《 August, 1959, 0500 hrs 》
“Next recruit, please step forward and state your name for me.”
“Private Woodrow, Baxter Woodrow.”
I looked up from my notepad, when the resonant baritone rang out, my eyes assessed the man dressed in nothing but a pair of regulation boxer shorts for only a moment. His swarthy complexion accented his muscled physique, he stood nearly a head over the man nearest to him, his shoulders were broad and sturdy looking, I know the recruiters were salivating when they got ahold of him, I was one to talk as I was nearly salivating myself.
“Thank you Mr. Woodrow, please step back into formation..”
I continued down the line, calling the rest of the men forward, most just fresh faced boys, several having lived a life less than my own tender twenty years of age. It was clear they were targeting them young, too young, these were mere boys and they expected them to be men with the will to kill. It wasn’t going to happen, I knew ninety percent of these poor souls wouldn’t make it back for their next physical.
Vietnam was a black hole, and these war mongering fools were willing to throw countless lives away at a lost cause, it was sickening but I still had a job to do. I gave nod to the other nurse stationed with me, It was pretty much the two of us registering close to a thousand soldiers, with one physician who could barely pass for a surgeon, he was out of his wits a flight half the time, but we were a team and I tried my best to get the job done. The men were rightly antsy at the pace, many looking just as drunk from the night before as our resident physician, it entire lot looked like they didn’t get enough sleep.
“Let me get everyone’s attention, please.” I said loudly, but the ruckus from the men drowned out my voice, no one was listening.
“I believe the LADY commanded our ATTENTION!”
It was that voice again, his voice, all the men present had swiftly gone silent, everyone waiting for me to speak. I felt nervous with all the eyes on me so suddenly, but I caught a wry grin on Prvt. Woodrow’s face, so I stiffen my spine and got to business.
“As I was saying, today we’ll be performing preliminary physicals, most of you will be seeing Dr. Hudson, the rest will be undergoing your health assessment by myself, Specialist Gail Grannison, his apprentice..”
“Hold on now, I don’t know about having some lady doctor grabbing on my junk and all.. umm, Ma’am.” One of the recruits replied nervously, he had reddish hair and thin spectacles, a few of the others felt the same way, some felt different.
“Speak for yourself! I wouldn’t mind a thorough examination..”
“That’s enough.” I commanded sternly, cutting off the pompous blonde, and the chorus of laughter his crudeness had garnered. “I’m sure you boys won’t be feeling that way after, I have a reputation for cold indelicate hands, ask the boys at Boot Camp about Granni.”
The icy look in my eyes got them in line, I looked at the names on my chart, finding the one I was searching for.
“Grande, Reginald.. please step forward, you’re up first.”
“My number is 82, how the heck do I get the luck of being first!” The mischievous blonde complained, but I just smile at him.
“Your name just happen to be at the top of the list, come on, let’s get started..” I said, leading him behind the curtain, a few feet from the rest of the recruits.
I had him drop his trousers, and I dismissively analyzed his physique and structure, he would do well if he was as smart as his mouth. Not too tall, not too short, lean sinewy build but meaty enough to have some back up fuel in case of an emergency. There were rumors of dwindling rations, and malnutrition among the troops overseas, the Viet Cong had been using Chinese backed artillery.
They’ve been able to interrupt food drops, and the casualties were steeply climbing, I had a feeling in my gut this war was no good. I had the man turn around for me, and I checked him thoroughly, only slightly surprised his sphincter looked normal, so I knew he wasn’t one of the gay guys that seemed so common these days. The administration had demanded that anyone who had questionable anatomy should be noted, there were more than I could count, and I tried not to follow the rules unless it was blatant.
When I was done with the rude recruit, I dismissed him and moved on, next up was the timid red head. I rolled my eyes and sighed, knowing I was in for another long day.
It was early in the afternoon, I looked at the clock to see it read 1500 hours, gazing at my charts I could tell I still had about fifty men left of the two hundred and fifty I had started with. I asked myself again why I had signed up for this, then I remembered Big Daddies words..
“Next recruit, Wood..row” I stuttered sitting up, kicking myself for saying his name all weird, but I had forgotten about him.
