When Your Next Step Could Be Your Last

by Matthew Sitman

Byliner has unlocked Brian Mockenhaupt’s The Living and the Dead: War, Friendship, and the Battles That Never End for Memorial Day, which follows three soldiers in Afghanistan – Tom, Ian, and Jimmy – and the way battle shapes their lives. Here’s a glimpse of the gripping story Mockenhaupt tells:

With the mine detector, his rifle, ammunition, grenades, body armor and helmet, two radios, the bomb jammer, water, and medical supplies, Ian carried close to 90 pounds, more than any other Marine in the patrol.

He could handle the load: at five foot seven, he had weighed 150 pounds when he entered the Marines in 2007, but he had since bulked up to 205. He figured carrying extra weight would increase the patrol’s overall effectiveness—a weaker and overloaded Marine falling behind put everyone at risk. Besides, that way other Marines couldn’t complain about their lighter loads, or not being able jump across canals with the awkward weight.

Ian turned south, onto a tree-lined road that split two muddy fields. In a month the fields would be thick with waist-high poppy plants.

Tick tock.

Fifty yards up, the road crossed a canal just in front of a large, high-walled compound to the left.

“Muller,” Tom said, “slow it up a bit.” The patrol had stretched out after the Afghan soldiers, farther back, stopped to question a farmer. Tom and Matt picked up their pace and closed the distance with Ian, who worked the mine detector back and forth.

Tick tock.

Holly sniffed the air, five feet behind Ian, as he stepped onto the dirt bridge that spanned the canal.

Tick tock.


Matt still can’t figure out how Holly wasn’t killed.

For the rest of the holiday weekend, you can read the rest here. Purchase The Living and the Dead as a Kindle Single here.