They were headed back from a simple recon mission and he was in the middle truck. It all happened so suddenly, there was hardly any time to think. The first thing he noticed was that it seemed like he couldn’t hear anymore. Then there was dirt and fire and metal flying at the front of his truck. Without thinking, he grabbed Hernandez’s vest by the neck as he started to stand up next to him.
They had to keep moving. If they were under attack, they had to keep moving. Push through the fire. That’s all he could think. The truck in front of him was gone. Blown to bits by the IED. That meant O’Shaugnessy would never get to see his kid before he was born and Hansen would never see his daughter graduate high school.
Jumper’s stunned thoughts were cut off as a wave of heat hit him. There must have been another explosion. He could tell he was on fire, but it was like he was watching it in a movie. There was no pain yet. Just shock at the smell of burning flesh. He saw his hand still gripping Hernandez’s vest, but Hernandez was unrecognizably mangled. At that sight, it all wooshed back into focus; the pain and the fear were white hot in his mind and he passed out, clutching his hand to the top pocket of his tac vest.
“Jared, Jared…Wake UP!” He heard as someone shook his shoulders. Jared? No one had called him Jared since he’d left for Iraq. It was either Richardson or Jumper. “Jared…” He heard again, in a more insistent tone.
He opened his eyes, momentarily confused to be on the couch in his best friend’s apartment.
“Oh, thank God. You were screaming so loud. I thought you would never wake up,” Robbie breathed worriedly.
Before Jared knew what he was doing he was clutching Robbie to him and crying as if his soul had broken. Maybe it had. After a moment of hesitation, Robbie’s arms wrapped around Jared. Strong, solid, dependable. Jared cried until there were no tears left and all he felt was empty. And still Robbie held him.
Eventually, Robbie pulled back and looked him in the eye for a brief intense moment. Then he leaned forward and gently kissed the tears off each of Jared’s cheeks and pulled Jared more firmly back into his arms.
Jared thought he should feel awkward. They had never talked about his being gay. But he didn't. Then Robbie pulled him down on the couch and whispered, “sleep,” into his ear and, for the first time since he went to war, all he felt was peace.
Give to the departed, especially those killed in war, eternal rest and let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.