By Michael Yon
First Sergeant Michael J. Bordelon was conducting combat operations in Mosul, Iraq, on 23 April 2005 when a suicide car-bomber rammed into his Stryker vehicle. Though mortally wounded, Michael Bordelon lived for another two weeks before the injuries claimed his life. With every passing day, here on FOB Marez, men who had known Michael Bordelon for years, men who had fought with him in the streets of Mosul, would ask about his condition. The veterans here have seen much since they arrived in Mosul, and they understood well that the odds were against their First Sergeant surviving, yet they would ask the commander hopefully, “How is First Sergeant Bordelon?”
The commander would often answer variously and tersely, “Fighting. Who else could hang in there so long?”
The commander seemed to prepare his men for what might have been inevitable, while not betting against his friend. But everyone knew the reality.
“The doctors say he has a ten percent chance,” I heard the commander say during the last few days, “He’s still fighting.”
And finally the word came that Michael J. Bordelon had run the course. The men here at 1-24 Infantry began to prepare a memorial service from scratch. Though they had known the odds two weeks earlier, nobody seemed to want to bet against their friend by preparing a memorial, so in the nights leading to the ceremony, men worked late to prepare a farewell while conducting ongoing operations.
The auditorium was nearly packed, but the empty seats in the back were the most prominent, empty seats that would have been filled by men who were gone, men who were wounded or killed in action on the same streets where Michael Bordelon ran his last mission, and finished the race.