September 1, 2015

The Hell of War: Part One

by Evelyn O. Simon
November 1, 2004

This short story is a work of fiction. Places, events, and situations in this story are purely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

It was November 26, 2003. James A. Bryce, a thirty-year-old U.S. Army lieutenant in the Third Infantry, was on duty in Iraq; he was a loving father of two, and a devoted husband. That afternoon, just outside of Baghdad, James had witnessed one of the most horrific nightmares of his life: the death of a fellow soldier.

During a hail of gunfire, James quickly dragged the body of his comrade to an empty, makeshift foxhole, where he sat with the young soldier whose arms had been severed by an Iraqi’s planted bomb. James encouraged the frightened young soldier, while radioing base.

“Lieutenant Bryce requesting medic, do you copy?” James urged.

“MY HANDS! I CAN’T FEEL MY HANDS!” the young, frightened soldier cried.

James desperately tried to console him, while continuing to radio for help. Suddenly, the soldier informed James, “I’m so tired.”

James stared into the soldier’s drowsy eyes as they slowly drew to a close. The soldier sighed.

“C’mon, dude, don’t fall asleep; hang in there! C’MON, WAKE UP!” shouted James, shaking him.

James angrily threw the communicator on the ground. Suddenly, the captain of the infantry called, “Lieutenant Bryce, come in!”

“Lieutenant Bryce,” James acknowledged.

“What is your location?” asked the captain.

James peered out from the foxhole, then quickly crouched down. He answered, “I’m on the East end.”

“Hang tight, we’re not far.”

“Captain?” called James.

“Lieutenant,” acknowledged the captain.

“The soldier I’ve requested the medic for has expired, sir.”

“Copy that, lieutenant,” acknowledged the captain, sadly.

Afterwards, James took the soldier’s weapons and ammunition, and placed them beside his body. Then James whispered a prayer while making the sign of the holy cross over the soldier. Suddenly, he heard what sounded like an infantry vehicle.

He cautiously peered out from the foxhole and spotted an Iraqi civilian truck. James quickly ducked down, and began burrowing himself into the sand, covering himself with the body of his comrade. Just as the Iraqi civilians exited their vehicle and crept up to the foxhole, their weapons drawn, they were hit by rapid gunfire from the infantry’s well-hidden military vehicle, killing them instantly. Their bodies fell into the foxhole on top of the dead American soldier.

James remained still, even after the gunfire had ceased. Then James heard, “Lieutenant Bryce!” It was an American soldier running towards the scene with his weapon drawn. James pulled himself out from underneath the bodies and yelled, “I’m here!”

James and his comrade were evacuated and taken back to base, where the authorities prepared to inform the command of the recent casualty.