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The Patriot

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posted on Nov, 5 2006 @ 05:02 AM
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I wake myself, knowing that something has happened but not what. I don't know who I am.

Memories come slowly at first, and I pry for them desperately. I can't stand for my mind to be blank. Things begin flowing, rushing freely, and as it begins, the terror overwhelms me and I try to shut the memories out. But I cannot.

The lights are too bright for me to see my surroundings, they burn into my head. Voices of the past all whisper/speak/yell at me. I want to scream, my mouth is open but no noise comes. The figures attending to me are not fased; they murmer words which I don't understand but in sympathetic and comforting tones. I don't want sympathy, and the comfort I yearn for will never be real. I hate them, but I can't tell them this, and they take care of me. At least there isn't much pain.

Soon enough, I am dreaming.

__________

I wake up again. This time I'm a child, it's on a day I remember well, something which has influenced my life and given me the interests I obsess over, the spirit I possess as an adult laying in a tent in reality. In this reality I'm ten years old.

The senior cadets are confident, arrogant. They will finish soon, the smartest as officers, the less intelligent but equally determined as enlisted, all of them into a lifetime of all things military. I want to be like them, can think of nothing better or prouder. My lack of lineage doesn't matter. I will be a soldier someday, just like my adopted father, just like million before him and millions after me. The seniors rank on me and the younger cadets some, but it's all in stride for them, a culture, a coming-of-age for all cadets; I know they probably experienced the same thing at my age. I don't like the attention but I don't take it personally.

I can't concentrate on my studies, spend my history lessons doodling pictures of knights with magical swords and machine guns, my own fantastic perception of the ultimate soldier. I am a patriot, soldiers are God's Knights, His angels. I want to be His archangel. My instructor addresses the class, tells us we should pay attention; this is one of my favorite instructors for exactly this reason, he'd rather gripe at the class as a whole instead of singling us out. I hate being singled out, and I take the hint.

I skip my lunch hour and wander around outside as usual. This isn't allowed, but I'm not the only one who does so and this rule is not so rigidly enforced. Most everyone who's here wants to be here, even if they didn't want it at first. That's how it works. We are patriots, even if we don't love our country when we get there, we will by the time we leave.

Leaning against a wall, I light a cigarette that I stole from one of the seniors using my flashlight and the chain from my ID tags as a lighter. It's an easy trick but I'm proud to do it, especially since a senior taught me how, without being condescending or making fun of me. I don't inhale, I'm too young to really smoke, but I feel like a grownup when I do. Like a soldier. Something feels uncomfortable behind me, and I quickly stand straight, afraid to snag my blouse on something sharp, or worse, get paint on it and prove to everyone that I was leaning against a wall when one of the golden rules is to never lean on anything, stand up straight.

It's a door, looks like the door to an oven almost. It's painted just like the wall, the handle is an indentation masterfully disguised as mortarline between bricks. I open the door, curious but not really. It can't be anything crazy, it's outside the dining facility after all. And so low to the ground. The door is large and opens upwards with some resistance, and I stick my head inside, looking straight down. It's a tunnel, can't see much else. I lean forward a bit, and in a moment of panic I realize I'm going to fall in, and if I fall in I know I'm dead.

Launching myself backwards, I land on my ass, staring at the door. Its tight hinges close by themselves. My cigarette is still in my mouth, and I feel a little foolish as I stand up and brush off any grass or pine needles that might be on my uniform. I look around and hope nobody notices, and look again at the wall, letting my gaze travel upwards, to the chimney several stories up, directly over the oven door.

__________

[edit on 5-11-2006 by Astygia]




posted on Nov, 5 2006 @ 05:04 AM
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__________

I don't know how long I was talking when I woke up again, but it must have been for some time, because someone was telling me "it's okay". For a few seconds I am eternally grateful to God that I can hear again, that I can speak. I don't know what I'm saying, but I feel the hand on my arm, someone comforting me. I am horrified at being touched, I hate being touched, don't #ing touch me! This is said aloud apparently, and the hand is quickly removed, though the comforting voice never stops expressing its sympathy. I still can't see, but at least its dark this time and not so damn bright.

I can't move my arms, at first my panic deepens but somehow I remember who I am and what's happened. I'm in a bed someplace, my restraints are for medical reasons. Even knowing this, a part of me needs to struggle. I think of my son, where is he? Apparently I still have no interior monologue, because the voice, a man whose age I cannot determine, assures me that my son is safe at home.

