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INSIDE THE WILDERNESS: Chapter 3 and 4

Updated on March 8, 2015

Note Before Reading

This is a continuation of a previous hub. Please, see Inside The Wilderness: Prologue, Chapter 1 & 2 before reading.

The street that Brian lives on

A markerSe 10th Street and Vale Street -
Southeast 10th Street & Vale Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, USA
get directions

Chapter 3: Home

All is calm and I wait a moment before making my way out. When I rise out of culvert, I am wet and mud covered. I look around and see fire, an area of leveled homes and scattered debris. I walk up an incline up to the road smelling the smell of exploded ordinance which hangs thick in the air. I cough as I inhale thick smoke. I look around not seeing the Russian anywhere, till I notice a human size burnt clump in the middle of road with an arm and burnt hand fussed to his AK-47.

With a cough and a spurt the burnt soldier begins to move and rolls over onto his back. I walk up to him slowly keeping the end of my M-16 barrel pointed at him. As I reach him, his face is burnt into a form that doesn’t recognize him as human. He looks up at me with just one working brown eye. He coughs as he gasps for air. I pull my .45 and aim down and fire a bullet into his head, killing him. The war is over for you. Just as if I were to die hear his family will know nothing of how he died. He’s just one of millions.

I continue on east, eventually making it to where the carpet-bombing ended. The image of the burnt to a crisp Russian is still seared into my minds eye. I’ve been a Marine my adult entire life. I’ve seen more action then I’d care to ever tell. I’ve seen more death then I’ve ever thought I would see in a lifetime. No matter how many fellow fighting men I’ve had to put down, I can’t help but think about their lives. What lead them here? I reach a familiar house. I stop in the middle of the street and stare. I miss the few short days when I was a little more than, Gunnery Sergeant Brian P. Tyler.

This is my home. It appears on the outside that it has been untouched by the battle. All of the windows are intact. The roof is still on. It’s still the pale blue that I painted it when we first moved in. I walk toward the front concrete stoop that leads up to the front screen door in four steps, through the dirt front yard pit marked by mortar shells. I pull open the screen and try the front door that is locked. From around my neck I take off my dog tags, which along with my two tags hangs the front door key. It’s just a little reminder of where I belong.

I unlock the door; hearing the creaky mechanism inside the lock, pull back the dead bolt. I push the door open very carefully, steep in, and lock the door behind me. I close my eyes trying to prevent the sight of my belongings, because there is one thing I must do before anything else. I must clear the house first; to make sure I’m alone here. I make my way through the house starting in the master bedroom. The only war damage to the house is in my sons room, where a wall is missing, but besides that everything is intact. I come to a stop in the kitchen with the living room with wood floors and a fireplace.

It’s dark and cold in the kitchen. The smell of dust pollutes the air. The kitchen has a small fridge, counter, a small TV, cabinets, and sink line the wall on the left. A small dark wooden laminate table with seating for four sits in front on a window. There is a small pantry is in the corner with a wall that has a painting of a country house and fields on it with beautiful hues of blue and green. I stand at the threshold of the room. My wife and I had always hated this kitchen, too small. When we decided to buy the house I promised her that I would make it larger, but I did think that this would end up like my childhood home. My dad bought a fixer upper before my brother and I were born and he started tearing apart the house to never finish it. I grew up in an unfinished home.

I stare out the window into the back yard, which has a mangled and burnt wooden swing set. The grass is dead, all of my bushes are dead, and my wife’s garden is gone. It was two years ago the last time I was here. I stood right here in this kitchen when the world turned completely on end. If I could have taken just one more moment prior to leaving, I could have savored looking into April’s and Jeremy’s faces or gave them one more hug or kiss. If I only knew that would have been the last time I would see them and I never thought this would go this far.

I take a few steps into the kitchen and look over at the small TV on the counter. I was sitting at the table about to have lunch, when the breaking news banner interrupted the commercial on CNN. I stared expecting the worse with all of the tension on the other side of the Pacific. I stared in disbelief as they went live to San Francisco, where a report was on an intersection that overlooks downtown, which was in flames. In the street people are running in terror. They said that the Russians were bombing and perhaps preparing to land.

