02 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

ben@banzaiben.com

 

Wounded Chapter 02

 

Late Monday 03 December

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

The doctor finally comes out to talk to me, "Ms. Donaldson, we've done all that we can for SM. Blaine. He has extensive damage to his arm and it's very infected. The infection is so bad that all we could do was just open it up, clean out the wound, and then repack it. He's very sick and lucky to be alive."

 

"When can I see him?"I nervously ask.

 

"He's heading to the recovery room and I'll personally make sure you can see him there."

 

I look at the doctor and threaten, "You're not telling me everything. I used to be a Marine and I'll personally kick your butt if you don't tell me everything."

 

He regards me with more respect, "Sorry miss, I'm tired and don't want to deal with this right now. There's a chance he will lose his arm. If he doesn't lose his arm, it's so messed up it will never be right again."

 

I fight back the tears and look him in the eyes, "Please explain it all to me."

 

He went on to tell me that Ben was lucky because the bullet had missed major arteries, but it looks like there was going to be some nerve damage. The ulna and radius were broken so close to his elbow, the elbow would never work right again. "If the infection gets into his bones or joint capsule we will probably have to amputate."

 

I shake the doctor's hand, "Thank you for all you did for him and thank you for being honest with me. I want to take him back to the States for more surgery. When will he be ready to travel?"

 

"I understand and I would do the same if I were in your shoes. If we can keep the infection at bay, he should be ready to travel in a couple of days."

 

The doctor leaves and Liz comes over and hugs me, "Jens be strong - he made it back to you."

 

I break the hug, "Liz thanks for being my friend, for being here for me and for finding Ben. I will owe you forever!  Make sure the whole world knows what those bastards did to Ben. I need to go and be with him."

 

Glen and Evelyn come over and Evelyn said, "Jens, again we're so sorry that we didn't believe you. Please forgive us."

 

I glare at both of them. "If Ben dies or loses his arm I will never forgive either one of you," I say as I head towards the recovery room.

 

I don't know how Ben will react if he loses his right arm. He's a proud man and the loss would devastate him.

 

I walk right in and the nurses take me to his bed. I look at him and begin to silently cry. My poor man! What the hell did they do to you? Oh God, you're such a mess! I can smell the wound - it smells sort of like whisky or rotten fruit and I remember that's a sign of gas gangrene. I try to sense his feelings, but it's a deep and dark pit. There’s a black hole in his mind I simply can't see.

I sit beside his bed, hold his hand and look at the picture he had with him - the only thing he had other than his Ka-Bar. It’s a photo of Ben and two girls somewhere in the Middle East and they are all smiling at the camera. Who the heck are they?

 

I touch my lower abdomen, run my fingers over the scar from my surgery and remember what it was like to recover from that. I know that Ben's recovery will be even harder.

 

Flashback Jens - Incirlik Airbase in Turkey - Saturday 13 October

 

I pretended to be asleep when the nurse came to sedate and turn me. She removed the restraints, turned me on my side and walked out of the room.  Every time I woke up yesterday, they drugged the hell out of me but I tricked them this time.  I'm alert and in some pain, but it's not even close to the pain I can sense from Ben. God, where is he and what the hell are they doing to him. I looked over to see Liz sleeping in a chair beside my bed.

 

I glanced at my watch - it's 0400. The nurse won't be back until 0600. I turned off the IV, pulled the catheter out of my arm and applied pressure on the entry point to stop the bleeding. No more fricken drugs through this tube for me!

 

Liz was still soundly sleeping. I laughed a little - Ben was right she does snore. I pulled back the covers and finally figured out how in the hell to put down the side rail. Shit! It squeaked a little bit. I looked over but Liz was still sleeping. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and used my arms to push myself into a sitting position. Uh that hurts, but I have to get out of here and find Ben.

 

I eased down, letting my feet touch the floor and slowly stood up, Uhhh, that hurts like hell, so I took several deep breaths trying to clear the pain. I shuffled over to the closet, with my ass hanging out of the damn hospital gown. Ben was right, these things are embarrassing. I opened the door and my MCCUUs were still in the closet. Still nasty dirty and smelling like Ben and Jens on a mission, but my undies were gone. I silently chuckled, remembering how I used to tease the hell out of Ben by going commando.  Damn! I wished he were here to see this.

