The soldier’s messages back to his wife, Diana, father, stepmother and five siblings alternated between gruesome details of the horror of battle - a dog dragging away a corpse’s head, a body identified only by its shoes because nothing else remained, trucks awash with blood and guts - and tender remembrances of home.
He called Diana frequently and sent her love poems.
“He’d ask me to pray for him and his soldiers,” she said. “He said, `I hope you won’t look at me differently for the things I had to do.’ I told him, `Don’t stop and think, just do what you have to.”’
And sometimes, those things were terrible.
He pulled a comrade from a Stryker whose legs stayed behind in the wrecked armored vehicle. He killed at least eight men. He’d smelled the stink of death before and ducked bullets as an emergency medical technician in Compton, but he was profoundly affected by the war.