I was a Freshman in college and life was pretty good. I was worried about silly classes, dorm room workout parties, and what was on the cafeteria menu. Then, late one night, I got a phone call from Kenny.
Kenny was a quiet boy that set next to me in Chemistry class in high school.
Kenny was with the first troops into Iraq. We watched the Saddam statues come down.
He came home and all was well for awhile. I went to college. And then, in the dorms, I got a call from Kenny. I could tell he was crying but was trying to hide it. He told me he was crossing into Iraq. The troops were making calls to families before crossing over. He never said he was scared. What he said was that in the battalion that went before them, all the soldiers with his position had been killed. Kenny was a bomb dismantler. He was with the team that went ahead of the group, spotted roadside bombs, and dismantled them before the rest of the group came. I kept wondering why he was calling me. Then he said: “I can’t get a hold of my mom. Her phone wasn’t working when I tried to call. I need you to call her and tell her I love her.”
I think my heart stopped for a minute. And I tried not to cry. “Yeah, that’s fine. Just let me know what her name and number is.” More than anything, I did not want to be Kenny’s final words to his mother.
I wished him luck and said goodbye.
I walked into the quiet, abandoned common area upstairs in the dorm. I remember looking out the window and only seeing my own reflection. And then, all I could think of were the lyrics:
“God on High. Hear my Prayer. In my need, You have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed. Bring him peace. Bring him joy. He is young. He is only a boy. You can take. You can give. Let him be. Let him live. Bring him home. Bring him home. Bring him home.”
For nearly an hour, all I could do was replay these lyrics over and over in my head. They became my prayer. And I honestly couldn’t think of any other words to pray. All I did was cry and plead in a song-lyric prayer that Kenny would come home.
I called his mom the next morning and tried to sound upbeat. “Hey… my name’s Marel. I’m friends with Kenny. Yeah. We went to high school together. Anyway, Kenny called last night. They’re crossing into Iraq today. He just wanted me to call you and tell you that he loves you. He tried to call you, but your phone wasn’t working.” I remember her saying something trivial like “dumb phone. Anyway, thanks for telling me.” And that was that. I really prayed that wasn’t the last time she heard “I love you” from her son… through me.
Kenny did come home.
Kenny returned a third time to Iraq. And when his time with the Marines was over, I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he only had the skills to become a pyrotechnic or a hit man. He went to gunsmith school. And then he joined the Army.
I say a prayer for Kenny and for all the other quiet boys that serve our country so we can enjoy our dorm room dance parties and cafeteria lunches. God on High. Hear my prayer. Bring them home.
~ Marel Stock, Anchorage, Alaska