It was easy to get a beer after the war. I'd walk into a bar, order a pint and wait. My skin had been scorched chocolate brown by six months of Middle-Eastern Sun.
Sooner or later someone would comment on it. 'Nice holiday mate' was the usual opening gambit 'Been anywhere nice?'
It became easier to say the word 'Iraq' and I soon learned to ignore the wide eyes that followed my saying it. Without any further words a pint or a short would appear in front of me. 'Legend' 'Have one on me' 'Top job mate' These were the words accompanying the free drink.
My new found friend would then dance around the question they needed answering. We'd discuss tactics, Muslims, beer and women. Then they'd ask. 'Did you kill anyone?'
It was then I'd go back to Iraq.
I would once again be looking at 3 dead soldiers. Twisted, burnt, fucked up and dead. Very dead.
I spoke to my friend and told him to check the dead bodies lying still in the heat.
'What the fuck for?' he replied...
'Make sure they're dead' I said.
7 or 8 shots then rang out. I'd turned my back on the man I'd known since I was 16 and he'd fired his weapon.
'What the fuck are you doing?' I shouted.
'They're dead' he replied.
The rest of that day collapsed into insanity. We found more enemy dead. We searched their stiff lifeless bodies. Hating them for getting killed. Hating the Army for killing them. Hating ourselves for being there.
I looked through a cameras shutter. In front of it was a dead Iraqi. His chest had collapsed under the weight of fire that had claimed his life. Next to him was my friend. My smiling friend. My smiling friend a dead soldier and some cigarettes. I squeezed my trigger finger and the insanity was captured onto a 110 film.
I sat and stared at another human beings brain on that day. it had fallen out of his skull intact. I traced my finger over the grey lumps that had been his life, his memories, his entire existence. I felt nothing.
Did I kill anyone. Yes I did. We all did. Then we came home...