As we watched the mid-section of one of the skyscrapers exploded as a missile struck. Flames erupted and rose up from the tower. After the flames disappeared, the buildings structure began to buckle, and then the top half of the building began to fall to the ground. The reporter gasped and screamed in terror. Suddenly, there were explosions and camera shakily panned left, showing several blocks down a fireball was rising up into the air. The fireball dissipated a fighter jet appears behind it, flying low. The reporter is standing in view, her back toward the camera as the jet quickly approaches.

The jet opens fire. Tracer round streak from the plane two the ground, sending up columns of dirt and debris in their wake. My wife and I watched in horror as bullet ripped trough people, all they way up to the reporter and her crew. The last image we saw was tracer rounds, go right through the reporter, with blood exploding from the large wound, that most likely ripped her in half, and the screen went to static. When the normal broadcast returned after the several seconds of static, the news anchors were shaken up and grasping for word.

As I stared, my wife sat down next to me and grasped my hand. The news anchors added that a similar attack is occurring in Seattle, and San Diego and that is appeared that the Chinese were apart of the attack. I looked over to my wife with a shaky look of shock and we looked into one another’s eye. She knew, that I had to go.

While I was getting ready, additional reports said that the U.S.S. John F Kennedy was attacked and a few hundred miles off the coast of Japan and that the attack on the main land came so suddenly that the Pentagon is at a loss of how to mobilize. They were not prepared for a sudden attack on the main land and could be days till a defensive line could be organized. The loss of life, they said, could be anywhere from five hundred thousand to perhaps, by the time the situation gets under control one million.


I finished tying my boots and stood, when my wife with a look of hidden fear on her face walked into the room. She walked up and kissed me passionately and then we stood holding on to one another for several minutes. Her eyes were streaming with tears. She sobbed uncontrollably on my shoulder.

“April,” I said softly. “No matter what happens, I’ll be back.”

“This is really bad, Brian.”

“For five years, we’ve built this life together. I’m coming back to finish it.”

“Just before we got married, when you said that if this sort of thing could happen. I honestly believe it could have never happen. What if you don’t come back? This isn’t some third world country that you’re going to be in with some poorly trained army. They’re bigger and more powerful than us.”

I held on to her tightly, not knowing what to say. Deep down I knew she was right, the odds were very slim that I could ever make it home. I remembered my father telling me about one of my great uncles that was killed in Vietnam. They never found his body. I may never be able to see my little boy grow up. I had tears in my eyes at this thought, but I eventually relented to the tears and made my way down the hall to Jeremy’s room.

It was a typical boys room with footballs, baseballs, and basketballs painted on the wall. I painted them myself, which was a task since I have never been much of an artist. It took me nearly month to finish it. Jeremy was playing in the middle of floor with his matchbox cars when I walked in. I kneeled on the floor next to him and he looked at my boots knowing what they meant, that dad was going to work and may be gone for a while. The hardest thing I had to do in my life was in that one moment, explain that daddy may be gone for a very long time. I knew when I left the house; he will never be able to understand. I cried most of the way to the base wishing for someway to get home right at that moment.

Before leaving I stood with April next to my truck in silence, staring at one another. I kissed her softly on the lips and in her ear is said, “I always’ come back.”

“I know,” she replied, “but this time is a lot different.” She sighs loudly and looked me in the eyes.

“This isn’t like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This isn’t the type of war where you get rotated out. You’re going to be dropped in and you’ll have to stay the course.”

I think for a moment knowing very well exactly what the situation that has in store. I know that we will be fighting to just temporarily hold them back, to give us time to evacuate and eventually make a stand.

“I’m coming back to, Jeremy and you,” I said firmly.


I now stand at the threshold of Jeremy’s room, looking in at how it looks now. The far wall of the room, which used to have a small window that looked onto the backyard, now has a gaping hole in it. Apparently a mortar shell landed in his sandbox which was just outside his window. The dresser and bed are mangled and thrown about, the patter on the wall is burnt and dust covered.
I hadn’t received any information from April in months before Des Moines was first attacked. I had hoped that it was only due to the disarray of post office and where ever they moved to, they wouldn’t be able to get a hold of me.

