In 2010 my rifle squad was finishing a patrol through southern Marjah, Afghanistan. With the temperature rising that May, sweat covered us as we passed through fully-bloomed poppy fields ready for harvest.
It had been quiet for most of the day so we were heading back to base. But after passing our final checkpoint, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was the earth exploding in front of us.
"Contact left!" I shouted to my squad as I raised my rifle and fired back at the Taliban ambushers, attempting to suppress their fire. Others bounded across the open field toward them.
It was over within minutes. By the time we got to their position, all that was left was an abandoned shooting platform. Like ghosts, the Taliban was gone.
My time in Afghanistan is long behind me now, but in spring I always tend to see, hear, and smell my war, and I fear I always will. People always ask me what things remind me of war. Is it loud noises? Lights?
Paradoxically, it is the radiant light of a spring day glistening on my skin. It releases feelings of regret and remorse entangled in my soul that only find respite in shadows hidden from the sun's golden rays.