There was a casualty on August 17th, the first since I joined the PRT. He was a member of EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the bomb squads made famous by the movie The Hurt Locker. He was on the team called when three IEDs were found in the Shewan district of Bala Boluk, where I had been just a few weeks prior; he had apparently defused one of the bombs and then picked it up to move it to another location for a safe, controlled detonation, as is common practice. It exploded, killing him instantly.
I had seen him around base but can't say that I knew him -- we had never spoken. Press releases said that he'd previously won a purple heart in Iraq when the shockwave from a bomb had perforated his eardrum, leaving him deaf on one side. He was, by all accounts, well liked, and a lot of the members of PRT had hung out with him. Even without having known him, it's hard not to be affected by the quiet, almost disbelieving sense of loss on base. There's always hope that he'll be the last, but I can't imagine how I'll take it in the future if it happens to someone I know. He was two weeks away from finishing his tour.
His name was Derek. He was 24 years old.