I turned my back to the hole in the wall and stared blankly into the hallway. I began choking back tears. Unknown to me, when I turned my back, two Marine soldiers happened upon me, while cutting through the back yard. One of the Marine’s is Corporal Richmond and they almost opened fire on me, till they recognize me. I’m still in tears as they call out my name. I try to force the tears back remembering what I was told when I promoted to sergeant, I must always be the rock. The men under you look toward you most when the emotions run high.

I struggle unsuccessfully to regain composure as they enter the room.

“Gunny,” Richmond said as he approaches within a few feet of me. “Are you ok?”

“Richmond,” the other Marine said softly. He had picked up a framed picture from the debris on the floor and is showing it to Richmond. It is a picture of Jeremy and me at his fourth birthday party.

“Gunny, I’m sorry,” Richmond said softly. “We’ll be outside, when you’re ready.”

“I’m fine,” I said gruffly clearing my throat. I choked back they last few tears and wiped my eyes on one of my gloved hands. “Let’s move out.”

“Gunny, it’s ok if you need a minute.”

I look away and pivot my head back and forth on my neck, cracking the sore mussels in it. I look back at them with the best authoritative look I could muster. Though I’m sure they could tell by the shakiness in my voice and face, that I was experiencing, profound emotions.

“Stow it,” I said. “Do either of you have a working radio? Mines broke.”

“I had one, up till ten minutes ago,” Richmond answered, immediately.

“What’s going on out there?”

“As you would put it,” Richmond started. “Like shit. We’re getting torn apart our there. There is a rally point, about three or four clicks northwest. Re-group, and hold the line for a retreat.” I pull a map out of one of my pockets, unfold it and take a look. “They said, the rally point Hubble and Route 6. We’re flanked and cut off at the south. Just to north of us they have been carpet bombing and landing in troops. We wont be able just north.”

“I guess they want to go out east or north east. Alright,” I said after studying the map. “At least they gave us a way out.” Richmond moves to look over my right shoulder at the map.. “The 235 is right there, just a couple of miles northwest. But we can’t go that way right up the 235, because we’ll be an open target. We’ll head east past the freeway, stay on the side streets to the east and head north. Out of the way, but kind of safe. Hopefully we’ll stay ahead of them; they’ll probably be heading east, too. They’ll try to outflank us and cut off the main forces.”

I looked back at Richmond as he stares at the map. He seems apprehensive about my plan. The phrase kind of safe, was probably unsettling to him. I gave him a long understanding look.

“Not the first time we’ve been stranded during a retreat, Tony,” I started. “Just another day.”

I put away the map and let the two other soldiers lead the way out of the room and into the back yard. Before leaving, I grab the framed picture of my son, pull the picture and stow the picture into my pants pocket. I walk along with Richmond and the other Marine in tow. We entered the alley behind my house keeping a close eye on the surrounded houses, for possible ambushes.

“So,” Richmond started, quietly enough for the other Marine to hear us. “That was your home?” I thought about the question, for a moment.

I always had a bond with Corporal Anthony F. Richmond; I’ve known him for three years, since he was placed within my unit. I remember, the first training we did with him, it was grenade training. It’s a simple task, but astonished me how often it was fucked up. Pull the pin, throw the grenade, and duck. I was next to him, when we did this training, and of course he pulled the pin and threw it right into the embankment. The grenade bounced back, hit me in the helmet and fell between us. I looked down at the grenade between us and thought, this is why we use dud grenades. If I would have known at the time, that he would have been next to me in an actual fighting, I would permanently handicapped him. He eventually grew on me.

I remember after our first engagement together, he told me he hoped he would one day have a family like mine. That was a long day, thirty hours none stop fighting,and we sat around a fire ten miles back from front line. We sat and talked for two hours, for a brief moment we forgot were we where at. I thought of him as a friend, more now than then, because he is the only person left from the original unit. Though, thinking of him as friend had always bothered me, I’m supposed to be leading him. It’s hard to lead a friend, but we never had that problem yet.

“Yeah,” I finally answered him solemnly.

“I’m sorry. I know you haven’t spoken to them in a long time. You’ll find them after all of this.”

“Thanks,” I said quietly. “Who’s the other guy?”

