Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Modern Canterbury Tales: The Soldier

It's Wednesday, and as I promised, here is my second Modern Canterbury Tale about the soldier.
His name is Jack Price, although I never mention it in the story. 
Yesterday was Veteran's Day, so really this would have been better to post then, but oh well. The day after still works, right?
Remember to honor those in the military who fight and lay down their lives to protect you. Without them, our world would not be what it is today.

The dreams hit worse at night. They haunt me with memories like a plague, unwilling to cease the endless torment. Often, I lie awake in the darkness of my cabin, unable to drift off to sleep. The barest whisper of the cruise ship rocking on the waves does nothing to settle the insomnia brought about by post-traumatic stress.
When all is still, I hear the faint traces of gunfire and the agonized moans of my fellow soldiers. As an army combat medic, I witnessed more than my share of anguish and death. I spent three tours in Afghanistan doing what I could to ease the suffering of wounded brothers and to ease the passing of others.
During our sixteen weeks of medical training, I and the other doctors and medics were warned that fifty percent of the soldiers we would care for on the field would die. Even that did little to prepare me for what lay ahead. After basic battle training, I was deployed.
Armed with plenty of anxiety, apprehension, and an M-16 rifle, for self defense only, I began work providing first aid and trauma care on the frontlines. Although the Geneva Conventions supposedly provide protection for medical personnel, we were fired upon frequently. Terrorists aren’t exactly known to play by the rules. On many occasions, I was forced to fire upon hostiles to protect myself, my fellow medics, and the wounded soldiers we tended. I took lives to save lives.
Half of the young men and women I attended to on the field died, most within a half hour of receiving their initial injuries. To this day, I see their faces each time I close my eyes; their fear, their pain, and their regrets evident in their battle-weary features. Many, I never met until they died. Most I never knew their names. That, I believe, haunts me greater than the war itself. The few who survived and whose names I knew, I tried to contact once I returned to the states.
One young man whose name I did manage to learn, I located upon my arrival home. As a sniper, he had been shot through the shoulder while defending me and my team during my third tour. The bullet passed narrowly between his subclavian and axillary arteries. Though he lost roughly two pints of blood by my estimate, he fought to survive. Even as we cared for him, he argued that he was alright, and pleaded with us to allow him to continue fighting. “I have to protect them. I have to protect them, please,” he begged. What set him apart from the others was his lack of fear and his passion and drive to defend his fellow soldiers. He didn’t fear death, but defiantly stared it in the face. He lived, and returned home early to his family to receive further medical treatment. Inspired by this young soldier, I continued to work with renewed vigor until the time arrived for me to return home.
For a year and a half I feebly attempted to lead a normal life. I worked, attended counseling twice a week, and immersed myself in the world. But I felt lost. I could not allow myself to sit idly by when on the other side of the world others fought and died protecting people they would never meet.
Israel, the cruise ship’s destination, is where I plan to accomplish my goals as a Lone Soldier, the term the Israelis dub those in their military who have no immediate family living in Israel. I opted to travel by plane, but as their air space is somewhat compromised thanks to terrorists, that proved difficult. That and my sister practically ordered me to travel by cruise ship on the pretense that, if I die, I should at least enjoy myself on a leisure vacation beforehand. As a successful lawyer, she provided the money, and as a soldier, I followed her orders.    
Most of my time I spend in my room or on walks along the decks of the ship; I put forth little effort to meet my fellow passengers. The moment they discover my occupation, the formalities ensue. I understand that some possess no notion of how to react or relate to a man with war experience. There are times when I, myself, am at a loss to explain the depths of my trauma and the ways it catches me off-guard at untimely moments. In the eyes and expressions of some passengers, I see malice and hatred, and although as a combat medic my duty was to save lives, I know they see me as nothing more than a murderer.
Yes, I killed people in self-defense. Yes, I knelt over too many dying brothers and sisters, powerless to stop the bleeding that drained the life from their bodies. Yes, I have seen suffering, death and horrors; experiences that scarred me forever. And yes, I am willing to endure it over again to protect and save the people I love and the people I shall never meet. I know that those people will never understand the reason behind my voyage to Israel. Theirs is for pleasure; mine is for purpose.
Meeting my traveling companions, I know, is inevitable. After all, even on a ship the size of three football fields, one cannot hide forever. If I confront the people residing closest to me in my hall, I wish it to be on my own terms. The faces of those who died in my hands haunt me each night, but more importantly, the knowledge that I never learned their names. Maybe I will rest easier tonight if I attempt to learn the names and faces of the people I shall protect as a Lone Soldier in Israel. 

That's it for now! What did you think? Please feel free to let me know.
By the way, the young sniper that got shot is a character in another story I'm planning. You can find what I've done on my Pinterest board Storyboard: Untitled. Really creative name, I know. ;)
I am hoping to have Chapter Twelve of The Mark of the King up my next Wednesday at the latest. I'll edit it over the weekend, so I'll probably have it up before Wednesday.
Oh, by the way! I got my government test back yesterday and I did really well on it! Thank you for the prayers! God bless you all, and remember, He loves you more than you can imagine, and nothing- nothing- will ever change that.