ONCE AGAIN EDITED BY THE INCOMPARABLE WIRES. WITHOUT HIS HELP THIS STORY WOULD NOT BE NEARLY AS READABLE.
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Thomas Eagle's eyes popped open at the unexpected startling sound. His heart was beating loudly as the noise dragged him from a deep sleep. He lay still for a moment, then groaned and grabbed his phone to shut off the alarm. He was still exhausted from his past several weeks of roaming the hills in Afghanistan as well as the long flight back to Ft. Bragg, NC. To top that off, after they were released the night before he and some friends from his unit who did not have family meeting them went into town to celebrate their return to the States. When he finally got to bed the night before he knew he would be exhausted this morning. The alarm function in his cell phone had been set to allow only three hours sleep before waking him to face the new day. His exhaustion was so severe his body felt weak and shaky, he burned as if he was ill. Tom had a bone deep ache that wouldn't quit, most of which had no basis other than his exhaustion. He knew he should have just gone to his room and gone to sleep last night after his evening meal but his friends would not be denied. They insisted he accompany them to town. They told him it was their intention to get him well fed and staggering drunk as a thank you for his care for them during the deployment.
Tom stood and slowly walked from his room toward the latrine carrying his ditty bag. It was an old, dirty brown bag showing signs of hard use in the cracked and scuffed leather. There was even some blue mold showing in some of the creases. His father gave him the bag upon his enlistment in the Army nine years before. At the time it was new, full of modern bathing and grooming tools and soaps as well as several Indian remedies that his family still believed in. Now it contained almost nothing. There was a soap dish with an almost used up bar of Lava soap that Tom used for all his cleaning needs. There was a well-worn tooth brush in its grungy looking case and an almost empty tube of Crest toothpaste. Also present were a small bottle that held a couple swallows of Listerine mouthwash and a small bottle that held analgesics.
Tom entered the latrine and placed his bag upon a shelf under a mirror hanging over a small sink. He took a moment to look at his image in the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles underneath. His weathered complexion showed his heritage of 3/8 Cherokee Indian and a dukes mixture of other nationalities. His torso and face were scarred from past injuries. Thomas Eagle sighed and opened the bag. It was time to begin yet another day in his life as a United States Soldier. He took out his soap then moved into a shower. He adjusted the water until it was steaming hot then stepped into it. His stoic expression remaining unchanged, seemingly unfazed by the water hot enough to send lesser men back into the cool latrine. He did cringe slightly from the heat, but relaxed as he let the soothing flow of water hit and massage his body. Slowly he turned and moved from the water to soap his sinewy body.
Tom was so used to his several scars he never even noticed himself rubbing them longer than he did the other parts of his body. He paid special attention to his most recent scar. It was still an angry red color and slightly tender. It represented Purple Heart number three and his Silver Star. The scar stretched from front to back almost equidistant from his waist to his armpit on the right side. There had been a place or two where you could see his intestines through the cut on the day he received the injury. A Taliban fighter came within millimeters of killing him that day in the mountains. Tom just barely managed to lunge away from the dirty knife the Taliban fighter tried to skewer him with as Tom tended to a wounded comrade.
In spite of his injury Tom won that fight and stopped only momentarily to render first aid to himself with the assistance of one of his friends. Technically he shouldn't have been fighting because he was a medic, but Tom believed in being where his friends needed him the most. He stayed safe if he could but when one of his charges was injured he frequently went to him instead of waiting for the injured man to be brought to his aid station. After he was bandaged slightly, Tom moved out once again and engaged the enemy while on his way to another wounded soldier. He fought and treated his friends until loss of blood caused him to pass out. His fighting ability surely saved his own life as well as at least three injured soldiers he was guarding. He personally killed five Taliban who were trying to kill his injured charges.
Tom was still leaning with his head against the shower wall gently rubbing his side when one of the other Sergeants in his unit came into the latrine for his morning shower. The Sgt stopped for a moment and watched his friend rubbing his side then said, 'Morning, Tom. I thought I was getting an early start. You look like I feel and I feel like warmed over shit. It's been a long time since I got that drunk. Have you checked on any of the others yet? I bet most of them will need some of your medicine this morning.'
