The Germans are close now. I haven’t slept in days. I don’t know how many. Tired. So tired.
There was a lull in the shelling and Branson left the foxhole after midnight for the latrine and a mortar round landed not five feet from him. Blew his left leg off below the knee and into the foxhole, his boot still on the damn thing and him out there in the mud screaming his head off. Was the worst sound I have ever heard. He kept pleading to die. Just kept on in the dark until at last he was quiet. They carried him away. One of them came for his leg.
I am sick of this damn war. Still can’t sleep. I shut my eyes but I know they are out there, beyond the woods and the deep canyon. Bill Rhine says the river might be frozen enough for them to cross it. His great grandparents came from Germany. A good guy, Rhine. Hell of a thing to be here fighting against your own kin.
If I could just sleep.
Weather has turned colder. One of the men in the next foxhole froze to death last night. I crawled over on my belly to see him sitting there, his back against the dug out earth, eyes closed, the corners of his mouth turned up. He looked so serene, like a sleeping child, like my little boy back home. I bent over and kissed his forehead. His cold skin against my lips made me shudder, but I held his shoulders until it passed. I wouldn’t turn away from him until it stopped, to honor his sacrifice. I just kept looking into his face and wondering what he saw in those final moments.
We hear their tanks and trucks in the woods now, just over the hills. They are likely digging in. Major Stilton says the Brits are sweeping them our way and it is up to us to finish this. When will it ever be finished?
When I close my eyes I see Mahoney’s face, the guy who froze to death, his pale blue face, so peaceful, so quiet. I took his pinky ring – not to steal it. Not sure why I did it. No. That’s not true. I felt like I needed to hold on to him, to carry something he had. Something about his face, like he had seen the face of God – I wanted to … more shelling. Lights out.
Another bitterly cold night. The water in my canteen is frozen. I can’t feel my toes. We are huddled together but it provides little relief. The guys smell like cigarettes, metal, and onions. I can’t remember the last time we had a shower. Major Stilton told us we move tomorrow after a pre-dawn airstrike on the German positions. I wonder about them shivering in their foxholes, tired and cold.
Overhead, a few thin clouds drift below a sea of sparkling white in a blanket of deep blue. I’ve never seen the stars so bright, so majestic. My breathing is slow. All around me I hear nothing. I am at peace – like I am looking into the eyes of God.