Ed’s last communication with his son was over Instant Messenger, at the tail end of Scott’s four-day leave in the Green Zone. Scott was next to the pool—telling his dad that once his tour was up the next year, he had no intention of reenlisting. “He realized that as much as he wanted to be part of the Special Forces, he was sick of war, sick of hatred,” Ed says. “He wanted to come home, go back to school, and be with his wife.”

Sometime on Saturday morning, August 11, 2007, Kirkpatrick and his squad were out on patrol in an abandoned building on the outskirts of their sector in Arab Jabour. Private First Class William L. Edwards, a 23-year-old from Houston, Texas, stayed behind in the Bradley that had transported them there. At some point, Edwards opened the hatch and was hit by a sniper’s bullet. As the sniper darted into a nearby house, Scott and three other ranking soldiers pursued him into the building. Inside, one of the soldiers stepped onto a pressure plate rigged to 30 pounds of explosives stashed under a stairwell. In an instant, all four young men were dead. Edwards died later in an Army hospital.

On a warm September night, three weeks after the Color Guard at Arlington National Cemetery handed them the folded American flag, Ed and Marti are out on their candlelit patio having their son’s favorite meal: oven-baked chicken with rice and steamed asparagus, and homemade apple pie. They are trading stories—about Scott’s perfect stage whisper, his first and only fight with his brother Kevin, and the day Scott, age 7, decided to hang out with a homeless man in Waterford, Virginia. Ed can tell the weather by the flight path the planes take on their way into Dulles, a 35-minute drive south. It’s clear tonight. He watches as they materialize as pinpoints in the west, veer left in a glittering descent, and disappear.