Parkins just stood there, ready to jump over the trench. He had this silly
grin on his face, like the hell going on around us wasn't really
important, like he was an actor in some movie. Bullets, pointed little darts
hot with death and anger, whizzed by his head and suddenly one of the tiny
bits of lead caught him. Right in the temple. One second he was as big as life,
hell he was life, and the next that funny grin sorta faded in
a fraction of a second and the smile turned into something like momentary
thought, consideration. There was a war going on around us and he was taking
a moment to decide if he was ready to die yet or not. Didn't matter, though.
His body made the decision for him. He fell in a limp heap at our feet, more
bullets piercing his fatigued body as it rolled through the air. I could hear
the bite of the bullets as they tore into his flesh. Gone. Parkins was gone
and I never even knew his first name. "T. PARKINS" was the name on
his lapel, not even in my platoon, some stragler who'd stayed behind to
lay down covering fire for the suppression teams.
A medic, LT. A. STIENZ, appeared out of nowhere, like a grim angel of death
with far too much knowledge of his craft and yet not enough of it
to make a difference all locked up in his helmet. Stienz knelt next to the fallen
Parkins and made a series of movements faster than I could see; perhaps not
that fast- I turned away a few times to fire back at our enemy. I decided
then and there that I hated all medics. More than the fools who were shooting
at us from across the field, medics were now my official public enemy. If
I happened to see a medic headed in my direction, to work on me, it meant bad
news. I didn't want to see any more medics. They were harbingers of doom.
My hate for medics in general took firm hold in my heart when Stienz walked
away from Parkins, the hero that never was, without even closing the fallen
soldier's eyes. I was about to shout at the lieutenant when another volley
of gunfire was sent over our trench and suddenly Stienz was lying right next
We were dropping like flies. Thousands of us. We didn't want
to die. We wanted to live and go home and be celebrated for the heroes we were
told we were going to be. We wanted to hug our moms and dads and sisters and
brothers and just leave this chess board of murder. They fired
at us, we fired back. Cause and effect. Simple, really. But, then again, dying
is never simple- especially if you don't know when your ticket is about to
get punched. I've had years to think about these things, to get angry and hot
and furious over the insanity of it all because I survived. But then, in
the heat of battle, all I could focus on, though, was the immediate stuff.
As much as I hated medics, I didn't like seeing Stienz die like that.
I jumped back into reality and the world was a haze of chaos. Men shouting,
boys crying, shells exploding, the whine of bullets and ricochets, screams
of pain and confusion... to go from dead silence in my head back to that hell
and turmoil jolted me. I flipped back, raised my gun and began shooting indiscriminately
across to our enemy, someone else's enemy, someone's friend or something. I
didn't care what I hit, I was pissed that some kraut had killed my medic,
whom I hated. Maybe he's dead already, I thought to myself, but this can't go
on anymore. Either they die or I do, but this can't keep happening.
The sooner, the better. Kill.
And I suppose I killed. I don't really know. A bullet slammed into my helmet,
a glancing shot, and I was knocked unconscious. I vaguely remember seeing
another medic, I couldn't focus on his nametag, rush towards me and then I blacked
out. I think I was afraid for myself when I saw him. Is that it? I asked myself
and the closing blackness. Am I dead?
I woke up some four hours later in a medical unit, a bandage wrapped snugly
around my head. I felt like someone had hit me with a sledge hammer right behind
my eye. And when my vision stopped being blurry and I could hear groans of pain
from my fellow wounded, I stopped for a second, not knowing if I should cry
or scream in fury. For a minute I wished I had died. For a brief
second in time I wished I was dead. I was in battle for all of ten minutes
and all I had to show for it was a concussion and a deep scar on my scalp-
and the memory of people I barely knew dying all around me. And I didn't know
how many had lived and went on to carry the battle and save the day. I didn't
know if the day had been saved. All I knew is that there were
men out there on that field dead and I should have been one of them. Lucky?
No. I felt cheated. Luck didn't sneak up on me for days.