This Fiction account is part of my “Old Sergeant” Series and is meant to show the human drama of real war . . . and is dedicated to Carol and Curt. Curt, may you rest in the hands of the Lord.
The old sergeants platoon had just fought an engagement against a group of terrorists that had ambushed them just outside the Western part of Baghdad. The rag heads had completely surprised them and the sergeant blamed himself. It was a coordinated attack using an IED and terrorists attacking from both directions using pick up trucks with steel plating welded across the windows and doors.
When surprised you fall back on your training and the platoon had driven the enemy off but not without a cost. As the platoon set up a defensive perimeter and were waiting for e-vac the doc had come up to the sergeant and told him that one of the goon squad was not going to make it. The old sergeant had walked over to the ditch that the young soldier was lying in and knelt in the sand.
The kid looked up at the sergeant and in a whisper said, “sarge. Can I talk with you alone? “Sure kid,” the sergeant muttered. The doc just shook his head and moved off to wait for the helicopter. “Sarge, am I going to die?” the young soldier asked. The sergeant sat down beside him and took his hand. “Yeah, kid. You're not going to make it.” The soldier got a small tear in his left eye that ran down his cheek. The sergeant wiped it away.
“You think it will hurt Sarge?” “Nah,” the sergeant said. The doc has you pumped up with meds. You'll be ok.” The soldier looked down at his body and the sergeant immediately covered his eyes. “I'm scared Sarge. And I'm cold. So very cold. Could you please get my mom?” The old sergeant got a far away look in his eyes. Taking an old Bible out of his shirt pocket he put it on the soldiers chest. “How about if I tell you a story son?” the old sergeant asked. “Just like mom used to do when I was little?” “Yeah kid. Just like that.” “Sure,” the soldier replied.
The sergeant started out, “When I was about 5 years old I lived on a farm in the backwoods of Missouri. Even then I loved guns and movies about the army. I had just gotten a BB gun and was out “hunting.” I had been out for about an hour when I spotted the most beautiful blue bird. It was huge for a blue bird and like the dumb kid I was I took a wild shot at it. Well, it fell to the ground at my feet and just lay there. I tapped it with my toe and I was amazed that it still did not move. I guess I did not understand the concept of killing or dying.”
“I picked up the bird and ran as fast as I could to the house where my mother was cooking supper. Crying I told my mother the whole story and asked her to please make the bird well again. Of course she explained to me that she could not do that. But she had me hold the bird in my hands until I could feel the warmth of life flowing away from the bird and the cold of death settle around it. My mother said that when it was cold the bird had earned its wings and had gone to heaven to sing for the angels.”
“I learned a few things that day. That things really do die and that when you take a life of any kind you had better be prepared for the consequences and have some mighty good reasons. But the most important thing I learned was that when you felt cold it meant you were going to sing for the angels.”
The young soldier was getting weaker and weaker and the sergeant could hear the e-vac off in the distance. But he gathered his strength to say, “You think they'll let me sing for the angels Sarge?” “I know they will boy. God is with you holding your other hand just like I'm holding this one. And before you know it;” the sergeant stopped. He looked down and saw that the kid was no longer with him.
The old sergeant sat holding the soldiers hand until he was sure the boy was ice cold. “Sing nice kid,” the old sergeant said. “You've earned your wings.”