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Soldier of Misfortune: Jonathon Coté's Life Counted, Even if He's Left Out of the Body Count in Iraq

Sometimes he would say it didn't really matter if something happened to him, because he didn't have a wife, or kids, or anyone he was responsible for. I don't think he ever totally believed that; it was one of those things you say to help you make sense of how you feel at the time. He didn't say it this time.

Instead, he said that he'd been thinking about returning home, and that now he'd decided to do it. He said he'd go back to school in the spring, this time with a different major and a plan.

"I think maybe I'd like to be a trainer, you know, like an athletic trainer for a college team," he said. "Something outdoors."

Coté told his family and friends he was coming home, and left a message on his cellphone in the United States. He asked his fraternity brothers in Gainesville to reserve a room for him for the spring semester. He called a friend, Shiva Hafezi, and asked if she c ould pick him up at the airport.

The night before I left Kuwait, I decided to shoot some video of Coté. He sat on his bed in his room, leaning against the wall in a black T-shirt with an orange alligator and the words "University of Florida Blood Donor."

Suddenly I noticed the shadows on the wall behind him.

"You know, I'm looking at the shadows on your back, and it looks like you have wings," I said.

"No, it doesn't," he said.

"Yeah, it does, kind of," I said, laughing.

Coté turned his head to look, but of course then the shadows moved, so he didn't see them.

A Story on the Wires

My father died of cancer while I was on my way home from Iraq.

A few days later, my brother and I cleaned out his apartment in Petaluma, Calif. As I drove home, drained and numb, I turned on my cellphone. There were urgent messages asking me to call the office.

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