The battle lasted 10 hours. No break. No single moment when the soldiers could lie down and stop – to breathe and think. There were no dark corners to sit and rest. Food was soaked with blood and mud. Water full of dead insects. Hot smoke burned their wings, dropping them to the ground to be crushed by running, hiding boots.
“Otez! You there? Still breathing?”
“Hey Boden. Can’t feel my feet, but I’m here. You got chocolate?”
“Oreos. That do?”
“Life saver. I’ll come to you.”
Lieutenant Lizzy Boden saw the enemy first. “Otez! Get back! Incoming!”
Lizzy “Choco” Boden glimpsed Michael “The Raptor” Otez for less than a second before fire and smoke, stone and steel collapsed.
“Tell my family…!”
Lieutenant Boden sat neat and repaired on Michael Otez’s pink floral couch. His wife, Emily, ripped a tissue with her small, pale hands. Neither woman spoke. Neither could. They both watched Mike Jnr. in his playroom across the hall.
“Boooooooooom!” The boy tossed Lego bricks, trucks, cars and a Wolverine figure onto the floor. He stood up and lifted his foot, still wearing high polished black shoes from the morning. “Incoming!” He crushed the pile. “Incoming!!!”
A single tear slipped down Lizzy Boden’s face. “That’s what happened,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”