RAMADI, Iraq, June 28 — A soldier was dead, and it was time for him to go home.We aren’t allowed to see the pictures but, for now, the written word is still getting out. Are we about done painting Iraqi schools yet? ‘Cause it sure would be nice to be done and come home.
The doors to the little morgue swung open, and six soldiers stepped outside carrying a long black bag zippered at the top.
About 60 soldiers were waiting to say goodbye. They had gathered in the sand outside this morgue at Camp Ramadi, an Army base in Anbar Province, now the most lethal of Iraqi places.
Inside the bag was Sgt. Terry Michael Lisk, 26, of Zion, Ill., killed a few hours before.
In the darkness, the bag was barely visible. A line of blue chemical lights marked the way to the landing strip not far away.
Everyone saluted, even the wounded man on a stretcher. No one said a word.
Sergeant Lisk had been standing near an intersection in downtown Ramadi on Monday morning when a 120-millimeter mortar shell, fired by guerrillas, landed about 30 paces away. The exploding shell flung a chunk of steel into the right side of his chest just beneath his arm. He stopped breathing and died a few minutes later.
"He was my best friend," Specialist Allan Sammons said, his lower lip shaking. "That's all I can say. I'm kind of shaken up."
Another soldier asked, "You want to take a break?"
Specialist Sammons said, "I'll be fine," his lip still shaking.
In the darkness, as the sound of the helicopter faded, Colonel MacFarland addressed his soldiers.
"I don't know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him," Colonel MacFarland told his forces. "What I do know is that he did not die alone. He was surrounded by friends.
"A Greek philosopher said that only the dead have seen the end of war," the colonel said. "Only Terry Lisk has seen the end of this war."
The soldiers turned and walked back to their barracks in the darkness. No one said a word.
Hat Tip to Josh Marshall.