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Meeting Lizbeth - Chapter Four Part IV
He was scheduled to do two tours in Afghanistan. He learned a lot about life from the death around him. He never expected the horrors he saw day after day. A life destroyed in a matter of seconds.
Doug had always been an easy going kid. Never any fights or quarrels, everybody liked him. He did well in school and was a treasured member of the football team. They knew they could always count on Doug. He was a real team player and when he had the ball they knew there would be a touchdown. He could run like lightening and weave in and out of the other team members without being tackled. He liked the sport and the challenge but felt there was more to life.
When he told his parents he wanted to join the military they had mixed feelings. They were proud of his desire to serve his country but afraid for his life and safety. They knew all too well about the casualties of war and he was so young at only seventeen. They had to sign for him to be able to enlist. They were a middle class family and he didn't want to go to college so they finally agreed.
Doug liked basic training. Oh he didn't like drill sergeants screaming orders in his face or being awakened at three in the morning for a three mile full pack run, but he enjoyed the discipline and the camaraderie. He was the youngest in his barracks but it didn't matter, they were all in this together. When he got his orders for his first tour, he was given a two week leave to go home and visit his parents. He didn't have a girlfriend so that wasn't a problem. Telling his parents where he was going was. His mother cried and his father fumed, but they wished him good luck and sent him with their prayers. Even his sister kissed him good-bye.
The fighting was brutal. The enemy was everywhere and you never knew who or when they would strike. One particularly bad day they were out in the field fighting for their lives. They were under heavy enemy fire when he saw his friends go down. He knew he had to get them out of there. He carried first one then the other to safety. He was unable to save his other two friends. Mortar fire was too heavy and the enemy troops were advancing too rapidly. The smoke was so thick you could hardly see where you were going and the smell of death filled the air. He knew it was hopeless but he tried to get back to them. It was impossible, he couldn't make it back. He never realized he had been hit, the only pain he felt was for the two soldiers he had left behind.
The nightmares started that night. He could see the two soldiers lying there just out of his reach. Each time he got a little closer a bullet whizzed by. Then the bullets began hitting his friends and they were beyond saving. He'd wake up screaming or in a cold sweat. Some nights the guilt was overwhelming.
While Doug was going through his own personal hell, his parents and sister were perishing in a house fire. The Fire Inspector believed it started in the basement. By the time the flames reached the second floor there was no way out and his family died in the fire.
Doug never got deployed a second time. He was honorably discharged after receiving a Medal of Honor, only fifteen months in the service. He attended the funerals of his family and then realized he had nothing. He had no body. He spent a few nights at the YMCA but his nightmares and loneliness drove him out. He took up residence under the bridge because he was too proud to admit the state he was in. He spent long hours thinking about all that had happened to him and what he had left. He thought the best place for him was here, homeless and alone. He didn't want to connect to anyone ever again. The pain of losing friends and loved ones was more than he wanted to bear. In spite of his pain and bitter heart he still helped those around him. One particular night when an elderly homeless man was being attacked, Doug came to his rescue fighting off the drunken teenagers. When the police arrived they told Doug they were impressed with his tactical training and abilities, and asked if he would be interested in taking the test for the police department. Doug had never thought about being a policeman. Actually, after his discharge he hadn't thought about much of anything. At only eighteen and a half he would be one of the youngest men to enter the Academy. He thought about it for a few days then accepted.
He took the test and passed with flying colors, so much so the officers were impressed. He had shown physical ability and now mental as well. He spent six months in the Academy, maintaining the top spot in his class throughout. He graduated, with honors. Three days after his nineteenth birthday he returned to his home under the bridge as an undercover officer, there to help the homeless. They were all well aware this could be a dangerous post but due to his age the department thought this would be a good place for him to learn. He met with two officers once a week and patrol cars kept an eye on him as well. The department was never sorry they made the investment of time in Officer Ahearn.
Lizbeth showed up almost a year later. Doug had performed his duties well and saved more than one homeless person from the cruelty and beatings they had been suffering from for years. The Chief told him, like the Army, his stint under the bridge would be limited to two years. The things he learned and how he handled himself would be of good use on the streets as an officer. Of course, as an undercover officer he was not at liberty to tell Lizbeth the truth, at least not yet. He sincerely hoped she would stick around, but was aware that might not happen. She was a beautiful, young, rich girl and certainly had prospects that didn't include a homeless man living under a bridge.
Her first appearance had shocked him and made him suspicious. Why would this girl be here? Then he thought she might be involved in some charitable organization to help the poor. As time went on and they talked more, he realized she was just looking for something on her own. He wasn't sure what until several weeks went by. Then he realized she was honestly trying to find out what it was like to be poor so she could try to understand her mother. It just proved people are the same with or without money. It also proved he was very attracted to this lovely young girl. He often wondered what the future held, for both of them, singly and together. Could there be a together? He was only a police officer and she was a very rich young lady.
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