By: Christopher Nevy
[August 16th, 2019-Kandahar]
I’ve been placed in charge of a transport of munitions to a remote basecamp. My best
friend, Roman, is in my squadron. We’ve known each other since basic training and would do
anything for each other. Roman was the best man at my wedding, and the brother I never had.
Whenever I talk to my wife Beth she always asks about Roman because she knew how
much he meant to me. “Roman, Beth sends her regards and wants to know how you’ve been.”
“That’s nice, let her know that I’ve been good recently.” Roman said with a smile on his face.
His smile faded. “I’ll be even better once we finish this transport so let’s wrap this up.” It was
time to put a brave face on. “I think we’re about ready to move,” I grimaced.
We were finally on the move and were halfway there. As we looked in the distance
Roman warned, “Scott, I have a bad feeling. I think I see opposing soldiers in the distance.”
I began to respond, “I think you’re overreacting. It’s been a quiet ri…” “BOOM!!!” As I
spoke a Humvee in front of us exploded. We moved the truck off the road, rushing to take
evasive maneuvers and move out of the line of fire. As I slowed Roman jumped out of the
vehicle and ran over to the fiery Humvee, searching for anyone who might still have been alive.
As I jumped from the truck and ran for cover, I called out to Roman, “Roman! No one survived!
Stay here with me.”
I had always thought that Roman was too compassionate to be a soldier. My greatest fear
was that one day his compassion would cost him his life. “I’m sorry Scott, but if there’s a chance
that they’re alive, then I have to try and save them,” Roman shouted back to me. The remaining
vehicles had already dispersed off the road, the crews scrambling for cover. Once the vehicles
had spread out, we began to return fire. Enemy fire began to come in, deafening the air with the
sound of explosions. “ROMAN GET DOWN!!!” I screamed, but it was too late. I watched as a
bombshell flew next to Roman. In the blink of an eye my best friend was gone. I was numb,
frozen, in shock. Another soldier called in for air support and read out the coordinates of the
mortar fire. An A-10 flew above us and unleashed a fury on the enemy position. Seconds later,
the radio reported that it was a hit. I was relieved, but my relief was short lived as I glanced back
at Roman laying there lifeless.
When we returned to base, we were all evaluated medically. Somehow, I survived the
attack without a scratch. Physically I was perfectly fine, but I felt far from it. I was in despair and
plagued with guilt about what had happened. I continued to run through the events in my head,
wishing I could find a way to prevent the entire situation, desperate for a solution to bring my
friend back. Why did he have to care so much? He should have known that to be a soldier, you
must be selfish. You must always look out for yourself first, but that was not Roman’s way. My
tour was due to end in only a few more months, and I just needed to make it to the end. Without
Roman, I knew those months would feel like years.
[November 18th, 2019-Washington]
Beth ran up to me as soon as I exited the terminal. “Scott, I missed you so much!” She
exclaimed. I was excited to see her, but everything was different now. “I’ve missed you too.
How have you been?” I asked. She continued, “I’ve been okay, but more importantly how have
you been? I know how hard things have been for you since…” She trailed off. I desperately
wanted to tell her how much I had been struggling with depression, guilt, and sadness, but I
didn’t want to worry her. Instead, I put a smile on my face and said, “I’m hanging in there. I’m
just glad to be back home with you.”
[February 25th, 2020-Baltimore]
Since returning home my entire life has been a blur. I’m there physically, but I’m not
there mentally. I am simply going through the motions. I am unmotivated and I feel helpless and
alone. Beth knows how I am feeling, but as I try my best to put on a brave face, she goes along
with me and pretends that everything is fine. I don’t want to feel like a burden. I suppress my
emotions whenever I am around her. When I’m alone, I cry for hours at a time. I don’t know
what to do. I don’t know how I am going to continue living like this. The guilt weighs me down.
One day, against my better judgement, I called Roman’s wife, Louise, to see how she was
doing. She never heard the full story of how Roman died. She simply knew that Roman died a
hero, and I was intent on keeping it that way. She picked up the phone, “Hi Scott. How are you?”
She sounded like she had been crying. I wanted to answer and tell her the truth, but I knew that
she was dealing with enough. I couldn’t lie to her, so I silently hung up the phone, regretting that
I had ever called her in the first place. My knees wobbled and I fell to the ground, sobbing.
During moments like these, I found myself wishing that I had died with Roman. I couldn’t take it
[July 4th, 2020-Baltimore]
Beth and I decided to go to our neighbor’s house for the Fourth of July. It would be the
first social event that we attended together in a long time. The party was terrific. We didn’t have
a care in the world. It felt good to be happy for once. Beth nudged me with a grin on her face.
“You’re smiling Scott! I haven’t seen you smile in a while.” I grinned back at her, but I couldn’t
shake the feeling that it was too good to be true.
As the sun set, fireworks began to go off. “BANG!” “BANG!” “BANG!” Like second
nature, I quickly dropped to the ground. Suddenly I was back in Afghanistan, fearing for my life.
I covered my ears, closed my eyes, and prayed that it would stop. Everyone else was so focused
on the fireworks that they didn’t notice me lying on the ground. As the sound continued to fill
the air, I began to scream, helpless and afraid. Suddenly I was transported back to the worst day
of my life, as I watched my best friend die, repeatedly. I was filled with terror as I relived that
moment, the moment that my life ended. The moment when I lost everything.
People turned towards me and stared. My neighbors, whom I had just been fraternizing
with began to pull their kids behind them in fear. I couldn’t move. What was wrong with me?
My mind was racing, and I couldn’t think. I didn’t even know where I was. Beth ran over to me
when she noticed everyone crowding around me. She shook me lightly to try to get me to snap
out of it. “BANG!” “BANG!” “BANG!” There was a part of me that knew that the sound was
from fireworks, but another part of me was trapped in the past, replaying the worst moment of
my life in my head. I couldn’t escape, and I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake. I
wished with every ounce in my body that the fireworks would stop.
