Steven J. Newton
The old sergeant was sitting in his make shift office when there was a knock on the door and in rushed the Padre.
“Pappy, you have a second? We have a rather serious problem.”
“Padre, anything for you; what’s up?” The old sergeant asked.
“Well, this is a tough one. We believe one of our men has… deserted. He is not in his quarters and he isn’t in the compound. No one has penetrated our defenses coming in, so that just leaves going out.”
The old sergeant was immediately up and moving. “CORPORAL! Assemble the platoon. We have to find this kid before the brass finds out or he’s bound for Leavenworth.”
Within half an hour the whole platoon had again searched the entire compound. The sergeant had two squads leaving the gate to start a neighborhood search and he was in the lead. It wasn’t much of a search though because 100 meters from the compound entrance, the sergeant spotted the kid sitting on a street corner. No weapon, no body armor, and no sense.
“Ok, ok. Everyone stand down and let me handle this. GO ON! Everyone back to their duties; that is if you ladies remember them.”
The old sergeant gave his rifle to one of the men and then slowly walked right down the street. When he got up to the kid, he noticed that he had his backpack lying on the ground beside him. Just like a kid running away from home.
The old sergeant took out a cigar and sat down next to the soldier. “Hey kid.”
“Hey pappy,” the soldier said.
“You doing one man patrols now or ya got a hot date I don’t know about?” The sergeant asked.
The kid gave a weak smile and then it was gone. “I can’t go back, pappy. I’ve had it. First I lost my best friend when he had his leg blown off and was sent to Germany. Then… last week. She died in my arms pappy. She was only 5 years old.” Tears started to run in rivers down the soldier’s cheek. “She would come by the compound every week and I would slip her food and maybe a little money. She was skin and bones pappy.”
“And then they killed her. Drug her through the streets from the back of a truck, just because I talked with her. She was the same age as my daughter and I miss her so much that I was using the little girl as a substitute. I killed her pappy. It was MY fault. I have to go home. I need to hear my little girl’s voice.”
The old sergeant remembered the incident. In fact he would never forget it. The Muj had drug the little girl alive and then cut the rope holding her directly in front of their compound. The kid had been the first to reach her. Just before she died she had called him daddy.
The old sergeant lit up his cigar. They both sat in silence for a long time.
Pappy suddenly felt very tired himself. “Well, kid. I need to be getting back behind the wire.” He reached out and shook the soldier’s hand. “You be careful by yourself around here. Head to the green zone and then catch a ride out on a transport. I’ll take care of the paperwork.”
As the old sergeant started to leave the kid said, “Ain’t you going to stop me, pappy?”
The sergeant turned around and looked at the kid. “No son, I’m not. You’ve done your duty. In fact if I were in your boots I’m not sure I would be here now. Sometimes I wish I could walk down that street with you and the only thing that keeps me here is you guys. You’re my friends AND my family.”
At this he turned and walked back inside the wire and the young soldier watched him go. As he entered the compound the Padre was waiting for him and they exchanged some quick words. As the Padre ran off to carry out pappy’s request the old sergeant went to his office and poured himself a very generous drink of Jack.
Several minutes passed and there was a quiet knock on the door. “Come,” the sergeant said.
The kid entered the office and stood at attention. “Sergeant! I will wait here for the MP’s if you don’t care?”
The old sergeant smiled. “Yeah? MP’s and all that, huh? Well I guess it would be ok. Why don’t you just have a seat and we’ll just sit here and get drunk before they arrive?”
About an hour passed and they were well on they’re way to doing just that when there was another knock on the door. The kid jumped up like he was shot and stood rigidly at attention.
The Padre entered and said, “Hey pappy. Headquarters has routed a call from the States to your office phone – some kind of emergency.”
The old sergeant looked over at the kid and said, “Son you’re making me nervous standing there. Would you mind getting the phone?”
The kid walked over and picked up the phone. “Hello,” he said. A very young and quiet voice on the other end of the line…
“Is that you daddy?”
©Copyright circa 2006 by Steven J. Newton