An Officer Reflects On Escorting Home The Body Of One Of His Marines

The Long March
U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Elijah Abernathy

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An article by Capt. Brian Worley in the June issue of the Marine Corps Gazette has the quality of good fiction. FWIW, the Marine had been killed by a drunk driver, not in combat, and Worley had spent days in the hospital as the family arrived to say goodbye and the comatose patient was disconnected.

After delivering the corpse to a funeral home in Grove City, Ohio, he finds a bar:

Over dinner, I replay events from my own life. I second-guess my choices. I think about my family. The bartender is curious about me. I’m from a small town; I know it’s easy to spot outsiders. She asks me why I look sad. “Because I’m sad, today.” She asks what will help. “Time.” They let me sit in peace. The beer is good; it helps my mind wander, and after a few hours, I get a taxi. I gather myself and ask for the bill.

“It’s been taken care of,” she says. I ask what she’s talking about, and she says, “We know why you’re here. Thank you for what you did.” I don’t know what to say. I just start tearing up because I’m exhausted and buzzed and overwhelmed by the gesture. “We know why you’re here.” I’ve said ‘thank you’ a million times, but I have never meant it the way I say it now: “Thank you. Thank you for letting me sit here all night. I didn’t know what else to do.” She knew the whole time. I hold it together until I get back to my room. This is the first time in my career I’ve felt appreciated because it is the first time I feel I have done something worth appreciating. It is staggeringly cathartic.

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