Monday, June 16, 2008

The stories of two soldiers

The explosion deafened the soldiers as a cloud of dust engulfed two of the trucks in their convoy. Believing there was no way anyone had survived the blast, they raced to the nearest truck. Two soldiers were on the ground, having fallen from the top gunner positions - wounded, but alive. The calls for a medic went unanswered as there were no medics in the group. One of the wounded soldiers, a sergeant, asked for a first aid kit and someone ran back to retrieve it. As the two injured men patched each other up, the soldiers inside the truck were found to be unharmed. The wounded sergeant was the first to lead the others to the first truck, the one that hit the land mine. The entire front end had been blown off, but the truck’s equipment protected its occupants and they had all miraculously survived.

As the soldiers surveyed the area, they realized that they had driven into a minefield. They radioed for assistance, but no one was available. They would have to get themselves out.

The wounded sergeant was a combat engineer and the only member of the team with the necessary training to operate the bomb equipment. In spite of a concussion, a deep gash, severe bruising to his legs and back, and crippling pain, the soldier walked in front of the convoy with the detection device for over 12 hours as he carefully guided their way through the minefield. The sergeant did his duty and brought them all to safety.

That wounded sergeant?

That was my brother.

Last week when I was home, our family hometown was draping itself in red, white, and blue. Flags sprouted from every pole and their jaunty stripes lined every median along two main streets. It looked as if a proud patriotic celebration was coming until your eye noticed that the flags that had yesterday snapped so briskly in the summer breeze were hanging quietly at half mast and tiny flags covered every inch of lawn in front of the funeral home.

Another soldier was being brought home, not to cheering crowds, but in a solemn procession lined with tear-streaked faces. Every business showed their support and the local newspaper asked families to fly their flags and come to honor the soldier who died in action in Iraq. Come to honor him, his family, and all those who bravely face injury and death fighting for the things that are good and right in this world.

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