Honorbound

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Here’s a story I’ve started. I’ll try–I promise–to add to it each week until it’s done~Magus

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”~ John Donne

He walked on the  road, his heals skipping off  the earth’s husk, pluming dust behind him. He felt ashamed because he did not walk as a soldier should walk. He did not take the precautions a professional should take. The open road, not far from where all his comrades died, surely held more dangers. He held his carbine carelessly in one hand, swinging it as he walked. Were it not for his American uniform, his gait, posture and professional disposition could just as easily been that of an Afghani soldier, whom he’d spent nearly a year attempting to train, against all hope.

There was a numbness in him. If was as if he’d become a zombie, trudging aimlessly until he made contact with a living being, and perhaps from the living he could again draw up some semblance of life in himself.

What was he doing? He looked down onto the rank insignia velcroed to the chest of his body armor. Staff Sergeant. Staff Sergeant in the world’s most powerful army. Steve Taylor felt shame, because he was supposed to love combat regardless of its outcome. Soldiers are born to die. But he hadn’t died. Because he’s run away. While his friends fought, he ran. While his friends died, he lived.

Taylor stopped in the middle of the road. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth but he refused to sip from his Camelback, as if he could make right his cowardice by dehydrating himself. He looked at the unit patch on his left shoulder. 7th Cav, 1st Squadron. Iron Horse.

He’d failed. All his training had meant nothing. All the Hooh-Ah bullshit. The running around and yelling and screaming at the young Privates during suppress and flank maneuvers. The leadership courses and all the reading and promotion boards. But when the tire met the road, Taylor ran.

Everything was going fine for the first thirty minutes as his convoy moved along MSG Gold toward Kabul. The route had been cleared of IEDs only 30 minutes prior to the convoy moving out. He’d made that run at least 20 times, even had a few IEDs go off and shred some HMMWVs, saw some Soldiers missing legs and part of a face.

But in those cases, the Taliban hadn’t pressed the issue. They’d melted into the surrounding villages or mountainsides. Frustratingly, the world’s mightiest army couldn’t extract a blood vengeance on a bunch back-woods haters who couldn’t read a children’s story but could make a command activated bomb using a cell phone. Men around him grumbled about how the whole convoy should “shift fire” right into the center of the village, level the whole fucking place and just keep going. Someone in one of those huts knew, and had helped in some way, the Talibs, and nothing–some said–would make them drop the dime quicker than the knowledge they’d be smashed into the bottom of a smouldering crater if any bad guys used the place as an Op Center.

But no. It was the natural surge of emotional energy every warrior feels when he’s attacked. Warriors fight. The platitudes, diplomacy and veiled cowardice was for journalists and diplomats. None of those people had to pull triggers. But his unit’s rage subsided on those occasions and discipline stood firm.

Yet discipline stood firm and now more Americans were dead. At least Taylor assumed they were dead. The HMMVW at the front of the convoy had taken  an RPG right in the front passenger’s door. Taylor saw  the spark of the rocket’s exhaust, some one hundred meters to the convoy’s right. The insurgent touched the trigger, and boom. Taylor instinctively looked toward the noise. The rocket seemed to travel so slowly that maybe–just maybe– Taylor could have opened his door, ran to the vehicle in front of him, pulled the tactical commander out of his seat and hit the deck. But before he could even yell the three letters–RPG–the shaped charge ripped through the vehicle, spraying some of its contents out the opposite side. His driver immediately hit the brakes and swerved to the left.

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