A dog barked in the distance as the sun dropped from the horizon, the dull thud of rotor blades mixed in with the echoes of a distant firefight.
Matt had received a large amount of morphine and showed clear signs of shock. The medevac helicopter -- call sign "Dustoff" -- was fifteen minutes away.
The corpsman told me to keep him awake until the helicopter arrived.
"Dustoff is inbound, keep him awake." It was my six-word war.
Whether it's sitting across the table from your mother and articulating what combat has done to her son or putting pen to paper, the desire to explain is always there. Our generation has failed to yet write its definitive account and so the six-word war finds its place in the margins somewhere between a Facebook post and a manuscript.
The stories I've read run the gamut between arresting and hilarious. Some themes cling to that residue of combat, that bad taste left in your mouth after the smell of cordite clears and the only evidence of a struggle are a few bloody bandages blowing aimlessly around a landing zone.
Loss, grief, fear, and doubt. Themes Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen monopolized to define the "lost generation" of World War I veterans are instead being chronicled and disseminated in the twenty-first century by the everyman.
The people submitting these stories do not all call themselves writers. They're veterans with folksy descriptions like "regular guy" and "just another American," and like moths to the flame are flocking to Tumblr and Twitter to tell their stories.
"'Merica solution to a Pashtun problem."
"We came, we saw, we misconquered."
"Built expensive gym just before withdrawal."
"Returned. Son didn't recognize me anymore."
The stories resonate with their fellow combatants and with civilians alike. Journalists like Rajivv Chandrasakaran and Hannah Allam have taken up the hashtag #sixwordwar as well, succinctly chronicling their perspective.
It is the human element so desperately harvested in news clips and documentaries. Here it is, served from the primary source in six digestible words.
They are quickly becoming our own epitaphs. We have no national monuments erected for our war on terror, like those strewn across the battlefields of France. No poet has yet arisen from our generation to pen a "Dulce et Decorum est." We do not know how history will remember us. For now, all we have are photos on hard drives and steel bracelets venerating the dead.
In the age of Twitter, where 140 characters are redefining how we consume nonfiction, the six-word war matters. Together the stories weave a new perspective of how my generation defines the war and warrior. A generation that is painstakingly aware of its place in the world and the consequences of its actions.
As I crafted stories over the course of a glorious Sunday on Lake Tahoe, my girlfriend, who hadn't spoken since I began muttering to myself, looked at me and said: