Walking at Night

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I killed that little kid. I watched him through my sights as he delicately picked his way through the thick coils of concertina razor wire. Watched as he wiped the sweat from his grimy, dirt covered face with his sleeve. I watched as he pulled his wares, in plain cloth sacks, through the maze of knives and daggers looped in strands all around him. I watched him in my sights, aiming center mass, and when I got a clear shot- I took it. I pulled the trigger. I killed that little kid.

Out here, in the middle of nowhere, lost beneath a blanket of a night sky, with nothing but the occasional gust of wind and the blinking stars, the thought of the kid is my only company. I try to forget him as I walk.

Pick one foot up.

Put it in front of the other.

Step.

Step.

My feet drag on the asphalt as I plod along. Somewhere in the distance a coyote howls, and I scan the horizon, looking for the source. Even though it's a clear night sky and the moon is glowing so brightly I can actually see the silhouette of the mountains a few miles off, the grass fields of the southern Arizona highlands remain pitch black. I can see nothing.

I continue walking on, away from the lights of the airport behind me, and toward the mountains. I know that nestled at their feet, in a small subdivision of Fort Huachuca, lies my house. Or what remains of it.

So I continue to walk. Step. Step. I pick one foot up. I put the other down. The gravel of the roads shoulder crunches under my feet kicking up small clouds of dust. Something in my rucksack, perhaps a shoe, or an empty magazine, stabs me in the back as I walk. A sharp stinging pain compared to the dull throb of my shoulders, a complaint for the weight of all the military gear I have resting on them.

If you saw me you'd say I was marching. Bulletproof Kevlar helmet with the desert issue goggles perched on top. Military issue DCU's with my name, battalion, and rank stitched on. Still grimy from desert dust and spilt diesel fuel. The full rucksack with the metal frame and bedroll hanging from the bottom. Pistol belt with two canteens, a first aid kit, and magazine pouches. The biological gas mask strapped to my thigh.

I'm the poster boy for the American soldier, dressed to the hilt in the latest battle gear. If you drove by you'd think I was on some kind of march. But I'm not. I'm walking. Armies march. People who belong somewhere march. Strong, proud people march. When people are together they march. All alone like myself, they walk. Weak broken things like me, we walk. So I walk.

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