Once up a time I made a friend, in a country that was torn apart by war. We were soldiers, and very young. My friend's name was Matthew Alexander, and he was very young, not old enough to drink when I met him. He was from Nebraska. He was engaged to his high school sweet heart.
Alex always made me smile, even when I was miserable, frightened, and angry over the horrible things we saw. We saw soldiers and enemies die. We played Dungeons and Dragons in rubble in between missions, so that we could find something that felt normal. We told each other secrets, and we told jokes to make each other smile.
Alex went home for mid-tour leave and married his sweetheart. He emailed me pictures of his wedding. On May 6, 2007, Alex died. They took his body home to Nebraska, to his young widow.
I didn't know him for very long, not even a year. We both knew that we might die, I was too angry to care, but Alex just acknowledged it and tried to make me laugh. When he died, it broke something inside of me. My grief over his death is still as strong today as it was the day I watched his truck get blown to pieces with him inside. He was too far away for me to help him, and there was nothing I could have done to save him anyway.
He was a good kid, and he deserved everything that was good in life.