A Man With A Good Heart

I wondered what made them hate me so much. My crime to them was being an American. My crime to myself was being an armed American in their country. My wrists are bound tightly behind my back, I really can't see what is going on but I have a general idea. This was not a war where you could be captured and wait a few years and to get released.

I take that back, my crime to myself was not fighting to my death. I tried playing it in my head over and over again. I remember the blast, I don't remember hitting the ground. From there I remember at first trying to crawl back to my MRAP. I remember not being able too, my hand slid down to my legs. They were of no help, because of lack of equipment my unit only got enough 9mm to support the staff non-commissioned officers and officer. Not the people who would actually have a use for them. When we got hit my rifle went flying as well as me.

I drew my knife and tried calling for help. I don't think anyone heard me. This was an ambush, of a scale that hadn't happened for years in the now pacified lands of Al-Anbar. I guess we had let our guard down.

And here I am, kneeling on broken limbs listening to a man read notes from the Qur'an and speaking in Arabic. I wondered if my family would know what I knew. That Islam wasn't hate. That these Muslims weren't any different than the Christian Conquistadors. Radicals, I doubted my family would understand. My brothers. Oh my brothers, especially my older brother he was a musicians with peace at his heart. We may have not always seen eye to eye, but a brother's love transcended all of that.

My wife though, I had ached for her for the first nine months of my deployment. So close to coming home, her father was in bad health. She was gonna lose me today, her father probably didn't have much longer than I do. He was a good man, worked his limbs to uselessness farming in the Midwest. I wonder if she would see this, I hoped not, I know who I am going into my death. A broken and defeated warrior was not one of them. My legs were ruined, the rest of my body hurt from the beatings. I probably had a few more broken bones in there.

This is not me. I still have fight in me, my body didn't though. I felt a wave a shame, if there was anything left I'd try charging and at least take force them to kill me. Instead of this, honorably waiting for my death.

I felt no resentment about going to Iraq. I knew what I signed up for, but this wasn't in my plans. I still don't want this war to be like the war of our fathers. I don't want the history books too look back and say we started and didn't finish just like Vietnam. I doubt my name would ever be in any history book, ever mentioned, just another cold name on the list of the dead. I know my family will be hurt at first, than over time the pain will let up. After a while only the fond memories and a horrible memory of men in a uniform knocking on the door will remain. After a year or two even that will fade, now and than on holidays a prayer would be said.

Eventually, my brothers and sister would tell their children about me in passing if they could forgive me for dying on them. If there children tried joining the military, they would tell a sad tale. But I doubt they would ever mention to them what this life of mine meant to me. I escaped that small town in the Great Plains, how many other people from my graduating class could claim the same? No, I would not be remembered. Inside though, I knew and I am starting to come to peace with that.

When I was calling out for help no one came. More explosions after what seemed an eternity and anyone's guess at how long it actually was, a man dressed in a simple marhaba came up to me. I tried slashing at him. A boot to my head sent me into sweet sleep again. I came too when a man threw a bucket of liquid on me. I was chained and when I noticed the smell I threw up all over myself, it was a bucket of piss and feces.

I don't know how long I was held there. It could not have been long. Once, speaking in broken Arabic.. What were my words again? Ana a'seed jigara, I think, I managed to bum a cigarette. A small victory in a places where you had to hold onto your wins as close to your heart as possible. Maybe it just should you could find humanity in the most hellish of situations, I wish I had more time and less important things to ponder about.

The man reading kept saying Amriki, I don't think anyone has to be an expert in Arabic to guess that meant America. I tried picking up Arabic for a while with my interpreters. However, I am bad with languages and eventually I just started to hang out with them. They would tell me sad stories. One of them told me a story of how Saddam had executed three of his uncles and how insurgents had killed two of his brothers. One day when soldiers were sweeping through his neighborhood and Americans needlessly kicked down his door and trashed his apartment. He probably spoke better English than they did and when he asked why? They responded that was how they had always cleared houses. He understood than that the Americans just didn't understand Iraqis and he vowed to try changing that attitude. For the most part he did for me.

I guess that is why I could kneel here without hate in my heart. I only had room for sympathy. Once again, our problems were we just couldn't talk to each other properly. I realize that this is the world's problem. It is my executioner today.

I've always heard that there are no atheists in foxholes. This moment, I do not feel any deathbed conversion coming to me. I'm kneeling here true to my conviction that in a few minutes everything that was for me is going to end. No heaven waited for me. With all of religions in the world saying I'd be going to hell.

My body is shaking horribly; I don't know how long that has been going on for. They probably think of me as a coward. I do not care; I have lived my life to the best of my ability. I gave, what at the time I thought was four years, but was ultimately going to be my life to something more than myself to my country. I tried taking that for what honor I could.

Suddenly I felt a hand grab the bag over my head and my hair. It hurt a little, but that doesn't really matter. In a last ditch effort I put my remaining energy into throwing my body back into the man. It earned me more than just a few kicks, those I took with pride. Now I had two men restraining me as my head is violently pulled back.

Finally I heard a chant. Allah ik-bah. Allah ik-bah. Allah ik-bah.

Feeling the knife savagely pressing into my throat woke me up in an entirely new way. I thrashed trying to escape the slicing motion. However, I could not stop it. With a smile created in my neck they threw me down onto the ground.

I landed face first in a pool of my blood. Bleeding out. My life, my blood, in a puddle. Things are starting too slow down a bit. I can feel my pulse in my severed arteries. I forced the thought of my wedding into my mind. I would not die with hate in my heart. I seconds away from death and all I can feel is the love in my heart for the woman I love. It was a magical day.

She was wearing a small white dress. The smile on her face. I was.. Hard to keep focused. I swear my mouth is making a smile right now. It was warm that day, the love made it warm. So cold. Her brown hair in the wind.

How many people were there.. One.. Two..