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That one Guy. . .
Author's note: I was inspired to write this piece because of the stories my dad always tells me about my grandpa and his part in World War Two. My grandpa died before I was born, and I wanted to be able to create something for him, and my dad and grandma, that would hopefully live on past any of our lives.
That one guy... is what people said... that kid who went to war... to Normandy. This is the life of a soldier, a soldier who knew pain and suffering, the life of a soldier who died serving his country, who died after years of hardship and loss, but knew love and warmth at home.
His name... didn't matter. Not to the men he was fighting, not to the men who were dying on the field next to him, not even to his commanding officers, not really. They, all of them, only knew him by his face, by his skill with a gun, by how well he could stay hidden during the deepest, blackest nights, they only knew him by how well he was able to carry orders to and from camps, or by how well he was able to stay alive. They would only really know him, when they had to bring him home, they would only know him when they had to tell his mother, his girlfriend, that he was dead, killed or wounded in battle. That was the only time any of them would ever know him. The enemy would only know him when they shot him, and came over to be sure he was dead, his comrades would only know him when they found his dead body laying on the battle scarred ground, and his commanding officers would only know him when they faced his loved ones.
He didn't matter.
Not in this war, one casualty... two... that wasn't very bad compared to everything else that was going on. Even two hundred casualties wouldn't seem all that bad, not to the men who were left, not to the men who continued fighting, and most definitely, not to the Jews who were still in the concentration camps. Only the 2oo families who had lost their loved ones would know just how bad it was.
He knew, though, that he did matter. Just not here, or, not as much. He mattered to his mother, who had begged him not to go, he mattered to his sister, and his sister's best friend, who had begun to write letters to him while he was overseas, and whom he was sure he was falling in love with. He mattered to the friends he had come here with, and to the few friends he had made. He mattered in the long run, and when this war was over, he would matter to everyone else, just as much as he did to his family now.
His mind travelled, wondering about all the secrets to life, all the mysteries of war, and the miracles of new life. The secrets, he had not yet had experience with the actual world to know much about them, they were just past memories when he had been home, safe. Memories he had been beginning to understand, to unravel, to learn the secrets of the life he was living at that moment, and to learn that life held many secrets, and that he would never figure them all out. As for the mysteries, those he knew more about. Sure, he had only been in the war for a few days, but a few days was long enough to understand that war... it wasn't all it was cut out to be. It wasn't fun, like the games he used to play as a kid, it wasn't wonderful, like all the movies portrayed it to be. It was pure hell, as simple as that. War was all about suffering, and pain. Horrible and terrifying incidents happened at every turn. But, war was also a unique learning experience, different to each person who were exposed to it. It created friendships, that could never be broken, not even through death. It created a sense of loyalty, that he wouldn't have achieved if he'd still been home. It created compassion and respect in even the hardest of men. But, most of all, it created a place in all men's hearts for sorrow, and love. The two keys to life, that everyone in the world would experience, and learn from.
The miracles, those he knew absolutely nothing about. The only times he had ever even heard of them was when the veterans talked of the birth of their little ones, or how they were faring at home. He only saw it when a new bud of a tree, or flower was growing, slowly, before his eyes. It was hard, for him and most others who were experiencing the same things he was, to believe that there could be miracles like that, it was easy to forget, to have it drift from your mind, that these things really did happen, every day. It was difficult to remember all the miracles that you had lived through, and seen, when you were surrounded by death. Every day, for weeks, months, years, all you experienced was death.
"John, what's got you so preoccupied that you can't even notice there's a plane overhead?"
He looked up at the sky, and sure enough, there was a plane, a small spec in the sky. Shielding his eyes from the sun, he scrutinized it, then, satisfied, he glanced back down to his friend.
"It's American. Food for the base camp I'm assuming."
His friend nodded. "Yeah, but I got your attention didn't I?"
