So the setting is basic training Feb 2016 at Fort Jackson, on family day. Everything was going exactly like we planned, had a great day with our families and were more than ready for graduation. Even the holdovers got to go all over post and eat civilian food, all that good shit. We got back to battalion at around 1915, curfew was 1930, and as soon as the company was formed up on the drill pad we filed into one of the classrooms. By now we knew something was off, this wasn’t part of the schedule.
As we’re heading through the building towards our classroom we pass the C company classroom and we see several privates talking to chaplains individually and crying. Not just crying but audibly sobbing. Another red flag but we hadn’t put anything together. So we just got into the classroom and took our seats.
Then the company commander walks in and we settled in for another worthless “pep talk” from him. He tells us that we’ve had a good day and he knows we’re in a good mood but he’s got bad news. We figured somebody fucked up and left post and we were about to get smoked or something but we were wrong.
Turns out one of the holdovers from another company who wasn’t graduating had hung himself from the stairs with his belt. Commander took probably 15 minutes to sugar coat this and finally get it out but it still hit me pretty hard. I’ve had a gun to my head and it’s a pretty dark fucking place that I don’t want to remember. We file out of the classroom and form up on the drill pad and are at attention and dead silent.
DS tells us we’ve got two hours for POV to pack our shit since we won’t be coming back to battalion after graduation tomorrow, then lights out.
I’m a Catholic and I try to be a good one so once we get up to the bay I tell my battles that I was gonna say a rosary for the kid and anyone was welcome to join. So after lights out we all grab our flashlights and I sit in the center of the killzone and hand out the rosaries I had been collecting for no particular reason that they hand out on Sundays at mass and I grab my personal rosary and I teach them how to pray with them and I lead us in prayer.
After each set I give a small speech about different things, maybe how this is the one time that the drill sergeants show us some sympathy, because they know what it’s like to lose a battle buddy. Or how close I got to doing that. At the end I tell the story of losing a friend in a car accident, and went off on a tangent for probably five or ten minutes about what that loss did to our soccer team and his family.
I was crying by the end of it and it turned into us going around in the circle talking about all the people we’ve lost in our lives. Rosary usually takes about 20 minutes and we didn’t break the circle till almost 0100, I don’t even know your name and I’ve never met you private but losing you brought me closer to my battle buddies than my drill sergeants ever hoped.
Rest easy friend.