Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Shadow Soldier

As I said in a previous blog post, I am not a political person. A part of me fears sharing my opinion on things, if it's not a popular opinion, I can't take the fire it might draw. I really don't like drama.

But, I still have very personal and strong feelings on a lot of things. One of them being veterans of our armed forces, and the ways they are treated after their service. It's true that things have improved in the last thirty years, and even more so after 9/11, but we still have a long way to go.  PTSD effects a staggering number of our returning men and woman, suicide, spousal abuse and personality disorders run rampant, and Vietnam Vets are the most forgotten and declining vets in our society. Not to mention the physical scars and injuries.

It's not too long ago that my father returned to this country to be spit at, ridiculed and called a baby killer. Wounded in Vietnam by the bullet that killed his commanding officer, he was never awarded his purple heart. He returned before PTSD was a household name. Before anyone correlated depression and alcoholism with the horror of war. He returned to a VA hospital system that told my mother he was "just lazy", and that she would "have to deal with it."  The vary same hospitals he returned to just fifteen years ago when cancer ravaged his body. I lost him when he was fifty. A common age for Vietnam Vets to die at.


Its a question that goes unanswered today. It's the main drive behind why I write military themed fiction. It's the main reason that one hundred percent of profits from this book, The Shadow Soldier, are being donated for it's entire publication run to the Wounded Warrior Project. It's the way I feel comfortable with speaking my mind on the injustice returning military personal deal with.

As a country we can talk the talk. We can shake hands, salute, and profess we care. But we need to put our money where our mouth is. We need to not allow this country to forget. We should all be insulted every time the Pledge of Allegiance is refused in schools. We should find it disgusting that a huge percent of our retired military neighbors are living below the federal poverty level. We should demand that they get the medical care they so rightly deserve, that their families deserve. We should be ashamed that America is so afraid of political correctness and partisan lines that we treat criminals better than our military personal.

We should be.

We shouldn't be like me and afraid that speaking our minds will loose us friends.

I shouldn't be afraid to say my generation is the last generation directly effected by the Vietnam War, and I will not let my father's death be in vain. I will not let him be forgotten because his name isn't on that granite wall.

For every soldier that feels he is in the shadows, we should fight to bring him in the light.

When a soldier is lost in the snowy mountains of Afghanistan, another soldier shoulders the blame, while a young woman feels his loss thousands of miles away in Boston's Back Bay. Can a mysterious man bridge the gap and help the two heal?


Three Days Earlier

“Arizona, Bunker Hill, and Majestic, your pickup point will be on the other side of this mountain ridge. The window is small. But, with the mission as it stands, you should have no issues meeting your deadline.” Bob sat in the stark briefing room with his team, trying to take in the mission parameters. “This is an easy one guys. We get in, plant the communication device, grab the girl, and get the hell out. It’s imperative we get this girl out of the hands of the Taliban. She has information that could lead us to public enemy number two. And she is in need of political asylum. Her stand on education is not well received in this village.”

All around him guys were taking notes and joking. But his mind was on Megan, and the nagging feeling he had in the pit of his stomach. For everything his commanding officer was saying, he didn’t believe this one was as easy as it sounded. He had been having dreams about the shadow soldier for the last few days. He would wake up in cold sweats, screaming for the guy to duck for cover. But the soldier in his dream kept advancing into enemy fire, being pelted with bullets and RPG’s, never stopping, just walking forward. Shit, he had even thought he had seen him on patrol the other night. The NATO guys thought he was losing it when he yelled for him to get back to point. And there was no one off their post. Fuck! The sooner he got out of Kabul the better.

He tried talking to Mitch about the shadow soldier. “Hey, have you ever seen someone out in the field? Like this random soldier who is just walking around lost.”

Mitch dropped his fork and looked at Bob like he had six heads. “Like a mirage? Or like some grunt gone AWOL?”

“No, just like a random, I don’t know, almost like a ghost. Like one that comes up before we have a scrimmage, or before we feel out some insurgents. It’s like he’s leading me through the fire, but sometimes I think he’s leading me to hell.”

Mitch stared at him with his mouth open and little bits of hamburger bun lodged in his scruffy beard. The look in his eyes was one of mirth. “Fuck, Bob. Are you forgetting to put your hat on in the sun? Winter is blowing in, but, shit, the desert sun still gets bright. You might be frying your brain.” He reached over and smacked Bob on the side of the head. “Seriously, Bob, keep that shit to yourself. If you start talking about ghosts, or walking zombie soldiers, they will put you in the back room and take away your weapon. God damn.”

Mitch picked his fork back up and looked back to his plate.

Bob grunted. “Fuck you, Mitch, I’m serious. You don’t remember that old timer back in Fort Dix who told stories about the shadow soldier? And how he visited when you were going to lose one of your guys. He said he saw him at Normandy, and at one other place, I can’t remember where, but guys have seen him in battle.”

“Normandy? Really Bob? That old timer was messing with you. Hell, by the time his platoon hit the beach it was a blood bath. He probably saw some guy walking around in shock all bloody, and eighty years later he’s calling it a ghost. Bob, seriously, you’ve been on tour after tour. You have a new girlfriend back at home. It’s just the stress getting to you. You need a change of scenery man.”

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