A Hero’s Burial

He steps up to his computer. He just wants to escape it all. After all, it’s better to escape the confusion and smoke of the war than to stay in the fire and the fray and lose everything–one’s life, one’s mind. He doesn’t know what to do, how to quell the unalterable pain of rejection.

She just left him.

His best friend, his only connection to his own sanity in this gruesome battlefield, where one can be forever altered through the bullet and shrapnel, is on his computer, too, at the same time, a gift to them both, perhaps of a higher power. As it turns out, his friend is in no better condition than he himself is: Rejected. Pained.

Shot, right in his bloody chest.

He tells his friend: It will be OK. It will always be OK. I’ll get that truck I’ve always dreamt of, and I’ll leave this smoke and confusion in a blinding daze of dust, leave this battlefield, and ease my wounds with alcohol on cloth, the best remedy for wounds as I’ve faced them.

Of course, he is no soldier: His father wasn’t either, though. Felled through a weak heart and bad doctors. She called him a workaholic, said he shouldn’t work so hard all the time. He just made fun of her in turn, called her a “diaholic”, and moved on. ‘Course, she was right. He had a bad tendency, smoking on the battlefield, drinking too much, for old friends and old pains. One day, a sniper saw the smoke, shot him right in the heart. There was nothing they could do.

And he begins to think about the war. The girls back home, they melted in their fighting men’s arms years ago. They loved, cherished their men for the sacrifices they went to at their girls’ sakes. They were the defenders of freedom, of who could choose whom to love, freedom from want, from need; from the desperate searching of a tired heart. They were heroes.

We were supposed to be heroes. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were hoping for a hero’s welcome, or a hero’s burial, not rejection and pain. We were hoping to be seen as the defenders of liberty, not the oppressors of an alien people, pursuing them in the quest of an unseen enemy; lovers, not fighters. It was supposed to be a wonderful thing. But, how has this Virginian conflict so suddenly become Vietnamese?

He couldn’t understand. He could only keep searching, pursuing the longing of his heart, for a hero’s burial.

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