war

Where Have You Gone Mary?

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The screech of tires made me turn and look what danger was coming at us. Mary and I were walking to Wally’s Store for a hot coffee and a pastry. This had been our routine every Thursday. The road we take is a shortcut from our trailer at the park. It is just a goat trail but on occasions vehicles take this road to get to the main road, Federal Road. Some people come back here to buy and sell drugs so we always make sure to go before dark. Mary turned her head too, screaming. There was a loud thumping sound and I saw Mary flying through the air.

Standing at full attention. The Commanding Officer was very intimidating. The squad and I were being instructed on our mission. We were going to war in a foreign country and the jet was leaving in five minutes. I had a few minutes to reflect on life. I was moving on since the death of Mary. She was my rock and I was hers. I was sitting here, looking around of where I was and where I was going. Richie, my friend since boot camp was sitting next to me. I could tell he was thinking about his family just like I was. I really was thinking about what life would of been like with Mary. I certainly had thought about her being my wife. The future of our relationship, children, everything people think about was going through my head and I was having a hard time mentally. I didn’t want to cry in front of my best buddy Richie but tears started to flow. The men and I were loaded into the plane. We were all facing each other, all sitting in jump seats. The men and I were starting to put on our game face, the hunt was on.

Jut back from my morning jog, I’m thirty-eight years old. Where has time gone? There is a lot on my mind lately and I am having a lot of stress at work. I took a quick shower and came downstairs for a coffee. I have to work in ten minutes so I’m going to suck down this coffee real fast. I’m out the door and a few minutes late for work. I can shorten this time if I take the shortcut down the road which is a cross-cut and comes out on Federal Road. I push the pedal down to move things along . I might just make it to work on time. Something flashed, I pushed the brakes on the Jeep real hard. I heard a thumping sound, bodies in front, flying debris.

Sitting in jail, newspaper in hand. I flip the pages to the obituary’s. The first page is showing a young lady. I start reading. Life taken suddenly, unexpected death. I look for her name, Mary.

 

D.H.Bilodeau 2015

Henry Richardson

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We met Henry Richardson back when I was a child. My father and I was looking for a place to build a camp and was checking out the back roads in our area. My dad, I recall, spoke up and said who the heck is that in the middle of the road? I looked in amazement but also very bewildered by a man blocking the road.  The man was very scruffy looking with a long beard and was wearing overalls. He was holding a pitch fork and  was waving it around in a very aggressive stance towards us. My dad applied the brakes and we came to a halt a short distance from this man. I’m not sure why but my father started beeping the horn which only seemed to makes this man angry. I could hear him hollering from about twenty feet away . I was not sure to run or hide, I was really getting scared . My father rolled down the window and said to the man. What are you doing blocking the road? The man spoke up and told us his name was Henry Richardson and he owned all the woods around here and we better get out of here now or we are going to have pitch fork holes in our tires. My father spoke back to him with a soft voice. Sir, We are only riding around looking for some land to purchase for a hunting camp. Henry replied, today is not the day, so get out of here. I’m thinking how can one person be so angry at the world and hate people so much. My father continued to talk with this man. Henry finally calmed down and started talking with us a little more. We found out that he was a veteran from the Korean war and had lived out here in the woods all his life . He was tattered by the thought an enemy could cause him so much mental duress. Today we call this PTSD, but he never went to a doctor to prove otherwise. He had survived living off the land and managed quite well considering. Not too many people had ever ventured this far into the woods, we were only a two of them. I noticed that he walked with a limp and his face was deformed slightly. I found out he was shot at many times when in the war and suffered greatly from these injuries, never going to a doctor after the war to help him with the pain. He seemed like a very lonely person for what I could tell. The last parting words from Henry when we left was please don’t tell anyone that I live out here. I want to live the rest of my life in solitude. My father and I both nodded and we continued our search, maybe this would be the day we found some land. One thing for sure is never judge a person by what they look like or what they have been through. You just never know what people have been witness to, or what their background is, but that doesn’t make them a bad person. Good day Everyone, I’m going out searching for something. I just never know where I’ll end up.

Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

An Intruder Within the Ranks

InvasionThere was an imposter within our battalion. It seemed like every move we made out in the jungle while out on patrol we were ambushed. It was like someone knew every move we were making. I was a sniper in our little squad and we came with three squads to this remote area. Our instructions were to capture the leader of this region so he could be tried for war crimes.

I had thoughts about maybe someone in this group being a trader and really didn’t want to say anything. The reason I suspected someone at first was because every night when it came down to, our time ,he was never around. The other men in our squad would hang together but he always seemed to disappear for about forty-five minutes then return like nothing ever changed.

Our commanding officer had his own tent and was set-up about forty meters from everyone else. I decided it was time to let the C.O. in on what I was thinking. Sir, I saluted him, Can I have a word with you? At ease soldier, he commanded me. Sir? I have been having questioning thoughts in my head about something. It seems like every time we go on a patrol we are attacked almost like clockwork. I feel someone in our group is contacting someone. I sense it is someone in my squad. Private! Those are strong accusations. Sir, I do not want anyone in our squad to be killed because I didn’t do something about it. I feel it is, Private Rickard, and I want to spy on him, to gather more evidence against ,if this is confirmed with you, C.O.

I was granted permission and the next time we came back from a patrol I was going to set my plan in action. I was going to follow private Rickard and find out what really was going on.

We had just returned from a patrol and was relaxing when I see private Rickard slip out off to my far right. There was a mango tree at the edge of our camp so I decided to hide behind it. I could see that he was moving further into the jungle. I kept following him and what I found totally made my mouth drop. Rickard was laying on the ground and cuddling a native woman from the Sameon Tribe. This had to be where the information was being passed about our daily recon runs. I decided to watch a little longer when I see the woman reach out and grab a walkie talkie and report something in her native tongue. What came next took me by total surprise. She reached out from the bushes and pulled out a large knife and stabbed Rickard into his heart. I could see the life coming out of Rickard in a hurry. I took out my service revolver and turned on the silencer, I took aim. The bullet hit her square between the eyes and she dropped. I could see Rickard was hanging on, barely, I came up to him. Rickard! I need to asked you a question. Have you been passing information to the Sameon Tribe? He nodded yes,then he passed right there. I came back to my commanding officer and reported what just happened.

Time went on and the ambushes were still very consistent, like nothing had changed. Someone else was working for the Sameon group and I was going to find out whom. I watched everyone with careful eyes and reported in my journal anything out of the ordinary. If I could find some inconsistencies then maybe I would follow this person around a bit more closely. I watched everyone for about three weeks and really didn’t find anything that was not normal in our operations. The one person that I hadn’t been able to watch was our commanding officer. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? I was going to figure a way to watch the C.O., Maybe this was the missing link.

I laid in the bushes next to the C.O’s. tent and was listening to his conversations with other officers by satellite phone. All of the sudden, I could hear a man speaking in Sameon dialect. It was my commanding officer. I was no expert in language and couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I could smell a rat. How was I going to take care of this rat without putting myself in jeopardy. I decided to relay this information to other members in my squad. You guy’s are my best buddies and you would do anything for any other member correct? They all responded positively. You guys, I believe our commanding officer is a rat. I overheard a confirmation via satellite phone and he was speaking in Sameon. I know he is telling the other side of our whereabout’s every night. He is going to get us all killed. The plan I have includes all of you guys to assist me in the capture of our C.O.

The look on everyone’s eyes told me that they meant business. I told everyone to have their weapons locked and loaded. We all met behind and off to the side of the C.O. tent. I was going to storm into the tent at gun point and command the C.O. to raise his hands. I ran in fast and pointed my weapon at him. The laser site was lined up between his eyes. In a moment of me commanding him, he kicked something from within his desk. I looked down real quick and spotted a grenade. I dove out the front door at the same time it exploded.

The last I remember was seeing the grin on the commanding officer’s face. A look of distrust, not one of a killer of his own men.  He was smiling, like he was happy.

It was later found out that our C.O. had made a connection with the Sameon group and lots of money, in American ,was going to be transferred into his account in the U.S.