He entered and stood at attention before me, he was tall, which wasn’t a good thing. The largest casualties were result of head shots, second was the beheadings, and death by explosives were fast climbing. His cinnamon complexion was smooth and his handsome face was clean shaven perfectly to code, his hair was so intricately waved, I wonder how he was able to get it to do that, it was such a shame they would buzz it. His body was athletically built with solid muscles, he was clearly fit for any battle, maybe there was hope for him yet.
“When you’re ready, please disrobe for me..” I stopped what I was was saying when he immediately undressed, revealing what a true magnificent specimen he was.
I looked down at my paperwork to keep from staring at his ample endowment, largest of any man I’d seen so far, I couldn’t stop my face from flushing a bright scarlet. If he noticed, he didn’t register it, as his tone was strictly clinical. I tried my best to imitate the same, as I followed the routine I had been doing all morning, but there was no denying this felt different.
“My chart says you have a sickle cell trait, that should further aid you in the jungle terrain, it’s a mutation developed to repel malaria spreading mosquitos..” I paused for the slightest of moments to take in his fiery amber eyes, which seen to concentrate their gaze to my lips, as I spoke. “Malaria has been an issue amongst the men, you can rest easier not having to worry about that. Um.. Do you have any questions or are there any further medical issues we haven’t addressed?”
“There was a severe burn I had, from an accident while handling hot grease in the kitchen, it was here along my elbow and forearm.”
“Well you should feel lucky, it’s healed beautifully.”
“It happened a couple days ago.” He replied, sincere concern in his eyes, I could tell he was being serious. “The skin was peeling and bubbling, but now it’s gone.. I can’t explain it.”
“Well.. Um, that could be contributed to a number of factors, but I’d try not to make a big fuss about it.” I was talking out of my ass, I really didn’t have any answers for what he explained, and if I went to anyone else they’d refer me to the psych unit.
“Ok, I understand, thank you.” He answered, and I think he caught the gist of what I was thinking from the look on my face.
“None needed, it’s really I that should thank you for getting those guys in line for me, it was quite kind of you.” I stammered, as I tried not to watch while he dressed himself.
“It’s what any decent man of character would have done, and my daddy raised me that way.”
“Your daddy seems to have raised a good man.. I’ve seen the war change allot of the same men into shells of their former selves, so you take care of yourself out there, okay?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” He replied, giving me a sturdy salute, as he departed.
He had been the only recruit to recognize my rank as a Specialist, the others were either too ignorant to recognize the insignia or they believed it was null in void because I was a was ‘merely’ a woman I could only play a glorified nurse. I wish I could say the temperament was something new, but it was normal practice from even officers high on the command.
As women we were undervalued, underpaid, and underappreciated. It was nice to be treated with respect for once, but I knew not get used to it.
《 February, 1962, 0900hrs 》
“Gail, you need to stop all this mess and come home, you know Big Daddy misses you, he just too pigheaded to admit it to you. You’ve made your point, you stubborn girl.”
“Mother, this is not about making a point! It’s about living my life to my own accord, not by some archaic script predestined to me because I’m a woman. The times are changing, you have to see it around you, you have to feel it?”
I was on the phone with mother, this was one of three working phones on the base, and I had hijacked it to make a long overdue call home. I had pulled the wire as far as it could go and ended up on the floor of a maintenance closet.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, things have never been better! Why in gods name would we want anything to change? You know what you need, you need a husband! I met the son of a Van Duyn the other weekend at the club, you two would look glorious together.. hold on a second, hunny.” My mother tried to muffle the phone speaker, but I could hear her yelling at the maid, an older colored woman who had been with the family for years. “Odessa, Don’t you touch my silver! I specifically said we clean silver on Thursday mornings, what’s today?! It’s Tuesday!!”
“Mom! Calm down, don’t speak to her like that..”
“No, she’s lazy and slick as a fox, she thinks I don’t know what she’s up to but I’m no fool, she finished her chore list for today, so she’s trying to get a head start on the rest of the weeks work. If it wasn’t so hard to find good colored help these days, I’d put your sorry hide out on the street.”
“Are you listening to yourself?! Don’t speak to her like that!” I screamed into the phone, forgetting I was supposed to be hiding.
“Gail I’m your mother! How dare YOU speak to me like that!” She shouted, sounding on the verge of tears, my mother was such a dramatic when she was upset and lonely.
