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A Hero Of War
All they see is a hero of war. They see shining medals and scars unbearably deep. My family is proud. They say, “Blake served in the war. He is a great hero.”
Am I really a hero? A protector of freedom? A defender of America? A figurehead of democracy? No.
They see a hero. Proud and tall with strong eyes that are the toughest and most respected of all. I see the shell of a man, empty and wrecked. I see a man who has been tortured, not by weapons or by the enemy, but by life itself. A man who would rather be dead than deal with the unbearable pain of carrying deaths of other men on his back. A man with the blood of his friends flowing from his hands. A man stuck with the burning question—why? Why me? Why did I live and my friends—no—brothers, die?
Today a body came back. They finally found out who that unknown soldier was. It was Tommy. Tommy was the man that got me through the war. He was my best friend and the person I trusted the most. It’s better to have people M.I.A. because there is a chance that they may be alive. There is still hope.
You see hope is a double edged sword. It gives you the strength to keep pushing through. One side helps you cut away the anxiety surrounding the news. When the news isn’t something you want to hear, the sword is dropped and leaves a bigger cut in you. A scar so deep that nothing could heal it.
I put on my black suit. I had bought one simply because renting one so often was a hassle. The funeral was like all the others. Closed casket—it was too much to see what little was left. The family and friends were all crying. This time something different happened. Tommy’s mother came up to me, and while holding back tears, asked me what had happened.
I put my head down and paused for a second before beginning.
“We were transporting goods to a village just a couple miles away from base,” I began. “It was just like any other day. Tommy was cracking jokes. Everybody was laughing, but trying to hold it in and act professional. We were on our way out. Tommy and the others were in the front, riding in an armored truck. They were armed for protection, while I drove the truck with the goods behind them. We were driving along when the whole world just exploded. I couldn’t see and I swerved off the road—just missing the explosion. I was transported by helicopter back to the base and luckily only had a few injuries. I learned later it was a roadside bomb.” I began to break down. I couldn’t help it. Memories that I wanted to stay buried as deep as the scar were dug up.
“I ask myself all the time,” I said, “why I lived and they didn’t? Why am I stuck here? Why me? Why?” I say, crying and near shouting.
Tommy’s mom looked at me for a second. She said, “I know the answer.”
I looked up, skeptical and still crying. “You are here so you can tell the story. So you can live on to tell the truth. To tell who they really were. You lived so they can be remembered as heroes and saviors. You live so they can live on forever in our minds.”
After that she walked away—leaving me speechless. My life was suddenly filled with purpose—to tell the story. So I did. I told about the moments we had of grief, fear, even happiness. I know that up there Tommy is smiling down on me—proud that I have made him and all the others—more than just hero’s of war. I made him a living, breathing person who had feelings and a family. I helped others remember him not as a faceless and brave soldier, but as the wonderful man he truly was.