Monday, May 28, 2007

RE: RE: Honoring Memorial Day - Part II

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: ♥ Angel ♥ ™ ~For Truth~
Date: May 28, 2007 10:23 AM


Reposting for those that missed it the other day.

Thank you: Charles Dean Copeland



For immediate re-release in honor of Memorial Day...

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Toy Soldiers in Iraq



a short story by



Charles Copeland



I was just sixteen-years-old when I shipped out to Iraq. I knew what I was doing and I knew what I was up against and I didn't care about the consequences. And why should I have cared? After all, I was sixteen, which is an age at which we all know everything there is to know, and damn anyone who tries to tell us anything different. Okay, so I didn't know anything about who I was or how the world worked, or pretty much anything else, for that matter, as I now realize, but I knew enough on that day of my enlistment to know what I wanted to do in life.

Watching the atrocities of September 11, 2001 will do that to a person. You make up your mind in the flash of a moment, even if you don't realize it right then, and certain parts of your mindset change almost instantaneously. They say your DNA encoding actually alters in that moment, but what the hell do I know about DNA?

All I knew was what I'd seen and heard on TV that day.



Radical Islamic jihadists had attacked the United States, in ways never before seen, and I'd watched the entire thing live on more than one hundred channels. I remember passing through all the five stages of grief. Denial told me "This can't really be happening." It had to be some horrible publicity stunt pulled off by master illusionists like David Copperfield or Criss Angel. There was no way any country would be brave or stupid enough to actually attack the United States. Not when we're the world's last remaining Super Power.




Anger quickly overtook denial, and I soon found myself whipped into the same frenzy as my friends were in. I'd been angry at other points in my sixteen years, but never as mad as I was that day, I'll tell you. I know I wasn't the only one to get as angry as I was . . . hell, my own father broke his right hand --- the one he uses most often when he's hammering and breaking his back to make a living for me and my four brothers ---and I'd never seen him become so violent. I guess you could say that helped fuel my anger. You see, when my father broke his hand that day, he more or less put himself out of commission. My mother cried before that, watching the same shit we'd all seen, but she cried even harder when she saw my dad swing at the wall, only to find a wall stud. Seeing my mother cry makes me angry to begin with, so that day amplified all the rage flowing through me like electricity, until I just couldn't stand it any longer. I had to do something. Besides, with dad out of work and since I was the oldest son, I had to help my mom pay the bills. Slaving away at Taco Bell was never high on my list of priorities, and I'd never been much of one for mowing lawns and rakingleaves. So there was only one real last resort. But I'll get to that later.



That night found me actually praying before I went to bed. I'm not religious, really, but I guess you could say I had to make my peace with whatever God might be in charge of this whole carnival ride we call life. I remember asking Him to let me wake up the next morning to find that everything that had happened that day actually didn't happen. I told Him I'd be a better person if He'd just do me that one little favor. It wasn't too much to ask, I thought. Up to then we still didn't know how many people had been killed at the World Trade Center. Could've been more than 100,000 people, we heard on TV that night. And how many of them really deserved such a fate? "I promise, if You'll just let all those people
wake up tomorrow and go on with their daily lives, I'll go to church and do good deeds," I told Him, not sure if He'd even listen to someone like me who'd been such an asshole throughout life. "I'll do anything You want. Just let all those people not be dead."



We all know how that turned out.



That was what drove me to what my mom called depression. I gave up caring about just about everything that had mattered in my life up until then. What the hell really made any difference? Well, I'll tell you. Nothing. I quit my high school football team, slacked off in school and got suspended a couple of times, never called my girlfriend back for more than a month each time she called to make sure I was okay, which eventually made her stop calling, and she dumped me one Friday at the beginning of November of 2001. She thought I didn't care about her or our relationship, but she couldn't have been more wrong. I cared about her so much that I pushed her away because what I was preparing to do might get me killed, and I wanted her to move on with her life in advance in case something like that happened. At fifteen, she was almost a full year older than I was.

Remember now, this was right after 9/11, so I was still just fourteen at the time. I wanted her to go on and have fun in life, and I guess I just didn't have the guts to face her to tell her so. But none of that matters now, I suppose. I just hope she's happy. That's all I really ever wanted for her.



Over the following year I grew to accept what had happened in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville that day. My buddies and I all came to the same conclusion in late Winter of 2002. It looked like the United States was going to go to war with Iraq in another month, so we all made up our minds that if that happened, we'd all enlist in the Army together.



We would have God on our sides and the world's best military weaponry at our disposal. So what that we'd be thrown right in the middle of what would become such a bonfire for violence ---that's what we wanted. We'd be living out the last days of our lives without even knowing it, but somehow none of that mattered.

We'd all turned sixteen in the first months of 2003, and we thought we were bulletproof superheroes. Or maybe that's what we wanted to become. Either way, if we went off to war, we told one another we would be proud to lay our lives down to save our nation and each other. Little did I know then that I'd be the second one of us to actually do it. I marched like an obedient soldier, fought like a valiant member of the Roman Legions, and then I bled like I was supposed to and I ended up dying just the way a good soldier would. But I never got any older than that, which is good, because now I'll always be eternally young.