“Okay, okay, calm down. I didn’t call halfway across the world to hear you crying. I just don’t like you speaking to Odessa like that, the woman practically raised me.”
“Maybe she’s to blame for your penchant for defiance, and this bra burning ‘free spirit’ of yours.”
“You can’t blame her for everything mother, sometimes we have to own our problems.” I said softly, knowing she would know the double meaning behind my words. “Anyway, I just called to let you know I’m okay, and that I love you, goodbye mother.”
I hung up the phone before she could say anything else, knowing it would be more of the same. The pleading for me to come home, the stressing of marriage, and the disapproval were a constant reminder of why I had to leave. When I opened the door, there was someone standing there in uniform, I looked up into honey golden eyes and a dazzling smile of white teeth. He took off his hat and I could see he managed to keep that short wavy hairstyle, I’m glad, it suited him, just like the new rank.
“Good morning, Corporal Woodrow. If you would oblige?” I asked, holding my hand out to him, and he assisted me to my feet. “Thank you, um.. I was talking to my mother, we can get a little passionate.”
“No need to explain, Staff Sergeant, I know all about passionate family dynamics.. I just got back from Chicago visiting my family, I hate to say the war may be less stressful than dinner with my own kin.” I noticed He smiled as he talked because his lips were so full and defined, and his mouth was as beautiful as his eyes, I realized I was staring so I went to return the phone to Dr. Hudson’s office.
The soldier followed me, and we made small talk about his transgressions since we last seen each other. We spoke of the war, which wasn’t looking too good for our side, the Viet Cong was being supplied arms by the Chinese and Soviet Union but even they weren’t the worst enemy to be faced, it was the jungles of Vietnam that pose the most threat.
There was also rumors of a draft, of which President Kennedy had vehemently denied, though I knew for a fact the option was on the table. Preparation had been in place for weeks, and we were still severely underprepared for this type of warfare, but try and tell that to a bunch of balding silver haired good ol’boys.
A couple of the girls gave me weird looks, most of these so called nurses were milkmaid daughters of some Midwestern farmer, so they never seen a white woman and a black man talking in a public setting. They had also probably never experienced a woman in charge before, as they sometimes like to undermine me as well, I had gained the nickname ‘Granni’ amongst the girls, even some of the men had started to refer to me as so. That made the corporals presence a welcoming change to the atmosphere, he was was on here for a day or two before heading back on tour.
“So has everything been okay as far as your.. um, condition? I remember I said not to talk about it with anyone, but you can trust me if you need to.”
“I know I can trust you, and yeah, everything has been okay, great actually. I think I may have overreacting a bit, I don’t know.” He responded, looking a bit uncertain, glancing at his palms. “The other day I burned my hand on a iron and it’s still here, so I’ll take that as a sign everything is normal.”
“Well that’s good, better a false alarm than a problem.” I said, looking to where one of the girls had turned on the radio, Mary Wells ‘The One Who Really Loves You’ played smoothly from the speakers.
Some of the ladies started to dance and shimmy, then soon after they began a Congo line of sorts, it was a funny sight and a break from all the stress they were under.
“Granni, come dance with us! Show us what you can do ol’girl, I know them old bones can rattle somethin’ fierce!” Hollered Brittany, a rancher’s daughter from Texas, she’s become quite the popular girl with the marines and navy boys for more reasons than one.
“I think I’ll pass, just this one time.” I replied with a laugh, as they soon started to do the ‘Mash Potato’.
“We should all go down to Kim Cho’s bar, I hear they finally fixed the jukebox and have all the new tunes!” Yelled out one of the other girls, inciting excited squeals from the dozen of them.
“Granni, you should come! You can even bring your handsome chocolate man you!” Brittany chimed with glee, causing me to turn a nasty shade of scarlet, while everyone laughed, even the Corporal.
“I’m up for it, if you are?” He asked, in that smooth baritone, he sounded like how velvet feels.
“She’s not gonna go, Granni is a square, she never leaves the sanctity of her soapbox.. Plus, what would her mother and father think of her cavorting with colored folk like some alabaster jungle Jane, she’ll bring shame to her whole family, but the kicker is, this wouldn’t be first time.”
