Whenever a US soldier is killed, we have to disable our non-secure internet connections and inform our subscribers of the outage. (Phone calls to the United States are also restricted, but that’s above our pay grade, as it were.) Two days ago, our node center called to inform us that soldiers had been killed, so we took appropriate action. SGT Boner went to the TOC that we support, telling them that “the internet’s going to be out because I guess some guys got killed.” Imagine his sheepish retreat, then, when they responded to the effect of: “Yeah, we know. They were ours.”
The two soldiers killed two days ago by “sniper” fire were from the unit we’re supporting. (I use scare quotes because such attacks are rarely from a sniper in the classic definition of the term; rather, they’re lucky shots, drive-by shootings, or a few long shots from concealment before running away.) We talked to their commo guy about it; he didn’t know the men personally but he knew their names. I don’t think either one was old enough to drink in the United States. There wasn’t much we could say, just shake our heads and stew in brief awkward silence.
Even so – with two men dead that I might’ve seen at the DFAC choking down a cold hamburger, or at the internet room, talking with girlfriends or buddies or parents – our generator still hummed; the RAU and the LOS still sat, compiling and transmitting all those electrons that somehow turn into words and sounds and pictures; and we continued to read and eat and play Xbox and computer games, just like it was another day. How can one be so close to death and not even feel it?