Andrew Klavan: 'Five Days at the End of the World'
After five days in Nuristan, I began the trek home. A circuitous six-hour chopper ride returned me to Bagram, where I waited days to catch a C-17 back to Kuwait.
Bagram’s an enormous base, a slapdash city of thousands. I stayed there in a spartan but private cubicle in the “Hotel California,” the hut for journalists. I was lying on my cot one night when I heard an announcement over the loudspeakers outside: at midnight, there would be a Fallen Comrade Ceremony to honor a soldier recently killed in theater.
I wandered out into the muggy darkness and saw a ghostly sight. Soldiers wearing yellow-green reflector straps over their uniforms drifted out of the misty darkness from every direction. They began to line up beside the main road. Soon, they were standing along the curb as far as the eye could see.
At midnight, a Humvee pulled out of a driveway across the street. It carried a flag-draped coffin bound for transport home. Flanked by two trucks, it began its journey across the airfield. The soldiers saluted. I put my hand over my heart. The Humvee passed slowly by.
When it was gone, the soldiers silently dispersed, the glowing green stripes of their reflectors fading, and finally vanishing, into the mist.