Fighting a war is scary to most people. Most people have a fear or dying, being shot to death, being bombed at. Most people had common sense. Then there were people like Thom, who had courage; who had the bravery to do what many couldn’t do, which was stand at the front line and take bullets to the chest, and still fighting forward. Thom lived every day as though it was his last. Writing letters to everyone he knew, always ending with the words I Love You, just in case that was the last of his letters his loved ones would be receiving. He’d start off every letter with, I’m still here. He never made any promises but he never left his men behind. After all, what kind of Sergeant would he be if he just left his men to die every time they were ambushed?
Though Thom fought a war overseas, it was nothing compared to the personal war he fought with himself every day. Every morning when he would wake up at 4 in the morning to get on the road before they were attacked, he would question why he came in the first place. Every morning, he would doubt his reasoning for joining the Army when he was 18 and every morning he would wake up and question why he kept coming back, year after year for 13 years. That didn’t make Thomas any different from the other men, except for the fact that every morning when he woke up and he doubted himself, he would give himself the same answer every time; Parker. He had a woman at home that he was in love with and that he couldn’t wait to see every time he was getting ready to come home. He had a woman that he had been dating for 8 years, and he was ready to propose.
But that was before everything changed. That was before the ambush. The ambush that changed Thom’s life for good. He and his crew had heard rumors of an overnight ambush so he ordered a night crawl. He and his crew would track 28 miles through the cold night desert and reach a town called Hi’que by the time morning hit. Sixteen miles into the overnight travel, they got hit. It was unexpected and they had no idea where the hit came from. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Thom took charge as superior officer and covered his men while they took a turn for a different escape route. Of 30 men Thom was in charge of, only 18 made it out alive, Thom being one of them. Thomas was noted as a hero and was awarded a Purple Heart. Only at the cost of everything to him, his fight wouldn’t make a difference.
Thom lay now on a bed, robed in sterile clothes. He stared at the ceiling with the same blank expression that he’s been carrying for days now, since the accident. It had been nearly a week since his ambush that left him basically alone and dead inside. He was no longer the man he used to be. A man that was once able to hold himself steady for others had gone rouge. He now had no emotion. He was dead. Dead with a beating heart.
“Sergeant,” a young woman spoke softly, as not to startle Thom, who could lash out and break down any minute now. He directed his eyes towards the young nurse who aided him since he had come in. “It’s time.” Thom nodded and let her continue to aid him. The nurse sat him up and undressed him of his hospital gown and put him into his uniform. Two of his under rank soldiers saluted him at the door before coming in and helping the nurse slide him into a wheelchair.
“You get to home, Sergeant.” One of his soldiers said, while wheeling him out of the room.
“At what cost, Private?” He spoke sullenly.
The ride from the base to the airport was a short, awkwardly quiet one. No one spoke. No one dared to say anything. The man had just witnessed half of his squad get shot down and bombed out. He had just gotten out of the hospital after lying there, drugged up on morphine half the time. No one wanted to be the cause of his aggressive break down, so no one said anything. Though when he was boarded onto his flight home, he was saluted, thanked and wished luck for the rest of his endeavors. Though only Thomas knew, he had no other endeavors. Everything he knew, everything he lived for, was gone.
The flight back home was a long one.
Meanwhile in the US
As they waited for Thomas’ flight to arrive, they paced back in forth in front of the baggage claim area. That was the pick-up area. No one was allowed to pass that area as they impatiently waited for their loved ones to arrive safe and well, anxious with anticipation with the news they bore from their trip. Parker waited alongside Thom’s parents and his sister. They all waited anxiously as they waited for the announcement that the private flight for the US Army arrived. They knew he had been in an accident and they knew he had been injured, as a result of him coming home, they just didn’t know the extent of the injuries and they didn’t know exactly what had happened while he was in the Middle East.
But before they knew it, they’d find out. On the prompter, the arrival of Flight 238 US Army had just been announced and Thom would depart the flight in just a few minutes. He was terrified as to how they would respond to the incident. Thom and a few of his men breezed past customs and they made their way to the elevator to go down towards baggage claim. Parker and Thom’s family paced near the escalator, anxiously waiting for Thom to come down. He never did.
“The elevator!” Thom’s younger sister, Cara, called out. They all turned to see Thom being pushed out of the elevator in a wheel chair by one of his squad soldiers.
“Thom,” Parker whispered to herself, a tear breaking its way out of a dry eye and down a make-up patted cheek.
Everyone froze in place when they saw the extent of his injury.
“Thom…” His sister said, “your…”
Thom let loose of tears he had been holding back. “My leg.” He said and looked down as more tears escaped his ducts. His parents rushed to his side, his mother hugging him and crying. His sister quietly brushing through his hair to calm him down and his father telling him everything would be alright. Everyone rushed to his side, but Parker.
Parker stood in place, frozen with both fear and shock. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what to think. She just stood there and watched as Thom’s entire family comforted her boyfriend of 8 years. And she couldn’t stand to even look him in the eye.
“Parker,” Thom broke the silence that had surrounded her. She broke out of her spell and looked at him. “Parker, we’re going to be okay, right?”
Parker took a step back, tears turning black with make-up. “Park…” She took a few more steps away from Thomas, put her hand over her mouth and shook her head violently as she cried.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” And with that, she turned and ran.