by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & Sendoffs & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & hat was a messed-up night," Kincheloe says. "There was a sense of finality. Up to that point, we were pretty lucky... pretty unscathed. And it wasn't just one guy -- it was all five in the Humvee."
The sudden absence of Ingram and Dahmen-Bosse, and the sudden loss of Kiser, seemed to leave the company in a vacuum. They decided to tow the Humvee back to base before removing Kiser's body. "It was not going to be pretty," Kish says. "We went to the maintenance shop and started cutting the door away."
Everything seemed to be a half step out of normal.
"There were probably 12 guys all standing around in their battle-rattle. I'll never forget it," Kish says. Abruptly, "I gave my M-4 to the sergeant major and went through the back door to help the medics and got the full effect of what happened that day."
Then came the rituals of finality. They cleaned up Kiser, checked a body bag and a casket out of supply.
"Guys began to cycle through and pay their respects," Kish says. "Guys dropped off mementos. One guy dropped off his Ranger tabs; another, his jump wings."
* * *
Turnbow had heard the news, and by morning drove to Warrior to visit his wounded soldiers. He recalls finding Dahmen-Bosse in the ER tent.
"I was looking down into this poor kid's femur. He looked up at me and says:
"I tried, sir. I tried."
"You tried to do what, Nick?"
"I tried to engage ... but my legs didn't work."
Blowing out a long breath, Turnbow adds, "That's going to stay with me the rest of my life."
But then, "He asked me for his Superman comic books."
Turns out, the comics were related to movie night. The crew had been watching Smallville when a debate began to rage about how closely the show followed the Superman story line. So Dahmen-Bosse had written his folks to send source material. The package had just arrived.
"He just had a stack delivered and didn't even have a chance to crack them open. He got those comics post-haste," Turnbow says.
"They came to me [months later] when I was in the States on convalescent leave," Dahmen-Bosse says. "The guys really tried. They weren't able to just come over to FOB Warrior -- they had a mission the next morning. You can't just stop when something like that happens."
So all day, the remaining soldiers went over the old routes, twice passing the bend where the bomb changed everything.
As soon as they got back to McHenry, they volunteered for a second-straight mission that day, escorting people to Warrior.
They arrived with the bundle of comics and their bundles of concerns but, "They missed me by about two hours," Dahmen-Bosse says. He and Ingram had been whisked away, starting a journey of 13 surgeries in five hospitals spanning three continents.
The remainder of the squad did, however, touch Kiser one last time. Before a phalanx of assembled soldiers late that night at Warrior, unit guidons snapping and everyone at silent attention, the small group slowly walked Kiser's flag-draped coffin up the back ramp of a C-130 and sent him home.
The company said farewell a few days later, as Kish wrote:
"3-May-05: The memorial service was very military. Akers played music on his violin and we had a recording of Kiser singing 'Amazing Grace' he had done a week or so before he died."
And out on the road?
"We cut those reeds down and burned them," Kish says.