Once the fireworks were over, I couldn’t bring myself to get off the ground. Beth was by
my side, stroking my head and squeezing my hand. After some time, I finally stood up and
walked with Beth back to our house, neither of us saying a word.
[November 19th, 2020-Baltimore]
“SCOTT!” Beth shouted excitedly. I ran to her, wondering what she could possibly have
to tell me. Before I got the chance to say anything, she exclaimed, “I’m pregnant!” I stared at her
blankly. “You’re… what?” Beth and I had been trying to get pregnant before I went on tour, but
after I returned home, we decided it was better not to try. I had always wanted to have children,
but I didn’t think that now was a good time for me to be a father. “Why aren’t you more
excited?” Beth demanded. “I am… but I just don’t know if I can handle this right now. I’m an
emotional wreck, for God sakes!” Beth looked at me, with tears in her eyes. “This is what you
wanted Scott. This is what you always wanted.” I didn’t know what to say or do. I knew that I
had upset Beth by the way that I reacted, but the truth was that her news filled me with dread.
The only thing that I could think about was how our child would see how screwed up their father
was. “You know what Scott? I am not going to let you ruin this for me. Go take your pity party
somewhere else.” She stormed out of the room, sobbing.
[December 2nd, 2020]
I had another breakdown in public today. Things just aren’t getting better, and I don’t
think that they ever will. Beth has been supporting me and is trying her best to help me, but even
she has her limits. We argue constantly, especially ever since she found out that she was
pregnant. Our latest argument was particularly bad. We made up and she apologized afterwards,
but I see this sadness in her eyes whenever she looks at me now. I can’t stand that look, knowing
it comes from the hurt and pain of the relationship I ruined. I can only imagine how much
pressure and stress I’ve put on her. I thought that I would heal with time, but time only seems to
make it worse.
As time goes on my memories of Roman begin to dim. I can’t seem to picture Roman’s
face as clearly in my mind. Then I realize that I will eventually forget what he looked like
entirely. Whenever I think about having a child, I am filled with dread. I couldn’t be a father. I
couldn’t let Beth down anymore. I was done. Done living inside of my head, done living in a
world where Roman was dead. I was done with guilt, sadness, and anguish. I was done with it
all. I know that it will destroy Beth, but she will find someone better. Someone who isn’t riddled
with guilt, shame, and sadness, and someone who can be a suitable father to our child.
I know I must act quickly before Beth returns from the market. The thought of not seeing
Beth again is devastating, but this was how it had to be. This was the only way. I picked up a pen
and a piece of paper and began to write.
My Dearest Beth,
I’m sorry for everything. I never wanted things to end this way. This isn’t your
fault at all. I’m sorry I’m leaving you to raise our child alone. I know you will make an
amazing mother. I dreamed of the day that we would finally have kids. I wish that it had
been under different circumstances. The truth is, I am ashamed of the person who I have
become. I don’t want our child to grow up with me as their father. Both you and they are
better off without me. I know how hard you have tried to help me and support me. I’m
just too far gone. I am so grateful to have met you. I know everyone keeps telling me
Roman’s death wasn’t my fault, but I just can’t see past it, and I can’t move on. I know
that our child will grow up to do great things, because they will have you as a mother. I
love you and I will never forget everything that you did for me.
As Beth returned home from the market, she saw the door to the house ajar. She knew
something was wrong. “Scott!” Scott!” “Scott!”, she screamed out. There was no response, only
a pressing and saddening silence. She had a terrible feeling in gut, the kind of feeling that you get
when you know something horrifying has happened. She had feared something like this was
going to happen. As she ran through the house, frantically looking for Scott, she felt trapped and
crushed under a boulder of guilt and sadness. She continually called out his name, hoping
against hope that he would respond. Maybe he wasn’t dead yet, maybe he was just sleeping. As
she opened the bathroom door, she gasped at the site. There he was, lying there on the floor in a
pile of his own vomit. There were empty bottles of random pills scattered all around him. He was
gone. Dead. She never even got to say goodbye.
She finally understood. She understood all the pain and suffering and guilt that he had. It
was too late now, but she understood. She knew that it was not her fault that he died, but she
couldn’t help thinking that this would never have happened if she had been more patient with
him. Was that the last straw? If she had been more patient with him, would he be alive? Would
their child have a father? These questions circled through her head. She knew that she couldn’t
allow herself to become consumed with guilt, the way that Scott had. She couldn’t, for the sake
of their unborn child. At that moment, she vowed to make Scott proud, no matter how difficult it
was going to be.
[February 26th, 2020-Baltimore]
As Beth walked into the doctor’s office, she was filled with hope and dread. Today she
would learn her baby’s gender. She always pictured Scott being there, holding her hand and
smiling. Instead, she was alone. As she walked into the hospital to receive her ultrasound, she
was nervous, scared, and afraid. Would she be able to live up to Scott’s expectations and be a
good mother to our child? “Everything is coming along perfectly,” the doctor said with a smile. “I can tell you the
gender if you would like.” Beth nodded eagerly. “It looks like it’s going to be a boy.” Beth
grinned, and immediately thought of Scott. He had always told her that he wanted a boy. Beth
desperately wished that Scott was here, but she knew that he was there in spirit. “I have the
perfect name for him”, Beth quipped, “Scotty Roman Brown.” It was the only possible name
Beth could ever imagine giving him. Scotty Roman Brown. He would be everything his father
was, and more. Beth knew that Scott was looking out for her. He was watching over her, smiling
from heaven. Their son would make him proud, because he was named after two of the bravest
people Beth had ever known.