- - - - -
In the small German village, there were only a handful of Biergartens. Pvt. Jordan Brown finished his drills and walked over to Gartenlaube to meet his friends He stepped inside the dimly lit dive bar and ordered a Beck's. His army uniform was dusty and dirty, brown flecks of dirt spattered over his camo pants. The drills had been tough, no doubt, but he felt strong, he felt invincible.
He spotted his best friend, Harley, and waved him over.
"How's it going, bud?"
"Ah, not bad. Didn't sleep well last night."
"I dunno. Guess I just kept thinking about the missions we'll have to do once our training is done. I've had a blast partying in Bamberg, but it's all about to change."
"It won't be that bad. Come on, man. We're tough. We're the most bad ass motherfuckers out there, right?" Jordan laughed.
Harley cracked a smile, "Yeah, man. Sure. You're my gunner. If you die, I'm blaming you."
- - - - -
"Of all the fucking places..." Jordan let out a long, slow breath of air.
"What's wrong, man? What's so bad about Ar Ramadi?"
"It's just full of IEDs, that's all."
"So? That's our job, dude. Dismantle the bombs so our guys don't get hurt."
"I know, but... IEDs kill more soldiers than almost anything else in Iraq. It's like a fucking death sentence."
"You're the best gunner in the 130th Engineer Brigade. It's all good."
- - - - -
Jordan sat in his room with a piece of lined paper and a pen. He didn't know what to write. He knew his mom and sister were anxious to hear from him. They were taking care of injured and abandoned horses in Flamborough, but they wrote him letters weekly. More importantly, what was he to say to Viktoria? He'd met her in Bamberg a few weeks earlier. They clicked. Her English had a German accent and she'd never been to Canada, but his mom would love her. She was sweet and smart. She wanted to help people. He'd never felt this way about a girl before. Usually, he got drunk at a Biergarten and took home a Frieda or a Gretel and never thought twice. But Viktoria was different. If he survived this fucking hell, he might actually marry her. He looked at the last piece of paper on his pad and ripped it in half. He picked up his ballpoint pen and wrote,
Everything's going well here in Iraq. I've been here for a couple of months now and I know the ropes. The guys are hilarious and we encourage each other to do our best every day. Things feel more serious here... not so much drinking and lots more focusing on the tasks at hand. Met a girl the other night. You'd probably like her...
- - - - -
"Got some good news for ya, baby!"
"Yeah, what's that?" Viktoria's voice sounded tinny and far away on the other end of the line.
"They made me a Corporal!" Jordan fought to keep his voice down.
"Really?! That's awesome! I mean, that's a promotion, right?"
"Yeah, baby! It means I'm good at what I do and they recognized me for it!"
"Aw, I'm so happy, love. That's awesome."
"You doing okay out there in Germany?"
"Yeah, I'm studying a lot. My brother's birthday is next weekend, but things are okay."
"Oh, it looks like my time's almost up. I'm gonna have to let you go. I love you, baby, okay? Don't worry 'bout anything. I love you."
- - - - -
"Eh, Harley, you up?"
"What is it, man? I'm trying to sleep."
"Do you believe in what we're fighting for?"
"What do you mean, man? 'Course I do. We're soldiers."
"No, that's not what I mean. I mean, do you believe in the cause?"
"What, that we're fighting the bad guys?"
"No, like the specific reason why we're here."
"Oh, you mean all that shit about the weapons of mass destruction and liberating the Iraqis and shit?"
"Yeah, that stuff."
"Yeah, I guess. I mean, they wouldn't tell us that if it wasn't true, right? Why else would we be killing these people every day?"
"I don't know, man. Sometimes I think all of that is bullshit. All of that 'war on terrorism' and 'weapons of mass destruction' bullshit. Sometimes I just want to be back in my warm bed in Canada or paintballing with my buddies from high school. Sometimes I wonder why I'm here."
"Why are you here, man?"
"I'm here because those motherfucking Iraqis are out there trying to kill me and you and all of my buddies and I won't stand for it. I'd kill them in a second to save our asses. I don't give a shit about the politics. I just want to get through this and live. All of us. Just live."
"You think too much, Jordan. Just sleep tight, wake up tomorrow and do your thing."
"Yeah, man. Yeah."
- - - - -
"Thirty days to go," Jordan said, cheerfully.
"That close, eh?"
"That close. That close until I get to fly home to my family and bring my girl with me. I'm gonna marry her the second I get back."
"You really love her, don't you, douchebag?" Harley shoved Jordan cheerfully.
"Shut up, man. When you find the perfect woman, you don't let her go."
"You're only 22, though!"
"So what? I knew it was her when I saw her. Ain't nothing going to change that." Jordan grinned and hopped in the truck.
"Another day of hunting IEDs, my friend. Let's get this shit done and get back to the camp. They're serving steak tonight."
- - - - -
"What a day, man."
"What do you mean?"
"Like, 9/11. Five years since all those Americans died in the World Trade Centers."
