Editor’s note: This poem contains graphic depictions of war.
Crunchy, brown, dried up grass covers the ground.
The stench of rotting trash and sewage fills the air.
The sun blazes down, baking my motionless body.
Sweat drips into my eyes causing them to sting.
Lying on my stomach in a prone position,
Body aching from not having moved for hours.
Muscles tight as I hold my Kevlar weighted head jp and
M-4 Carbine tightly and steadily in my shoulder.
A young Iraqi boy comes into view, 300 meters from my position.
He pulls a shovel out of the ditch next to the road,
Looks around to see if anyone is watching.
He has no idea that I am here,
And begins to dig, slowly.
I hate what I have to do next.
He doesn’t know better,
He isn’t old enough to think for himself.
Such a young life, such a waste.
If only he came from a family that wasn’t so poor,
Then maybe Al Qaeda wouldn’t be able to buy him off.
Then I wouldn’t have to take,
Such a young life.
Time to make the transition in my mind.
Time to dehumanize the enemy.
This isn’t a boy anymore,
Just a target.
I rest my cheek on the butt-stock,
Line up the target in my sight,
Make sure I have a clear sight picture.
Make sure I have good alignment.
Focus on the front sight post, not the target.
Steady breath now.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Exhale slowly, expend all air.
Slow steady trigger squeeze.
Don’t jerk, don’t anticipate the shot.
Nice and smooth,
The smell of carbon immediately fills my nostrils.
The empty casing flies out from the ejection port cover,
Flipping end over end through the air,
The hot piece of brass landing in the grass beside me.
I watch my target jerk like a deer as
The bullet tears through it,
Then turns and falls to the ground.
It’s a good hit, target is down.
I watch my target wiggling
Writhing in pain in the dirt.
Stillness now, as he has given
Up the fight.
I wait to see if anyone else comes.
Five minutes, no one has shown up
My position is compromised,
It’s time to move.
As I get up slowly from my position,
My mind begins to think of the target as a boy.
I can’t allow that now, someday I will
Grieve for him and for me.
This is a Web Extra for the feature Armed with Knowledge