Matt Urban was a necessary friend for me. His kindness and generosity smoothed the tattered edges to a time in my life when I had lost everything.
Twelve years after my final meal with him, I can still see Matt sitting at the dinner table describing the silhouettes of German soldiers moving in a straight line off in the distance. He raises his arm and draws the shape of a tank with his finger in the air, then points out the window toward the row of juniper trees in his backyard and begins to explain how the Nazis camouflaged their gun turrets to resemble the shape and texture of the Normandy hillside. All around me is the sound of crispy frost covered grass being stepped on by our own men as they move in closer to the hedgerows. "If I pretend hard enough it sounds like my mom frying bacon." a hungry sergeant Evans whispers.
The men of the 9th Division are preparing for the true nature of war, not the fairy tale legends of their exploits in magazines back home, but the real agony, the real tangibility of death. Suddenly, the nervous whispering stops and all at once there is this odd soft patting sound, as every man unconsciously touches the left side of the chest, to feel for the folded letter or favorite picture from home.
Glove less hands are reaching down to braille the bullets and the comforting shape of the rifle's barrel and sight. Matt looks over to me and asks if I would like more to eat before we go on. There is the sound of a metal spoon tapping out the last bit of mashed potatoes on my plate. "Oh, Thank you Jenny." I say to Mrs. Urban. Matt is pouring me another cup of coffee. "I always made sure my men had hot coffee." he says with a smile, holding back the tears.