Amid the din of sound, someone whispered that Forward Operating Base (FOB) Delta (Al Kut, Iraq) was on a communications blackout. I was told this quickly because I was important. I had the clearance to know that before most of the soldiers did. But being civilian, new to this war, I remained a lost tourist.
A young soldier was just killed by a sniper a few hours earlier on a mission from the place I was just arriving. It was twilight, almost dark. Another Chinook landed just behind us a minute or two behind ours. They were ready for his body, but I didn't have a clue. The Chinook set down right next to us just as the giant ramp was lowered from our bird. We all filed out.
An honor guard had assembled near the other bird on the eerie, dark tarmac. The soldiers had not yet come to attention; had they been, perhaps the lost tourist might have noticed in the hazy and gas-fumed desert night. I arrived just on time, to a place at the edge of eternal darkness, the darkness of quiet despair. As history has it, not one other American serviceman was killed in Iraq that month, December, 2010. But that day, that night, the war penetrated the wire inside which I landed. Giant Goosebumps in armor, I was.
Private First Class David Dustin Finch was 24. He married just before he deployed, and he was very well liked there, I found out. I’m still not sure if a child was in his future, but one of his friends told me that he thought his wife was pregnant. I thought about that a lot, and I went to his memorial service a few days later. The sprawling DFAC (mess hall) was jammed with soldiers and civilians alike. The service was somber, graceful and true, and I tried as hard as I knew how to pray for David, and his wife, and myself too.
I had finally arrived in my new home, Iraq. I sometimes think of David still, though I never knew him. If there really are heroes and Great Spirits, surely David must be among them. RIP, David.