 

I slipped out of the gown, it fell to the floor, and I struggled into the MCCUUs. My combat boots were hard as hell to get on and I pulled my stitches a couple of times. Each time I fought back a gasp. I moved over by the mirror and looked at myself - damn I'm pale and my hair is a mess. I brushed my hair, shuffled over to the door and peeked out. The coast was clear, so I opened the door, stood up straight and walked out into the corridor as if I belonged there.

 

I walked right by the nurses' station. Someone looked up but didn't recognize me, and I headed toward the elevators. It's a good thing they had the corridors marked otherwise I'd have to fumble around until I found the elevators.

 

I punched the button and nervously waited for the elevator door to open. It opened but I saw my doctor looking straight at me. He started to say something, but I punched him in the gut. It hurt me like hell, but he crumpled in a heap. I pressed the elevator button for the top floor and stepped back out of the elevator. When the door closed, I punched the call button again and waited.

 

When the elevator opened again it was empty. I got in and pressed the button for the ground floor. The ride down seemed to take forever and when the door opened in the lobby there was a large group of people milling around. I stepped off the elevator and mixed with the crowd. Several of the women gave me dirty looks and moved away, I'm sure I must have smelled like ass, as least that was what Ben would have said.

 

I found my way towards the entrance and boldly walked towards the exit. I was almost to the door when I heard from behind me, "Jens, just where do you think you're going?"

 

I turned and replied, "Liz, don't try to stop me - I don't want to hurt you. I know Ben is still alive since I can still sense his feelings. I need to go find him."

 

"Jens, you're in no shape to do anything right now! Look at yourself - you're weak, you can hardly stand straight, plus you're bleeding some." Liz stated.

 

I looked down and the front of my shirt had some blood on it, "My health and feelings don't matter Liz, all that matters is that Ben needs me."

 

I heard someone come up behind me, "Sgt. Donaldson, you have not been released from the hospital yet and you need to go back to your room."

 

I turned seeing Dr. Indiehouse with a wheelchair and two MPs. I thought about running for a minute but knew that I couldn't outrun them, at least not in my current condition. I smiled, "Good morning Dr. I was just hoping I could get a breath of fresh air."

 

"Like hell you are! You are trying to escape again. Don't fight us, or you'll pull your stitches even more. Sit in this chair now or I'll order the MPs to carry you back to your room."

 

I reluctantly sat in the wheelchair and they took my back to my room. "Liz, you need to take her clothes away this time." Dr. Indiehouse ordered. She helped me change into a new gown and stuffed the old clothes in a bag.

 

"Hey, I'll need those when I get out of this rat hole." I complained.

 

"Don't worry Jens, I'll bring you some new clothes and I’ll have these washed." Liz replied.

 

"Liz, don't you dare wash those, not until I find Ben. They still smell like Ben and me."

 

She sniffed them, "They smell pretty nasty to me."

 

"Can I at least keep the t-shirt? I want to have it by me to remember Ben."

 

Liz looked at the Dr. and he said, "You can keep it if you promise to not try to escape anymore."

 

I gave him my most innocent smile, "I promise." It's a good thing he didn't see my fingers were crossed beneath the sheets.

 

Liz brought the t-shirt over to me holding it at arms length like it was poisoned. I snatched it out of her hands, put it up to my nose and took a deep breath. “Jens, that's gross." She remarked.

 

"It smells like heaven to me."

 

The MPs left and Dr. Indiehouse said, "Sgt. Donaldson, the next time you hit me, you're going to the brig. Let's take a look and see what you did to your stitches."

 

It was embarrassing letting a man other than Ben, even a doctor, see me close to down there and I started to blush. He noticed and said, "Sgt. Donaldson, I'm a professional so you don't have to worry. I see this all the time. Well, you've really messed up your stitches, we're going to have to work on them some more and this is going to leave a much bigger scar."

 

"That's cool, because Ben digs chicks with scars. Now I'll have one that he can kiss, just like I kiss his."

 

He shook his head, "Sgt. Donaldson, you really need to come to the realization that SM Blaine is dead. You have me worried and I think I need to order a psych consultation for you."

 

No fricken way was I going to let some psych-quack start poking around in my head. They'd never let me out of here if that happened. I decided to bullshit him, so I let out a long wail and started crying. "Ben, my Ben's dead!" I even squeezed out a few tears.

 

He stepped back in surprise and Liz came over, "Dr. look what you did. You have her all upset. Why don't you leave and let me comfort her."

 

He booked out of the room. Liz looked at me and said, "Okay, you can cut the bullshit. That's the worst act I've ever seen."

