Mistakes, I've made a few!
There was a song like that. Long time ago it was but the truth always hurts no matter how recent or long we go back.
In my case it was not that long, near 11 years and I was only 28.
I had lived the life I thought I had always wanted. The last years had been the worst, the first the best. The blood, guts, gore and screams of the dying would forever overshadow any good I might feel. They say war is Hell! It was probably meant that it's Hell to make War on civilians.
Shock and Awe were not an invention just in the Mideast. War was conducted like that since man existed. Very few armed people generally are the targets. It is the support. Get the people. Win over the Hearts and Minds of those left. Kill those who don't agree.
Yep, I thought, History does repeat itself. The gear might get better, faster, more casualties but the aim is the same. Make it so bad that the support for your enemy goes away. Wait, does that mean people supported the VC not our wonderful lads. Hell, I forgot, even in the US they were hated.
I left the Army, I was free, I just turned in the last of my gear. Why I had to go back to Virginia to do it I'll never understand. I saluted the guards as I left. I was no longer Capt. Rodgers, John, David. I was now a Civilian. I was going back to Texas and start over.
The hotel was near the base, the bars were even closer. What to do, what to do? Drink here or drink there? What to drink? This or some of that? I had choices now. Hell, I'd have both and drink in more than one bar. Life was going to be easy?
If you believe that, there is this bridge for sale I can get you a great price on!
I was not a big guy, nor a small guy. I had not studied any martial arts, could not slice and dice a man 17 different ways or kill him with a straw. I was a mean and dirty SOB though. You sort of get that way growing up in Texas and you learn a lot more in the 'Sandbox' about survival.
The first bar was pretty quiet. Had to buy some of the guys a drink or two before I left to mosey over to where they said the action was. To these guys 'action' was either 'blood', 'broads' or 'body parts', usually all three with 'booze' liberally applied. If this was in Texas, we'd call it a slow night.
I had no sooner sat myself down when three, well three, Hell, three something drunk as skunks came over and told me I was at their table. I was feeling mighty happy till then so decided the table did not mean much to me. Then one of those fools went out of line, and threw an insult at me. "We don't want you Damn Yankees here."
Now there had been no reason for the man to become insulting. He may of had a might too much to drink so I said. "I'm from Texas Boy, and you have about 10 seconds to apologize before you start kissing the floor!"
A snowball in Hell stood better odds than there was of his being sorry. I said I was mean. What I didn't say was I was mean by Texas Standards, anywhere else that translated to deadly as a rattlesnake on steroids. Besides, there were only three of them. This should not take too long.
If you lads step outside you can decide who goes first or maybe all three of you should be together, I hear people like you, sort of like that close male bonding.
Well if that don't beat all. They looked sober again. I don't think they were used to someone not just running away. Hell, they were wasting my drinking time and I was now getting a might peeved. On a good day I was mean, you did not want to be around me on a bad day. I was starting to have a bad day. I waved my hand gesturing them out. I heard.
"We're coming too Capt. we know there is just three but we'll drag the bodies away for you for old times sake.'
I knew that gravel voice and could just see the grin on his face in my mind. "Jake, you father of a hyena, just watch, Ok?"
"Sure Capt. You know us, we always just watch. Hell, this Ain't Texas. As he took off his beret and held it over his chest. Those good old lads had been around these parts enough to recognize the berets and get the feeling that they just might want to rethink that apology.
It wasn't even 'night' and already old memories and times resurfaced.
I walked outside but nothing. I walked back inside. "Nobody wanted to play Jake!" I mocked a tear and a sniff. Three guys laughed. While I was up, Jake called to the band to play 'Dixie'. Most all stood up, I reached down for my Stetson and placed it over my heart. My lads were wishing me farewell.
Farewell, Hell, these were my lads and the night was young. We had a band, all we needed were some girls.
The back table soon became visible a little better. Jake was smiling. "Capt. you know you got a long way to 'git' (Texan for Haul Ass Home) but we got a few fillies here that want you to have found memories of us."
If 17 is a few, there were no nurses on duty that night. These were ours, they served in the 'Sandbox' the same as any of us. Some of them could even out shoot the men while a few could drink most men under the table.
:Now we know your 'gettin' old Capt. but there is this one filly that seems to think she might know you." He pointed and I wanted to die as she stood up!"
"Hannah!" Tears ran down my face I almost fell racing to grab her.
"Hannah!" It was all I could say as we wrapped our arms around each other.
The last time I had seen Hannah she was still trying to stop my fool body from bleeding all over. She was a Brit Nurse there to care for her lads, as she called them. SIS, (Formerly called SAS). "How in tar nation did you find her and get her here you polecat you?"
"Remember when I said you had a few friends. Friends don't always follow rules. Hell why do you think the Army flew you back here, to just turn in a few toys. Capt. We can put a time and a place to every bullet you took for us, and every grave we had to dig or body carried out. You don't think we forget something like that, do you?"
Now we had to wait to have them civilian clothes on you for the rest. Miss Hannah here has some remembering thing she needs to talk to you in private about, but I believe some folks owe you one favour, a big one, and they told me that anything you needed done was OK with everyone as long as you both said please and thank you. Capt. from the bottom of our hearts know that you have a lot of friends. Now take this here little girl in the back and listen to what she has to say! Remember again, your 'friends'(CIA) want you to know you have one big wish you can have."
I had not stopped hugging Hannah and holding her close to me. All Right I was almost mashing her to my body like a man drowning. We did make it to that room in the back. Hannah looked at me with the kind of eyes that looked through you, not at you. The kind that could see into your soul. There were a lot of things she could have said to me. Only a few that would hurt me. She managed to say most of them though.
"Do you even remember me?"
"Do you ever think about me?"
Did you ever really Love me?"
God, she was doing a fine job of ripping me a new one.
I said I was mean. This girl would give a bronco on locoweed a run for his money and come out on top. If I looked at her I just knew I would ball like a baby.
"Do you still love me and want to marry me JD?"
Now she won the cup, anything and everything that could destroy me, that little girl had asked. She even used the Big M and Big L words.
I looked into those eyes and was lost. I had to tell her the truth.
"Yes! Yes! I would die for you! I Love you Hannah and want to marry you! How can we?"
Well, first we go home, you call Daddy and nicely ask him if he might tolerate a Yank Son-in-law. Be real sweet to Mommy and ask how long she needs to plan for a Texas wedding, remind her that in Texas Big is OK.
Then we get a license, we pick out rings, order a cake and you call up the British Embassy for the special permission the Queen gave us. some 'friends' of your were saying it was a wedding present; or were you to do that first, I really don't remember.
Now this was the Hannah that kicked my ass, patched me up and with her SIS lads made sure I was kept safe and sound till we were airlifted out. She never told me that her lads, as she called them were almost as shot up as I was and between them had like 30 rounds left, 14 of them for pistols in event capture was likely. Blue eyed blond Nurses rated some special attention if captured. Her lads would be certain she would not be taken alive.
Some one had gone to a lot of trouble for me. What they had done for me and Hannah was impossible, especially if she was military and impossible if we both were.
I guess that drink fest with my 'friends' after my debrief was understood. I remember now one question they asked. "Of all the things you ever saw, heard or were exposed to what would it be?"
The answer took all of 6 seconds maybe not even that long. "The Brits" I said for the record." Hannah, softly to myself. They must have had a lip reader view the tape. Either that or her Lads were telling stories.
I pulled Hannah closer still and our lips met.