(photo: Rick Wood, 2011)
He had a “thousand-yard stare.” The 25-year-old sergeant sat across from me, picking at his food but mostly watching over his men. The back of the Stryker vehicle had the ramp down and his squad congregated inside to play an impromptu game of Spades.

I watched the young NCO as I sat in the passenger’s seat of an up-armored Humvee.  He was with the “Outlaws” platoon, 1-17TH Infantry and a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.  Everything about him screamed “Grunt.” He still looked young but there were the telltale signs. His face had the trace of some scarring, made more visible after a day on patrol when the dust and sweat mixed to spackle the contours. Generally, he was soft-spoken and a bit aloof. Don’t get me wrong, one well-placed, admonishing look from him would stop his troops cold.  

I was there because I was a journalist covering the military and had spent two days embedded with the unit. During that time he’d said very little to me…and still, he’s the Soldier I remember the most.

The 25-year-old with the “thousand-yard stare.”


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