 

I grinned at her, "It worked on him and that was all I needed. Help me get out of here; I need to go find Ben."

 

"I'll do no such thing. You're staying here until you’re healed," she replied.

 

"Listen Liz, you know how Ben and I can sense each other's feelings. I'm telling you I can still feel him and I know he's alive. He’s hurt and needs me. I don't care what the fricken Marines say - they're wrong."

 

Liz crossed her arms, looked at me and tapped her foot as she analyzed the situation. "Jens, I saw the video of the crash with my own eyes. It's hard to believe anyone could live through that. But you're the most sane woman I've ever known and even I thought this whole mess doesn't make sense. I believe you. However, you're in no shape to go hunting for Ben. Why don't you call Glen and convince him to look for Ben."

 

"Liz, thank you! That's a great idea. Can I borrow your phone?" I called Daddy and we started talking. The phone call didn't go as I hoped as he spent the whole time trying to convince me that Ben was dead. In fact, it ended in a huge fight. He said that there was, “…..no way in hell that anyone could have survived the crash. So Buck up Marine, I’m flying over to bring you home.” I told him there was no way in hell I was coming home so he could go fuck himself and I hung up the phone.

 

I looked at Liz, "Well that really sucked!"

 

"He didn't believe you?"

 

"He wouldn't even listen to me. The bastard told me to 'Buck up Marine'." I looked at her, "Liz I really need you right now. You've got to find out what's going on."

 

She looked at me, "The only way I'm going is if you promise to not escape again. And this time I want to see both your hands."

 

"Liz, you don't know what you're asking."

 

"Like hell I don't! I'm asking you to stay in this hospital until you are well."

 

"Liz, I can promise you I’ll stay here until I’m well. But I won't promise you anything else - because if Daddy does try to take me back home, I'm not going with him. I will not abandon Ben."

 

Liz sighed, "You always were hard headed. It's a deal."

 

"One more thing Liz, you're as tenacious as a bulldog when you need to be. I expect you to be even more so on this. Whatever this costs, it's worth it to me."

 

"Jens, I'm almost insulted that you said that. You know I won't rest until I find Ben."

 

I grinned at her, "Come and give me a hug sister and then move your ass." She gave me an ever so sweet hug and kiss on the cheek. I could feel her emotions when she hugged me. It felt like love to me, but it was sure different from Ben's hugs.

 

 I leaned back on the bed and Liz took off. I took the t-shirt, held it up to my nose and fell asleep thinking of Ben.

 

Current - Liz - Late Monday 03 December - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I could tell the doctor didn't give Jens the whole story so after she went to the recovery room to see Ben. I slipped quietly out of the waiting room to have a 'friendly' discussion with the doctor, and to find the rest of the story.

 

The doc said they found a bunch of fresh scars plus one other 'major injury' he couldn't be sure of until Ben gets better and they can do more tests. He says he'd never heard of anyone surviving the amount of torture that Ben went though and everyone is worried how it might affect his mind.

 

I came back to the waiting room and went over to Glen and Evelyn.

 

"Where did you go?" Evelyn asked.

 

"I needed some time to myself."

 

"Do you think Jens will ever forgive us?" Glen nervously asks.

 

I look at him and smile, "Do you two want to hear the truth or do you want to hear a lie?"

 

"We want to hear the truth," Evelyn answers for both of them.

 

I took several seconds switching my gaze between them, "I'm not sure you can handle the truth. Are you both sure the truth is what you want?"

 

"She's been hell on us and I don't think the truth could be any worse." Glen spouts.

 

I think to myself - just how stupid are you? I look at them both and reply, "She's been hell on you! What do you think you two have done to her? Dammit, now it's time both of you hear the truth." I take them from the waiting room and down the hall to the office the doctor and I borrowed for our little discussion. I smile as we walk in the room because it still smells faintly of sex.

 

"Sit the hell down in those chairs and don't interrupt me!" I order as I start pacing behind the desk.

 

"Young lady, don't talk to me that way." Evelyn asserts.

 

I walk over to the door and start to leave. "Wait, where the hell are you going?" Glen asks.

 

"It's obvious to me neither of you want to hear the truth so I'm not going to waste any more of my time. Jens needs me."

 

He gets up to stop me and I punch him as hard as I can in his gut. It knocks the breath out of him so he falters and sits back down. "No please don't leave." Evelyn begs.

 

"Are you going to shut the fuck up and listen to everything I have to say? Because, if you interrupt me one more time I'm out of here!" I glare at them.