“Corporal Wilkinson, he from second regiment.”

“You’re far away from where you’re supposed to be,” I said to him. “We were on our way to back you guy’s up.”

“Didn’t go well for you either,” Wilkinson replied in weathered and tired voice. “By the time we got there, they had already pushed across the river into downtown. Then shelling began, started pushing us east. A mixed regiment of Korean’s and Russian’s crossed the river to south of us.”

“We didn’t take out all of the bridges?”

“No, sir. I heard we took out all the bridge north of downtown, though. I was at a FOB and overheard an intelligence officer say that there was a large regiment of Indian infantry on the other side of the river heading north looking for a crossing and then come down behind us. Shortly after that, a heavy bomber dropped on us. We were scattered to the wind. They’re scattered out here too, which you already knew. You ran into some of them.”

This is going to be long day and then I said, “It’s going to be just us trying to get out of here. We are going to find some heavy shit on our way out.”

“It’s what were trained for,” Richmond said. 

Where they need to go.

show route and directions
A markerSe 10th Street and Vale St -
Southeast 10th Street & Vale Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, USA
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Their Current Location.

B markerHubble Ave and E 33rd Street -
Hubbell Avenue & East 33rd Street, Des Moines, IA 50317, USA
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Where they need to go.

Chapter 4: Endless Fighting

It has been six months since my last letters from April. She had said, they were leaving that same day as she wrote the letter. She said, that they were being evacuated somewhere out east and wasn’t sure where to, but she would write as soon as she got there. The letter was postmarked from Des Moines. I remember every word of that letter she quickly wrote. The letter was so quickly written that the handwriting didn’t appear to have been written by her delicate hands. Its words are seared into my mind, as if they were the last words she would ever say to me.

Brian,

I have to write this quickly, because there isn’t much time. The bombs have begun falling here, even though the front is well over two hundred miles from here. The news said that the air defenses have been overwhelmed. The bombs fell on the factories just north of the city. It’s not safe.

We talked about what I should do and I will try to make my way to your mothers, but they’ve said that may not be a choice. We may be forced farther east, refugee camps are being set up, up and down the east coast, trying to get people as far away as possible.

I’ve already packed our bags and we’ll be out of the house within the next few minutes.

We will be safe and I want you to NOT be worried about us. I want you to focuses on finishing your job and come home. I love you. I’ll write as soon as I can.

Love, April

I’m home now, but not in the way I wanted to. This is not the way things are supposed to happen. Wars for America are not supposed to be fought on our own land, but on distant battlefields. Now, home is shattered and gone. I used to get a warm feeling whenever I stepped into my house, knowing the excited face of Jeremy would come running out of the hallway toward me and the beautiful woman I treasured would be right behind him. When I walked in today, a chill swept over me, that I couldn’t shake.

This isn’t what April and I intended, when we decided to get married. I met her college at Stanford University. I was studying for my masters in structural engineering, in order to become an officer in the Corp. My whole plan changed after I met her. I sat next to her in one my classes. When I first made eye contact my hart leapt and the first time ever in my life, I was speechless. When I told my little brother Andy about that he laughed and said, “In order to make you shut up, alls I had to do was put pretty girl in front of you?”

I was rather outspoken when I was younger. I never minded making my opinion heard, even when it wasn’t needed. Which got me in trouble one too many times in basic training with my drill sergeant. He put me back in place, very aggressively, one time violently due to an off hand smart ass remark.

April fixed that. How, I don’t have a clue. At that moment, when she looked at me for the first time, she almost achieved some sort of gravitational balance on my brain that overrode my mouth. It felt like hours had past when I saw those bright blue eyes. All of a sudden I felt the urges that I used to get as teenager when you first fell in love. Those irrational feelings of, this is the girl that I will marry and spend the rest of my life with. Luckily, I was older; otherwise instead to prying my eyes away I would have done something stupid, like interrupting a teacher’s lecture to ask her out. It was a good thing for that, because I was skating on thin ice with that teacher.

