Corporal Molly Monroe
She sat on the hill with Ramirez, overlooking the Airboss tent. The desert stretched for miles across an endless horizon. The orange glow of the sun peeked over the sea of sand and sent violet and crimson streaks into the fading night sky. It reminded her of another time, when the sea was ocean instead of sand—when love rekindled and then withered again. She marveled at the natural beauty of a place that was so perilous.
“Thanks for coming with me,” Ramirez said.
“Of course. I’m glad you brought me along,” Monroe said. “Will they be here soon?”
“Any minute. I prepared the last one for this flight a couple hours ago.”
“I can’t imagine having your job, Ramirez. Does it ever get to you?”
“I try to detach myself. You know how that goes. But sometimes, they look so young. I can’t help thinking about my kid brother. I can’t help imagining what their families are going through. Sometimes, it starts to feel like I know them.”
Two Humvees approached the flight line and parked; the Marines inside waited for their cue.
The CH-53 helicopter roared to life, the rotating blades sending desert dust particles funneling around the gray bird. The Marines exited their vehicles and pulled the large black bag out of the back. Placing it on a field-expedient stretcher, they somberly carried their brother up the ramp, into the belly of the bird. They showed no sense of urgency, as they repeated the slow procession from the Humvee to the helo two more times. On their final trip out of the helicopter, the Marines formed a line from a distance. As the bird began ascent of the Angel Flight, Corporal Monroe and Lance Corporal Ramirez stood and joined their fellow warriors in a final salute.