So always watch your back and make sure to be vigilant in your surroundings. What seems like normal operation may be a cover up of something that will get you in the end. Hoorah!

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

MY PTSD

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Sgt. Richard McCurry was leading his men down a street in Anbar, Afghanistan. He had briefed his men before they walked down the street and informed them to watch all the roof tops. The Taliban would stage up on roof tops and shoot down on the soldiers as they walk down the streets. This was just another day for the soldiers and they moved slowly down the one street watching every corner. I was the third man in this group with Sgt. McCurry walking directly behind me. I had been assigned to WHA- Watch His Ass- This was an important assignment because not only that you had to watch for the enemy, you had to keep your leader safe.

We kept moving forward when all of a sudden gunfire rang out, my heart about exploded with total fear. I looked down the street and lying face down was our point man Jermaine. He was a soldier out of Jacksonville, Florida and was an outstanding athlete in high school. His goal was to sign up for the football draft when he got out of the Army. My worst fear was that Jermaine was not alive. We walked up to him with bullets flying in all directions. It took a few minutes to get up to him and I think I shot a few Taliban along the way. I rolled Jermaine over and he had a smile on his face. He blinked his eyes and said it was a good thing he had his Easter peeps in his pocket. I told him I don’t understand. The bullet hit the package and deflected the bullet. I told him to get up quick and start shooting. We needed to get out of this hot area as soon as possible. Jermaine got up real fast and brought his M16 to firing position and started firing. He took one step forward and another shot rang out and Jermaine fell to the ground again. I walked up to him and there was bleeding coming from his mouth and he was not moving. I could see the color being removed from his face. Jermaine had passed right in front of me. All his hopes and dreams were stopped right at this moment on the streets of Afghanistan. I stood there for a few seconds to reflect what I had just been witness too. I thought to myself, and asked a question. Why am I in this place?  I didn’t have time to answer because out of the corner of my eye I could see a Taliban on the roof top ready to shoot. He was aiming his weapon directly at my Sargent. I brought my M16 up real quick and with rapid fire I took down that enemy.

Our group finally made it to the end of the street and there was a tall cement wall that we all got behind for protection and to access the situation. Sargent McCurry told us that we had to go back down that street and retrieve Jermaine. We never leave another soldier behind. Back down the street and again the shooting started. We shot at them and they shot at us but we retrieved Jermaine and dragged him down the street and behind the wall. Our radio man called for a helicopter to come and bring him back to our base. They brought a Chinook helicopter which brought our whole troop back to base. Sargent McCurry had all of us pay our respects to this soldier we lost today. This is what he said to us. You all fought hard today and you win some and lose some. I just want you to remember this young man today and know that he fought for his country. He gave the ultimate sacrifice and to know that in any situation that I hope you will give that same to save others. We all bowed our head in prayer for Jermaine.

Life moved on and I was in a lot of other firefights but I will never forget this one day we lost Jermaine. It has now been 10 years since I have been back to civilian life. I am having trouble sleeping and every noise I hear outside reminds me of a firefight. I cannot drive down the highway without thinking it is an ambush. How can I forget all this and go back to normal life?  They never told me that my mind would be damaged like this. I have talked with other vets from other wars on how to relieve these horrid memories. They all told me you will never forget. You just have to move on and realize what you have done for this country.

This story is a fictional story, I do not want to have this bring back bad memories for our soldiers, but do want to realize that PTSD is very real. You cannot go through traumatic situations like war and not have some kind of PTSD. Please reach out for help, Like the old soldier replied, you never forget what you have seen. It is the help that redirects some of these thoughts and gives you second chance of life. You do not need to deal with this alone.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

