The Truth….A Walk in Darkness….

“Corporal Freeman, which of the Army Values do you think is the most important?” 

As I sit at attention in the aluminum chair, decked out in my fresh pressed desert camouflage uniform, I pondered this question. “All of them are important but which one is most important to me? Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity or Personal Courage?” My palms start to sweat and finally, I make my choice. “Integrity is the most important Sergeant Major.” The four First Sergeants’ and the Sergeant Major smile and nod their heads. “Why?”

I so badly want to wipe my hands on my pants, but I don’t dare move. “I need a perfect score on this promotion board, so I can get a boost toward my next rank, don’t blow it.” I take a deep breath and somehow through all the nervousness, I find my voice. “Because Sergeant Major, if a person can tell the truth in the face of horrible consequences, they will epitomize the rest of the Army Values.” My Sergeant Major smiles and nods his head. “Well done, Sergeant. I have no further questions for you. Stand and recite Fiddler’s Green.”

 My remembrance is short lived as the sun shines brilliantly through my partially opened shade. Agitated, I try to brush it out of my eyes. “Where am I?”

It feels like I have sand in my eyes, my head feels like The World’s Fair moved in and everyone wants to be an announcer at the same time.  Somehow, I managed to get vomit on my chest and floor. “Why can’t I shut off this constant flow of memories? Why does this one always play?” I know why this memory pains me, but I don’t want to admit the horrible truth to myself. “Because your answer was full of crap. You gave a textbook answer, but you couldn’t live it. Wait, you could live it in the Army, but you couldn’t live it with your wife. It only cost you everything!” Drunkenly, I reach for my shot glass. “I am going to kill this memory. If I must drink so much that it kills me, this memory needs to die.” In the back of my mind maniacal laughter rings out. “Do it.”

Shuffling to the bathroom, I struggle to control my nausea. I lean on the door frame and yesterday’s tacos wants to exit. Quickly, I lean over the toilet and wait. Quiet tears stream down my face as I expel my dinner. “You know the way home. Why do you do this to yourself?” I seem to have an unlimited amount of tears. The worst part of yesterday’s hangover is done but my broken cry continues. “You’re just feeling sorry for yourself, suck it up cupcake.”  I take my right hand and angrily wipe the tears from my cheeks and look in the mirror.  The reflection of the man staring back at me from the mirror is unrecognizable. “Now you know how your wife felt.”

Everything goes red as I punch my mirror until little slivers of glass protrude from my knuckles. My tears return as the truth hits me like someone has run over me with a bus. My mind takes the time to channel Paul Harvey.

“Now you know the rest of the story.”

07 August 2019

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