“Let me get this straight, bud. Your wife was raped, your daughters are traumatized, and you were beaten within an inch of your life, but you want to talk to the people who did it? Is that summed up correctly?”
Jace Whitmore stared at me. The bruises on Jace’s face was still swollen. His left eye was completely closed, his right was barely open. He nodded his head yes.
“You would never understand it, brother. You joined the military before you even left high school. Violence is all you know. Your leaders told you that violence solves issues, but it doesn’t. All it does is muddy the waters.”
I sat on my truck bed and listened to him. ‘He’s nothing like the man he used to be,’ I thought. There was a time when he would have gone out and settled the score. Marriage had softened him. ‘What kind of man would not fight for his family?’
Jace had walked to the other side of the truck and propped up on the metal body. Ever so often he would wince from the pain. He winced a lot.
“Whatever you want to do bud. I am here if you need me.” Of course, I had no intention of letting this insanity continue for one day longer than necessary. I just told him that to keep him in the clear. As a matter of fact, I had bad intentions for the people that carried out this heinous deed.
There was going to be a reckoning. The price would be paid in blood.
My story began on a cold day in 1973. My momma was a good woman, my dad a good man. They raised me to be a good man in my own right. It ain’t their fault that I turned out the way I did.
“Terry, son, you’ve got to control your temper,” they would tell me. I tried; I really did. Things would be fine, and suddenly they weren’t. The doctors told them I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“How’d he get it,” my parents asked. The docs had no clue. Heck, I was living it, and I had no clue.
“It’s brought on my traumatic experiences. Has he ever seen, heard, or done anything to cause this to manifest?”
I was 9. My mom got this scowl on her face like she thought the doctor might have sipped some ‘shine before she came in. The doctor looked like she been hitting the hillbilly juice on a regular.
“He’s nine,” my mother emphasized. The doctor shrugged. My mom and the doctor came to a conclusion that this conversation wasn’t going anywhere, so they decided to drop it. Now, you younger folks might not know what ‘dropping a conversation” might be. It’s when they realized it wasn’t going anywhere so they quit talking about it.
Kinda like me and Jace. I knew he wasn’t going to back down from his position of self-righteousness, and I wasn’t going to tell him I would handle it in my own special way. I dropped it.
It all started on a hot day in a desert.
I walked into the blood red barracks. My brown shirt was grey from the lack of salt in my body. It didn’t matter how much water I drank, nor how many salt tablets I chewed, I couldn’t keep the mineral in my body. I stopped by the staff duty desk and asked for directions from a bored looking private. “Down the hall on the left,” she said.
Her directions were good. On the closed door was a plaque that read: First Sergeant Timothy Maroon. My grin stretched across my narrow face. ‘What a maroon,’ I heard Bugs Bunny say in my mind. I knocked on the door three times.
“Enter,” a booming voice called out. I opened the door. First Sergeant Maroon sat behind an old metal table. The kind you saw in factories. He studied my face for a moment and then motioned for me to have a seat.
“Who are you, he asked, “and why are you here disturbing me?”
“Sorry, First Sergeant, it wasn’t my intention to disturb you. I am Staff Sergeant Terry Withers. I was to report to you two weeks ago, but I was injured and sent to the rear for surgery.”
“Right. You’re the scout truck guy, yeah?”
“Well, welcome to your new home Staff. How’d your surgery go?”
“It went fine. A piece of shrapnel went through my left foot. They went in and got as much of it out as they could.”
“Do you have a medical profile?”
“I did have, but it appears that I lost it on the way here.”
“Alright. You were to be assigned to Second Platoon. They’ve been hard hit as of late, so you room arrangements that I made before you got hurt should still be good.” He studied a sheet of paper and nodded. “You will room with Staff Sergeant Jace Whitmore.”
“Roger, First Sergeant.”
“Let me get a duty runner, and they will escort you to your room.”
I sat back and waited. Seconds later, a frail looking private burst into the room. It took me all of a handful of seconds to realize this kid had a motor tick.
“Jenkins, take Staff Sergeant to Staff Sergeant Whitmore’s room.”
“Roger, First Sergeant.” The corner of his mouth twitched. He looked at me, well, I think he looked at me. He wore glasses, and man, they were thick.
“Follow me, Sergeant.”
I nodded goodbye to First Sergeant Maroon and followed the kid down the hallway. On the second floor, two doors down on the left, the kid stopped. He pointed at the door.
“Here you are, Sergeant. Do you want to knock or should I?”
“Go ahead, Private. Knock yourself out.”
The kid banged on the door three times. From behind the door, you could hear the shuffle of feet. The door cracked open, and this mellow voice called out of the darkness.
“Yeah,” it whispered sleepily. The kid went to parade rest.
“Sergeant, I brought your new roommate here on orders of First Sergeant Maroon.”
“Relax kid, I got it from here. You’re dismissed.” The kid nodded and walked away.
“Staff Whitmore, yeah? I’m Staff Withers.”
Jace flipped on the lights and nodded. He waved me into the room and pointed at the second bed in the room.
“That’s yours. Now, excuse me. I’ve been up all night on duty. It’s time for me to grab some shut eye.”
“Sure,” I said. “I understand. I’ll grab my gear when you get up.”
“Roger.” I flipped off the lights and stretched out on my new bed. It’s a good thing that I have no problem going to sleep anywhere.