He laughed softly. "You always did." he answered. He thought back to when they'd still been in high school. Ben, his friend, was always the class clown, always getting the classes attention by being a smart ass. He always said the right things, and always backed down at the right moments, just soon enough so that he never got in trouble. He looked at Ben, looking him over. Ben had changed, drastically. He wasn't the funny, light-hearted man he used to be. Now he was grim, although still quick to smile at times, but just a few days in war, a few days of seeing death, and he was no longer joking, no longer laughing good-naturedly at every little thing.
"What's that supposed to mean? Huh, John?" Ben asked, smiling at him.
"Ben, you know as well as I do that you were a smart ass in high school."
Ben's smile turned into a full fledged grin. "How else were we supposed to have fun when those teachers were droning on like that? Passing notes never seemed to work well enough. Besides, we always got caught."
"Only because you couldn't throw it worth a damn. " he replied, grinning back.
"We all know I never made the football team John, don't rub it in." Ben punched him lightly on the arm.
"What's this about a football team?" another voice joined in the conversation, and Ben and John turned to see Tom joining them.
"We were talking about Ben's poor note passing skills." John replied.
Tom laughed, throwing his head back in the first true joy he'd shown since they got there. "Ben, you were always the one who got us caught. Every time. It didn't help either that you just left it lying on your desk, not even trying to hid it."
"Well... I found no need, the teacher never seemed to pay me any mind anyway."
"Yeah, not unless you had a note on your desk." John retorted.
Their conversation lulled for a moment, all of them thinking back to their days in high school. Those were, and would always be some of the best times in their lives together. Their conversation didn't continue for a while as they continued walking, well, marching really, to the base camp. John shifted his rifle to his other shoulder, and matched his step again to the man in front of him; he watched as Ben and Tom followed suit, getting back into line. John looked up to see the General riding down the line, checking to be sure they hadn't lost anyone, and that all the boys were still in formation.
A few hours later, they'd finally made it to the base camp, all of the men were exhausted, and didn't even care really if their meal was warm. Just as long as they had something in their stomachs before they were moved onto the front line in the morning.
That night, was possibly one of the hardest nights he had ever faced. Ben and Tom had stopped talking with him a few hours ago, all of them agreeing that they should try to get some sleep. His mind was filled with everything that could go wrong in the morning. They could be ambushed, Tom or Ben could die, or even himself. A bomb could go off while they were fighting in their fox holes, they could get trapped, completely cut off from any help that might come from the base camp. He attempted to clear his head, trying to find sleep, but it was futile. Finally, he rolled onto his back and stared up at the stars. He wondered how many others, his comrades, or enemies, were doing the same thing as him. Watching the stars, and wondering about the future. The constellation was different over here, they weren't quite in the same order, but he could still make out both the dippers, and Orion's belt. He wondered if his mother or sister was up right now, looking up at these same stars, and thinking about him too.
He was suddenly engulfed in longing, longing to go home, and be safe. A longing to see his little sister again, and to eat a nice warm meal. A longing to wake up at a reasonable time, and not fear that he was going to die the next day. He longed to see his mother and father, he longed to feel a nice soft bed beneath him, instead of the cold hard ground. He wanted to go back to school, to tell the commanding officers that he was too young to be here, that he had lied about his age. That his friends had lied about their age also.
But... he knew that they already knew this. Many of the other soldiers had lied about their age also, thinking that this was going to be some epic adventure, or just wanting to get revenge, to hurt these people in the way that they'd hurt America. Maybe, they'd just come to get rid of Hitler, and the Nazi's, maybe they just wanted to bring peace, and maybe they knew that it was hopeless, but wanted to try anyway. No, begging, pleading, wouldn't work, not to get home. And his family, they would be ashamed, as he would be ashamed. He couldn't leave. Not now, he couldn't leave his friends, just because he wanted to have one more day, one more peaceful day with his family.