My blood boiled at the sound of her voice, it was Madeleine Astor, a debutant with ivory pearls to match. She hadn’t worked for a thing her entire life, I should know, we hailed from the same hometown. Even after suffering through grade school with the skank, she had to be interested in nursing, and interesting in the military. She was one of the best nurses, with one of the nastiest attitudes when it came to me, it’s always been that way.
“Hold on Corporal while I go retrieve my overcoat, there’s a sudden foul stench in the air, and I could use a drink.” I replied, giving the peroxide blonde the smuggest look I could, Woodrow held his arm out to me and I took it, not looking back as we stepped out to seize the day.
“I’m just saying, people are talking, and you’re not gonna like what they’re saying about you! I don’t think you need to be associated with him Granni.”
“When did you become my father? Just because our parents are colleagues doesn’t mean we’re friends!”
“Well it just so happens, your father spoke to mine, I’m supposed to keep an eye on you.”
“You mean SPY on me Reginald! So you’ve been reporting back to my father?!”
“No, not really, I told him you may be seeing someone but I couldn’t work up the courage to tell him he was a nigger.”
“Don’t say that damn word around me.” I replied coldly, cutting my eyes at him, how he of all people became a staff sergeant so fast was beyond me.
“I’m sorry but I have to tell him sooner or later, because if he finds out from someone else, my father will kill me if I don’t die in the war first.”
“You’ll die way before then if you open your mouth.. I swear to god!”
Just then, there was a knock at the door to my office, I told the person to enter and in walked Corporal Woodrow. He smiled warmly at me, and I immediately felt at ease, he had such a calming effect to me. I knew he was coming to say goodbye, as he left for combat in the morning, It was harder to say farewells this time, especially with company present.
“I’m going to be writing you, you better write back, I need to know your doing alright.”
“You’re the one that’s going to be on the battlefield, I’m worried about you!” I told him, my cheeks flushing at his attention, I almost forgot Staff Sergeant Grande was present in the room with us. “Oh Baxter, you remember Reggie, right? Didn’t you two go to Basic together?”
“I do remember him, but we didn’t speak much.. so how you getting along man?” Woodrow replied, holding his hand out to the sitting man.
“I believe it’s customary to salute a higher ranking officer.” Reggie chastised, with a smug look on his face, I was shocked at his rudeness.
“You’re absolutely right Staff Sergeant.” Woodrow crisply stated, as he gave the man a sharp salute, Reginald responded with some sorry excuse for one and a grumble.
“At ease, my office is a casual setting at the moment, there’s no need for all that.” I said, getting up and walking up to the caramel skinned Adonis, the sitting blonde watching me intently like I was approaching a lion. “When do you leave?”
“0200 hrs, we got a lead on a weapons drop, mission is to intercept, I got the best platoon with me so don’t worry.”
I pulled him in a close hug, and we wrapped our arms around each other, it felt as if I were wrapped in the heat of body. Tip toeing up and to place a gentle kiss to his cheek, close to his lush lips, I learn further to reach his ear.
“Come back to me”
Pulling away, I knew from the look in his eyes, he would do everything in his power to return, we would see each other again. I watched him until he closed the door behind him, and just sighed, as I fumbled nonchalantly with some paperwork cluttered on my desk.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Reginald asked me, barely able to spit the words out, because he was so furious.
“Excuse me?! I don’t know what you’re talk..”
“You’re in LOVE with him, a goddamn Negro! I can see how you look at him, the way you threw yourself into his arms, you even kissed him!” He shouted angrily while standing to his feet, he sounded so jealous, and if I didn’t see the signs his next question was proof enough. “Have you two ever..?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, no we have not.” I replied before he could finish, and he gave a sudden look of relief, yet my next words made him leave slamming the door behind him. “I’m saving that for a special occasion..”
《 November, 1964, 0800hrs 》
“What do you mean I have to go in? You guys never even gave us combat training!”
“Calm yourself, Sergeant! You’re in the presence of a Officer.” Dr. Hudson replied, trying to sound like some authority figure.
The nerve of him, when I had been running his primary care for weeks while he spent the time gambling, drinking, and running around with cheap asiatic street walkers. How could I be calm when they were throwing me and the girls to the front lines of the war. I would be one of one hundred woman attached to a platoon penetrating the north. They should have just sentenced us to death here and now, instead of putting us through the trouble of running into its clutches on our own.
