brothers in arms

Charlie and Kendal Ungar met the old-fashioned way. At least, that’s what Charlie told me. He told me a lot when we served together. About his childhood, his family, his wife.

Dear Mrs. Ungar,

I pause, paying close attention to the details of what I had just written. The curve of the M. The sharpness of the K. It seems wrong; almost as if I was a total stranger. After all he had told me about Kendal, this just felt too formal for someone I knew everything about.

You don’t know her, she has no clue whatsoever of who you are, I remind myself. You two have never, ever, met.

Shaking my head, I rip and crumple the sheet of paper and toss it toward the garbage can across the room. I miss the throw, landing right on the pile of the other sheets of crumpled paper surrounding the all elusive garbage can. Who would have thought talking to someone I know so well would be nearly as hard?

“Honey, Ted, would you should come to bed.”

I glance up, my wife is leaning against the doorway, her curly hair pulled back matching her black pajamas.

Looking at my anguished face and after a minute of silence, she walks over, picks up one of the many balls of paper from the floor, smoothers it out and reads. After several minutes, she stares at me and gives me a sad smile, an ‘I feel sorry for you’ smile.

“You’ll finally see her tomorrow, Ted. Tell her then, but do it yourself not with a piece of paper.”

“Tell her what? Hello, my name is Ted Baker and I’m the reason your husband is dead. I am truly sorry.”

“Now sweetie, you know that isn’t true, try to calm yourself and come to bed.”

I hide my face with my hands, trying to be as invisible as the ostrich. “Go to bed, Maeve. I’ll be there in no time honey.”

Maeve sighs and places the sheet of paper on my desk. Kissing the top of my head and a soft hug, she leaves me alone with my confused feelings, the pen and an increasingly decreasing bulk of white, clean paper. Pulling a fresh sheet out, I ready myself to finally write the final draft.


He had told me all about her. Her beautiful green eyes. Her comforting smile. How she hummed her favorite Beatles song when she cooked her delicious homemade chicken pot. He even told me what she longed for the most. Charlie told me that she wanted nothing more on this world than to be a mother, I gift he could never give to her.

As I started writing, Charlies dead came to me. The memory was so fresh, so real, not even PTSD could make me relieve something as real as this. The roadside bomb blew up the first part of our convoy, sending debris and black clouds of smoke into the truck I was driving. I could not see anything, I could only hear the bee like sounds in my ears, I lost control and we hit something, sending the vehicle rolling. After several seconds of rolling, I was trapped, I could not move myself. Ungar fought his way over to me, pulling out everyone on his way, saving lives. I was lucky to have such a man in my platoon. When he finally got to me, he smiled, made a joke about having a smoke and relaxing, he made me feel like everything would be fine. A fraction of a second later, enemy fire started falling upon us. There were more explosions and sniper shots all over the place, we were trapped. Grabbing my shoulders, he shoved and used his body as a human shield to protect me from the enemy fire. He was dead before I could do something about it. What could I do? He was dead because of me. It was all my fault…

If I wasn’t driving...If I had not crashed the vehicle...He’d still be alive and I would not be writing this letter… He might even have children by now, and Kendal would be happy…

I crumble the sheet, throw it away and started crying. I cried myself out until I fall asleep, wondering what would happen tomorrow…Could I face his wife? My brother in arms wife…

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