I cry, loud. And scream. I don't know what I scream; I'm ashamed for crying, and it makes me scream louder and cry harder. At least, I think I'm screaming; I hear noise but I don't know if it's me, so I get louder, hoping to prove to myself that I can still make noise.

No, I must be dreaming.

__________

I'm at the hospital, my wife is in labor. Although I don't have a weak stomach, I don't like the sight of bodily fluids. I've seen childbirth before, recognized it as biology but not something I'd like to se for a living.

But as she pushes our son out, my wife looks at me, and I look at our son. The sight doesn't disgust me; I am impressed at the calculating efficiency in which the nurses and doctor deliver him. A nurse asks me if I want to cut the cord, I take the clips she offers me. The cord is somewhat slippery even between the sharpened blades, and it takes me a few snips to seperate my son from my wife. They continue to extract the rest of the placenta from her, and my focus remains on our son.

I'm in a state of wonder as they put him in the little newborn bed and begin cleaning him up. They weigh him and put a little cap on his head and eventually hand him to me. I hold him as one would hold a priceless vase; ever so gently, but terrified to let go for fear I'll drop him. His eyes are open, and although I know a newborn can't see much right away, he's looking at me. This is the only time I have experienced love, and I am awed by it.

My wife wants to hold our son, and considering that she just did all the work, I don't argue as I carefully step over all the electrical cords feeding the array of equipment in the delivery room as I bring him to her. Her mother is the only other person in attendance besides the medical staff, and she strokes my son's capped head as my wife holds him close.

All this I have remembered within seconds of reading the letter. A memory within a memory.

The guys call these "dear john" letters. I always silently sympathized with the poor bastards who received them; in the last week, at least two had received similar news from their soon-to-be ex-wives. A female in my camp had also been handed a bye-bye note recently. But I never thought I'd get one. I had occasionally wondered what I would do if I did, and with a vague sort of detachment I had sort blown it off. I mean, yeah those guys had wives and kids, but my marriage was secure. Sure, we weren't as happy as other families, but we were loyal. I've only been here, what, a few months so far? She was there after the first year, she can take one more deployment.

I've just been promoted a few days ago, and I know I can handle the responsibility but I can't let my emotions show to anyone. I don't know if I'll be reassigned to lead a patrol, or if I'll stay where I am with the extra stripe. Either way, "sharing" isn't one of my strong points and I can't rely on anyone else; this letter is proof of that. I curl up on my cot and face away from everyone as I read the letter again, just to make sure my own insecurities haven't somehow caused me to translate the words wrong. For some reason, I think back to my favorite movies and video games, favorite books, favorite characters from all of those venues, and wonder what it would be like to be them.

After a while I muse that it's funny how they call these letters "dear Johns"; mine began with "Hey, how's it going?"

Before I know it, I'm dreaming.

__________

I'm fifteen. Today's a graduation day, and today I'm no longer a junior cadet; I'm a senior cadet. Still got a couple years until I graduate completely, but I'm getting stronger and smarter as the months go by. I try to subtly look at the extra stripes on my shoulder without anyone noticing. I don't plan on being an officer; I'm not too good at advanced math and I'm fairly certain this will keep me from being commissioned, but by this time I've realized that I'd rather take the orders from someone who knows what they're doing and be responsible for myself, rather than be in charge.

The ceremony is over, and all over the field parents are mingling with their kids, and being introduced to their kids' friends and favorite instructors. Fathers are smiling proudly like idiots, and mothers are crying like leaky faucets. I don't bother to mingle; my parents have never attended any one of my ceremonies, and my birth parents probably don't give a # where I am, they sure as hell aren't here. I go across the field towards my dorm, hoping to avoid the more social instructors who will no doubt want to give me a pat on the shoulder or shake my hand and tell me how it only gets more challenging, more worthwhile.

Like other students who don't just go to school there and actually live there, all year every year, I have a handful of priviliges that others don't, such as being allowed to leave the grounds at certain times. I walk out the gates and down the street, not really sure of where I'm going. I rarely leave the academy; usually it's on a bus to escort an injured cadet to the main hospital in town, or something equally mundane. I've snuck down to a gas station before to buy cigarettes, but never been further than that in the seven years I've been there.

After a few moments of walking I stop and lean against the wrought-iron gates, suddenly not caring if someone sees my lapse in posture. I can smell the smell again, the one I've never forgotten, and I don't even have to turn around. Ash. The chimney is burning again, during graduation day no less. I didn't notice anyone missing, but since I make a habit of not knowing people unless I have to, I'm really not surprised.