Tom didn't move for a moment, then he slowly stood straighter and turned to face Sgt Jones. Tom was always amazed at the sheer size of Jonesey. He was six feet three inches tall and wide as a barn door. His thighs were almost the size of a smaller man's waist and he was all muscle. He was also black as night and meaner than a snake in a fight. All in all he was one of the best soldiers in the unit, but he was also easy to anger and hard to calm down after becoming angry. His flashes of temper were one of the reasons Tom was senior to him. Jones was an eleven year veteran of the Army and had been a Staff Sergeant once only to lose his stripe because of a fight with another soldier.
Jones adjusted another shower head and moved under the water. As he was lathering up he turned to face Tom and asked, 'So, what're you going to do when we go on leave? I'm going home and see my momma, then I'm gonna find me a woman and do nothin' but eat, drink, sleep, and fuck for my two weeks.'
'I'm going back to Cherokee and see my folks. After that I'm going to take my horse and a pack mule and go back into the mountains to a little valley my family owns. I'm going to camp there and hunt and fish for the whole two weeks. I don't intend to see another human for the entire time after I go into the hills. I just want to relax and forget all about the world. I want to live like we were meant to and enjoy nature. No killing, no alarms or noise to bother me, no injured soldiers to try to keep alive. There will only be me and mother nature.'
'Man, that's some shit. Didn't you get enough Mother Nature when we were in country? What about pussy, man? You at least gonna get ya some pussy before you run into the hills, ain't ya?' SGT Jones grinned and continued, 'Or are ya agonna take some prime pussy into the hills with ya? Man, that'd be the ticket. Take some pussy into the hills with ya and run around bare assed nekkid and skinny dip and shit. Man, I could almost go with ya for that.'
'Dunno' 'bout no pussy man. I don't have anyone at home. You know my woman ran off with that damn Green Beanie a couple years ago. I don't have one on the string now and I'm not interested in catching some disease from one of the women hanging around the bars here. Most of the women around home aren't the kind to do a one night stand unless they are bar flies and I don't want nothin' to do with those skanks. No, I'll probably just spend a day or two with the family then go into the mountains.'
'Man, you some crazy injin, ain't ya? Man, jus' find a Ho, fuck her, then move on. Man has needs ya know, and Rosie palm and her sisters jus' doan satisfy 'em, ya know?'
Tom felt his anger stir at that comment. He knew Jones didn't mean anything by the comment, but it rankled. It rankled much as his calling Jones a Nigger would bother the big man. Tom was 3/8 Cherokee Indian and proud of it. His parents still lived near the reservation and even worked in the Indian Casino in Cherokee.
The two men finished their morning toilet and moved from the shower back to their rooms. When he left his room SSG Eagle looked every bit the soldier. He stood tall and straight, muscled chest and arms straining the uniform. His piercing black eyes and hooked nose made him look as fierce as his bow carrying ancestors. Before leaving his room he carefully placed his Green Beret on his head and surveyed his reflection. Yep, he was all shipshape and ready for another day.
Tom strode from the barracks and moved to his little Ford Ranger pickup. He drove for about five minutes and parked in a slot near the door of a newer brick building. As Tom strode down the sidewalk he stiffened to attention and snapped a salute to the Lieutenant Colonel heading toward the door from a closer parking spot. He crisply said, 'Good Morning, Colonel. How are you today?'
The Colonel smiled and returned the salute then said, 'I'm fine, Sergeant. I am somewhat surprised to see you so chipper this morning, though. When I saw you last night I wasn't sure whether I would see you this morning or not.'
The LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) looked serious and stared hard at Tom, then continued, 'You and some of the men were really tying one on last night. You didn't do anything I'm going to find out about today did you? You were favoring your side last night, too. How is your injury healing, son?'
.... There is more of this story ...