"Just weird thinking about it, y'know? I mean, I grew up in Canada, but New York always felt so close. We used to drive down there in the summers. All those people dying. None of them ever imagining their offices would be blown up by airplanes driven by crazy-ass terrorists."
"Okay, that's enough remembering for me. Let's get at 'er."
"Dude, I'm sleepy," Jordan said.
"Don't say that, man!" Andrew yelled from the driver's seat. "We need you to have your eyes wide fucking open!"
"I know, I know. Don't worry. I won't let you guys down. The second I see a sniper, he's gone. Bang. I never miss a shot."
"Yeah, you better not," Andrew said.
"Hey!" Harley yelled. "Stop the trucks!"
"You see somethin'?"
"Fuck yeah, I do. They don't call us the best IED-disarming convoy in the 54th Engineer Battalion for nothin'!"
Andrew stopped the truck and Harley and Dave jumped out and went to take a closer look at the IED.
"Motherfuckers," Harley said. "Every night, we drive over these roads, disarming the fucking bombs so our boys can be safe, and every fucking night, they manage to put them back in the road again."
"Shut up, pussy, and do your damn job," Andrew yelled and the crew laughed.
After Harley detonated the IED, the three truck convoy started up again.
"'Cause we are the champions..." Jordan sang from the top of the truck in the gunner position.
"Yo, don't say that. We've caught all the IEDs we've seen so far, but it only takes one and BOOM! this dream is over."
"Yeah, yeah," Jordan said.
Andrew drove the first Humvee in the convoy slowly and carefully. They'd done this road two nights ago, but that didn't mean shit. He kept his eyes open and concentrated on the asphalt road. One little wire. One little wire was what his eyes kept searching for.
Three minutes later, his Humvee rolled over a tiny, black wire covered with dirt. Everyone on the Humvee heard the 'click' and then heard nothing. The vehicle was thrown up into the air, all five bodies tumbled out and fire, light, and shrapnel filled the air. The sound was deafening. Jordan thought he was screaming or shouting, but he couldn't hear anything, he couldn't feel anything. He felt his body float for a moment and then plummet towards the road.
- - - - -
Jordan's mind was full of fuzzy, bright lights. He saw nothing, he heard nothing, he tasted nothing, he felt nothing. He was numb. Untouchable, unreachable. He knew nothing. He did not know who he was, where he was or what was happening. He existed. He knew only that he existed.
- - - - -
"Can you hear me, Jordan? Jordan?" The woman's voice was frantic.
Jordan tried to open his eyes. He didn't feel right.
"I think he's coming to!" she exclaimed. "I think he's responding!"
Another person entered the room.
"Now, ma'am, we told you there are no guarantees. Your son is in rough shape. Remember, his jaw was broken, his foot and leg were broken and he suffered serious brain injuries. He may be conscious, but he may not even know who you are."
Jordan felt warmth on his skin. He could hear his heart beating. He didn't know who he was.
"Jordan, baby..." the woman cried. "Jordan, you're coming back to us."
A few minutes passed. When he finally had the strength to open his eyes, he saw three females sitting in his room. One tall, older female with brown hair to her shoulders and a warm smile. One female his age with a pretty dress and concerned eyes. One female younger than him, expressionless. He knew they wanted to see him. He knew they had a million questions. He didn't want to talk. He didn't want to think. He closed his eyes and lay there, listening to his heart beating inside his chest.
- - - - -
Cpl. Jordan Brown was nineteen days away from ending his tour in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. On September 11, 2006, his Humvee in an IED-disarming convoy was destroyed by an IED buried beneath the road. His best friend Harley Andrews of Weimar, California died of his injuries. His close friend, Andrew, died several days later from injuries related to the explosion. Cpl. Jordan Brown spent over a year in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from his injuries. Doctors rebuilt his jaw, repaired his broken foot, inserted a steel rod through his right leg and worked dilligently to restore his memory.
Jordan Brown was a playful teenager who grew up in Canada with dual Canadian-American citizenship. After high school and numerous heated arguments with his father, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to escape family and financial issues. His time in the U.S. Army proved to be some of the best and some of the worst years of his life. It was there that he became strong, independent and brave. It was there that he met his wife, Viktoria, of Germany. It was there that he established some of his best friends. It was because of the war that he lost his wife, Viktoria. It was because of the war that he lost his best friends. It was because of the war that he lost his ability to run, his ability to remember parts of his life and his faith in humanity. He says he couldn't imagine his life without the war in it. The most devastating thing that my friend Jordan ever told me about the war was this:
"Nothing feels the same after the war. Nothing feels the same after you hold your best friend in your arms and watch him die from his injuries. Everything that used to be so great about life isn't that great anymore. Before the war, I used to love going out for ice cream. I used to love talking to pretty girls. I used to love racing in my Mustang. Even the highest highs that I can have today... are not comparable to the highs I had before I went into the Army. The Army took away all of the best parts of life.
The Army took away Life."
This is my submission for therealljidol Topic 17: The Caged Bird. I hope you will consider voting for me in this week's poll.