Thomas Nelson
Community College

On the eve of the Iraq invasion, I did the same as every other paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Cleaned my weapon and checked my ammo. Updated my last will and testament. Folded farewell letters to my girlfriend and to my mom and dad in a cargo pocket. Being in the company of hard men, I also feigned nonchalance, hoping to hide the soft fears at my core. It wasn’t just that I was afraid of dying; I was afraid of not dying well. Worse: of behaving like a coward. No one knows how he will act in battle until the whip-crack of bullets snaps the air above him and either he cowers or fires back.

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