Strange Relic From a Day in Iraq

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I clamp my hand against the wound to slow the bleeding. My heart races, I flush with fear and panic. I can feel my body temperature heat up another 100 degrees. The adrenaline that's pumping through me turns my stomach upside down. I pray.

They say that God answers many prayers, but whose does He answer, ours or the enemy's? Both sides are equally loved by Him. This is what makes God's role in war so difficult to fathom.

A blurred photo of an injured crow on the ground, struggling to get off its back and right itself.
Photo: Takashi Tomooka/Flickr/cc-by-sa-2.0

A few feet away, a shrill squawk pierces the air. It’s from a huge black crow, its beak bloodied, flapping around on the ground.

"Oh God, no. Not him," I pray. "Please make it all go away."

A few feet away, a shrill squawk pierces the air. It’s from a huge black crow, its beak bloodied, flapping around on the ground. One of its wings seems to be injured—probably hit by the gunman, I think. With each squawk, the bird spits blood and struggles to stand, but manages only to spin in tight circles.

I stare, but only for a few seconds. My priority isn't some meaningless bird, but my tank driver, my friend.

I remove my hand from the wound and sling Bayardo's left arm over my shoulders. With a grunt, I pick him up off the ground and carry him back into the building we had just left. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the crow fly away.

“Please let him be OK," I pray. "Not Bayardo.”

I'll never forgive myself for his death—my friend, and the only Marine I'm directly responsible for. I think about our mothers, close friends back in the States, and how they will react to the news of his death. What will I say when I have to tell them that I watched Bayardo die? I will carry this guilt for a lifetime.

Inside, I scream for the corpsman. “My driver's been hit!”

The corpsman's response is unexpected. “Calm down,” he says.

Calm down? How can I calm down? My friend, my brother, is dying. The last thing I want to do is calm down. Anger eclipses my panic.

The corpsman says that there's no way Bayardo could have been shot. He explains that a bullet to the neck would have had an exit wound, and it would have been fatal. You don't survive a shot like that, he says.

We clean the wound and stop the bleeding long enough to see the damage. The gash is about an inch and a half deep and half an inch wide. No exit wound.