Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gene Baird writes

Another One Bites the Dust (part three)

The sound of gunfire can be heard and the screen fades to a desert scene. Then, a small combat unit – under fire -- in Iraq can be seen, lying behind/under their HMMMVs that are parked in a ‘herring bone’ formation. The unit is seen from an aerial view as they are fired upon.
Then the camera is ground level and behind the American unit.
One soldier turns around to see another soldier to his right.
Cameras focus on the soldier who is turning and reveal it is PFC ERIC JOHNSON.
Bullets begin to wiz by, causing desert dust to fly up after they touch ground, making the visibility worse. A few members of Johnson’s unit continue firing and the incendiary rounds (1 of every 3 bullets) can be seen penetrating the dust clouds.
PFC Johnson then gets into the prone position, slips on night vision goggles, and begins to slowly pick off enemy personnel. He fires one shot per enemy, aiming center mass (chest/heart).
Clink, clink, clink sounds are made by his weapon when the cameras are close up, the other weapons are more distant. The “clinks” sound and a quick muzzle flash can be seen from tip of Johnson’s weapon because the camera is looking through the night vision, depicting Johnson’s line of sight.
A large, red, fiery ball approaches Johnson’s unit, blinding Johnson temporarily.
            R!……. P!……..G!
Most members of Johnson’s unit continue to fire from a prone position; a few put their heads down after hearing CPL Wright.
BAM! The fiery ball hits a HMMMV that two soldiers are near. The vehicle explodes into fire and lifts 4-5 feet off the ground, flipping sideways on top of the two soldiers.
The fire sheds some light on the scene, and one of the two soldiers can be seen slowly getting up on the friendly side of the vehicle, missing an arm. He stumbles like a drunk to maintain footing.
He takes 2-3 difficult steps and falls forward, dead. The other soldier never moves after the explosion.
            Okay! We need to hold our positions here. Everybody keep their fuckin heads down.
Wright can be heard but not seen. The bullets continue to spray into their area, damping their ability to hear. The sound of bullets echoes loudly until fewer gun shots can be heard. Immediately the American soldiers stop returning fire and silence grows for one to two minutes until no shots can be heard.
PFC Johnson prematurely raises his head up to take a look….
I think they’re retreatin’ yo! Let’s sweep through. These muthas are weak, man. I’m going.
            CPL WRIGHT
No! Keep your dumb ass down.
Johnson’s head tilts back and then his body drops backwards until it hits the earth.
Johnson’s arms flap up once while his weapon falls and clangs up against a rock. The others run to his aid, the sound of gunshots picks back up.

            Cover fire! Cover fire! Meeeediiiic! Where’s the god damned medic?
The enemy fire picks up again, filling the air with dust.
The camera moves to an aerial view.
Wright maneuvers to Johnson’s position, as do a few soldiers providing cover fire.
The camera zooms on PFC Johnson with his eyes wide open, blood coming from under his Kevlar, and his fellow soldiers putting his body back down onto the ground. One soldier gently closes Johnson’s eyes with a shaking hand, and they cover his body with a green wool blanket…. “US” up. All the while, four soldiers, all in single-knee firing positions, return fire to the enemy.
            Damn! They got Johnson.
The voices of SSG JONES and another recruit can be heard but figures not seen yet.
            Hi! Come on in and have a seat.
OK. I came in today because I’m finished with high school and want to move out of my house. My family is basically kicking me out, but I’ve really done nothing wrong.
No criminal offenses? You appear to be within weight standards. What did you score on your SAT?
            No law violations at all, and I got a 1000 on my SAT. Is that OK?
Yes, that score should mean you can pass the ASVAB, so I won’t give you the practice test. If you want to join quickly I can expedite that.
Phone rings.
SSG JONES (cont)
            Hang on, Amanda.
Answers phone and then listens for a while.
            Today’s Army. This is SSG Jones, may I help you? (listens for 1 min)
His eyes open wide and he looks downward before hanging the phone up.
Amanda, I have to be honest with you. The Iraq war isn’t exactly over, and chances are that you might end up in a unit that is deploying over there. I just don’t want to bullshit you. That phone call was the Army casualty assistance office. One of my previous recruits was just killed in action.
That doesn’t mean the same thing will happen to me. I still need some place to call home. Please let me in.
            Let’s do the paperwork.
SSG JONES knocks on the door. Standing next to him is an Army Chaplain, both are in dress uniform, and the Chaplain carries a Bible in his left hand.
Ma’am, my name is SSG Jones, and I was your son’s recruiter. Can I come inside? I think you might want to have a seat. This is Chaplain Rodriguez.
Sure. He mentioned you before he went in. Last I knew by the way, he was loving it, but is in Iraq now.
Looking at a small letter
Ma’am, I’m afraid your son was killed in action, while serving under the deadliest of circumstances.
Mom’s mouth opens, tears begin to form, but she remains speechless.
He was killed while in battle, assisting others to survive despite their odds of survival. I knew he’d make a good soldier, but he turned out to be one of the toughest that any country could hope to have.
She collapses on the floor, crying. Both the Chaplain and SSG Jones kneel to her position. They speak to her but their words cannot be heard. Only their mouths can be seen moving as her crying drowns everything else out.
The screen fades to the outside of a building and “2 YEARS LATER” appears in white at the bottom.
The words and outside fade to reveal the inside of the building, where lots of soldiers can be heard talking. All of them are in dress uniform with their spouses dressed to impress. “Attention” is sounded and the sound “New York, New York” is played over the speakers. Every soldier stands up and snaps to the position of Attention within seconds. The spouses stand to their feet as well but not as quickly as the soldiers do.
The Battalion Commander stands up and moves to the front stage. It takes him almost the entire song to get there because he stops and shakes hands along the way. He climbs the four steps in front of the stage and waves as he approaches the microphone.
Please be seated. Before we get started, a word from the Chaplain.
            Please stand in prayer.
            Lord, as you look upon us now, we pray that you see our efforts and assist us in remaining safe while enjoying our convention.
To the soldiers
Join me in the Lord’s Prayer. Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thine will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, forgive us for our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever……AMEN
The Chaplain sits down, as do all of the soldiers and spouses. Only LTC Marino remains standing on the stage.

