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The Art Of Combat Arms

"My arm is gone!" he yelped after a bullet ripped through his bicep.

His arm was shredded, impotent, a dangling hunk of deadweight meat like a beef carcass suspended by a steel hook in a long-vanished southeast Chicago stockyard, but it wasn't gone. Sgt. Reyes grabbed the private by his good arm and yanked him down to safety. He slammed with a dull plunk but kept caterwauling as though he sprained an ankle at high school football practice, as though he wasn't at war, as though God or anyone cared. His pain was overwhelming, but it was his alone.

Another bullet could tear through his temple and drive his mother mad with grief and no one would care outside of their cloistered world. Another bullet could crack his spine, and consign him indefinitely to a wheelchair and no one would care. No would care if he were an amputee, a cripple, a trauma-scarred head case who paced endlessly around a sparsely furnished room. No one would care if he had a prosthetic hook for a hand, or a blank look for life. He could die there in Iraq, bleed his wet life into the dry sand, and he'd get nothing but some old VFW geezers firing blanks in a faux-seven gun salute and inclusion in an honor roll list in a newspaper with terminally declining circulation. They'd all leave the funeral and return to a DVRed show and some microwavable snacks.

Sgt. Reyes returned fire. The private yipped about his ragged arm to an empty empyrean. The snap, pop, snap of semi-automatic fire drowned out his faltering voice.

Story by:

Joseph S. Pete

jpete@alumni.iu.edu

@nwi_jsp

4 March 2014