The grenade went off before she could screech a warning over the gunfire. The blast blew her forward away from her squad. She hit the ground hard, she couldn’t see anything through the smoke. She shouted into her radio. She couldn’t hear anything. She turned back to the field and fired at the enemy. She stayed low behind the sandbags.
There was a break in the fire, the company next to hers taking the brunt of the fire. She crawled to where the grenade had gone off. She ripped her gloves off trying to tend to their injuries. She called for a medic unit. Her radio only returned static. She dragged each of her squad to the jeep, avoiding gunfire. The radio on the jeep worked and she radioed for help.
She was driving to the rendezvous point, she saw the IED a second too late. The jeep flipped, throwing her from the vehicle.
She woke up in the hospital. She hit the call button for the nurse.
“Where is my team,” She scooted to the edge of the bed, tried to stand and immediately fell to the floor.
“You have to rest.” The nurse said lifting her back up into the bed.
“I don’t have to do anything you say. You’re not my commanding officer.” She squirmed around to get out of bed again. The nurse held her down. “I have to make sure they’re okay.”
“Sir, you did the best you could to help them. Now please calm down.”
“I have to.” She fought to keep her voice from breaking.
“Sargent,” A gruff voice said from the doorway. She snapped to attention, saluting the man who had entered the room. “You need to listen to this nice man.”
She settled down into the bed. The nurse was obviously relieved.
“You served your country well.” He said giving her a metal, a patch, and a certificate. “Due to the extensive injuries you received while trying to save your squad you have been honorably discharged.”
“Sir, I would like to still fight, Sir.” She touched the purple heart. “I can still fight.”
She saw the nurse shake his head from the corner of her eye.
“Your cooperation on this matter would be greatly appreciated.”
“Sir, yes, Sir.” She nodded and saluted as he walked back out the door.
“It would be best if you tried to relax and heal.” The nurse said picking up her chart and leaving.
“Heal from what…” She muttered pulling the sheet over the light hospital gown, “I feel okay.”
The nurse came back in the morning. “How are you feeling today?”
“Fine, I don’t even know why I am in here.”
“It’s because you were shot four times and the IED you hit blew off your leg.” The nurse was not having any of her sass today.
“What are you talking about?” She said lifting up her leg and not breaking eye contact. He looked down at her leg, she followed his gaze. “No…”
“You are on a lot of pain medications right now.” He sounded almost nice but she could hear the sarcasm.
She picked up the purple heart that was on the rolling table next to her. “What about my team?”
“They are all in intensive care.” He looked like he was ready to hold her down again. “I can wheel you down there to see them, if you would like.”
“I would like that…”
He instructed her on how to hold onto him for transferring to the wheelchair. She looped her arms around his neck and helped as much as she could. She sat down heavily in the wheelchair. She didn’t really like having to be wheeled around but she had no other choice.
She looked at her team, hooked up to machines that helped them breath, monitored all of their vitals, kept them alive. “Where’s Wilson?”
Her nurse was silent. She couldn’t get an answer from him. She held each of her squads hands, trying to give them some of her strength.
Over the next few weeks she visited them every day, she got stronger, they seemed to get worse. She could wheel herself down there to see them now. One after another coded, nurses rushed in to help and she was pushed out of the room every time. They wouldn’t let her back in for the rest of the day, and there would be another empty bed.
Soon she was the last of her squad. The nurses and doctors wouldn’t tell her anything.
She figured it out when she was asked to speak at their funerals.
She sat in the front in her wheelchair. She was still in the hospital to prevent infection in her leg wound and physical therapy. She was dressed in her dress uniform, her purple heart pinned to her chest with her block of ribbons. Her face was steal but her hands fidgeted with the note card. When the rights had been read and it was her turn to speak she wheeled herself across the grass the funeral director handed her the microphone. She took a deep breath and tried to read what was on the card.
Instead of detailing how strong and brave Private Wilson had been, and how he had helped his country, all she managed to get out was “He was a good man.”
She dropped the mic and wheeled away across the grass desperate to get away from the accusing eyes of the other funeral goers. The others were just as difficult, she never managed to get through her speech as planned. She knew what all the people were thinking. Why hadn’t she been killed like the rest of them.
She was finally allowed to move back home after months in the hospital. They would be sending someone out to fit her with a prosthetic, if she wanted, in a few weeks. She ordered one when the time came and was soon limping around her house. It took years for her to fully adapt to using it. It took even more years to deal with her squads deaths. She wasn’t sure it it would ever get any better.