John joined the Army because he needed money for college. And besides he wasn’t even sure what he would want to study. Towards the end of his junior year a recruiter came to his school. He didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. However, his best friend Jimmy had said he was thinking about joining. From that point on, throughout his senior year, he had the idea in the back of his head. He hadn’t really mentioned it to anyone, that he was thinking about joining, not even his parents. He wasn’t sure how they would react. They had never talked about the military, other than a few comments here and there by his father who seemed rather disgruntled about his own experiences with the draft during Vietnam. Apparently he contemplated escape. Moreover, toward the end of his senior year his parents were starting to worry, he had not yet applied to any colleges and had avoided talking to them about it all semester. He finally mentioned the idea to them the night before his graduation. His mother was upset that he hadn’t spoken to them about this before and neither of them were very pleased with the idea. None the less the day after his graduation he headed down to the nearest recruitment center. He didn’t really care what he was going to be doing as long as it was physical, he just wanted to get the paperwork over with before his parents could try and change his mind.
Abdul joined the Army because his father wanted him to. Or it was what his father called The Army, however in opposition to Saddam’s Army, was technically a militia. With the rumors of an American invasion his father was overworked about getting involved. His father had never been “anti-American”. However, he saw what happened in Iran and he had certainly not forgotten the last Bush invasion. His father was highly skeptical of the true intentions of the American invasion. He certainly was not a huge Husain fan, but he was afraid, not only for their lives simply being citizens of Iraq, but also the threat of a culture being forced upon them. An American intervention didn’t seem as though it would liberate the people of Iraq anymore than how they already lived. Moreover, his father hadn’t even asked him if he was going to join the Army, he just started bragging to his friends and coworkers about how great his son was going to be. Abdul didn’t want to get involved; he was afraid and didn’t really know what side he stood on. He certainly did not like Saddam Hussein, but he wasn’t in favor of having another country invade either. His mother was against this whole thing, she didn’t want her little boy getting hurt; however, she didn’t mention it to either of them. She’d had conversations with her mother but the conversations never went further. He thought about running away on more than one occasion but never went through with it. He met up with a friend of his fathers the day after his 18th birthday who walked him down to the base.
John’s MOS was 63B, light-wheel mechanic. He went through basic training and AIT at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which was easy enough and he made some good friends. Right after his training he was shipped off to his unit in Illinois as they were mobilizing for their deployment to Iraq in three days. There was one kid from his training who also was sent to his unit a few weeks later after they had already entered theater. He was still right off the training presses from AIT so he was quiet and concentrated. Took orders well and performed his job successfully. His parents, mom more than anything, sent him lost of letters; he responded to about every four she sent. She was so worried about his safety, to a point at which he got annoyed. As he started to settle into his new unit the comradery built and his coworkers helped him relax a little. They teased him and told him to lay off all the cover paranoia and cool it on all the parade rest, it made him look like a tight ass, and more importantly it made the rest of them look bad in comparison. When he first arrived all he could think about was the heat, the intense heat. This and the weight of his Kevlar, made the effort of any task exhausting. As time went on, his friends would leave out a plate or two every once in awhile, so he began following suit. Besides which, he hadn’t even seen an insurgent since he got there, let alone been shot at.
Abdul was shuffled around from group to group from the beginning. He began to practice firing but didn’t excel, hardly proficient. This was partly because he had a nervous hand, but mostly because he didn’t want to be there in the first place. He got moved to making IEDs but he was even worse at that, almost blew off his own face once. He didn’t really make many friends, he was quiet and uninterested, yet he played along in front of his leaders, afraid of word getting to his father about his un-enthusiasm. He finally got put into the class of bomb placement specialist. His job was not to make the bombs but to properly place and detonate them at corresponding times. The performers of this type of job had a certain prestige among the ranks, for their actions had been most successful in acquiring casualties of the other side. He was certainly not pleased about this job, he was scared for his life, and didn’t want to kill anyone either. He was forced by his own fear to do the job well, for if he slipped it really would be his face blown off. He did his job with detail, camouflaging, and completing simultaneous detonations of road side bombs, as to get multiple vehicles in a convoy. He tried to look away as he pressed the detonator, but on one occasion he caught the sight of a man’s head burst onto the window as the humvee exploded. Abdul was breaking.
