I watched friends die in Afghanistan. The guilt has nearly killed me.

In Afghanistan, God and I had reached a mutual understanding. He knew I was an impostor, and I knew he knew. The realization hit me when I saw that Jake Carroll was dead. He had told me that he was scared to die at a moment when I knew death was right over our shoulders. While on patrol, my eyes were peeled because of a conversation I had overheard while on radio guard the night before. Our battalion commander had radioed in and requested to speak to the senior ranking officer on the ground. He told him that headquarters had received reliable intelligence that a suicide attack on Bravo Company was imminent. But that information was never related to First Platoon. I didn’t shut up about it as we were preparing to step off on patrol the following morning until my squad leader told me to stop being paranoid. We had heard rumors of suicide bombers in the area before. “I’m telling you, though, the B.C. sounded serious,” I said, and that’s where I left it.

At least one soldier remembered my warning in time to shoot the bomber as he approached our squad leader and shouted, “Allahu akbar!” I’m not sure what it was exactly about how the sky looked that led me to this conclusion, but it dawned on me with profound clarity as my eyes turned upward from Jake Carroll’s body: I could have stopped this attack. Had I really wanted him and the others not to die, I would have been more adamant in my warning. I convinced myself that the fact that I had split off to accompany another squad just before the explosion was proof that I saw it coming and let it play out in order to have an opportunity to shine. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted more stories for the book I planned to eventually write. I couldn’t fool God.

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