I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.
Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.
I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog. "Hey, Tank," I said quietly. The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright. "C'mere boy."
He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months. "Tank," I whispered. His tail swished.
I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my cheek.
"So whaddya say we play some ball?" His ears perked again.
"Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?"
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.
* If you can read this without getting a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you just ain't right.* ====================================================================
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
G. K. Chesterton