Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
- TITLE: Esprit de corps
By Judy Sauer
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Everyone loves a parade, especially when it is on Veterans Day to honor the guys and gals who share the gusto of esprit de corps.
With passion in his voice, the Master of Ceremonies shouts through the bullhorn, “Welcome all to celebrate the courageous men and women who served to keep you safe. Let today’s parade leave you feeling the pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of our armed forces, past and present. Esprit de corps! Let the parade begin.”
Dressed in civilian clothes, Ski has on well fitting jeans with a tucked in blue top and wears a belt. She tells the man on her left “Great day for a parade, don’t ya think?” Even though it was a spur of the moment decision to attend the parade, why did I not put on my uniform, or at least wear my Garrison cap? No one knows I’m a veteran. To them, I look like any other civilian. But I’m so much more.
He looks like a hippie with a long, gray ponytail. What makes him stand out is the sleeveless leather jacket with patches from his many military conflicts. Ski spots the First Calvary Division patch and says, “First Cav—man, you are a brave soul.”
“Well, thanks. I’ve seen many conflicts in my days. The Battle of Il Drang was the worst.” Flashbacks from 1965 consume his thoughts. “I was a paratrooper. I jumped into Vietnam for one of the deadliest conflict of the Vietnam War. The reminiscent smells of Napom stings his nose. His eyes dart around as if he is on patrol for something. “Ya know, some guys come out of Vietnam and leave the war behind. Then there are those who leave Vietnam and the war never leaves them alone. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. My name is Chuck,” and they shake hands.
“Thank you for your service soldier. Here comes the Navy band. I’m a retired, Navy Chief,” Ski says as she stands with prideful shoulders stretching, and salutes the American Flag. Tears moisten her eyes. She yells, “GO NAVY!”
“Friendships are bonded under the most dire of situations, like Il Drang. Like the MC said, Esprit de corps! Here comes the Army band,” and Chuck stands to salute the flag of the country he so passionately fought for. “How long were you in?”
Spotting the Marines coming, Ski says “Here come the Marines. I was married to a jarhead.” After a pregnant pause she confesses, “Enuf said,” masking her painful memories. Some in the crowd grunt “Semper Fi, Semper Fi.”
Ski finally gets around to answering Chuck’s question. “Twenty one years. I was given a medical retirement—still in pain everyday from a car accident.” What about you Chuck? How long were you in?”
“Twenty two years. Also retired, but should have pursued a medical retirement because now every vertebrae in my back is wacked out from jumping out of planes.”
Chuck recalls the jumps as if they were yesterday. Feet first, jumping out of a plane in the darkness of night with an intended target just hoping the enemy doesn’t spot them or that the parachute doesn’t get snagged in a tree. “Do you still keep in contact with your old crew?”
“Only a few. My best friend I met in Boot Camp. We were stationed together at Moffett Field in California. How ‘bout you?”
“I keep in contact with my buddies from First Cav, what’s left of them. It’s sad when they die. Many are still stuck back in 1965. At our annual reunions, we have a memorial picture show—there are a lot of cheers, and many tears. What was your billet?”
“I was a draftsman, and stationed at the Pentagon, twice. First time I worked for Colin Powell. He is a nice man. Many of my friends joked that I was a two timer because I got stationed at some places twice— the Pentagon, NATO headquarters in Italy, and Puerto Rico. I enjoyed Germany the best though.”
“I was in Germany, too,” Chuck interrupts. Spent many good years there with my buddy Charlie. Raised our families together.” After a few minutes of silence, Chuck continues, “Charlie and Gary, my two best buds, live nearby. We get together often to smoke cigars, drink whiskey, and talk about the good old days.”
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