“I know this sounds scary but we are gonna give you and the girls training, we plan to get you in tip top shape for the job were asking of you.” The brunette replied, her tone was a sincere as her severe and immaculate cut bob, she was as stern as I imagine a woman in her position would have to be.
“I’m sorry say this Major, but with all due respect..” I said, as I rose from my seat to leave the room. “Why not give me a chance to lay down and spread my legs, before you decide to fuck me up the ass!”
《 December, 1964, 1500hrs 》
“Bang! Bang! Got you Brittany, you’re dead!” Screamed one of the girls, she was so excited but this was the dumbest thing I had ever done. “You’re dead! You’re supposed to lay down!”
“Nu’uh! You just got my arm, I can still run!” Brittany cried with laughter, as she ran into the fake cardboard cutout jungle, to hide.
“No, you tramp! That was clearly a headshot.. Granni! She’s cheating again!”
“Brittany, you do realize that if you get shot in the real world, you’re really dead, this isn’t a game!” I hollered at her, but she didn’t take me serious, I wanted to shoot bullets into the air but the fuckers hadn’t even given us any bullets.
The Majors idea of ‘training’ was throwing a bunch of girls in a poster board jungle room with empty guns, there were no instructors, no trainers to show us battle tactics, no real life simulations. I knew we were fucked, and this was just day one, I didn’t know if I could take six more days of this, just throw me in the jungle already.
They put myself and that petulant scab Madeline Astor in charge, she was content to let the women play, when this was a serious occasion. Suddenly I got hit in the face with something, and water splashed in my lap, it was a water balloon.
“Now who’s dead, Granni? Everybody watch out, it’s grenades! Hahahah” Brittany had a riot at her prank, as she now chased the other women with her arsenal of water balloons, this was ridiculous.
I got up and stormed from the room, as Brittany and Madeline laughed at me in my now sopping wet uniform, all I could do was sigh and shake my head.
There was a rapt knock at my door, I looked at the time, it was too late for visitors. I jumped up out of bed expecting an emergency of sorts, this was the last day of our so called training, I wasn’t expecting anyone till we shipped out in three days.
When I opened the door, my heart felt as if it were about to burst open, it was him. I found myself wrapped around him as best I could, it didn’t matter to me that he had bags, I don’t think it mattered to him either.
“Baxter..” I whimpered his name, as I cried into his neck, it had been almost two years since I’d seen him. “It’s you, it’s really you?!”
“You calling me a liar? Haha, I told you I as coming back, I made a promise.”
“And I was holding out for a special occasion..” I whispered, stepping back from him, letting loose my hair the first time in front of him.
My normally icy blonde hair was now dyed a rich chocolate brown, something that wouldn’t stand out too much in the jungle, I kept it long and it fell in curled ringlets all the way down to my waist, my length was totally against army regulation but I was good at making a tight concealed bun. I loosed the buttons of my rosy pink negligee, wearing nothing but a thin white panty underneath. I felt so vulnerable and exposed, but I was ready to give him something more, I wanted something more, I needed it. He kicked the door closed and dropped his bags where he stood, as he took off his hat and just looked at me.
“Gail.” He paused to clear his throat, and loosen his tie, I could see perspiration form to his brow. “You’re more magnificent than I could have ever imagined.”
“Then why are you standing all the way over there?”
“Some things have changed since the war?” He said, looking down, as if he was ashamed to say.
“What do you mean?”
He started to unbutton his shirt slowly, I had never seen him look so unsure of himself, this was a man that oozed confidence. As his hands crept down, I stepped forward and replaced his with my own, I went just as slow and took my time. I slid his shirt from his shoulders, and could see the scarring immediately, there looked to be shrapnel lacerations littered across his back and a few lightly sprinkled across his chest.
I looked up at him with tears in my eye, and with a look, I let him know he was still perfect to me, he was just as beautiful as the day I met him. I kissed him fiercely, suckling those full lips, I wrapped my arm around his neck and he lifted me by my legs, high till we were face to face.
As he walked us to the bedroom, I knew I was in love with the perfect man, he had everything I wanted, urged for, and desired.
He was a warrior, a survivor, a lover, a gentleman, and he was all mine..
《 February, 1965, 1300hrs 》
The bodies were scattered around in sloppy piles of flesh, blood, and bone. There were so many, too many to count, in too many pieces.
