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...On a Wednesday night, I finished my shift at the restaurant a little early. That was good—it meant more time for drinking. I stopped at a coworker’s apartment to toss back shots of Jack Daniel’s. Sufficiently buzzed, I drove to the Treehouse, a bar near where I was living in the Baltimore suburbs.
The bartender stood in an opposite corner of the bar chatting with a pretty girl. On the TV above him, a story flashed about a Marine who had died. I tried to read the captions, but my mind was hazy and my eyes were tired. About a year had passed since I’d come home from Iraq in 2004.
The bartender came over without a newly poured beer. He stared at me, rubbing his palms. “Hey, Dario,” he said. “This woman over here just had her husband killed in Iraq. Could you . . . .” He didn’t need to finish.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
I took the long path toward her, curving around the length of the bar. I stepped beside her and she looked at me, confused. A few of her friends were with her; they watched me, too.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m a lance corporal in the Marines. I heard about your loss. I’m here for you.” She closed her eyes. Then she dropped her head into my chest and hugged me. I had no idea what I should do.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
The Marine Corps is small. There are only a few degrees of separation between any two people who wear the olive-drab green. There was a chance I knew her husband.
“Victoria Anderson,” she said. “My husband was Lance Corporal Norm Anderson...”