Realizing that there's absolutely nothing for me to do outside the premises, I hurry back inside, intent on going back to my dorm and sleeping. I bump into a female cadet whom I share several classes with. I'm not sure why she's here, the female dorms aren't even close by. She smiles as she recognizes me, and before I know what's happening she wraps me up in a hug and kisses me on the lips. It's the first time I've ever been kissed, and I don't know what to do because she's touching me. I shove her off of me and try to walk as fast as possible without running the rest of the way down the corridoor, ignoring her yelling at me from behind and trying to hide my face from the people looking at me like a freak.

I must be dreaming.

__________



posted on Nov, 5 2006 @ 05:06 AM
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__________

I've been recovering for some time. Physically, at least. Kosovo was cold, and a little haunting. Like walking through a movie set almost, with all the destroyed cities and junked neighborhoods. I remember a lot of Kosovo, because my deployment there was slow, nothing happened. Iraq is different...Baghdad is mostly a blur. Mosul was a little scary. I am over them. But Fallujah... Fallujah is a waking nightmare. Even though I'm in Germany, which is even colder than Kosovo I think, I'm still in Fallujah.

The Marine debriefing me (Why is a damn jarhead debriefing me?) has a wonderful sense of humor. He thinks it's funny to kill hadji. All this time, I thought the term "hadji" came from Johnny Quest's arabian friend "Hadji" in the Johnny Quest cartoon. But the Marine, a lietenant, informs me that no, it's a twist on "Mujahadeen", no more and no less.

I'm not feeling exactly sane. I'm on a lot of morphine, and something else to keep my hands from shaking. The two medications don't mix, and I feel nauseated. I know the problem is only in my mind, and that my body doesn't really have to vomit, but the more I listen to this guy, the harder it's getting to fight the urge. As I watch him write things down, I fantasize how he would look with my knife in his forehead. Or his stomach. I know these aren't rational thoughts, but I am tempted to see how funny he thinks his own death is, this damn pencil jockey.

I have to tell him about Fallujah. As much as I don't want to, I have to. He asks what happened in Baquba first... I know he's just doing his job, but I feel like he's toying with me, saving the best for last. Eventually he gets to Fallujah, and he mentions the name I have been dreading to hear, a name I'd been hearing in my mind for a month.

I tell him what happened. It's hard not to cry, but there's no #ing way I'm showing this leatherneck my tears. I'm a little choked up but I'm keeping control, oh so barely. The shaking spreads from my hands to my arms, through my body, and I sit up and cross my arms, trying to hide this. He notices and comments that it must be cold, and I nod, appreciating the excuse he has supplied for me. I have no trouble speaking of the enemy I have killed; it was them or me. But then he said it.

"Well, he's another sand 'n-word' down. Shouldn't of been there."

I snapped. I think I yelled something, but I don't know what it was. I jumped out of the bed and fell on the guy, too weak to stand but too pissed to let him go. If I'd had anything more than a hosptial gown to my name, he would be a dead man and I would be a murderer of two men instead of one, but all I had were my weak fists so I used them. He tried to get out from under me, and I head-butted his face repeatedly. I don't know how long this went on before an Army major pulled me off, screaming at me to calm down. I'm sure I looked like a psycho, I could feel the sweat and tears all over my face as she helped me back into bed.

Later, I was given a sedative while they reinserted my IVs, for which I was grateful. For all my tattoos, I am petrified of syringes. I didn't know I'd torn the IVs out, and blood was everywhere. I like to imagine it was the Marine's, but it was probably just my leakage. I know I got him good though. The Major's official prognosis was that the combination of meds mixed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but that didn't keep me from getting in trouble. She tried.

Soon enough, I was dreaming.

__________

I stand at attention as I receive my sentence. Or, punishment would be a better word. All I did is throw some chick to the floor for no reason; this makes me an asshole, but not a felon. One month brigade detail, extracurricular priviliges suspended. I am annoyed at the duties, and embarassed as hell to be in this position, but not bothered by the revoked free time. I don't do anything except sleep or work out during spare moments anyway. I'm somewhat relieved that I didn't get expelled; this wasn't likely, but I have noplace else to go.