They literally had to bulldoze them into the fire pits they had the soldiers dig for their deceased comrades. The dead were decomposing in the humid climate faster than we could dispose of the them, and the torrential rains didn’t help, there was the constant smell of lingering death and rot permeating the air surrounding the camp.
We were located a good distance from the coast, somewhere in northern Vietnam, every couple hours, the airmen would fly over, air raiding the surrounding villages and thick humid jungle. At the moment I found myself running, fast as I could, from one side of camp to the other.
To my left, I saw a familiar face, it was Madeline crouched over a soldier. The girl was literally holding his innards in her bare hands, trying to stuff them back inside him, if they worked faster they could save him. If I moved faster, I could save many more lives, so I tried to pick up the pace.
When I got to the Majors tent, it was full of tired and weary men, who was I kidding, we were all exhausted. This war had become a battle of wills, who would tire out first, and from the look on the men’s faces I could tell that as far as they were concerned, the United States didn’t lose wars.
“Granni, get your wide ass in here toots..” Sergeant Major Williams, crassly invited me inside, a lit Cuban dangling out the side of his mouth. “I need to have a word with’ya.”
“I hope this is about the shipment of meds we’ve been waiting for, because I’m down to the bare minimum and almost out of penicillin, I’ve been giving dying men saline instead of morphine.. There’s gonna be a special place in hell designated or me, sir.”
“Well, you’ll probably be seated right next to me, so I hate to come across as unsympathetic to your peril little darlin’ but we got a war to win, no matter the cost! But hold fast, there’s good news. We got a fresh lead on one of the Viet Cong leadership hold up in a village about three clicks north east from here, they have three of our boys hostage, seems they got caught up in a stealth scouting mission. I’m sending four platoons to bring them back and you come highly recommended by Sergeant First Class Hudson as the most competent nurse we have enlisted.”
“What about the supplies, we are losing so many men from minor infections alone, there will be none left to fight if we don’t get anything soon!”
“The choppers got rerouted by a group of those slant eye bastards with rocket launchers, another group in a safer location got the drop instead. We just have to play the waiting game.” He replied, looking back down at the map on his desk, apparently I had been dismissed.
“And what do expect me to do for these men? How do expect me to do my job without any medicine to speak of?” I asked defiantly, refusing to be tossed asides so easy, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to remain silent.
“Last I check we had plenty of saline, Staff Sergeant. Make due, and get the fuck outta my tent!”
“DOWN! DOWN! Get the fuck down!” Someone screamed, and we dropped to the ground as two Fly Boys went soaring overhead, raining bombs right over our heads.
Someone gave the wrong coordinates for the air strike.. again, somehow we had met up with one of the other groups, they were down to seven from thirteen, and our group still had ten. We lost one to the last air strike, and another stepped on a land mine, blowing away his legs and lower torso. Before I could even attempt to help him, the Master Gunnery Sergeant put a bullet in his head, then acted upset he had to waste the bullet.
This was the man Williams put in charge, going by the name Brute, he was more savage and wild than the natives, living up to the moniker in more ways than one. His peppery hair was wild and outgrown, and he had a scar on his forehead that was poorly stitched. He had smeared a combination of mud and grass across his face, he had nasty sunburned skin on his once pale muscled arms. I could see how he once may have been an attractive man, but the beast he had become would leave any woman fearful, I was afraid and so was Brittany.
She had managed to survive with what was left of her group, and I can admit I was proud of her, woman to woman we were both in this together. We didn’t huddle together, I don’t think either of us wanted to look weak to the men, we weren’t the greatest friends in the world so it was no love lost, but still, it was good to see us woman were pulling our weight.
I tried to think of that as I crawled through soggy mud and brush, with debris raining down on top of us. My ears were ringing, and my equilibrium was haywire, I couldn’t tell you if I was up, down, or upside down. I could hear gunfire and shouting, and the soft sound of crying, it took me several moments to realize the crying was coming from me, this was total anarchy.
“Who’s cryin’? I hear somebody fuckin crying, dammit!” The Master Sergeant’s eyes found me, low to the ground cowering, he shook his head. “Get the fuck up, GET UP! There’s no time for crying on the fucking battlefield, shoot that gun you fucking pussy!”
“Ease up on her Brute, it’s just a chick..” One of the men said, halfheartedly sticking up for me, when the rest just turned a blind eye.
