At that moment, I was in the midst of writing an angry—definitely hopeless—stream-of-consciousness screed, which topped out at some 8,000 words, to my sociopathic squadron commander. My verbose, yet well-argued, treatise expressed my opposition to his next planned assault (with my unit in the lead) into yet another remote, abandoned, booby-trap-riddled village. I was by then obsessed with protecting my troopers from needless death or maiming. Mid-sentence, one of my subordinate lieutenants rushed into the office to remind me: "Sir, you have to give a memorial address in like 30 minutes!" Shaken out of my trance, I remembered (had I really forgotten?) that it was almost time to give my obligatory speech in remembrance of one of my young soldiers, blown to pieces just days before.
I hid my surprise, assured the lieutenant I'd be ready soon, and pulled out a 5″ x 7″ index card to hastily jot down some bullet notes for my impending address. Normally, I thrive in public speaking, but suddenly I drew a frightful blank. I don't know anything about this kid, I realized. He was young, new to the unit, and—though I'd heard glowing reports on his discipline and work ethic—I couldn't conjure a single personal detail about, or one-on-one interaction with, him. Maybe a better officer would have.