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What can be said of Hell, when at its most quiet, I was most terrified? The explosions that had rocked every fiber of my being and made my bones feel like they could simply shatter like tempered glass still resonated. I looked over at the wounded, wondering if I had the same haunted look in my eyes, and thought I probably did. In this war, no one leaves. No one goes home... and everyone is a casualty of war. Unbelievable love set against unbearable challenges. I lived this novel. We need to learn, and to teach others, to study war no more.
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From the chapter entitled "Green Eyes":
“Aren’t you ambitious!” I teased. “A Hawaiian honeymoon and three kids, and on Marine pay.”
“Well, if I stay in the Marines, I won’t be a corporal forever,” Tom countered. “And I wager I couldn’t keep you from nursing. You’re too good at this.”
“Oh, son, you’ll probably find there’s a lot of things you can’t keep me from doing,” I said, rolling my eyes.
He smiled weakly. “I will enjoy every minute of it.” His eyes closed and my breath caught in my throat. His eyelids fluttered open . He struggled to focus on my face. “Would you kiss me?” he requested.
I leaned over and gave him a lingering kiss. He tasted strangely sweet.
“Soft lips, and warm,” he whispered. “Bet the rest of you is pretty warm, too.”
I chuckled. “Easy, Marine, we’re not wed yet.”
“You’re telling me I’ve got to wait?” There was a definite twinkle in his dark eyes. “I can do that. I think it will be worth it if I can own your heart.”
“You already do,” I said, and I meant it.
“I did it, I fell in love,” he whispered. “Thank you, green eyes, thank you.”
“You bet, handsome,” I nodded, “the pleasure is all mine.”
Tom gave me one last long look and a tiny smile. A thin trickle of blood ran down his cheek from the corner of this mouth. I tried not to react. His breathing slowed, then stopped. I gently put a finger to his inner wrist. I concentrated, but there was no pulse. His fingers did not release mine from their grasp. My other hand shook as I reached out to close his eyes. I sat next to the cot, my heart racing.
The pilot joined Patty in the doorway to the ward. “Look, lady, I can see from here he’s not breathing any more. Time to go.”
Patty turned to put one hand squarely on the pilot’s chest and she pushed him back through the office and out of the tent. “Back away, hard-charger,” she said angrily. “Don’t think for a minute I can’t put your ass in the dirt. What do you think it took for her to sit there like that for the final twenty-five minutes of that boy’s life! You should be so fucking lucky that someone will be with you when you get your arrogant ass blown out of the sky that last time. Go have something to eat, go take a leak, or go jump off a cliff, but leave the girl be. You’ll be on your way soon enough.” Without waiting for a reply, Patty walked into the tent, slapping the flaps closed. She sat down at the desk and kept an eye on the ward as she completed the requisition forms for the pilot.
I don’t know how much later it was when I kissed the fingers of his cold hand and offered up a small prayer. I pulled dogtags free of his shirt and looked at his full name.
Patty rose as I walked out of the ward past the stalwart Marines. “Your shift is over,” she said softly. “You couldn’t do more than you did today. I heard everything. Go now, rest, write your family, whatever. I’ll bring you some supper later.”
All I could do was nod. I walked to the billet tent and looked around for my diary. Suddenly my knees crumbled. I fell onto my sleeping bag. The grief of an unrealized lifetime welled up inside me, and I sobbed uncontrollably.
The pilot stood outside the tent, unsure if he should enter. Patty walked up to stand beside him. “When somebody writes his family, tell them he wasn’t alone.”
“She shouldn’t be, either,” the pilot said quietly.
Patty gave the man a squeeze on his arm. “She’s not alone. She’ll never be alone.”