Their great-grandfather had been a Nazi. In those days, every good German was a Nazi and Opa Benni had been no different. But his wife, Dutch by birth, Scandinavian in form, had been against it, saw past the rhetoric. It made for a hard life for their children.
There's a picture, somewhere, of their grandfather in the guise of the Nazi Youth. But Oma had put an end to that quickly, threatened to take the children to Switzerland or Holland or, worse, America. And Opa believed her, even if she was pregnant with their third child.
There's a picture, too, of their father, bearded and wild haired, sitting on the rubble of the Berlin Wall. He'd been in Germany visiting family and Noah, Basch and Mutti had watched the whole thing on TV from America.
There's another picture of Noah and Basch in desert gear, standing next to a burned out tank, Kuwait stretched out behind them. Their squad leader used to call them 'Thing 1' and 'Thing 2', his daughter being a fan of The Cat In The Hat. The Gulf War had been short but not short enough. The daughter had to grow up without her father.
And then there's this. Noah in the mountains of Afghanistan, waiting for his squad to catch up, staring down over a land that no nation has been able to truly conquer. Somewhere across the world, Basch is finished with grading papers, prepping for the summer with a grill and hamburgers. For a moment, Noah bows his head, imagines that Basch was never discharged, that he's here in the heat under the blue sky. An explosion echoes from his left, black smoke, gravel jumps around Noah's boots, and now it's just him, alone, except for his squad, in a foreign land.