He sighed and rolled over, trying to erase the longing that gripped at him like a vice. He had no idea what to do now, he couldn't think, because he'd just fret, and now he definitely wouldn't sleep because he was homesick.
"You alright, boy?"
He sat up in surprise, and glanced over to see the General who had ridden down their line earlier. The General met his eyes, and John nodded.
"Well that's the biggest lie I've ever seen." The General replied softly, with chuckle. "Are you homesick?"
There was a slight pause, and John didn't answer. The General frowned at him, "You know, it's not something to be ashamed of. Every one of us who is out here is homesick, almost all the time. The only time we're not longing to be out of this hell hole is when our minds are preoccupied with staying alive on the field."
John nodded again, and this time answered. "Yes, sir. I miss my family." after another slight pause, he added "I don't think I want to be here anymore."
The General laughed again. "None of us want to be here. But we have to. You understand that right?"
"Yes, sir. I wouldn't be able to leave my friends behind, even if we didn't have to be here. I wouldn't do that to them sir, I have to be here to help keep them safe."
John frowned as he thought about it. "Besides, my family would be ashamed of me if I returned. Anyway, I have a sense of honor, and loyalty; and those wouldn't let me return home, not unless I was wounded or..." he stopped, not wanting to say it.
The General nodded in agreement. "If it makes you feel better, when I first came here, I did ask if I could leave. Believe me, they don't say yes. They hardly answer you, actually."
He laughed again, flatly.
"How much have you heard about this war so far, soldier?"
"Not much sir, we had a veteran come into our school and talk to us about it, but all he really said was that we needed to this, that it was right, and that if we didn't America would never see justice."
The General snorted. "That's what they all say. They want to fire up whatever sense of rightness that you boys have, and get your blood burning for a fight. It works, if you ask me. But it's not right. The government either tricks you into joining, or forces you to." He paused for a second, gathering his thoughts. "Ah, well. It's good that you all come out here. We need all the help we can get. Besides, the talks they give you at school get some of you out here earlier, which means you got some extra boot camp training, and that, along with your instincts, might just keep you alive. You're out here for four years, and it's up to you to keep yourself alive.
"Well, anyway. I hoped that helped you feel better about everything you were worried about, maybe you can get to sleep now. Although, I doubt it. No one ever gets any sleep their first night."
John watched him walk away, then settled back onto the ground. The General had given him a lot more to think about, actually, and he was wondering about the bitterness in the man's tone as he talked about the governments recruiting methods. He had no idea that in a few weeks' time, he would understand all about it, and that he would hate it just as much as the General did. After a few seconds, he realized that he had never asked for the Generals name, just as the General hadn't asked for his.
Like he'd thought earlier, a mere soldier didn't matter. Not nearly as much as everything else that was at stake.
Little did he know that the General hadn't asked for his name, because he had seen so many of the recruits die, and that the one's whose names he did know, hurt that much more. And, most of them, died on their first day, on the front line.
John didn't realize, yet, that even the smallest, newest soldier, mattered to at least someone.
Flushing, New York
Chapin, South Carolina
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This book has 2 comments.
20 articles 3 photos 2 comments
It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone - but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.
okay, thank you. I think I might've portrayed that sentence wrong... I've never been to Detroit, so I'm not positive about what it's like there, but when I was talking about peacefulness and safety I meant more like his home life, with his brothers and sisters and parents.
Anyway, I read your novel SuperNOVA and I really liked it, you're a great writer.
62 articles 0 photos 569 comments
"A guy walks up to me and asks 'What's Punk?'. So I kick over a garbage can and say 'That's punk!'. So he kicks over a garbage can and says 'That's Punk'?, and I say 'No that's trendy'!"- Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day
This is a cool novel, but let me say that Detroit is NOT peacefulnesss and safety. It's much closer to the world of death and pain he flees to.
Detroit is a dangerous place that is neglected by most of America--it's not a happy go lucky peaceful place.
Please check out my novel SuperNOVA in the novel's section.