This isn't a songfic but it was inspired by the song "Judgement Day" by Shiloh which I heard through TheOneTrueDoc's Combat! "Salute to Lt. Hanley" video.
"No one but night, with tears on her dark face, watches beside me in this windy place." - Edna St. Vincent Millay
At ten o'clock it's raining when he sends the men out on a routine patrol, something they've done a hundred times. There's always a risk, he knows this, but he's told himself that it isn't today, it isn't his men. The dead will only be the enemy, or strangers that he hasn't gotten to know yet. It won't be a man he calls by his first name. It won't be a friend.
At eleven o'clock he hears the man's voice over the radio, telling him where they are, how things are going. He orders them to hold the hill, to hold back the Germans. Twenty minutes later the radio falls silent and he waits, fingers curled around the lifeless machine, waiting, waiting for static, for a familiar voice, for an answer. But the silence continues unbroken.
At one o'clock he sends out another patrol, to search for those missing. They move cautiously, each step searching for mines, for a sniper's bullet. It takes an hour to find the location they last radioed in from, and despite his hopes they find it as he already expected - deserted.
At two o'clock they find survivors, broken and bleeding men, some barely alive, barely conscious, but walking, stumbling down the road like machines. The rest are corpses, lying like broken dolls. One man is sitting in the road, blood streaming from a head wound. He stares off into space, into a depth only he can see as he rocks a lifeless body in his arms, a mangled form of bones and tattered skin who in life was his best friend. The medics work from man to man, and even he holds down on wounds, ties bandages around them. After all isn't it the least he can do since he sent them out to die?
At three o'clock they find the missing man, all that's left of him after the German shot three ounces of lead through him. The man is lying still, face down in the mud, body twisted and torn, one arm outstretched toward the enemy lines as if in a final plea for mercy. He puts his hand down on the uniform and feels the wetness, like a canteen spilled on the fabric, soaking it through. Only the liquid coating the jacket is red and still warm.
At five o'clock he stands by his desk holding the dogtags and typing up the report, cold, sterile words on paper that tell how a man died, but not how he lived. And it never says whether or not he could have changed it - that finding him faster might have saved his life, or what his life might have been if he'd only called them down off that hill.
At six o'clock he pours a glass of alcohol and drinks a silent toast to the man. When the amber liquid only fills a fourth of the glass his vision starts to blur and he even thinks he sees him, standing across from him, helmet in hand, a ready smile on his face. But it's only a ghost.
At nine o'clock he finally falls asleep, a sleep filled with tangled dreams and screams he's never heard yet somehow hears constantly in his mind. He sees the face of the dead man, so vividly he knows that it must just be a dream. There must be something, some sense to it all that doesn't require that every good man be sacrificed. For his sanity he must be allowed to spare one, to save his friend.
But when morning comes it isn't a dream but another day.
He's sitting beside the grave, hand curled against the stone, fingers digging into the name that represents a soldier, a living man he sent out who never came back, a man he respected, who was his friend.
The woman putting flowers on the grave next to him looks over and asks about the man buried here, the person behind the name, beneath the stone.
"He died ten years ago." He says quietly. "I killed him."
It's ten o'clock and it's raining.