Sorrow, partially, but that’s not it either.
Failure, that’s what I’m feeling. Failure, I didn’t do enough. I wasn’t good enough. I let my partner down. After everything he’s done for me, I let him down.
Mary gently laid her hand on my shoulder. I looked up at her red rimmed eyes, she’d been crying again. It’s all my fault. I hang my head in shame. I let her down, too.
The bird sang sad songs in the background, while the sounds of the cadence were called as the soldiers brought their brother in arms to his final resting place.
I looked around at all of the people that came to pay their last respects. My head dropped, they all cared for him. It should have been me, not him. My shame and sorrow threatened to overcome my sense of duty and honor. I sat beside her, his wife. Her hand never far from me, like touching me meant part of him was still here.
The Chaplain began the service. He quoted the Bible, spoke of honor, service to country, freedom never being truly free, the ultimate sacrifice.
It should have been me, not him. I would have lain my life down for his; he had so much to come home for. I would have paid the ultimate sacrifice for his family.
The volleys fire once, I jump remembering the sounds of battle. Twice, remembering the bullet that pierced my partner. Thrice, watching as the life force of my dearest friend ebbed away.
In the distance, the bugler starts to play ‘Taps.’ I stand in honor of my friend, looking at the casket his torn body is laying in.
I lower my head as the Honor Guard precisely folds the flag. It’s brought to Mary. He offers her the flag and quietly says, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
Tears flow down her cheeks and silently drop on the crisply folded flag. Her heart is breaking, just as much as mine. The Chaplain shakes Mary’s hand, and speaks briefly to me. She carries the flag and starts walking back toward the car. I can’t leave, I let him down once. I have to make sure he’s taken care of now.
I quietly walk over the bier and lay down at my master’s head. I watch them lower him into the ground and cover his casket with dirt. I lay back down waiting for my orders.
The crowd starts to dissipate. The Chaplain returns, he pets my head, “Your duty is complete. Come on Sammy; let’s get you home with Mary.”
****“The capability they (Military Working Dogs) bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory. Our Army (and military) would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource.”
- GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS, USA******