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Veterans

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The bullets were flying the bombs were falling and as usual the medics were running. Running always the constant drum of my feet against the dirt, the call had been made, a call is always made. For more boys to die, my comrades and friends taking enemy positions along the muddy ridge, but was never enough to vanquish the foe. This was to be the victory if all had gone according to plan, which it never seemed to do, the result on both sides, more dead boys.
The dirt turned to foliage as I continued alongside my runner, one of the marines sent to help carry the stretcher, carry the dying boy he might have known, who might one day be him. But none of that mattered now; nothing mattered but the flash of the bombs and the flare of the bullets along the ridge side as we dove between the trees stretcher in hand. Nothing mattered but the dying boy in the foxhole before me, blood bubbling from his mouth dripping on the ground creating a sticky mud like substance that I set my supplies on. My pleas for morphine a silent one as I gazed at my meager supplies, substituting it with a basic bandages and common needle and thread. Pouring iodine into the open stomach wound, causing a painful howl to well up from the otherwise reserved patient who looked upwards to the stars, not much to do for a stomach wound, not much at all I thought scathingly to myself. Something else lay deep within his torn torso below, a piece of shrapnel, perhaps a bullet lodged into an artery or major organ.
I probed deep inside searchingly with my gloved hand, digging fingers into the blood that gurgled upwards and with a horrible wrenching sound I tore loose the metal inside, making a clean incision along the artery walls so as I could stich it more cleanly, telling my patient all the while things were looking up, that he would pull through. It was then I noticed his gazing eyes his twisted smile locked on his otherwise emotionless face, his bleary windows of the soul looking upwards to the brilliant sunset, his comrade standing vigil over both of our forms, the fighting fading off into the distance below flashes and falling bombs dissipating, the sounds of plane engines stuttering to a halt in the airfield behind.
The silence enshrouding the boy long since dead, what more could I have done? What did I do wrong? All my training for what, to watch boys die by the thousands!? “Merciful God have you forsaken us”, almighty God have you left as I have to watch another boy die?! Have you sent me in your place to comfort this fleeting soul? Have you a care in the world for us wretched worms before our fears, before our eventual deaths?
Would I in the future lie still and cold like the boy in that pit, no family, friends to comfort me as I faded, my sleepy eyes to contemplate the heavens? Would anyone watch my departing soul to where those who have died still wait, my smiling comrades to greet, with them I would remain no reward quite so fitting for those I had shared my heart for those I have shed my tears, for those wretched souls on Peleliu I will fight on.



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