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In Memory

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
August 4, 2006

In memory of a fallen soldier

On Friday, July 14, 2006, while I was sitting in a newsroom pecking away at a keyboard, my friend Brooke Wood was dying.

Brooke and I were good friends through all of our high school days. He was in R.O.T.C., and talked about becoming a soldier all the time. I was in journalism, and talked about becoming a professional writer all the time. We were on two very different paths, but that never stopped us from being friends. Even when we had fights over girls, it was just water under the bridge.

I remember my graduation night like it was just yesterday. Brooke and I practically walked the stage together, given both our last names start with the same letter. He told me after we sat back down, having turned our tassels, that he had joined up. That night, he said, would be his last in town, at least for a few years.

After the ceremony, Brooke and I went to his church, just down the street. We were both living in a rather small town, so even though I did not frequent this particular house of worship, pretty much everyone there knew me anyway. They were having a going away party for him. While he was social with all the well-wishers, I just sat quietly in the back of the sanctuary, wondering what other radical changes were coming down the pipeline. We drank Red Bull and stayed out all night, putzing around. We had a good time, and then I said goodbye.

I never saw him again.

He joined the Army and became a demolitions expert. If it could explode, Brooke wanted to play with it. It was just in his nature, I guess. He worked with all kinds of various munitions; even Depleted Uranium. Especially Depleted Uranium. What with the Army dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into new DU bombs, and refusing to research the long-term effects of DU poisoning, maybe Brooke was in over his head.

Fact of the matter is, Depleted Uranium is more deadly than Agent Orange. Millions of people have been exposed, and a vast majority suffers because of it. Many die. It causes tumors, birth defects, infections, nervous system disorders and brain damage, to name a few. Some who are poisoned do not know it, and pass on mutated, irradiated DNA to their children who are born terrifying effigies of nature run afoul. But, it is the best of the best. A single DU-tipped bullet can cut through tank armor like butter. It is one of the most powerful weapons in the Army’s arsenal.

And when I think about it, he probably knew all those things and simply did not care. He was like that: a big fan of overwhelming force; the next few generations be damned.

Brooke served his country with pride. Hell, he probably had some fun too. He was a man that Stomped on the Terra. I’d bet Dollars to Dinars that those insurgents never saw what was coming. One minute, they’re planting a roadside bomb. Then … Well, let’s just say he had a sharp eye. He almost went to sniper school.

He returned from his third tour in Iraq this past February, unbeknownst to me. From what my friends tell me, he was just fine. He had changed a lot from being in the sand trap, in the shit, right there, in the thick of the fighting. He wasn’t a high school punk anymore. He was a soldier, and damn proud of it. We both broke into the careers we love; him with his bombs, and me with my words.

According to a few accounts, he was just fine on Tuesday, the 11th. He was partying with friends, downing beers like only a military man can, laughing out loud and having a good time. All the sudden, he fell ill. It came out of nowhere, practically. A brain infection. Tumors. Hemorrhaging. Headaches. Uncontrollable shaking. No energy. And like a bullet taking the short trip down a hot barrel, he died just days after it was discovered. His brain was so swollen that doctors induced a coma. The pain was too great.

I was told about his death by an old friend who I talk to on MySpace.com. She asked me if I remembered him. Like I could forget. I found out he was engaged to a girl named Sarah. And he had a kid on the way. It is a boy, due next March. She found out about the pregnancy just three days after he died.

Was my friend Brooke one of many victims of Depleted Uranium poisoning? That is the question that is weighing heavily on my mind right now. I do not know, but it seems likely. Though I have not seen him in years, when I heard he died, the memories came flooding back. I remember it all, perhaps too clearly.

From the deserts of Iraq to the green fields of Brenham, Charles Brook Wood’s passing will be lamented for years to come. He was my friend. He was a soldier. He placed his faith in the barrel of a gun, the trigger of a bomb and the policy of a King.

The Sand Trap couldn’t kill him. He was too strong for that. But the stink of it ... That’s what did him in.

Pray for his son, that he may not suffer the horrifying effects of Depleted Uranium upon his birth.

I have missed my friend, all these years. Now, I will miss him forevermore.

Charles Brooke Wood
1983 - 2006

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