 

Evelyn looks at Glen, he's still catching his breath but nods at her, "Okay, we will listen quietly."

 

I smile thinking it's about time you two get your heads out of your asses and it's about time you hear the truth. "You're not going to like what I say, but you both need to hear it. Think about it and then decide if I'm right or not. You're not my parents so I don't have to respect you - shit after what you two have done to Jens I'm not even sure that I like either of you. The only reason I called you about Ben was because I needed your sorry asses to get Jens out of prison. The plane was a nice touch but I had one waiting just in case you fucked up again."

 

Evelyn starts to open her mouth. I walk towards the door. "One word out of either of you and I leave!" She clamps her mouth shut.

 

"That's better. First both of you need to stop feeling sorry for yourselves and accept the responsibility that the hate Jens is expressing towards you is your fault and not hers." I pause to watch their reactions. Good they're listening and thinking.

 

"Both of you let Jens down. Neither of you were there when she needed you the most. Evelyn why didn't you fly to Incirlik to be with her? She'd just gone through surgery and was told that she'd lost Ben? My God you should have been at her bedside! It still breaks my heart to remember the hell she went through. Thank God Ben called me so I could be with her and help her." Some tears run down my cheek as I remember how hard it was. I'm amazed again that I'm crying and it distracts me for a moment. Evelyn hangs her head and starts sniffling.

 

I look at Glen, "Some fine fucking father you turned out to be. Not only didn't you come to see her, but you didn't believe her, listen to her or even try to help her. Even after we exposed that bastard Stockman for the ass he is, you still didn't do anything to find Ben. That behavior is not only fricking incompetent, it's fucking immoral. What were the first words you said to her? I remember because when she told me they burned into my mind. Just in case you don't remember you told her to ‘….. Buck up Marine.' What sort of way is that to treat your daughter?" He lowers his head - good he is listening but I'm not done yet.

 

"And now the final insult. Because neither of you would listen to her, she was forced to try to rescue Ben by herself. And what did you do? You had her watched, arrested and thrown in that hellhole prison. Did you know she was almost raped twice in that shithole? Of course not, because you two were so busy feeling sorry for yourselves. The first time some lezzy bitch tried to nail her was her first day there. Jens kicked the shit out of her. The second time it was a guard. He had her chained to her bed with her jumpsuit down. His pants were around his ankles, he was on top of her and almost in her. He would have done it except she head butted the hell out of him."

 

I continued pacing and looking at them. "You two make me sick! You don't deserve Jens. She's the most wonderful woman I have ever met and she and Ben make an incredible couple. You asked if I think Jens will ever forgive you? She told both of you the truth when she said that if Ben loses his arm or dies that she will never forgive you. I think if you two get your heads out of your asses and give her the support she deserves that someday she will stop hating you. You wanted the truth so now I gave you the truth. Now what are you two going to do about it? I know what I'm doing; I'm going back to the waiting area to wait for Jens."

 

I left the office and went back to the waiting room. I leave them to stew in their own damn juices. And I think back to being with Jens right after her surgery.

 

Flashback - Liz – Hospital - Incirlik Airbase in Turkey Friday 12 October

 

Thank God that they kept Jens doped up all day. She'd start getting restless about every two hours and the nurse would come and give her another injection. I needed the time to think, because I wasn't sure of what the fuck to believe!

 

I had Bernie get the original copy of the crash video in order to make sure it hadn't been faked. He analyzed it frame by frame, and concluded that it was real and hadn't been tampered with. He did see one thing that looked peculiar right after the last RPG hit the chopper. Something flew out of the chopper - it could have been Ben or it could have just been a piece of gear. He couldn't figure it out with our equipment. I had him make a digital copy of the video, to preserve the quality, and then ship it off to the best post-production house in the world. It was going to cost a small fortune, but I wanted to know what that object was. I also had him send it off to our secure server.

 

Ben and Jens's whole deployment didn't feel right to me. In fact, this whole fucking war didn't feel right to me anymore. Ben had felt that way too. I wish I would have talked to him more about his feelings. The problem was that every time I talked to Ben, my desire for him overwhelmed my logic and I felt like a schoolgirl with a crush.

 

Bernie and Jon shared my feeling, but I couldn’t consult with them - they were both out doing my work for me while I fulfilled Ben's last order. But is it his last order? Is he really dead?

