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The Way to a Man's Heart

The Way to a Man's Heart

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Published by Jim Lounsbury
The Way to a Man's Heart is a short story about the personal cost of war, through the perspective of a surgeon performing an autopsy on a dead soldier.
The Way to a Man's Heart is a short story about the personal cost of war, through the perspective of a surgeon performing an autopsy on a dead soldier.

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Published by: Jim Lounsbury on Dec 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/29/2010

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The Way to a Man’s Heart
by Jim Lounsbury
Somehow, a four-year science degree at Monash Universityqualified me to find out why a fit, six-foot tall kid with angry hairturned up dead and naked in the Iraqi desert. Aside from theobvious reason: he was a member of the 1
st
RAR, an elite group of Australian soldiers sent to the front lines of the infamous ‘war onterror’. A Special Forces boy.I signed up as a reservist with the 4RAR Commandos to pay formy college degree, working weekends and holidays to cover schoolfees. At the time I needed the money to survive. I didn’t think of itas filing divorce papers with my jilted ideologies. When you sign upas a reservist, you never expect to be rattling on a plane towardIraq. And once you’ve gone to war, no matter what the reason, youdon’t have a leg to stand on in a political rally, whether you’vestepped on a landmine or not.All missions conducted by SOCOMD, the Command Centre forSpecial Operations in Australia, are top secret. The assignment washanded to me in person after a sideways glance in either direction -an indication I would be filing the next five days in the vault of thebrain responsible for separating action from reason or, god willing,memory. After a year in the military, a person develops a privateoffice in the mind, complete with a well-ordered filing cabinet full of manila folders, locked by superiors.In this case, a twenty one year old was dead and his family would
 The Way to a Man’s Heart
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be told he was missing in action. The letter had already been sent.Not one page of my report would be discharged to the family.Not even when a disbelieving voice called the 1
st
RAR askingwhether it could be a cruel mistake. Not twelve months later, whenthe family phone still gets answered by the second ring. Not eventhree years later when hope casts a shadow into an empty room fullof clean clothes. When you join the 1
st
RAR you sign a twenty-seven-page document that absolves all rights to be accurately representedin anything you do. Even dying.****I was flown to Baghdad airport in the cavernous cargo hold of aC-130 military transport via Singapore, vibrating across the IndianOcean to the sound of green rivets, clattering their way through theturbulence. Onboard were fifteen infantrymenand myself, waiting to see the Middle East for the first time. No in-flight movie. No food. No service. But there was plenty of legroomand time to think.The curse of science is that it calls ambitious men to learn fromeverything, even what cannot be stomached.
Hell, I didn’t evenknow the name of the young soldier I was about to cut up.
Accordingto the Army, that was irrelevant. They needed to know if he wastortured. If he had leaked any ‘Intel’.I should have said no.
 
I wanted to convince the pilot to turnaround and go back, but it was too late.
The military never goesback. They don’t turn around. In military terms, going back is
2
 
retreating... admitting wrong. Accepting defeat. Not medal worthy behaviour.
The turbulence was already working on my head, jumbling mythoughts like a half assembled puzzle; some of my reservationsmatched up, but most of them were upside down and backwards,and coming apart fast.The second I stepped onto the tarmac, my nose recoiled. Thesmell of death and burning settled like indigestion in my throat. Ontelevision, not a week ago, I watched the Prime Minister walk aroundBaghdad airport with a smile crowding out the rest of his features. There was no indication of the stench on his face.
Incredible,
Ithought,
Politicians have an arsenal of impervious faces
.
One for every occasion.
Squinting into the bleached canvas of the Middle East, I was ledto the morgue, one of the only walled structures among the tentsand convoys of the Australian command centre. It is hard torefrigerate a tent, and the large air conditioning units on the side of the building were a dead giveaway.“Where did you find him?” I asked, beginning my assessment. The female sergeant assigned to escort me returned my questionwith glazed silence.
Right, of course. Top secret.
Must have been ona Special Forces mission.I tried another angle. “
How
did you find him… other thannaked?” I pried.“I didn’t… someone found him the next day. On his back.” She
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