June 8th, 1944

Haven’t written since the 5th. I haven’t had the time to. Not with the landings, and the fighting. I remember the moment I stepped off the cramped little boat, and into a vicious storm of sound and bullets and smoke…

Medic! Medic!” I’d spun around, frantically searching for the screaming person. But he was dead already, a second blast of German death shattering his body. I ran on, to the next wounded person, and the next, and the next…

I couldn’t save most of them. Against such violence and slaughter, what can one man do? But still, I fear their agonized deaths will stay with me until I meet mine. I can’t help but feel that I didn’t do enough.

Back at home; I hadn’t done enough for my family. Everyone in our family has been a soldier in the army. Almost all have won medals of various descriptions; they’re kept in a cabinet in the house. Shining gold and silver, and me too weak to join. But I tried to learn medicine instead. When I’d enough education, I was allowed to join the forces as a medic. But my family still hates me for my weak muscles and my revulsion at killing.

The wet sand clutched at my boots, and flailing for support, I tripped. I hit the ground hard, drenched grit driving into every part of my clothes and face. I struggled, but collapsed. Again I tried to peel myself off the sodden beach, and this time, I hauled myself to my feet, and move on.

To some of the injured, death was mercifully quick. Some would yell for minutes on end, before their voices fell quiet and they left this hell forever. I did my best, but so many breathed their last before my aching legs could carry me to them.

Then, without warning, a plume of sand and water and broken corpses erupted not fifteen feet ahead of me. Shielding my face from the rain of debris, I did not see the severed hand hit the ground. I opened my eyes, and it was resting against my foot. It twitched sickeningly, twice, and then lay still. That could have been me. I began to feel real fear. I didn’t know – or care – whether that guy was ours, or theirs. I wasn’t really distinguishing between them by then.

I’d looked down, and realized that my hands were shaking, and my legs had carried me to another soldier, leg torn and pulverized by screeching bullets. I did my best, but all my morphine was gone, and I was running out of bandages.

I struggled further, to the foot of the cliffs. Dimly, I was aware that gunfire was becoming less frequent. Had we won? Or lost? It didn’t matter. I fell out of conscious thought, and lay on the cold, wet rocks, as if all life had been drained from me.

“Get up!” The words had blasted through my already fragile mind like a stone through a window. Pieces of strange dreams flew like a stained glass story that has been scattered and broken.

More shouting. I’d stirred, and a slight moan passed my lips. “Must have been hit on the head!” A disembodied voice spoke. The world of sight began to trickle back; first blurry, then slowly clearer. My whole existence was pain. Every last fibre of my body was filled with a deep, persistent ache. I tried to pass out again, but was trapped in a waking world of hurt. I attempted to speak: “Did we win?” Clearly, I made no sound, as no one answered.

The sun is beginning to break through the clouds, and a gentle sea breeze has been hijacked by the stench of death. Perhaps, a guilty part of me said, if you’d stayed awake longer you could have saved more.

Cursing myself silently, I’d dragged myself to my feet. Wincing, I endeavored to move to the hastily built base camp. My legs protested at the effort, and I quickly grabbed at a stunted tree as they trembled beneath me.

I realize I must have collapsed at some point, because I’d found myself being roughly lifted up by firm hands. “I’m sorry,” I managed to croak, and then oblivion took me.

They told me later I’d been hit in the leg by a ricochet. I hadn’t even noticed. It seems I’ll be sent home. If I still have one.

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