The last thing I heard was the report of fire, one last wild spurring of colors made sound, then silence.
The last thing I felt was an intake of breath, air drawing deep into me. I don't remember the exhale. I thought nothing could reach me. I never knew what hit me.
I'll be all right in a minute, I said, but nothing came out.
I'm looking down on my still form, thinking I must have a concussion, for the vision could not be real. I close my eyes and recite the steps to field strip my AR in the field. "bolt fully forward", "remove the bolt carrier and the charging handle", open my eyes.
But the vision didn't change.
They sent me home in a box, draped with a flag, in a suit I had never worn. It was hot, the corn in fervent zeal, bowing before the behemoth combines that would pull it into an oblivious end. There was a line of cars as long as main street, headlights on yet diminished by the suns uncaring heat. They rolled slowly along until the cemetery was reached, the sound of taps drifting up to the heavens where they were only an echo.
But sometimes an echo is heard.
My name was spoken reverently, a soft word that drowned out the protestors that know not what faith and duty really mean.
The cemetery is old now, my grave now surrounded by others, so many years, so many funerals. My eyes live on in a child I never met. My name lives on, on a piece of granite in a place forever solemn, in a picture, in a flag.
I am everywhere, in memorial. In a tombstone, in the sound of fire, in the flag I hope you salute more than once a year. We are all a memory that begins and ends with what is left, stakes in the hard ground on which to peg our history.
When the last thing you see is that small sliver of freedom still there in the sky, remember me. I am a soldier, I am everywhere, in the trees, in the wind, under your feet in a land that's still free.
I am a soldier. I am unknown but remembered always.
-Brigid May 28, 2012