Towards the end of semester after talking to her a few times, eventually I asked her out for a drink. We clicked on that date, but a little too much to her dislike. It was bar just off campus and a night of a football game, so the bar was packed. We only had a few drinks, and then I complimented her after a long speech she told me she gave in a physiology class. The speech she gave was about the positives that the human species is capable of, but at times interrupted by endless fighting, but there was always someone to save us from that. I then said after she finished, “Your eyes are beautiful and insight into your personality. A compassion for people, that no other person could manage.”

She stared into my eyes not knowing how to react, but I could tell in her eyes that she appreciated it.

I some how managed to round the bases that night, when I woke up next to her I thought to myself, that this was a manly home run I managed. It was something that if I mentioned it to my fellow leathernecks, I would have gotten a standing ovation. But after that typical man thought I watched her as she slept peacefully, with a hint of a smile on her face. I wouldn’t trade this moment for any other moment. I love this woman, I hesitantly thought. It was thought that I very carefully stayed away from with other women, but I’d never came to that conclusion so fast before. Usually, it was a long way’s into a relationship, before it even crossed my mind.

Of course, she said it was too fast. When she woke up, she smiled, but the smile eventually relented to a concerned look. I stood out in the parking lot of her apartment building, leaning against my car and thinking of how to approach this. I didn’t want to let this one get away. I did not want to let her write me off as a one nightstand. “Never let the best things get away from you,” my father said that day he started radiation therapy. “You’ll kick yourself in the ass. There’s nothing worse to leave something undone, because you’ll fell as if you left life uncompleted. I’ve left a lot unfinished and intend to finish them one day.”

After he died, I always wondered what he left unfinished and he most certainly did not have time to do anything about, because he died just three weeks later. I pushed the thought back into my mind, because perhaps he was just trying to give me hope and calm my nerves. It was still a nagging thought, that I revisited every once and while.

She avoided me for three months, till I finally got her to say something to me. It wasn’t very romantic what she said to me. She forcibly told me to move out of the way, because I was preventing her from getting to something on a bookshelf in the library. It was a start, anyway. I quickly left, because I really didn’t have any real business being in there that day. I remained unrelenting and eventually she gave in and agreed to dinner with me.

It was a seafood restaurant, in San Francisco that I brought her to. The restaurant was right off of the bay, over looking Oakland and the bay bridge. We sat and ate outside on the mild summer evening and after dinner we sat and talked for three hours.

“What do you expect out of this?” She asked.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“Where do you see us going with this?”

“I really don’t know. I…” I shuffled in my seat after trailing off, thinking over the question. I must have been thinking too long about it, because she cleared her throat loudly to get my attention. “I haven’t thought that far down the road. Hell, this is only our second date.”

“Then why pursue me that way you did?”

“I’m obsessed with you. The look in your eyes are hypnotic,” I said and she smiled, biting her lower lip and running a hand through her soft brown hair. “I figured, there might not be anyone else like you in the world,” I sighed and smiled. “I don’t know what is in store with us. Perhaps nothing. But I can’t let you get away.”

We took a long walk through the city. After that we went back to the school where I dropped her off at her apartment. Before she got out of the car, she kissed me on the cheek and said, “slow.” A year later we where engaged to be married. Now, this endless fighting has torn everything about me apart. It seems so long ago. Life’s innocents are long gone and so far out of reach.


We walk along, Richmond, Wilkinson and myself, through front yards of houses. We carefully check between each house and look at each window for a sign of a waiting enemy soldier ready to get the jump on us. I spot something ahead in the bushes. I throw up a fist and Richmond and Wilkinson both stop immediately and take a knee as I take one.

I stare hard at a leg that is sticking out from underneath a hedge, next to the front stoop of a blue wood sided house. I wait for a moment, watching for movement, before looking over my shoulder at Richmond behind me who has also spotted the leg. He looks at me and I nod and he knows exactly what to do. With guns drawn we all stand and fan out, slowly making our way toward the hedge.

As we near I spot blood on the ground next to hedge. We reach the leg I can see the rest of the body under the hedge, face down and I notice hand claw marks in the dirt signifying that he pulled himself under the hedge for cover. I gently kick the leg and get no response. I look back at Wilkinson and said in a whisper, “Cover.” He nods and turns and covers the street behind them.

I reach down and grab the leg pulling the body out from under the hedge and roles him over onto his back. He’s face is pale white and he has a bullet wound to the neck with blood that runs down the front of his uniform. He’s a Korean infantry soldier by the look of the patches on his shoulder.

