33, Alexandria, analyst at the Department of Veterans Affairs
Garrison and I would fight the Iraq war over a burger and beer. We were West Point seniors in 2004 as the insurgency in Iraq intensified. We eyed the television screen above the bar with somber interest, visually inheriting the images of looting, roadside bombs and Abu Ghraib.
Occasionally, we would jot our thoughts on a napkin. Things like setting up arcades to get Iraqi kids off the streets, or implementing a small jobs program, a “New Deal” for Iraq. Nothing novel, yet I treasured exchanging ideas with him.
Garrison was two years younger than I, but I looked up to him as the embodiment of every soldierly quality. He walked and spoke softly with a strength and dignity that could come from nowhere else but Nebraska.
He and I would both go to Iraq. I came back.
Months after his death, his widow was going through their strongbox. Amid the birth certificates and mortgage documents was a neatly folded napkin with scribblings of arcades and small jobs programs.
Kayla mailed it to me, and as I read her note, tears fell down my cheeks. Garrison had neither thrown the napkin in a drawer nor tossed it during a move. He had protected it.
Today that napkin rests in a simple frame next to a photograph of Garrison and me beaming on graduation day.
Two frames from lives not yet touched by war.
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