John was sent out on his first mission off base. At this point he had been working on humvees that came in, after a mission, refilling liquids, air pressure, just basic maintenance checks. The mechanics rotated monthly, from on-base work to field work and John’s group was up. He was sent out to various locations for onsite repair of broken down vehicles. As they were headed off, in the mix of all the preparation he completely forgot to reinsert his back Kevlar plate. He didn’t notice until about three days in and his group was to be away from the base for a whole month. He knew if someone found out, especially a superior, his ass would be on fire. So he kept it to himself, deciding to be extra careful. A week and a half, almost two weeks into their field mission things had gone smoothly. He had seen the occasional Iraqi, but from what he understood they had only seen civilians. He had gotten more paranoid as time went on however; he began to see multiple built holes in the humvees he was working on, and a few flat tires because of it. They were sent out on a mission one day to fix a five ton on the side of a road, routine stuff. They headed just ahead of a scheduled convoy. They were to pull ahead of the five ton and stop in front of the broken down mass of a truck, as to let the convoy pass. All of a sudden he heard a loud…
Abdul was having nightmares, hearing bombs go off in his head, waking up with a start multiple times throughout the night. He was seeing the man die over and over again right before his eyes, the blood, the flames. The man’s life was over before he even knew it. He kept imagining the parents and the children of the man he had killed. This was even more painful with him own feelings of being home sick, missing his mother and his sister and brother. He had come to confide in one person, Aasif was his coworker around the same age. He was much more caught up in the worth of the whole fight but was glad to conversate. When he told him about the nightmares, that he wanted out, his friend encouraged him to continue on the fight. Saying that getting out would mean the death of his family in their society. Understanding this to be true they both carried on with orders. Intelligence provided the information on a scheduled convoy. There was a broken down vehicle right along the road side which was the perfect place for explosives. As he was headed to the broken down mass of a truck, his comrades stationed behind him waiting, he heard the man’s mother, the man he had killed, crying out in pain. He couldn’t do it again. He still had a few moments to plant the device and run back but instead of running back he went behind the vehicle and set it off, just before the convoy was to pass, hopping to miss them. The last thing he heard was a loud…
BANG! Things went black, then cold. It was over; neither left the world knowing exactly what happened. Their lives had ended, within one second they cease to exist. This was the conclusion of their lives, they were gone forever. Both their mothers cried, both their fathers blamed themselves. All their comrades lived, the closest of which were riddled with guilt.
The explosive went off right as John’s humvee passed. Abdul’s timing would have made his plan successful, to kill only himself, but as John’s team had gone ahead of the scheduled convoy their lives had come to an intersection. While neither of them saw one another, as Abdul was set up on the other side of the broken down truck, their lives now intertwined.
The blast was far enough away to not kill anyone, except John. He would have lived, had a piece of shrapnel not flew through his unprotected back hitting the underside of his heart. When his body was recovered from the vehicle they immediately knew what happened. They had told him back at the base to take out his plate and he had never put it back in.
The others all thought it was an accident, the device malfunctioned or his hand slipped, but Aasif knew as soon as the bomb went off what had happened. The thoughts were rolling through his head. He should have placed the bomb, and let Abdul stay behind. He should have said something different. He could have stopped him, saved him somehow.
Two lives were lost that day. Two lives whose paths crossed for a mire second, but whose lives are now forever connected. Their mother’s learned to hide the pain, their fathers learned to suppress the anger. Their comrades carried on, keeping the true cause of their deaths a long lost secret. Their funerals would be somber. And they would be called heroes. And their futures would go to someone else.