“I don’t see his weapon,” Richmond said looking around the yard then he points at seven spent shells on the ground a few feet away in the middle of the yard. “Looks like he got a few shots off though.”

“Alright lets keep on moving.”

I lead the way as we continue on, along the row of house, till suddenly several loud clunking sounds from behind the houses just a head, rings out and echoes down the street. We stop and I look back at Richmond and Wilkinson, both of their eyes widen as a few very muffle voices coming from the backyard of a red brick house we are approaching. I grab Richmond by the collar and bring him closer so I can whisper into his ear.

“You and Wilkinson go between the houses here, and I’ll go around the other side. Count to thirty and jump on them.” Richmond nods and I peer around the corner and see a shadow of someone standing behind the house and then another shadow appears. Shit.

I move across to the corner of the other house and wave them forward. I begin to count to thirty. I watch as they move slowly between the houses and I move with some speed around the house toward the backyard and stop at the corner. I listen, still counting. I hear movement of three or four men, but no voices. I place a finger on the trigger. Three. Two. One.

I jump out into the backyard seeing four soldiers standing around a picnic table and Richmond with a knife drawn grabbing one of the soldiers and putting the knife to his neck. Wilkinson points his gun yelling, “U.S. Marines! Drop your weapons.”

The four soldiers put up their hands and I notice they are wearing U.S. Army uniforms. I take my finger off the trigger and sigh loudly.

“Stand down. Friendly’s,” I said and begin walking toward them. The soldier that Richmond jumped pushes Richmond away from him. Lying on the table is a wounded soldier.

“Do you guy’s have a medic with you?” One of soldiers asked in a voice that was shaken by what just happened. I walk up to the table, standing over the dying soldier. He has a bad gunshot wound to the stomach, which is covered with gauze.

“No,” I trail off as I look up and see a soldier that I recognize. It’s Andy my little bother. I hadn’t seen him almost a year. His face his covered in dirt and his hands in blood. He looks as if he hasn’t slept in days and has a deep cut above his left eyebrow. I look at his stripes on his arm; he’s a sergeant now. I take deep breath and pull my pack off of my back and place it onto my the table before continuing, “We’re it.”

“What happened,” Richmond asked also recognizing Andy as he steps up to the table.

“We were ambushed by three or four Korean’s,” Andy said taking off his helmet, runs his hands through his hair and then puts his hands on top of the soldiers wound, applying pressure. The wounded soldier winces in pain. “We got at least two of ‘em. The others might still be around here.”

“Every one’s scattered to hell,” I said while looking at the wounded soldiers eyes and notice a little blood coming from the side of his mouth. He’s young maybe twenty. “We’re pulling out and times getting short. Do you guy’s have stretcher?”

I look around at them and they all shake their heads no. They are all young and look scared and that they’ve all been to hell and back. I open up my pack and pull out a medical pack.

“Has he been given any morphine?”

“Yeah,” Andy responded. He looks worried and desperate to save his man.

“Let me look,” I said placing my hand on the corner of the gauze. He hesitated for moment and we look hard at one another. Come on, Andy just let me take a look. He nods and releases his hands from the bandage and I slowly open in up.

The wound is a large bloody hole in his stomach. It looks to be an exit wound not an entrance. He must have been shot in the back. I look into the wound and cannot see any intact organs. The bullet went through his stomach. I pull fresh gauze bandage and place it back on the wound, then grab the morphine and administer more into his arm. I check his pulse and it’s very faint.
Andy watches as I pull out the needle. We make eye contact again and he realizes that he’s not going to be able to save the man. Andy takes the mans hand, grips it tightly and looks down at him. The man’s eyes are tearful and more blood runs from the corners of his mouth.

“Chris, we’re going to get you out of here,” Andy said shakily trying to sound calm. He had never been good at covering up emotion.

The man coughs, spurting blood and then mumble weakly, “I tried my best.”

“That’s all I ask for, soldier.”

The man’s eyes glaze over and his face becomes pale. He slowly fades away. Andy is trying to hold in the emotions, but he looks angry and about to scream out in pain. He slowly releases the man’s hand, letting it fall limply to the table and backs away. He turns and walks to the back door of the house.