“I don’t give a damn! She’s got on a uniform and she enlisted for this shit, so she’s a just another fuckin soldier grunt like the rest of you sorry bastards! Now get the fuck up soldier and let them bullets fly!!”
I rose up on one knee, and let off a flurry of bullets, screaming as the tears burned a trail of tears down my cheeks. It was so wrong, yet felt so right, the adrenaline giving me a high I had never experienced. I was a nurse, I was supposed to save lives, last thing I was supposed to do was kill. I had seen war change the hearts and minds of many men, here I was among them, barely able to hold steady to the core of who I was.
Here I was, becoming a harbinger of death to another, yet I had never felt so alive.
Brittany and I were crouch down, in the crook of a large rooted tree, both having the sense to go to high ground as we took a piss. We were back to back, watching out for anyone peeping, some of the guys didn’t understand the words ‘No’. There was a rumor of a platoon that raped a small village of virgin girls, the top command turned a blind eye, and they faced no repercussions because nothing could be proven.
I felt the urge to vomit, but I held it in, the sudden waves of nausea were something new in the recent weeks, I wondered if I had caught something that was killing me slowly, it wasn’t unheard of in these jungles.
“What do you think being with one of these chinamen might be like?” The girl next to me, mused unexpectedly, I gave her an odd look.
“These aren’t Chinese people we’re killing, they are mostly Vietnamese..”
“I know silly, I’m just saying.. I wonder if they’re great lovers to their woman, you know? Do you think they treat’m right?” She asked me, with such a serious look, like she’d been thinking about this awhile.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been with an Asian man.. I’d imagine they are like all men.”
“I would hope not, all the boys I know back home aren’t worth a shit.” She stated, as she rose and pulled up her pants.
“Well.. Baxter treats me well, he empowers me and coddles me at the same time, he isn’t threatened by my independent free spirit. It’s the first time I..” I had stopped talking because I noticed the look on her face, it was like I had grown a third breast right on my forehead.
“Are you crazy?! My poppa would kill me if I brought home a black boy, he’d kill me and then die of shame, Lord Christ almighty.”
“I don’t give a damn what my daddy thinks or feel about the love I’ve found with Baxter, he doesn’t speak for me, I dictate my own life.”
“You must be one of those uh.. what’s the word? A feminist, yeah, you’re one of THOSE girls, I get your game Grannie. I could never be brave enough to do what your doin’, I saw a girl back home have to cry rape, when she got caught with this buck that was easy on the eyes, the high yella type. They left him swinging from the biggest oak in the center of town, and her daddy beat her near to death.. I’d be too scared to even talk to one of those boys all intimate like, so you’re a brave one, Staff Sergeant, no matter what anyone says bout ‘cha..”
“Um.. Thanks, Brittany, I guess I appreciate you saying that.”
“So spill the beans, is it true what they say about those colored boys and their..?” She held her gun between her legs lewdly, I didn’t dignify the question with an answer, but the visual sent me into a fit of laughter.
“C’mon, tell me.. Haha”
Suddenly, there was gunfire in the distance, so we ran to join our group to find them already packed and armed to go. We had finally reached the Northern stronghold of Vinh, or at least what was left of it. It was a massacre, every man, woman, elderly, and child.
They were burning the bodies just as we arrived, like they were covering something up, I looked to where Brittany stood with her squad and could see she was skeptical as well. None of the men seem to question it, Vinh was supposed to be a siege from aggressive combatants, these looked like innocents.
I found myself bent over and vomiting, on the side of a small wooden shed, unable to hold it in this time. I stayed inside to gather myself, and found this to be someone’s home, there was a little rag doll on the floor, and two place settings of food still warm on a small table. I stood there a moment with tears blinding my eyes, this wasn’t war, this was a different level of savagery.
I went the basin that had clean water, like someone was preparing for a bath, I used it to wash my face. There was a towel next to a small sack with some toiletries, that I dried my face with, I was going to walk away but I decided to check the satchel for cigarettes or something I could barter. Inside I found something that sent a shiver through my spine, it was a pregnancy test.
“Granni! What are you doin?! We need to move out!” Screamed the Major from outside, I picked up my bag and gun, I was ready to go yet I couldn’t help but to give a lingering look back at the sack by the basin.