A Soldier's torment

At night, Stephens sits in the barn he built by hand and watches war movies, downing a dozen beers, one after another, sometimes chasing those with a half-pint of whiskey.

He thinks of his dad, who always told Stephens to take care of his men.

Stephens' cell phone rings and rings. One of his soldiers has lost his civilian job, or can't stand the nightmares, or is ready to kill himself.

Or it's Patty Desens, the mother of Spc. Daniel A. Desens Jr., the 20-year-old boy she called Danny.

She's drunk sometimes, thinking of Danny's goofy teasing, the family food fights, so much laughter in the past. She thinks of how she cradled his newborn body, chubby legs curled inward in memory of her womb, and the way she tried to touch every inch of that body again as it lay in a Jacksonville funeral home.

Hey, Sergeant Stephens, she says. How are you?

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