Goodbye Mother

“Over the top! Over the top!” The cry rises from our trench as the men in my company scramble up the ladders and into no-man’s land. Artillery shells scream by overhead bombarding the Jerrys. We dodge through the barbed wire protecting our trench, and begin our run through two hundred yards of fog, smoke, and death. Ahead of me, I head hear the rattling of the MG-08s as they open up when the first of us enter range. Bullets whizz around me through the air, flies feasting on the living rather than the dead. Men all around me are dropping, their bodies sliding to a final rest on the muddy ground. Gunshots ring out as soldiers return fire into the machine gun nests. Suddenly the gun stops and we realize it is time. As we near the opposing trench, we lob grenades before dropping down onto the awaiting Jerrys, if there are any left after the barrage. I stop at the edge of the trench and look down. On my right, a Jerry shoots at the soldiers charging him. He is so young, probably only 19 or so. In his peripheral vision, he spots me and, with a pause, raises his gun. Reflexively, I pull the trigger hitting him the chest. With a surprised look on his face, he whispers something and crumples to the ground. Meeting up with the remnants of my platoon, we head out to clear the rest of the trench. As we turn a corner, a crack rings out and the lead man drops. We fall back to set up a perimeter in our captured trench. A couple of minutes pass and I can hear Jerrys calling out to each other as they advance through the trenches for a counter-attack. Someone shouts, “Handgranate!” and a stick grenade flies end over end towards us. Time seems to slow. Those around me scream, “Grenade!” and duck for cover, but I do not hear them. I know what I must do. As it settles on the soft earth beneath us, I drop to my knees and whisper with my last breath, “Goodbye mother.”

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