“Andy,” I called out after him, but he ignores me as he enters the house. Inside we all can hear him yell out and throw something made of glass to the floor inside. I walk after him.

“Do they know one another?” Wilkinson said to Richmond.

“They’re brothers.”

Before walking into the house I turn and look back at them and said, “We leave in five minutes.” I step inside and shut the door behind me.

I’m in a darkly lit kitchen with dust-covered floors, cupboards and counters. Andy stands leaning against the counter staring blankly at the floor. I stare at him waiting for him to say something.

“How is it so easy for you?” He asked in a soft voice.

“It’s not easy, Andy. It never will be.” I see a small table and I pull out of the chairs, turn it around to face him and sit down.

“How can you look so, calm through it all than? You just get use to it? Does it just turn into a cold emotion?”

“There’s no getting use to it and you’ll still have the same feeling,” he looks up at me with a hint of a tear in his eyes. “Look, Andy. It’s apart of the job.”

“Well our fucking job sucks.”

“Yeah it does. We run the risk of getting killed every time we step out into the field. And when you have our job we have deal with it a curtain way. Getting the way you are now, doesn’t help.”

“That man out there was my friend.”

“I get that, but you still have tree other men out there. Those three men are looking to you to get them home and you might fail at it.” I stand and walk toward him.

“How many have you lost?”

“Too many,” I said and took a long breath thinking about those Marines I’ve lost. Every single one of their dying faces are seared into my memory. “I’ve lost forty-three just in this war. You’ve got remember that you have job to do. You’re a leader of men. You bring them into battle and it’s your job to bring them back, but you’re never going to be able to bring them all back. We make their difficult decisions for them, so they can do their job. We shoulder their pain. Stopping to morn your friend right now, can get the rest of them killed.”

As reach him, I throw an arm around him and hug him. “We have job to do right now, little brother.” He hugs me back and after we release from one another he wipes the tears away from his eyes.

“If I would have known what this was going to be like, I would have never joined.”

“Would it have mattered?” I asked.

“True. I guess I would have been forced in regardless.”

“Yeah,” I said with a smirk.

“This war is going to go on forever?”

“All wars end. Someone’s bound to give up or lose, you know.”

“What if it’s us?” He said and I look away knowing that, that just may be a possibility. So far, this war is not going to well for us. When all is said and done, the United States may not exist anymore.

“We just can’t give up, is all.” I eventually said.

“Ok,” he said quietly and takes a large breath. “Where are we going?”

“University and Hubble.”

“That’s kind of fare away isn’t it? I haven’t been here in a while, but that’s what north of downtown?”

“It’s why we have to leave right now.”

“What about Chris’ body?”

I look down and away from him, because I knew he was going to ask. He’s not going to like what were going to have to do and I said, “We’re going to have to leave him. Andy, we don’t have long before we are surrounded.”

His heart sinks and he looks away from me. I wonder what he’s thinking, does he just want to call me a cold-hearted bastard or will this decision I’m making for him cause him to look at me with contempt for the rest of our lives. I stand strong in front of him, because we don’t have any other choice. If we have to drag body with us, we may get stranded on the wrong side of the line.

“We make the difficult decisions, so they don’t have, too,” He said after clearing his throat loudly. After a second or two he nods at me. “Alright, lets go.”

He walks back outside and I watch from a window as he walks up to the body. Andy looks over the body, then takes one of the two dog tag off of him and a sealed envelope from his breast pocket. I sigh, step outside and the three Army soldiers stare at me as he walks out.

“We’re moving out,” I ordered. “Get his weapons and extra ammo; we’re going to need it.”

They stare at me in disbelief as Andy begins rummaging through the Chris’ belt pulling out a few magazines of bullets and two grenades. Andy touches Chris’ face looking into his still open eyes. He holds in the emotion.

“Sorry Chris,” he said softly. “I’ll make sure Amber gets the letter. I’ll never forget you.” Andy turns and faces his soldiers. “You heard the man. He’s the ranking no-com here, so, lets move.” 

More Chapters to come soon.

© 2015 Austin James Marion

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