Okay, it’s time to get this party started. To start us off, I’d like to call up the Hempstead Recruiting Office’s Station Commander: SFC Barnes
Standing in front of 100 recruiters with awards and trophies poised on a table behind him
This next award goes to the recruiter who consistently led the battalion in prospecting, accessing, and maintaining the Army’s acquisition requirements, basically the soldier who put the most people in the Army….ha ha. Anyway, we all know who this is going to. SSG Jones, could you please come up here and get this huge trophy off my stage. And while you’re here, grab that one for best recruiter, the Meritorious Service Medal, since you’re leaving us to go back into the mainstream, and that envelope that was handwritten by the General of all recruiting that thanks you for your individual efforts.
SSG Jones stands up and walks towards the stage, climbs up three small steps, and walks towards the microphone. As he does this, the crowd stands and begins to clap in sincere admiration for his efforts and his performance. Voices can be heard chanting: “nice job, outstanding, best soldier ever, hell of a recruiter, our loss the mainstream’s gain.” Then, in harmony, the crowd chants “speeeeeeeeeech” “speeeeeeeech” “speeeeeech” as loudly and annoyingly as they can.
Well, first I need thank all of my friends here, SFC Barnes, and my fellow recruiters from the station. We worked hard together, and I hope my efforts taught you how to do things better. But I really hope you remember one thing that I didn’t learn until it was too late to avoid guilt.
Tears begin to fall.
There is no need to lie to people. The army is at war now, and we sit here telling people, “it’s all good,” when it isn’t. We cannot help that soldiers die in combat, but telling new folks that they probably won’t go to combat is stupid. Telling them lies regarding what they can have later isn’t good either. If someone dies for this country, let be because they went into it knowing full well what is in store for them. And for goodness’ sakes, do not hide from war by remaining a recruiter. Don’t put them there while you hide from where they are going; that’s cowardly. Cowboy the fuck up and do your real jobs. Keep it real, folks.
The crowd goes silent, knowing that Jones has been a rather unscrupulous recruiter and has motivated them to be that way also. They begin to look at each other and whisper quietly; laughing can be seen but not heard.
Barnes runs slowly up to the stage and to the microphone.
Thank you Jones, and nice work over the last three years! I hope you don’t run into too many of your old recruits. You know you did what you had to do quite a lot, but that’s why you’ve got all of those awards that will help you get promoted. Let’s hear a round of applause for him.
The crowd claps while smiling, as if they’re just clapping because they were told to.
            Good luck Jones.
On leave, en route to his next duty station, SSG Jones walks in to see his brother speaking to an army recruiter. He pauses, puts down his bags, and hurries to sit nearby without introducing himself.
            You can have any job you want to in the army. You wanna be a sniper, just sign here.
            Hell yeah!
Hang on! Mike, you cannot be guaranteed Sniper School, bro. You have to sign infantry and then apply to it. You can be denied, but you’re still in the army for the duration that you signed up for. If you’re gonna join, join for the MOS that you want, and then look for schooling you’d like that helps you get promoted within that field.
Crone quickly retorts an interruption to regain control of the interview.
            True! But Sniper School helps infantry get promoted.
But did you tell him that only one out of every 20 applications is accepted into that school?
            Well, I don’t always say everything. He wants to fight.
No, I want to be the best that I can be. I initially told you high tech stuff. Can that be coupled with contributing in the battle?
            Sure it can.
Crone looks at Jones, waiting for a reply.
In a supporting role, yes. The high tech guys don’t usually see direct combat, and infantry is not high tech.
            Let’s look for a high tech job, bro. Can you help?
            Sure I can.
SSG Jones is standing at the in-processing center, just having finished his intro paperwork. He stares at the admin person.
            So which unit am I in? I’m ready to get it on!
You’ll be heading back to the Henry H. Lind NCO Academy to be an instructor, Staff Sergeant. Kill ‘em dead! It’s a nice assignment for sure. You’ll be training young NCOs all of the fundamentals of leadership. You’ll ensure the Army Values are upheld: loyalty, decisiveness, endurance, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
            Yeah, I think integrity is something we all need a little work on. Hoah! Thank you clerk.
The clerk remains quiet, thinking Jones may have been referring to him. His eyes squinting, his eyebrows go up, and his mouth opens in curiosity, making the clerk appear confused.

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