“It’s like your entire body is being punched at the same time,” Marine Corp. Keith Richardson offered, looking up after a thoughtful pause, and a big sip from a can of Monster Energy Drink. “ The Humvee fills up with smoke and debris. And you get this nasty metallic taste in your mouth. Kinda like you’ve been sucking on a penny.”
It was late on an unusually warm June afternoon, and Richardson and I sat alone, talking on the patio of the Common Market Southend. The 26-year-old had spent a few years in a much hotter place, and he had made the drive up from his Lake Wylie home to tell me about it. In Iraq, scalding afternoons topped 120 degrees, and some of the locals weren’t OK with him being there. They proved how they felt by trying to kill him with little pieces of exploding hot metal shot in his direction. In the Marine Corps, he didn’t make a living dodging automatic weapons fire, though; he was paid to seek it out. His job description included finding the enemy and enticing him to shoot at him. And then shooting back at them even harder. Richardson’s eyes are ice blue and serious, and he speaks with a Long Island, N.Y., accent softened by a decade living in the South.