By Lawrence Dabney
The camera is shaky. As the image swims into focus it grows clear why: a table occupies the frame, two dozen empty shot glasses at its center, marshaled into a pile. At the pile’s peak a generous tumbler of scotch has been perched, glowing like the star on the Christmas tree. Cheers and indecipherable shouts echo from unseen figures around the table. The cameraman declares, “There’s a little bit of Will Stacey in every one of these.”
The moment descends into chaos. The edges of hands and elbows dip into the frame. Somebody tells somebody else repeatedly to put the flash on. Somebody else declares this will work out well. Somebody yells, “Don’t you dare, don’t you da—” just as a hand swoops in to steal the scotch tumbler. Then the video ends.
The Washington Apple, a candified red poison that had previously filled those two dozen shot glasses, was the preferred shooter of Sergeant William Stacey. He would order round after round of them, to his fiancée Kimmy Kirkwood’s great dismay, from any bar he could persuade to make them. Few outside Seattle know the recipe, but it is straightforward enough (crown royale, apple puckers, cranberry juice) to shout across a crowded bar. I’d never had one until I went to Seattle for Will’s memorial service in February this year, when I first met his friends and family. By the time the formal parts of the mourning were done, I’d had enough Washington Apples for an orchard.
The last thing Will Stacey said to me, three months prior, standing inside a piled earth perimeter dug into a vast desert plain on the southern fringe of Afghanistan, was to ask me to send anything I wrote about his squad to his fiancée and his mother. I was leaving, and he was going back out on patrol. His squad was returning to the same place they’d gone the past two days, taking fire both times. This time they’d have UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) support. Insurgents never fired with air support in the area, but UAVs flew too high to be seen or heard. Once the insurgents started shooting, Will explained matter-of-factly, the squad would call the UAV’s Hellfire missiles down onto their compound, and that would be the end of that small piece of the Afghan War. Read more…