It’s Thursday afternoon before a long weekend, and I’ve been handling M-4 rifles for the last 13 hours. The armory is hot, and it has the faint smell of metal and gunpowder. I sit there in my uni-form covered with grease mentally making plans for my weekend looking forward to the de-bauchery that Augusta, Georgia has to offer.
The week was longer than usual with 4. A.M. wake up calls and the non-sense that comes with running a military range in preparation for a possible deployment. By now you can probably tell that I’m a soldier in the U.S. Army and one who has been burning the candle at both ends.
The whole unit has been pressing forward, and we’re all a bit irritable. The commander is out of touch with his troops and leadership hasn’t been much better. To cope with the grind of the mili-tary lifestyle we like to eat good food and drink better booze.
That’s for later, right now I have to make through the day. I hear the screeching sound of our 5-ton trucks coming to a halt outside. The troops had a long day in the field and are exhausted from shooting rifles in the dirt for the past 12 hours. I go outside to greet them and unload the supplies to wrap up the day.
It’s a scene of knees and elbows as personnel jump in and out of trucks in camouflage gear smeared with the orange dirt from the firing range. Boxes are being moved, rifles slung, and everyone can mentally see the end of the day.
We get supplies moved and start cleaning the guns. Inside our building, the sound of rifles and the clang of metal begins as a quiet rumbling and becomes a steady roar.
We move with a singular purpose wiping down weapons because the sooner we finish, the sooner our weekend can begin. We all have different plans for our off time, but it’s essentially the same, to relax and forget about the possibilities of war.
Slowly but surely the rifles are cleaned and returned to the armory where I restock them in their proper position. I begin to take an inventory of the weapons and count out loud to drown out the noise of moving bodies outside my door. 66, 67, 68, 69.
The weapons are all in and clean to the bristle. It displays our discipline and attention to detail. The rifles glisten in a proclamation to our dedication even though deep inside we’re really men-tally tired and psychically exhausted.
All the weapons are accounted for and ready to roll. In essence we’re trained for battle and ready for war but that couldn’t farther from the truth. In reality some have been there and done that but not all fully understand the complications that come with blood shed and devastation.
As we pack it up and head back home, we can’t bear but think that sooner or later our name will be called. Not next in line for the deli, barbershop, or anything so simple, but next inline to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Together we’ll obey the orders of those appointed over us, but secretly we’re afraid of the impli-cations that come with the declaration of war. All of us will go but not all shall return.
We all go home in expectation that we can enjoy this weekend but deep down inside we all have critical thoughts embedded into our psyche. The pondering of the unknown and the ramifications of what an international altercation can lead to.
No matter our political bias or religious preference we stand ready to receive and react to our commander and chief. We may stand strong as one, but individually we’re alone. Scared, afraid, and uneasy about the uncertain future ahead.
We go into this memorial weekend to forget about U.S. diplomacy and international affairs.
Thinking about our next drink, next game, and what’s on the menu. Each of us is in search of peace and tranquility but ironically we’ve already been baptized into violence. We may stand tall and look prepared but in actuality we’re just as afraid as everybody else.