 

I continued stroking Jens's hand. Damn for a buff and hardcore chick she sure had soft hands. I made a mental note to ask her about how she took such good care of her hands. I looked at her - she was quite a woman. I remembered Ben, and he was quite a man. Together they were the perfect couple. I watched this whole sense each other's feelings thing they had between them and did a little, but not enough research on it. Watching in action it was hard not to believe in it, but there was more scientific research stating what they had couldn’t possibly be real.

 

Which do I trust: Science or my own observations? I continued to mull these thoughts over in my mind because either way I need to support Jens. If Ben is dead I need to comfort her; if Ben is alive I'll help her find him. God! I hope he's still alive.

 

Flashback - Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Fifteen

 

I was so scared as I drove the truck. Ben was hurt so badly and I wanted to know how he was doing. But every time I asked, Zarika told me to shut up and drive. I started crying twice, but I could not see the road very well and almost wrecked. So I told myself I had to be brave or we would all die. But if my husband Ben dies, I do not want to live.

 

I did not like it when I hurt Ben putting his arm in the splint thing, but he told me to do it. Yasmeen was not driving very well. I should probably yell at her, but then she might drive even worse. Then I would have to drive and I could not be next to Ben. Yasmeen is such a little girl that she could not take care of Ben - she would just sit here and cry and let him die. I would kill her if she did that.

 

"Zarika, I see a town ahead."

 

I moved and looked through the front, "Yasmeen, you did very good. This is Dzartygumbez, my hometown. Start honking the horn."

 

I was so happy we made it because now Ben could be helped. I started honking the horn like Zarika told me. People started running out of their houses and pointing at the truck.

 

"Yasmeen stop next to that building on your right."

 

I pulled up beside the building and stopped. People ran over to the truck. Zarika jumped out of the back, started hugging people and yelling to them.

 

I climbed in the back, held Ben's hand and bent over and kissed him, I liked the way he tasted and hoped someday he would kiss me back. Zarika and some men came to the back of the truck. "Yasmeen move. We are going to take Ben into the building."  I moved over and they gently picked up Ben and took him towards the building. I made sure to follow them.

 

They put Ben on a table and one of the old men started unwrapping his elbow. It looked so bad I almost got sick. They started talking to each other and I could not understand much of what they said so I asked, "Zarika, what are they saying?"

 

"Not now Yasmeen, I will tell you later. Get the medical supplies out of the truck and bring them here." I did not like being the pack donkey, but this was for Ben so I ran as fast as I could and brought them in. They started looking at the supplies and trying to figure out what to do. They were so busy looking at the medicine they did not see when Ben started moving. I went to his other side and held his hand. He opened his eyes and looked at me.

 

"Yasmeen, where am I."

 

They all stopped looking at the medicine and looked at Ben. "Ben we are in Zarika's home town of Dzhartygumbez. There are some men looking at you but they do not seem to know what to do."

 

Everyone in the room started talking at once. Ben looked at them and finally yelled in Russian, "Shut up."

 

"Girls, come beside me and I will tell you what we need to do." Ben said.

 

Flashback - Ben – Tajikistan Day Fifteen

 

I woke up and was lying on a table and there were a bunch of strangers in the room. At first, I thought the chewchemeks had caught us. I felt someone holding my hand and looked over to Yasmeen and she looked really worried. I asked her where we were and the room erupted in so many voices and so much noise I couldn't stand it.

 

Yasmeen told me that they were trying to figure out what to do to fix me but no one knew what to do. After I yelled at everyone, they were quiet and I called the girls beside me. I knew exactly what needed to be done and it needed to be done very quickly because I didn't have time to waste on the quacks and their home remedies in this village.

 

"Girls, this is very important so listen to me. What you two do now will determine whether I live or not. Yasmeen don't start crying and Zarika don't argue with me." I looked at them and had their totally attention plus the attention of the whole room.

 

"Zarika, I don't want to offend you or your people. None of their cures will save me. You need to drive me to the American Embassy in Dushanbe and you only have about three days to get me there. Get the best drivers in your village to help." One of the old men heard this, said something to Zarika and took off.

 

"Ben he is going to get the drivers." Zarika told me.

 

I continued, "Bring me the medical bag." They put it on my chest and I used my good arm to rummage around in it. "This is antibiotic powder. You will need to keep putting this on my wound to keep away the infection. When the bandage gets dirty, you will need to change it and put more powder on it. Do you understand?"

 

Yasmeen said, "Yes Ben we understand."

