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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)

TITLE: A Soldier's Last Promise
By Dara Sorensen


A young man, barely nineteen, wiped the sweat from his battle-worn brow, his curly blond hair sticking to his neck. Still a boy in many ways, his young eyes witnessed enough to make any man twice his age cringe.

He turned to his friend, a brother in arms. He was tall, dark, and older, a mentor to the young man. The young man noticed his friend’s clenched jaw and sensed his apprehension, something he too felt deep within his own soul. He uttered a silent prayer.

God, help us—be with us.

“John,” the young man said quietly, “what’s wrong?” He knew the answer was apparent, but he’d never known his older friend to be so solemn and pensive.

The older man did not respond for a time. He stared into the distance, where the foe waited in the mist. His eyes reflected a darker mood, envisioning the pain that would come. A familiar camp song echoed in his mind.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…

God would surely come for him today. He could feel his heart pounding in anticipation and dread, a heavy feeling of despair weighing upon him. He, too, uttered a prayer of assistance.

God, help us—be with us.

Finally, he responded to his dear young friend.

“Charlie, we've been through many battles together. We've seen what most can only have nightmares about.”

Charlie was silent.

John began again. “We’re about to march up that hill together and face the enemy, as we’ve done countless times before.” He turned to his friend, and looked directly into his clear blue eyes, eyes full of anguish. Eyes that mirrored his own.

“I have a feeling that…that I will not be marching back again.” John was not a man of emotion, but he struggled to keep back the tears. He lowered his voice to nearly a whisper.

“Charlie, I want you…I want you to do something for me…should I die.”

Charlie nodded resolutely. “Sir,” he said, “I will help you in whatever way possible.”

John smiled solemnly at the young man’s devotion and pulled out a wrinkled, weathered black- and-white print with the face of a young woman. He showed the picture to Charlie.

“She’s waiting for me at home. Her smile gets me through the day and her promise.” He swallowed deeply. “You see, we’re to be married.” He tried to swallow again, but the pain became an immovable lump in his throat.

God help us—be with us.

“Charlie, tell her where I fall. Tell her where my resting place is so she can move on. Help her…help her to see that I love her. Tell her…I’ll be waiting for her in heaven.”

He put the precious photograph back in his pocket with shaking hands. He looked over and saw his young friend wipe tears from his eyes, his brave stance sunken under the shadow of impending death.

Charlie would do as he promised—if only he were certain he would be going home again. He had been unsettled and anxious; horrifying thoughts of death haunted him in his dreams. He believed he would be meeting his Maker today as well.

“Sir,” he said, his voice trembling. “I’ll do what you ask of me, should I go back home again.” Charlie took a deep breath trying to mask the pain in his voice.

God, help us—be with us.

Now it was Charlie’s turn to ask for John’s help.

“John, I think of you as a brother. If I don’t return, will you…will you help me? Will you write to my mother?” His lip trembled as he continued and as his voice began to show a childlike quality.

“She’s already lost my father and brother…and…and I’m the last.” He wiped tears from his face as he looked at his friend, the innocence of youth reflected in his blue eyes. “Will you…promise to help me?”

John nodded gravely. “I’ll write her. I’ll make sure she knows how brave her boy was ‘til he met his Savior in heaven.”

They joined hands in this solemn brotherly promise, bound by honor and love. They had helped each other through many obstacles; they would help each other until the very end.

The trumpet sounded the last charge. The brothers in arms looked at each other one last time as they charged into battle, ready for whatever would befall them.

Based upon the traditional Civil War ballad, “The Last Fierce Charge.”

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This article has been read 989 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Caitlynn Lowe02/27/06
Aww...That's a touching story. It makes me sad to think about the people they'd be leaving behind, and how horrible it must be to march into a battle knowing it could very well be your last...yet it fills me with awe at the same time when I think about the amount of bravery and courage and honor that a sacrifice like that must take. I also like the creative use of the theme...the soldiers asking God and one another for help. Very nice.
Brandi Roberts03/01/06
Wow! It surprises me that this hasn't had more comments! A beautiful piece here - full of heart. I love stories like this, full of courage, and love, and God :) Well written! This was great!
Birdie Courtright03/01/06
Great writing! It made me sad for the loved ones. Can you write the sequel where they get to live through the battle and go home?
terri tiffany03/02/06
This was so realistic and so well written!! I loved it...would love to read more!
Venice Kichura03/02/06
Excellent writing!
Carla Feagans03/02/06
A timeless story, and you did a wonderful job of taking us there and letting us feel the emotions of these brave men.

You are an excellent writer - and definitely should be in advanced!

One small critique - and I haven't heard the song so this may be a direct quote from it (if it is, ignore what I'm about to say) - but I found the line "Her smile gets me through the day and her promise" to be awkward.
Pat Guy 03/02/06
You carried us all the way through and that's a good, good thing! I felt it all. You should be proud of this one!
T. F. Chezum03/02/06
Very good writing. Great story ... well done.
Joanne Malley03/02/06
I felt the full range of emotion in this one. Great job!
Jan Ackerson 03/02/06
Very good! I'm not usually a fan of war stories, but this was more a story of friendship and faith, and I loved it.
janet rubin03/02/06
Wonderful writing. You're well on your way to advanced. Great descriptions, emotion and dialogue. Keep writing!
Debbie Sickler03/03/06
Maybe I'm just in a critical mood or something (seems I've been kind of hard on the last few I've read, so feel free to ignore me. lol)

I liked the story overall, but in the beginning it seemed like you used 'young' and 'older' quite a few times. Maybe you could have picked different tags for variety?

Also, I'll admit I was a bit distracted while reading, but the dialog seemed interchangeable between the two men. I didn't see much distinction of character. If the one man was older, try using his vocabulary to reflect it.

Just my two cents and don't know if it's even worth that! :)
Sandra Petersen 03/03/06
Nice job! The Civil War is one of the parts of history about which I like to read.

You used the phrase 'young man' four times in as many paragraphs...once you have established that Charlie is young, you don't have to repeat it. Maybe substitute 'warrior' or something else for 'man'.

I got a little confused when you shifted from Charlie's to John's POV and back again. Is there some way you could distinguish a little more between them?

I was taken by the emotions of the piece...that was very well done!
Shari Armstrong 03/04/06
Well done, you draw the reader in, good job :)
Maxx .03/05/06
Nice story.. brotherly comaradarie in the face of war. A bit of alliteration troubles early (a lot of "young man" "Older man" repeats) but aside from that you did very very well.