance, but my eyes never leave the spot he will remain. My dying friend is in pain no more. The color and intensity of the explosion, that so many little boys enjoy and find awesome, shocked me into grief and numbness. I don't remember how, I don't really care to know. I ended up on my knees, subconsciously praying that he does not suffer any more. And though I continue to walk and live, my final resting place will always be holding him, forgetting training and instinct, in that hell hole of a Hummer in a country I wish I never knew.

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