"We had some good journalists," he says. "They didn't get in the way."
"That's good," I say.
"And they treated us good out there. They had concerts and everything. That was good."
"Makes it feel like home."
"Yeah," he nods. "That's the greatest feeling too. When you get back home to American soil. You just get down and kiss the ground."
"I hear that."
"Nothing's like being home."
I tell the marine about my trip to D.C. That I would like to explore for a bit.
"Oh," he nods again. "I would like to do that sometime."
"I'm sure you will."
"I would like to visit the Vietnam Memorial. Those guys had it bad. People spitting in their face when they got home. I don't think I could take that. I would probably fight someone. I know most of the people in my unit would."
"Well, things are different now," I say. "That's not happening."
"Yeah, I'm glad. I couldn't take that. And people have been good for the most part. I just don't understand this one woman. She protests at funerals. That's just wrong for me."
"I hear you," I say. "That's a sacred moment. It's a soldier's funeral."
"Yeah, it is. I mean, they got family there. And I'm not saying I have anything against protesting. But go do that somewhere else. And it's not like we did anything. They got to bring it to the people upstairs."
"They make the decisions. I understand."
"Yeah," he nods. "We're just doing our job, you know?"
"Yes," I say. "I understand."
"Yeah, we had some accidents out there too. The journalists didn't put it out there though. They lost the tape. People don't need to see that kind of thing. It's war, you know? Sometimes you shoot the same side."
"Yes, I understand. It's not your fault. You are at a different level of awareness during war time."
"Yeah, I mean, there were these barricades. You couldn't miss them. There's barbed wire and these huge pieces of wood. No one's allowed to go through, and when this truck started pulling through there, we had to spread some shots."
"I understand. You were protecting."
"We didn't know it was a woman and her kids. We just saw a truck, and the thing was pulling through there, you know?"
"My buddy was real distraught. It really broke him up."
"It's not his fault though. He didn't know."
"Yeah, he didn't. It's war, you know?"
The marine takes a drag from his smoke.
"The Sergeant was supposed to take the shot. His barrel locked though. Then my buddy had to take it."
"It was what he had to do. He was doing his job."
"Things may even change with a new leader."
"I hope so."
"I would have liked to see Colin Powell in office."
"Oh, he's great. Black, white, whatever you are. He's a great leader. I saw him in Baghdad. There was this huge escort. These tanks, cars, and then him in the middle - in a Suburban - kicking dirt around turns. It was great."
"It would be great if every soldier had that kind of escort."
The marine tells me how he spends an hour with his kids every night, how he has a great work ethic as a loan officer, and how he likes educational programming on TV.
"I don't like that Beavis and Butthead stuff. Discovery is a great channel. So is the History channel."
"They are," I agreed.
We walk to the elevator. He tells me I would do good to try and go to CNN.
"You could really move up there."
"Yeah," I say. "It's possible. I wouldn't mind helping to choose some programming."
"Yeah," he says. "Pick some good programming."
The marine gets off the elevator. He wishes me well. I turn to the mirror in the elevator. I think about love. I think of war. I think of how precious time is. I think about getting tapes off to the network. I think about my dad. I think about my brother. I think about this soldier. I think about love. I think about this soldier. I think about me. I think about this soldier. I think about this soldier. I think about love.