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Story The Death of Ray

SpazTheButcher

The Warrior-Poet
He had always knew it would end like this. Surrounded. Cut off. Though surprisingly it was overseas like he expected. It wasn't at home, like he wanted, surrounded by family members who had watched him grow old. But was he ever truly home? He certainly did not feel like it. The world had... changed since he left. He scanned every room he entered for threats. Close friends pissed him off. Fireworks made him duck. And every time a helicopter flew around with just the right rotor pitch, he longed for an evac. He dreamed that one day, a red smoke marker would pop off and a Blackhawk would come and lift him away. But he knew it would never be that simple.

After a few years back home in New York state, Ray found himself appalled by the growing pop culture. Until he finally found his Blackhawk. He re-enlisted. Ray always knew that he could never live to be old, as Cypress Hill once said, "We ain't goin' out like that." He redeployed to Iraq for what Ray was sure would be his last time. Now was his moment. Fate found him and his squad pinned down by MGs, AKs, and an RPG. He knew that he wasn't gonna make it. The Doc Jones got hit first, luckily non-lethal, and then they radioed for a dustoff. But then their squad gunner, Reyes, took a round to the should, and then their RTO lost his leg. His squad began dropping like flies until Ray was the last one standing. They were all still alive, and Ray was intent on keeping them that way.

So Ray made his play, slinging his M4 and hefting the downed gunner's M249B, and began peppering the rooftops and windows. He held down the trigger, not planning on being around for the gun to overheat. The Helo's rotors were close now, and Ray knew he had to keep the squad from getting wiped out. Whoever was flying the helicopter, Ray would have to buy that man a beer as it quickly and efficiently dodged rounds and rockets coming in from all angles. As the belt finally stopped feeding, Ray put the gun down and first picked up his RTO, Young. The wheels of the Blackhawk touched the ground and the door slid open, the corpsman inside waving Ray over. Ray set down Young, and went back out for the Doc. Up, there, down, back. Ray repeated the cycle over and over again.

Finally, he hefted Reyes over his shoulder, and jogged them back to the chopper, exhausted. Just as he set Reyes down, Ray felt a slight pain in his back. And then another. Ray looked down, and two dark red spots had formed through his vest, and began eating away at the fabric around it. He cocked his head confused, and then finally understood. Sounds were muted now, but Ray knew the chopper's corpsman was yelling at him, until finally someone pulled Ray onto the chopper as it took off. He used what strength he had left to lay himself against the back wall and stared into the chaos of Baghdad below.

It wasn't like he was told. His life didn't flash before his eyes. They were more like memories that came and went. He mostly ignored the work they were trying to do on his chest, and he thought back to his childhood. His father always told him he would never amount to anything. Classmates told him he was too scrawny. A teacher once remarked that him joining the military would be a waste of his life. But was it? He remembered building clinics, hospitals, and schools. He would often share his own water with civvies, and would give his last cold beer to a stranger. He remembered his first kill, and his last. His mind floated through every last man he had seen die before him, friend and foe. And he knew every name of every man who had died with him. A few names in particular came. Sergeant Brad Colbert. Private First Class Michael Richardson. Lance Corporal James Hamilton. They all came back to him now.

Then he asked himself, Do I get to go home? Does a man like me get to go to Heaven? His eyelids began to grow heavy, and as he closed his eyes one final thought was in his brain, Do murderers get to go home? But his mouth betrayed him. The last breath to exit his mouth carried his last message, "Everyone goes home."

* * *​

Corporal Sarah Reyes stood at attention in the dusty field at FOB Hammer. Her arm was bandaged from the elbow and below. Only a few hours ago, her helicopter landed and she was able to thank the pilot, a nice woman by the name of Jacqueline, who offered her a cigarette. Reyes obliged. She now stood in this field with the entire Battalion at attention. She heard the Battalion Commander's words.

"First Sergeant, roll call."

The First Sergeant snapped to attention, "Hospitalman Richard Jones."

"Here First Sergeant"

"Private First Class Jackson Young."

"Here First Sergeant"

"Corporal Sarah Reyes"

Every part of her wanted to cry out, wanted to burst out sobbing. But she was a Marine, and as the tears welled up in her eyes, she proudly said, "Here First Sergeant."

"Gunnery Sergeant Ray Person." The dreaded silence filled the air. "Gunnery Sergeant Ray Person." Reyes heard the volleys fire, and tears streamed down her eyes. All she could think of was Ray's decision to extend his tour only one week ago.
 

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