I will be posting three short stories the three Wednesdays leading up to Memorial day. Today’s story is more of a description challenge using a picture. The story is purely fictional—and FYI, the picture below is from the Korean War, not the Vietnam war. (Picture Credit – Pinterest)
Hope you enjoy!
Wilson Wright’s Private Journal – Vietnam
My family was dead…Dad from a car accident that happened when I was young, Mom from what I think was a broken heart, and my older brother, shot down someplace in Vietnam.
You’d think I didn’t have much to live for; I didn’t think I did either until I was forced to my knees in front of an Army Chaplain who had answers for my hungry and war-torn soul.
I swore that I’d help guys like me,—soldiers without a family. Soldiers struggling to hold on to anything worth living for. Soldiers that fought like men on the inside, but would cowar at strange jungle sounds and shrink away from shadows at night. Men, afraid…lost.
I was doing alright sharing Jesus with the other guys until Jerry Hill, and his gang became part of our squad. Never in my life had I met a guy who acted so tough. He joked that his soul wasn’t savable after all the stuff he’d done.
I wouldn’t give up on him. I knew he wasn’t as tough as he let on because, at night, I saw the look of a lost man in his eyes.
This is Jerry’s story, told through his eyes…
We surrounded him like a pack of hungry wolves on prey. He was reading that book again. The book that made me mad and got him in trouble with Sarge…
“Hey, preacher man,” I laughed, watching how red his face got. “You got a sermon for us today?”
Setting down his Bible, he turned to look at us with those quiet green eyes…The kind of eyes that can look through a person and see who they really are. I hated those eyes.
I thumped him on the shoulder, and he flinched. “So, Wilson, you got a sermon for us?” I snatched his Bible from his hands and tossed it in the air. One of the other guys with me caught it with a laugh. We tightened our circle.
“Give that back.” He said softly, wiping sweat from under the brim off his helmet.
“Not until you do something for me.” I yanked him to his feet. He tottered, and the other guys laughed.
“Let go of me.” He tried prying himself away, but I shook him.
“What’s the matter with you, preacher man? Why won’t you fight back?” I cuffed him on the side of the face. He winced. “You’re a wimp. A Bible-thumping wimp!” I shoved the Bible in the center of his chest and gave him a push. He landed in some muddy water with a splash.
The other guys and I roared with laughter as he scrambled to pick his Bible up out of the water, covering himself in black mud.
I made a scoffing voice. “You better watch it, kid. Bible thumpers don’t belong in Vietnam.”
I took a sip from my flask, then quickly concealed it under my cot and turned to face the wall of the tent. The Sarge had told me to stop drinking, but I couldn’t. Whiskey was the only thing that kept me sane. It blurred the bad memories into sweet dreams so that I could sleep.
I chuckled, thinking about the frustrated face of Bible-thumping Wilson Wright. The kid wasn’t any older than I was, but I liked to make him feel little. He was my project. The one soldier that I could make a fool out of without getting in trouble. The Sarge didn’t like him any better than I did.
Private Wilson was always praying, always reading that stupid book of his. No matter how badly I treated him, he met me each new day with a smile and a nod, going back to read his Bible. Didn’t any of my teasing get to him?
Why was God so important to him? I got through each hellish day of this war with a mask. Every one of us guys had one. Wilson’s was a Bible…When would his facade end?
“Jerry?” A soft voice asked from my left.
I turned over to look at my kid brother, Charlie. “What is it?”
“You scared, about tomorrow?” I heard the tremble in his voice.
“What’s to be scared about?” I hissed back. “You turning into a wimp like that Bible-thumper?”
“What if what he’s saying is true?”
I reached over and slapped his mouth. “Don’t you dare say that, Charlie Hill! God don’t care about us! He killed mama and made daddy hate us, don’t you dare say that again!”
I heard Charlie roll away from me. The kid was only seventeen—I hadn’t meant to hurt him.
“Charlie, I’m sorry.”
He didn’t reply.
I took another swig out of my flask and closed my eyes. I’d talk to him tomorrow.
The explosion to my right made me hit the ground. When would this end? For hours now, we had been fighting our way through the dense jungle. Vines grabbed at our boots and insects buzzed about our ears.
Charlie was near me, and I could see him getting tired. He hadn’t ever been a healthy kid. I hadn’t wanted him to join the army, but he didn’t want me to leave him.
I saw Bible-thumping Wright in front of me, head low, running in a crouched position. The man was brave in battle. I’d give him that. He didn’t hesitate or try to cover himself when shrapnel burst through the forest. I heard him call encouragement out to a few of the guys who were lagging. When a soldier had fallen and lay dying, Wright had held him and spoke comfort to the boy until he breathed his last.
“Lookout, Mine!” Someone shouted.
An explosion tore through the air. The ground shuddered beneath me.
“Jerry!” I heard Charlie shriek.
My heart froze. My little brother had stepped on a mine.
I turned around. My brother was on the ground.
I started to move towards him, but hands grabbed me and pulled me back. “He’s gone.” Someone screamed in my ear. It was Wright.
“Let go of me!” I screamed. “Charlie!” Wright hauled me back like a sack of potatoes, keeping me low to the ground. We stopped near some thick brush, and he yanked me underneath. Sharp pain registered in my brain and I realized I was bleeding.
“You caught shrapnel in your back,” Wright said softly. “It isn’t too bad, but I’m going to try and stop the bleeding.”
I felt his hand on my back and yelled. “Let me alone!” I tried to get back up, dizzy with pain. Charlie was back there someplace, and I couldn’t leave him. Tears burned in my eyes but wouldn’t fall. I hadn’t cried in years.
Wright held me down. “Lie still, Jerry.”
I looked up at him, expecting to hear him spout off Bible verses. Instead, I saw tears rolling down his face.
The medic patched me up and sent me on my way, saying I’d be fine. I stumbled through the camp, my heart breaking with each step. Charlie was gone.
Something weighed down on me, I fought against it with everything in me, but it hung on. My heart hurt, my head pounded. I couldn’t make sense of anything.
Nearby I saw a few of the guys gathered around Wright. They were praying…praying for me.
I fell to my knees and crawled, reaching forward to grab Wright’s arm. “Help, me!” I cried. “I’m not that tough.”
He pulled me forward, wrapping his arms around me. “It’s alright, Jerry. I’m not going to let you go.”