 

"This syringe is also antibiotic; you will need to inject me with it every six hours. Do you understand?"

 

They both nodded their heads, "Good, I'm proud of both of you. Just a few more things and then I am finished." I looked around in the bag some more, "This is a very strong pain killer called morphine. I do not want you to use it on me unless I start getting violent. Then make sure you only use it once every six hours or you could kill me."

 

"Yes Ben we understand." Zarika said.

 

"Finally make sure you give me as much water as I can drink until we get within twelve hours of Dushanbe. Then no matter what I say don't give me any more water."

 

"We think this is a funny order but we will do it." Yasmeen said.

 

I motioned the girls close to me and whispered so only they could hear, "My sisters, I'm not sure what will happen when we get to the embassy. I hope I am awake and we can all go to America. If that doesn't happen make sure you tell them I am Sergeant Major Bennie Blaine of the Marines. If they won't let you come in, remember the plan we talked about earlier and follow the plan. Either I, Jens or a very good friend named Liz will come back for you."

 

They both started complaining but I shushed them, "girls, don't fight with me - I don't have the strength. Zarika, is there a very trustworthy man in the village?"

 

"Yes Ben, I trust many of the men here, but my uncle Oleg I trust the most."

 

"Give him one of the boxes of gold. He can use one quarter of the bars to make the village better. The rest he is to save for us. Also give him all the weapons except for my Dragunov because we shouldn't need them anymore. He can give them to the good men of the village. The last box of gold will stay with the truck because you girls might need it for our contingency plan. I need to know that you both understand and will follow everything. Do you have any questions?"

 

They looked at each other, talked a bit between themselves and finally Zarika said, "We understand you Ben and I will make sure we all obey you this time, even me."

 

"Good, I'm proud of both of you. Please give me one morphine injection now, so when you move me back to the truck I won't hurt too much. Then let's leave as soon as we can."

 

Yasmeen took a syringe and injected me in the leg. Zarika left to follow my orders and I felt the morphine start to work. I hated taking it, but I knew that moving me and the rough road was going to be hell on me. I hoped to stay awake for a while in case they didn't understand something.

 

Yasmeen stayed with me and when I was sure the morphine was working, I had her change the dressing on my arm and give me an antibiotic injection. I looked at the arm as she changed the dressing - it was seriously fucked up. She turned very white when she saw my arm and I saw a few tears in the corners of her eyes.

 

Zarika had everything taken care of in about thirty minutes and came back with four men. "Ben these are the best four drivers and they will drive without stopping to get you to Dushanbe. I also had them check the truck like I saw you do and put fuel in the tanks. While they did that I made you a nice bed in the back of the truck. Are you ready to go my husband?"

 

I didn't have the energy to argue, "Yes Zarika, tell them to be very careful when they move me."

 

It was easier moving with the morphine working, plus they used the whole table as a wooden stretcher. It was lower than the tailgate of the truck but I was able to crawl into the back without any help. Zarika climbed in on one side of me and Yasmeen on the other. Somehow, the four men all fit upfront.

 

They started off and it was bumpy as hell and it didn't take long until the pain started overcoming the morphine so I slipped into unconsciousness.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 location not revealed

 

I looked over at my spotter Sgt. Reynolds and smiled - I was damn excited to finally go on a mission. I kicked butt and took names in basic and was offered the chance to become a sniper. When I entered the Corps I didn't think about what I would do, I just did it to stay out of prison. I remember back to the two weeks Jack spent training me after I became his sniper.

 

Flashback - Ben – 1998 field maneuvers

 

I spent most of my youth outdoors in the mountains of Colorado hunting, so the sniper program was second nature to me. They did take the raw marksmanship skills I already possessed and refined them even more. The best thing the program did for me was to increase my focus and awareness. When I was 'on target' nothing interrupted or bothered me and now I was always aware of everything about my surroundings.

 

I loved the rifle they gave me: the M40-A3 reminded me of my Remington 700 at home, only better. It had this great McMillan stock on it, a bombproof Unertl 10x USMC scope and it was my favorite short action caliber, 7.62x51mm or .308.

 

I made friends with Gunny in the armory. I gave him a couple bottles of bourbon and he set the rifle up for me just perfectly. We messed with it all day at the range. He even gave me a few tips the DI's didn't. I surprised the hell out of him when I fired close to a record setting group at the end of the day.

 

"Damn Marine, that's some of the best shooting I've ever seen." Gunny said.

