It was early morning, if I remember. We received a call that we were receiving incoming casualties. Our medical battalion was in Fallujah, Iraq. Our first three months in country were non-stop. We worked twelve hour shifts and often had to pull overtime because we just couldn’t seem to keep up with the steady inflow of injured and dead.
On that morning a convoy was struck by an IED. This was not unusual. But this time one of the 5-ton trucks, filled with Marines, overturned into a lake. They were trapped beneath the truck and drowned. We were the first stop behind the front lines and had set up a morgue to receive the dead. Receiving one or two bodies is one thing. To receive an entire truck full is quite another.
I don’t remember any of the details. I like to think my subconscious is protecting my conscious by burying those memories in a very deep, dark, full-of-cobwebs corner of my brain. I never want to remember the details of that day. But I remember that we received fifteen bodies. That’s all I need to remember.
I didn’t cry.
I couldn’t cry. No time.
But, when I think of it now, I sob.
All those young men. All those families who had, in an instant, lost their boys.
So, today I’m not barbecuing. I’m not celebrating. I’m not saying, “Happy Memorial Day” to anyone.
I’m quietly mourning. I’ll walk around with wet eyes all day. My heart will ache all day.
I’d like to remember a few people now:
HM3 Alba. He was hit with shrapnel when a round exploded between the barracks and our hospital. The shrapnel hit his neck…just inches away from his carotid artery. Thank God he is still alive today. However, the soldiers who were standing outside the hospital died that day. They were supposed to go home the following week.
Corporal Cassedy. He was attached to medical battalion. He was funny. Smart. Kinda weird. But he always had a smile on his face. I enjoyed his friendship and can still hear his laugh. He volunteered to stay after our seven month tour was over. My friend MJ and I sent him a care package that Christmas. He took his life in 2013.
Have a blessed day. And please, say a prayer, or have a moment of silence for those who have given all – so you can have a day off.