[This is a re-post of “Between the Lines” from my old blog, 12 June 2007.]
It’s practically a form notice. I’m sure that there’s a MS Word template somewhere with places to fill in the names and units.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Pfc. Kevin F. Edgin, 31, of Dyersburg, Tenn., died on July 6 in Baghran Valley, Afghanistan, when his convoy encountered enemy small arms fire. Edgin was assigned to the Army’s 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
His convoy encountered enemy small arms fire. Vague. Sounds like they were just driving around and came across some gang bangers or something.
I didn’t know Kevin Edgin. I never met him. But like another fallen soldier I never met, I know a bit about him. I know his friends called him “Big Edge.” I know he liked to play sports games on the PlayStation 2 with his buddies, and that he wasn’t very good at it. I know that he was a mortarman. I know these few things because I was standing in the back row of the formation a few days after he died, listening to his friends tell Big Edge stories through their tears.
I know that the convoy had driven 80 kilometers in greater than company strength to provide perimeter security for four Chinook helicopters flying in to recover a company (with National Guard/Navy attachments) from a long mission. I know that they drove up through a narrow switchback pass on their way up, and I know that there was no alternate route from that valley. I know that there was no happier soldier climbing onto one of those choppers than the guy typing this sentence. I know that we were all worried about the convoy driving home again.
I know that they moved out under cover of night, when our night vision capabilities give us a gross advantage over the enemy. I know that they became engaged in an intense 45-minute firefight with an unknown (but large) quantity of enemy forces firing down from the high ground on either side of the switchbacks. I know that CPL Edgin was a turret gunner, and when his weapon jammed, he engaged the enemy with his M4. When thatweapon jammed, he swapped with another soldier and continued to engage the enemy.
I know that CPL Edgin was hit by small arms fire; the blow knocked him down into the turret. He recovered, realized that he was unhurt, and got back into the turret and continued to engage the enemy. And I know that he was hit again, bled fiercely, and died in the arms of his friends. I know that he was the only casualty of the fighting that day from the entire convoy.
I know these things from his friends and chain of command at the subsequent memorial ceremony; I wasn’t there, and I never met him. He wasn’t my good friend. I loathe sports games and don’t have much of anything in common with Kevin Edgin; we probably wouldn’t have been best friends even if we lived next door. But I know him more than the anonymous writer of that DoD news release, and Corporal Edgin deserves more than “his convoy encountered enemy small arms fire.”