“Do you think they called it off?” Hopkins says, the hopeful crack in his voice just a bit too obvious.
Sara doesn’t respond. She fights the urge to tighten her grip on the yoke. Hopkins is probably right. There’s no way they’ll authorize the strike now. They missed their shot. This entire mission has been a waste.
But then the call comes down.
“Cleared to engage.”
Sara pulls the trigger. She doesn’t hesitate. She doesn’t ask questions. She does everything she’s supposed to, just like she was trained.
“Oh my God,” Hopkins gasps.
Sara looks at the screen as she counts down the seconds to impact. There’s a dog, a friendly one by the looks of it, running from target to target as they load the SUV with RPGs and mortar rounds.
“Move,” Hopkins mutters under his breath. “Go on. Get out of there.”
Sara tunes him out. She focuses on the count, crisply calling out each five-second interval over the radio as Hopkins’ panic deepens.
The missile strikes and the screen devolves into a nebulous static of smoke and debris, but the only sound Sara hears is Hopkins whimpering next to her.
She shakes her head and starts running the post-strike checklist.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day.”
Her husband’s hand is as warm as his voice. Sara feels the firm grip of his fingers, which used to fill her with comfort, which now dwarf the small, restless digits of their six-year-old in his other hand.
“We thank you for the food on this table and the hands that prepared it.”
She looks across the table at her nine-year-old daughter—her firstborn—a carbon copy of Sara at that age. Her head is bowed, her bright pink Michael Kors frames slowly slipping down the bridge of her nose, but she doesn’t dare lift her head or let go of her daddy’s hand to save them. She keeps her eyes closed and listens attentively to the prayer, just like she’s been taught.
“We thank you for our family, for our work, for our wonderful country and for this wonderful woman who so proudly serves it.”
Sara feels her husband’s grip tighten, but she doesn’t feel comfort. She looks at him. His head is still bowed, but one eye is open and looking at her.
“We pray for peace, and understanding, and reassurance that even in times of struggle, you will never forsake us.”
She fights the urge to roll her eyes. She knows that he means well. She knows she should bow her head and squeeze his hand and play along, but she can’t be bothered.