After reprimands and lectures, I am dismissed back to class. The current period is half over, so I just go straight to the gym and change into my PT clothes, since combatives is the next class and I'm flunking trigonometry anyway. I'm beginning to wonder what the point of this is. Yeah, I could have handled the kiss better, but what is this, a military prep school or high school? I'm here to become an archangel for my country. A patriot. Not to swoon over some excited tramp. After careful consideration, I have realized that the girl was probably there looking for me specifically, which somehow makes me feel bad, yet angrier at the same time. Why did she pick me?

It's my time to the mat, and I bite down hard on my mouthpiece. My sparring partner is someone I know a little, a cadet sergeant like me. Ironically enough he's unofficially dating the girl who planted a wet one on my face a few weeks ago. I am accustomed to irony being cruel and laughing at me. I wonder why she chose him; he's kind of obnoxious, but on some level I realize that I'm probably the only one who thinks of him that way. In reality he's just like everyone else probably. Instructor Ciletti says "go", and we approach each other.

The idea of combatives is to learn how to dodge, how to avoid, how to move in close-quarters combat, not to beat each other to a pulp. But it's also fairly common for the instructor to let a cadet get waled on for a while before stopping; they want to see how you perform under pressure. So it wasn't much of a surprise that our match lasted longer than usual.

CQC at its core is like a dance, one movement gracefully leading into another. You ever been in "the zone" while doing something? Where whatever task you're doing is performed at a level of perfection probably never before matched by another human being? We were both in the zone that day, my sparring partner and I, but while he was probably only a little riled up by my having floored his girlfriend recently, I absolutely hated him. The fists flew, and we both took a beating. Had we not been wearing gloves and headgear, we'd have been ugly before it was over. But by the time we finished, he was fighting to stay on his feet while I hammered him with a fury that came from the blackest and coldest depths of myself.

During showers, I received some strange and fearful looks from the others, but nobody said anything. My sparring partner was equally silent, making a wide circle around me as we towelled off and redressed in our blues.

Am I dreaming?

__________

[edit on 5-11-2006 by Astygia]



posted on Nov, 5 2006 @ 05:06 AM
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__________

Reading the words in front of me, tearing them apart and responding to their weak points. I'm good at that. I've always been adept at being critical of things; finding flaws in a thought or method. One that is written and there for all to see is a simple target for me. Especially when they are the words of my enemy.

In thinking this, I wonder who my enemy really is. Although healed, my body is no longer the same as it was before war, but neither is my outlook. I sit in my apartment and listen to music reflecting my evolving mood as I browse the Internet, searching for something I cannot find. My ex-wife is cities away, and I haven't seen my son in some time. I am not as depressed as most might be, but I do miss my son. I wonder if he is out of diapers yet, if he's talking. If he calls someone else "father". I wonder how this will effect him, as I know what it's like to not have true parents.

I know war. I am a patriot. In matters of war, I can out-argue the most knowledgable armchair general, the sleaziest politician. In situations which require feelings and openness, social skills, I am not so adept. Enemies of my thoughts find difficulty responding to me; allies of my thoughts don't bother trying. I see one claiming to be my enemy in all shapes and forms, and I begin typing my attack.

After some time, weeks, while dissecting this person's words, I realize that I am dissecting myself. This enemy and I share the same principles, only on different sides of the conflict in question. This shocks me in a way that can never be put into words by anyone, and I take time to reflect.

Am I dreaming?

__________

Most will not agree with me, regardless of what side they are on, but patriotism is either a myth, or misunderstood on a global scale. To be a true patriot, you must be willing to do absolutely anything for your country at any cost, believing that what your superiors are ordering of you is the right thing. This is a good concept, but as long as mortal men and women run a country, no patriot will ever be always in the right.

I am guilty. The guilt will never leave, the pressure will never be released. The anxiety will never cease. The hatred festers, an ulcer within an ulcer. In some ways, I am squared away; in other ways, I am broken.

I come to realize that those I've met and befriended, the brief family I had and created, are nothing more than collatoral damage in my quest for fulfullment, for completion. I myself am collatoral damage in what was likely my adopted father's same dream.

Regardless, amidst all the drama, I find forgiveness. My sin will never be truly absolved, but one forgives me. The one that forgives me has offered something, which I cannot see clearly, but seem to recognize. I freeze inside myself and look inward, as yet unable to move further and say the words.

I fear this one, yet I am drawn in at the same time. I am unsure of myself, and communication is like learning an esoteric waltz.

It's not what it seems, can't be what I think. Only in my mind.

No, I must be dreaming.


~end~


[edit on 5-11-2006 by Astygia]




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