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Epitaph

I am not sure why I felt this so personally.  I didn’t know him. I knew the places he knew and I knew his comrades faces - all those faces full of grief.  The service and the eulogy were short.  He was only a few days past his 19th birthday and had not been in Iraq very long, too young to be gone.  They said that he liked to play football, wrestle and ride dirt bikes.  The pictures showed a young man who liked to lift weights.

He could have been my son.  In fact, his age falls almost exactly between Alex & Espen.  I thought about the decision he had made.  He joined the Army during a time of war, virtually certain to be sent where war was being waged.  It was a brave and honorable decision.  His parents were proud of him but their pride was tempered  by anxiety about the dangers.  I am sure that he told them that his chances of coming safely home were very good, and he was right, but no matter the odds, sometimes things go wrong.

And sometimes it just hits you.  As I sat there I felt a deep sadness for the young man I never met and the heartbroken family I will never see.  It was one of those everyman moments.   Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."  

His best friend gave a tribute with all the eloquence of a 19-year-old speaking from the heart.  His friend was looking after him and he was looking after his friend, but sometimes things go wrong.    I watched his colleagues, Americans and Iraqis he worked with, pay their respects.   They felt the loss.  I offered condolences to his friend, but I don’t think he heard me.  His thoughts were far away.

Back at the cans, a dust storm blew in stinging the eyes and throats. 


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Comments

I used to read the bios of all the KIAs because I thought it was important to know their stories - - because to me, everyone's story is important. But I ended up getting very depressed and had to stop.

John,
I am the uncle of the soldier you wrote about here. The one year mark of his death has come and gone and so many more heroes have now joined Aaron in God's loving arms. I thank you for attending the services held for him on 5/10 in Iraq for his brothers and sisters in arms to say their final goodbyes because he was coming home early, just not in the way we'd hoped. He was a great kid and is dearly missed. Thank you for you kind words of respect for him.

Gary

He reminded me of my own sons. I can only imagine the loss. Thank you for writing. And please accept my condolences.

I met Colonel Patrick Malay, the regimental commander, for supper a few weeks ago. He still remembers too.

John,
I was just reading stuff about my nephew PFC Aaron J Ward and came across what you wrote, I wanted to thank you it was very kind and moving. A day does not pass that our family feels the loss of our Aaron. he along with all soldiers did the most unselfish thing any person could do, they chose our Country above anything else.. Aaron will be forever missed but never forgotten... thank you again for your kind words.
Aaron's aunt Kathi

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