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By Patricia McCormick

When inner most Matt Duffy wakes up in a military clinic in Iraq, he is commemorated with a red center. yet he does not suppose like a hero.

There's a reminiscence that haunts him: a picture of a tender Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt cannot shake the sensation that he was once by some means interested in his dying. yet as a result of a head harm he sustained simply moments after the boy was once shot, Matt cannot fairly positioned all the things together.

Eventually Matt is shipped again into wrestle together with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the squaddies who've turn into his relations in the course of his time in Iraq. He simply desires to return to being the soldier he as soon as used to be. yet he sees strength threats all over and lives in worry of no longer having the ability to pull the set off while the time comes. In strive against there is not any black-and-white, and Matt quickly discovers that the thought of who's in charge is especially complex indeed.

National publication Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of lifestyles in a battle sector, the place loyalty is valued in particular, and dying is terrifyingly commonplace.

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Matt nodded as though he understood. the opposite man seemed him over head to toe, looked as if it would decide approximately him, then caught out his hand. “Francis. ” Matt nodded back, no longer particularly definite what to do subsequent. “How ’bout you? ” Francis acknowledged. “You obtained a reputation? ” “Duffy,” he acknowledged. “Matt. ” Francis closed his laptop partway, maintaining his finger within on the web page the place he’d been writing, and gestured for Matt to take a seat. at the back of him, on his pillow, was once a crammed animal—a tattered leave out Piggy doll. Francis driven omit Piggy apart to make room. “It’s my daughter’s,” he acknowledged. “She’s 5. ” Matt eased himself onto the sting of the mattress, stunned via how a lot a reduction it was once to sit. Francis used to be donning a grey military T-shirt and black basketball shorts like the ones Nurse McCrae had given Matt. There didn’t appear to be a scratch anyplace on him. “Yup,” Francis stated. “Absolutely not anything improper with me. ” Matt didn’t comprehend what to claim. Francis tapped his temple together with his finger. “Head case,” he acknowledged. Matt felt himself pull again ever so a bit. If Francis spotted, he didn’t allow on. “So what brings you the following, Duffy Matt? ” Matt frowned. He couldn’t be mindful the identify of the object that occurred to his mind. It used to be 3 initials. “My mind received shook up,” he stated eventually. Francis nodded. “IED? ” Matt shook his head. It wasn’t an IED. He knew what that used to be: an improvised explosive equipment. A roadside bomb. Sergeant Benson, their first squad chief, were killed through an IED. Tore his left leg off. whereas the remainder of the squad lined the physique with a blue plastic tarp, Justin had taken off on his personal. They have been consistently speculated to commute in pairs and it used to be usual working method to stay jointly after an assault, to establish a line of defense in case there has been a moment assault. yet Justin had stormed off to a close-by tea store to invite questions. He got here again, pushing an previous guy in entrance of him, his M16 pressed into the man’s again. “I came across this on him,” Justin had stated, tossing a mobile phone into the dust. The insurgents frequently used cell-phone signs to detonate bombs, however the previous guy didn’t have the difficult, defiant glance of an enemy fighter. He used to be crying and plucking at his beard; Matt might see he’d rainy his pants. The previous guy fell to his knees and began kissing Justin’s boots. As Justin stared on the guy huddled at his toes, his expression replaced slowly from disbelief to disgust. Justin was once approximately to kick the fellow, Matt learned. with no considering, Matt had thrown himself among Justin and the outdated guy, taking Justin to the floor in a flying take on. the 2 of them wrestled round within the airborne dirt and dust, throwing livid, clumsy punches at one another until eventually, ultimately, Matt had him pinned. “I recognize you liked Benson,” Matt stated. “And i do know you’re pissed. yet this isn’t the time to do whatever silly. ” That evening the squad had needed to sleep at the ground of an Iraqi domestic, huddled jointly to stick hot. Matt awakened in the course of the evening to discover Justin protecting him with a skinny blanket he should have came upon someplace in the home.

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