Wednesday, December 5, 2012

End Game by Steve Ormosi

This was not my strongest effort.  I really don't know anything about war, but I gave it a shot.  I grew up with my grandfather telling all of us that he never wanted to talk about the war.  He fought in the Korean War and from what I've gleaned, saw his fair share of action.  I've always wondered what it was like, in a "I'm positive I don't actually want to know what that was like" kind of way.  This was my weak attempt at portraying the connection one must feel toward their close companions when they go through something as formative as having to kill or (be killed by) someone you've never met.  In a way, I also tried to show the disconnect that veterans have with the general population. I'm not sure I accomplished anything at all, but I suppose you can judge for yourself.

Names are changed to protect those who died and their families just in case this ever sees the light of day.  No one needs to be reminded of what happened a long time ago in a place far away.

There are a lot of things they don’t tell you when you sign up for war.  Most importantly they never tell you that your war never ends.  The things you see will haunt you until the day you die.  For some of us, that was a long, long time.  It was longer for me.  I did my tour when I was just a kid.  It was easy to sneak into the army when I was 16 because, let’s face it, they needed all the warm bodies they could get since so many were getting sent home cold.  This here is the story I’ve never told, and never will.  If you should find this document, burn it.  People shouldn’t know about these things.  I’m only writing it down because my shrink thinks it will help to get it out of my head and nothing else has worked so far.  If this should somehow get out to the public, I want you to know that this is my life, my hopes my dreams.  Don’t read any further if you have any respect for me or what I did for you and yours.

 I showed up my first day excited, ready to take on the world.  That changed quickly.  Grueling hours of boot camp exhausted me.  Our overly aggressive drill sergeant beat the fight out of me.  Then they shaped me and all the guys into the killing machines that we eventually became.  They were good at that.  They broke us down and built us back how they needed.  That part wasn’t so bad.

Going into the fight was what really took it out of us.  I had a friend, John.  He was always laughing in boot camp, nothing bothered him, then he caught a piece of shrapnel in his leg.  Four other people died from the blast.  I’ve never seen such bad survivor’s guilt.  After that day he would cry himself to sleep every night.  He was always the first to rush into a dangerous situation.  He always volunteered to scout minefields.  He almost seemed disappointed when he made it to the other side in one piece.  All he wanted was a way out and it seemed like no one wanted to give him one.  He ended up throwing himself on top of a grenade and saved half the platoon.  Got out of the army too.

I had another buddy named Tom.  He was a fresh faced kid, who swore up and down he was 18 when he went in, but he looked younger than me.  Everybody teased him about it.  He was the first of us to fall when he poked his head out of a trench a little bit too far and took a sniper’s bullet in the teeth.  I heard when they told his folks, they both committed suicide that same night.  I never found out if that was true or not.

Billy died in my arms when a mortar shell took his arm off and he bled out.  As he was dying he whispered that he was the only boy his parents had and his dad would be so disappointed that the family name was going to end with him.  I tried to console him, tried to tell him that he was going to be fine, but I could already see his lights going out.  He was gone, and I was still there.  We didn’t even have time to bury him.  Billy’s body was just another piece of debris that day.

The days where nothing happened were even worse.  At least in the heat of battle, your adrenaline gets going and instincts take over.  You fight to live or give up and die.  The quiet days were among the most stressful, sitting and waiting for that next bomb to fall, the proverbial shoe that could drop and blow you into a million little pieces at any time.  If only retreat were an option.  If only we could go back to our safe homes and our quiet beds for just the night.  If only I could ever sleep restfully again.  But that was never an option and we were never told. 

Of the things they don’t tell you, I don’t think any would have changed my mind.  I was 16 and invincible.  Those things won’t affect me, I would have said to myself.  I won’t be changed by war, I would have said.  I would have been wrong, but you know that by now.  Really, those things they never told us, I guess they don’t make a damn difference anyhow.

It does help to write this down.  There is more, much more, but that will have to wait for another time.  I am getting tired.  My knees hurt like they have every year around this time since I went in.  I need to shut my eyes now and remember them.  Let them flash before me like ghosts in a mirror.  Hear them scream again, watch them die again, like every night.  I miss them and I hate them for getting out.  And I love them for making sure it wasn’t me.  For a time they were my brothers.  Now I’m the only one left and they make sure I know it.

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