Let me tell you about my first kill, so you can understand the way death may or may not affect the living party. It took place in Hit, Iraq, on February 13th, 2006. I was on point, patrolling south, and searching for IEDs on the Main Service Road. I was doing everything a 19 year old does when he thinks that he is bulletproof.
I would jump down into IED craters and kick the dirt around. The largest crater was also the last, and closest, to base. I had just finished climbing out of the crater and was resuming the trek south. I was looking over my left shoulder, making sure I wasn’t walking too fast. I hear a Marine scream, “GRENADE”.
I rotated my body fully to the right, bringing my rifle to the alert simultaneously. I see the person in the follow through of his throw. The grenade is spinning slowly, the spoon coming off slowly. The sound of body armor, and the bodies they protect, hitting the concrete created a strange thump, thump, thump sound. I pulled the trigger, quickly, twice. Pop… Pop.
The grenade was a dud. We approach the person, carefully, we don’t know if he has any more explosives on him. As I get near him, it is abruptly clear he is leaving this world, and soon. He is suffocating on his own blood. He is blowing blood bubbles through his red teeth. He is crying. There are bubbles coming from the two holes in his chest. One to the left of his heart, and the other to the right.
Death took him, and there were no new bubbles. He cried no more. I checked his ID. He is 12.
I wept that night.
The rest of the kills I made did not affect me in this way at all. It is true what they say, the first is the worst, and then it only gets easier. I also learned I was not bulletproof.