 

"Thank you Sir. I was just trying to do justice to this rifle the Corps gave me."

 

"Don't call me Sir, I work for a living. Call me Gunny." And he shook my hand.

 

"Yes Gunny, thank you for everything."

 

He looked at me, "I'm going to give you some advice, for what it's worth. There's an older spotter, Sgt. Jack Reynolds. He knows more about being a sniper than anyone I've ever seen. If you get a chance to have him for your spotter, you should do it."

 

"Yes Sir - I mean Gunny. Thank you for the advice." I listened to what he said and when the chance came to get Sgt. Reynolds as my spotter I grabbed it.

 

The first thing Sgt. Reynolds did was take me out for more training. He may have been old but he sure didn't seem slow and he knew his stuff. We spent two weeks by ourselves. In those two weeks my whole life was changed!

 

The first night he jumped me and kicked the shit out of me. I thought I was good at fighting, but he was a cagey old bastard and he didn't fight fair. He laughed as I wiped the blood from my split lip and bloody nose, "Ben, that's your first and most important lesson. You never know who is the enemy and they will not be fair when it comes to a fight. So why should you be fair with them?"

 

"What about the Geneva Convention?"

 

"Fuck Geneva and double fuck the Convention. You're a fool if you think your enemies are going to follow it. Now I think you're smarter than that so don't prove me wrong." He said.

 

In those two weeks he taught me twice as much about being a sniper as the Corps had ever taught me. He showed me every mistake I made, not as my dad would show me by beating the hell out of me for the mistakes, but by example, persuasion and constant lessons.

 

He'd go out early in the morning before I woke up and set fake booby traps. Then he'd have me walk point. The first couple of times I missed the traps and killed us both.

 

"Ben, do you want to kill both of us? I'm old and I'd really like to die in battle, but you're still a young buck and it'd be a shame if you didn't at least knock up a couple women and have some babies before you died."

 

"No Jack (he'd told me to call him by first name when we were in the field) I don't want to kill both of us and it'd be a shame if you got killed and I had to haul your sorry carcass back to the base."

 

He laughed, "Then you need to start looking where you're going." He came up and showed me what I'd missed. Once he pointed it out, it made it easy to see again.

 

He taught me how to refine my ghillie suit so it was indistinguishable from the surroundings and how to move in it so it looked like the wind was just blowing grass and leaves around.

 

The man became the loving father I'd never had and I vowed I would never have another spotter. The last night of training,as we were sitting around and getting ready to head in, he pulled a flask out of his pack, opened it, took a good swig and handed it to me, "Drink up Ben you deserve it."

 

"Thanks Jack," and I took a long swig and coughed. "What the hell is that?"

 

"That my boy is the finest bourbon that money can buy. It's called Knob Creek."

 

"How well did I do these last two weeks Jack?"

 

He looked at me and said, "I'm damn proud of you. I think you have the making of being one of the best. I guess we will know tomorrow."

 

"Why, what happens tomorrow?"

 

"I didn't want to tell you and get you all worried, but we spotters have a little competition each year. Nothing's really at stake, just bragging rights."

 

"So do you and your sniper always win this?" I asked hoping he would say yes.

 

He chuckled with his deep baritone laugh, "Hell no! I've had a number of snipers and come close a few times but never won it. You don't understand, this is all the spotters and snipers in the Corps. You'll be going up against seasoned snipers with years of experience, I'll be happy if we just get in the top ten."

 

I looked over at him with some worry as he continued, "Now don't go getting your panties in a bunch. If you do that, we'll die right away. You're damn good to begin with and have great instincts, just remember what I've taught you and we will do fine."

 

He took another swig and said, "Finish this off and let's get some sleep."

 

I took a long drink, drained the flask, shook out the last drops and handed it back to him. "Thanks Jack, I don't know how to ever repay you for what you've taught me the last two weeks."

 

"Ben, we're just all doing our jobs the best that we can. I'm damn proud of you and you’re a damn good Marine. I appreciate the fact that I only have to tell you or show you things once. You're a good listener and learner."

 

The next day at the competition, we didn't win. But we did come in as second place. I didn't know at the time, but it was unheard of for a green sniper to do so well and it attracted the attention of the brass. The next year I won it, not for myself but for Jack. He was damn proud and bragged for the whole year.

 

Flashback continued - Ben – Late 1999 location not revealed

 

Jack interrupted my daydream, "Banzai I don't know what you're thinking about, but you really should get some sleep. You never know when you're going to be able to sleep so you need to sleep whenever it's safe and you can." With that he leaned back and fell right to sleep.

