Private Figueroa’s face and the right side of his body is covered in bulbous red warts. He can only moan through gritted teeth, turning over to his left side and trying to plead with me through his one good eye.
As I approach, I see the way his skin is beginning to peel. Deep cracks in the surface reveal raw, crimson flesh. The little I can see of his one good eye is white and bloodshot. A section of his jaw has been torn off, spilling blood across the dark ground like it was lava from a volcano.
I get to his side as he takes his last breath. I gently grab his hand and watch his eye close.
Yet another pulse stopped beneath my fingers.
His tough skin burns beneath mine. I squeeze his hand one last time, saying farewell to my mentor.
I move on to the next person: Private Leonard. He only had small cuts and bruises, which I clean and bandaged just like the rest of the troop. Sergeant Major Peters joins me as a medic, then stands back and looks at each of us one at a time.
We must have resembled a row of mangled action figures ready for the garbage truck.