“Gentlemen, we are going to put ourselves in harms way today, prepare yourselves for what is going to happen.”
After three months on ground, the briefing needs to change. Harms way or not, the mission beckons. Half-heartedly listening, my mind wanders to my pregnant wife and beautiful daughter. “Are they okay? Am I a daddy twice over? How will I find out when I am halfway around the world? What if….no, no, NO….I can’t think like that…” For a moment, my emotions want to run rampant, but I maintain control of them. The briefing continues, I come back into the small room where only a select handful of individuals sit in the chairs listening. I glance around the room, every face resigned to the fact we are walking into the deepest depths of hell for those we love.
“The survival rate of this mission is…” Silence falls on the room, the speaker suddenly loses his voice. I look at the floor. We all know where we are going, we’ve heard the stories, and now it is upon us to make sure the horrors we have heard never happen again. “um, guys….none of you may make it back. Your sacrifice will be remembered, songs will be sung in your honor, and remember Fiddlers Green.” My chair is uncomfortable, and I squirm in it trying to get in a position where I feel better. No one says anything, we knew walking in we would hear this in the briefing, it just confirms we are riding into hell.
“This concludes the mission briefing, thanks for coming.” We stand to our feet and silently exit the room. It is as quiet as the grave, soon it will be too loud to hear ourselves think. As I make my way down the dusty hallway, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Turing, I realize it is my First Sergeant. I snap to parade rest; he waves it off. “Freeman, you have a wife, right?” I nod in affirmation. “Yes Top, is everything okay?” He smiles and slips his arm around my shoulder and we continue down the hallway. “Yeah. She gave birth to your daughter; it is your daughter, right? Anyway, mom and child are healthy and doing well at Evans Hospital. I know what you heard in the briefing; now you have a reason not to die. You understand me, Corporal?”
“Ride or die, First Sergeant.”
I walk out into the sun, Fallujah beckons.