Merchant Ship Isabella

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I was on the merchant ship Isabella and the cargo was a dangerous load of bombs destined for the war in Europe. The day started out in the Portland,Maine dockside loading all day with the stevedore’s, the dock workers who load the ship. It was a warm day with the wind blowing slightly from the north. My coworker and I had the day to explore so we took off into the city of Portland. We walked down Congress Street and was noticing that all the streets were cobblestone. I had never seen streets like this anywhere in the States. The boys and I decided to get a bite to eat and have some mugs of beer. We was talking with this one man inside the bar and asked where he came from. My name is George Thurman, I was a sea captain years ago and I’m retired from working. I spent my entire life working at sea and now I am enjoying staying grounded. How about you boy’s? He replied. I told him that I started a year ago working on the Isabella and I was nineteen years old. We told the old sea captain we had to leave and said our goodbye. Til we meet again boys, bon voyage, and tipped his beer at us.untitled

We loaded ourselves onto the ship and within twenty minutes we were off. It was a sunny day and my buddy and I were on the deck taking in all the scenery around the Portland waterfront. The Isabella was off and we sailed all through the night. The swells were starting to get bigger and the ship was rocking back and fourth. I decided to go check the cargo hold where the bombs were being stored. They were loaded in the front of the ship and stacked like cord wood. I was starting to hear some clanking, like metal to metal, but really couldn’t see anything loose. I went back up topside and reported this to the captain. The captain told me to make regular checks and to keep reporting back to the bridge of the findings.

The sea was getting worse by the moment and now the ship was rolling and moving up and down. My buddy Ricardo and I decided to take another check of the cargo hold. What we found was very concerning. The bombs that were stacked like wood had now tumbled and were all loose. The bombs were being tossed around every time the ship rolled. They would clank against the ships hull. We ran up topside to tell the ships captain when we felt and heard an explosion. I looked up and the whole front of the ship was flying through the air. The bombs had detonated and I was thrown backward and hit my head on the edge of a railing but was still conscious. Ricardo was knocked into the water, I awoke in my daze to realize that I had to try and save Ricardo. MAN OVERBOARD! I hollered this three times and no one came to help. I took a life preserver and tossed it overboard to try and help Ricardo but he was long gone.

The ship stopped moving and I could see the front of the ship starting to go nose down. We were sinking real fast and I had to find something that would float. There was some foam sheets along edge of the railings that I could use. I ripped them off the railing and prepared myself to go overboard in a last attempt to save myself. I couldn’t see if anyone else was trying to get off the ship. I looked up at the bridge and I could see the Captain calling on the radio. I’m sure the communication lieutenant was tapping out Morse Code, SOS-SOS-SOS. Save Our Ship was being repeated. The ship was now listing to port and I could tell that this ship was going down real fast. I had my foam sheet and was prepared to jump into the sea. The captain came out of the bridge and hollered. Abandon Ship! That is all I needed to jump into the cold and salty waters. One-two-three and I jumped.

The coldness of the water took my breath away at first and the salt in my eyes made it hard for me to see anything. I was able to see others jumping off the ship but I had no energy to swim over to help them out. I laid on my sheet of foam and floated away from this area. I took one last look when the ship finally made its last plunge to the depths of the ocean. I floated for hours and with the day being sunny I was able to warm my body. I looked out over the ocean and could not see land anywhere. I had no water or food and I was starting to worry that I would die on this floating device.. I dozed off to the sounds of seagulls.

I woke up and looked out to the horizon and could see land. I was coming up to a beach of some sort and I could see people laying on the sand. I was wondering if maybe they were survivors of another ship wreak. I could see men and woman and children playing in the water. I could see many woman in bikini’s, with their bodies all tanned up from basking in the sun. I could see a Ferris wheel  and could hear music playing in the distance. What is this place I had floated too? Some kind of Utopia, and Circus? I came to rest on the shore, this one young lad comes up to me and kicks sand in my face. Hey Mister? What kind of stupid surfboard is that? I opened my eyes to see this little brat smirking at me. I raised myself and starting looking for other shipmates. I cannot see anyone. I see this very attractive lady in the distance. I walk up to her and ask her where is this place? Her reply is Portland Head Light, Maine.  I had left from Portland, Maine. untitled

I thought about what had happened. The bombs were stacked like wood and with the rolling of the ship there was friction on the surface of the bombs. It only took a jolt up and down and this is what discharged the bombs. There was no other survivors- I wondered now if I was even on a ship or if I was dreaming.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014