LATE EVENING APRIL 17, 2002.. THE CRIB GAME

I sat down to our nightly game of crib with my friend and fellow paratrooper under the candlelight, smoking cigarettes, laughing, and conversing of home and our families. We awaited a night range to begin so we could conduct some final training before deploying to Khost. After a few hands it came time to "kit up" and don our "battle rattle" (armor, helmet, web gear and light machine gun).  We decided to leave the game and continue it upon our return from the range so we left the board on the barrack box we were using as a table and tucked both our hands and the kitty safely away inside. An hour later I lay on the bench of a 5-ton truck staring at the clear Afghan sky, so many millions of stars, so tranquil.  A lot like being back home in rural Alberta. This tranquility ended abruptly with a loud whoosh and thunderous boom as the night lit up with a large orange ball from an explosion, 150 meters from where I lay. It was a five hundred pound laser-guided American bomb.  We had been hit by "friendly fire." I had medical training so I ran towards the area of the explosion, passing parts of bodies and equipment, hearing the screams of men wounded and in pain. My friend, my card partner, one of the closest people to me, was missing. CASEVAC helicopters came, and I assisted with loading the wounded.  I saw 3 bodies of the men who perished in the accident.  These men too were close friends. We headed back to the truck where I discovered my dear friend, my cribbage partner, my brother paratrooper. He lay dead and torn up badly from the blast. As dawn arrived I walked to my tent, sat down and looked at this game of crib. Unfinished and never to be finished.   I wept, I held my head in my hands and I cried like I never had before.  I was a 4th generation soldier and I had seen war for the first time. I was scared, I was sad. There isn't a time now that I play crib and don't remember that final game by candlelight. I miss my friend, 21 years old. Forever young.

Shaun Arnsten (Corporal, Ret’d)