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I shouldn't really call you "kid" today. But I do so out of affection. According to the law, you stopped being one of those two years ago when you were eighteen. The year before that, you sat in the second row, the second seat. You had a USMC bumper sticker on your Trapper notebook. If I recall correctly, you committed to the "Few Good Men" via their early enlistment program. I remember your telling me that your ASVAB (Armed Services/Vocational Aptitude Battery) scores were high. You were proud. Your hair was buzzed close. You got the normal dose of disapprobation from some of the school's fringe groups because you were emulating a military "do," not the shaved head of some rock star.

You didn't particularly like school. You got your C's and saw school as a hoop to jump through before starting your career. You had a couple of fights, but those fights are now but the tiniest blip on the Fight Screen of Man. The fighting you were engaged in during the last several days was the kind for which you don't go to the discipline office. The Kid Stuff is over. There's no suspension. You fight, you may get your ass whipped, but you stay and fight some more. It's expected. Your parents don't get called. If they do get called, it's likely because you did get suspended. Permanently. From the Living. Your parents got that call.

So when I drove past the high school today, I saw the lowered flag. How blackly ironic that at least one of your fights occurred near that very flagpole. It's spring break now, but the office staff had heard. As I watched the news from our capital city tonight, I then heard you were KIA and saw your picture. You were killed in southern Iraq. You were twenty years old. Sickened, I pushed my food away.

We did have our issues at times: your barely audible profanity when you got a test back from me; your sporadic omissions of bringing your book to class; your taking 10 minutes to go to the attendance office the day you got your fourth tardy. When your superiors took attendance a few days ago, you were once again missing, this time never to show up again.

How BIG all this was just a few short years ago; how totally insignificant now. Like I said at the top, good-by, kid.

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