********************************************************************************************



Twenty-one of us walked down to the recruiting station the day after the opening of the Shock and Awe operation that began the war in Iraq. We were all just sixteen, and I remembered my dad always telling me about a story of how my great-grandfather lied about his age in order to enlist in World War I, so we all added two years to how old we were. We were in a hurry to get through basic training and get to Iraq, which was nothing like the video games we'd played in which wars were fought with such little effort that it almost didn't seem like fighting wars. I knew the risks, and so did the other twenty of us, and we didn't care. We'd made up our minds. And at sixteen, once your mind is made up, it pretty much stays that way . . . at least until the next distraction comes along.



We found no such distractions.



And we did breeze right through basic training, and no one ever found out our real ages.



********************************************************************************************



From the moment our boots first hit the Iraqi desert, we fought. We weren't the first infantry company in, but we damn sure felt like it. It was well after the Shock and Awe campaign, though it was still 2003, and we'd begun rolling through the outlying towns around Baghdad, rolling through them as if we faced no opposition whatsoever. And that's what bothered our company commander. But we fought on, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat when the ground between us and the insurgency closed too fast to blow them away. We followed orders, did what we were told without question, and ended up in a street-to-street sweep of
Fallujah. There were fifty of us in our company, all thirsting for a chance to light up anyone who dared oppose us. Little did we know, though, that while we stood in whatever shade we could find after the fighting died down, we were making ourselves targets for Improvised Explosive Devices planted just yards away. See, that's where the insurgents put the IEDs --- in the shade --- because they know American soldiers will always gravitate there when given the chance, removing our body armor to cool off. We were sitting ducks for two bombs no more than ten feet from me and Aaron Kominsky. We were fuel for the fire.



That's what you are . . . when you're soldiers.



********************************************************************************************



I heard the blast, but nothing else for what seemed like forever. Silence gripped me by my throat. All I could do was stand and stare at the bush from which the bomb had detonated.



Then, when enough of my hearing returned to realize I was hearing again, I heard Aaron screaming. I watched as he dropped to his knees, unable to understand why he chose right then to pray. What the hell was he thinking?

Didn't he know we'd just been bombed? Then I realized maybe he was praying that no more explosions would follow.



Then I realized everything I'd been thinking was wrong.



He hadn't been praying at all.



He'd been trying not to die.



I remember being curious as to why both of his arms lay at my feet, separated from the rest of him a dozen feet away or so. He coughed and tried to talk, but what came out of his mouth in place of a voice was . . . blood . . . and lots of it.

When he did manage to spit out a few words, they were all cries for his mother. I don't remember how I got there, but the next thing I knew I was kneeling beside him, and then I realized I'd left a trail of my own intestines and blood all the way to where my best friend knelt. We both fell over then, and things slowed down to a workable level of eternity.



And that's how we both died.



Lying on the desert floor, staring at one another, and I could see the confusion that took the place of normal sight in his eyes. He tried to ask me how something like this could happen to us on our first day in the war --- though I can never be totally sure that was what he was getting at --- but it didn't matter what he said. I couldn't answer him anyhow, because I began choking on my own blood.

I lay in the mud created by our own life-energy as it flowed from us like a thrown open faucet, trying to pull my intestines toward me so I could shove them back in and carry Aaron to safety. I guess once they're on the outside of you, though, they're pretty much there to stay, because what I was able to gather up wouldn't go back inside no matter how hard I thought I was trying to stuff it back in.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent the last minute or so I had left crying as Aaron slipped away. And I can't be sure if I actually called out for my mother or if I only thought I had, because I followed Aaron into death just as others from our company were coming to try to save us.



None of them were my mother.



And none of them could save us.



*******************************************************************************************



Our first day in Iraq hadn't even reached noon yet, and already more than half of our company were cut down.



********************************************************************************************



Guess we weren't bulletproof superheroes after all.



********************************************************************************************



What's even worse . . . since we'd lied about our ages to get into the Army to begin with, which meant we also had to forge our identities, no one will ever even remember our real names.



********************************************************************************************



But that's how it is . . . for soldiers.



Copyright © 2007 Charles Copeland & CharlesCopeland.com

All Rights Reserved
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Memorial Day Ceremony






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For those who cannot enjoy the full and free life each of us wants,
who among us will stand in their place.

POW-MIA You Are Not Forgotten

In honor of the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I will, as is my tradition,
black out the my entire profile page until the Memorial Day remembrances and ceremonies end Wednesday evening, May 30th.

Please take a moment to remember and honor these selfless Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines,
Public Servants, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners, Reservists and National Guardsmen... say a prayer for their families,
and thank them all for the magnificent gift we live each and every day... Freedom.

May God bless all of our Prisoners and Missing and those who wait.

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