 

I looked at him and leaned back and sleep came after about a half an hour.

 

We both woke up as the plane touched down. He grabbed me by the arm as I got up to leave the plane, "Never get off a plane in one of these places without being totally ready first."

 

I watched as he started getting geared up and I did the same, "Why didn't the Corps teach me this Jack?"

 

He looked at me, "I'm the Corps and I'm teaching you."

 

Yes he was the Corps, but he was a different Corps than what I normally saw - and I liked his Corps a hell of a lot better.

 

"Jack, I heard a couple of the other snipers complain that you don't talk like a Marine. So I listened to you and other Marines talk and they're right. Why is that?"

 

He laughed, "Banzai, you've known me for a while now. I can talk like a Marine if I want and need to but I do not like reinforcing the stereotype that Marines are stupid jarheads. Think about it - some people swear all the time and you get used to hearing it. But I only swear when it's effectively called for and when I do you pay attention." I thought about what he just said and realized he was right.

 

He came over and checked my gear, "I guess you're not as green as you used to be. Looks like you know how to put on your gear. And after this mission you won't be a virgin anymore."

 

I looked at him and said, "I haven't been a virgin for years. I've had more women in the last year than you've had in your whole life."

 

He laughed, "You silly kid I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about killing your first man. I’m talking about getting to see the ‘red mist’ for the first time. This mission is going to change you. One final thing while were alone, never ever trust a spook or any of their missions. They don't give a shit if you make it back alive. Remember to trust only yourself and your spotter."

 

 "And what are you doing trying to bullshit me? I know you shacked up with that blonde bimbo with the big jugs. You two have been an item now for what, about three months. I bet I can tell you how it's going too. I bet at first you two copulated like a couple of rabbits, then you moved in together and you've been getting it less and less. I bet your not even getting laid once a week now."

 

I was embarrassed, looked down at the floor and shuffled my feet. Jack looked at me and said, "Oh shit! Don't tell me you've gone and fallen for her. I'm sorry."

 

I looked at him, "Jack, she's the one for me. I bought a ring and plan on making her my wife when we get back from this mission."

 

He gave me a quizzical look, "Banzai, I've never asked you to do much for me, but I'd like you to do one favor for me."

 

"I'd do anything for you Jack."

 

He continued, "Then make it a total surprise for her. Don't tell her when were coming back just show up at your place with the ring."

 

I smiled at him, "That'll be a great surprise. I like that idea."

 

Our conversation was over, we headed off the plane and the spooks took us by car to a small building. There were no introductions made, no names to remember. "Do you two understand your mission?"

 

Jack looked at the spook, "We understand our mission. Do you have a plan on getting us back out?"

 

He answered, "Of course we do."

 

Jack swung his M251 around, aimed it at both spooks, clicked off the safety and said, "I don't think you really do. I think you feel we're expendable. I want to tell you right now that we had better come up with an extraction plan otherwise you two are instantly expendable. One more thing, if you have any ideas of leaving us and forgetting about the extraction plan, I know both your names and we will hunt you and each of your family members down and kill all of you."

 

1 A sniper weapons system based on the original M14 normally called White Feather in honor of Carlos Hathcock.

 

I saw the sweat start trickling down the spooks faces. I was damn proud of Jack.

 

"Uh, no reason to get all crazy on us, we can figure this out together." The spook answered.

 

I watched taking mental notes as they came up with an extraction plan. Once Jack was happy he said, "Okay let's go take care of this bastard so we can get the hell out of here."

 

They took us to a small airport. A small civilian plane was waiting for us. Jack did a walk around on the plane and I followed him. "Never trust these bastards to give you anything that will work. Always make sure you check everything they give you. And never trust any guns or ammo they give you."

 

He was satisfied and we boarded the plane. He talked to the pilot in Spanish then he leaned back and said, "I know you speak some Russian already, but learn as many languages as you can. You'd be amazed at the number of times it can save you."

 

The pilot started the engine, taxied to the end of the runway and we took off. I looked out the window at the jungle below us thinking about how different it looked from home. I looked over at Jack and he was perfectly at ease, while I was a churning mess inside. I was worried about the mission and my performance. I leaned back against the seat and tried to emulate Jack and relax.

 

He looked over at me, "Banzai what you're feeling right now is normal. If you didn't feel this way you wouldn't be normal and I'd be worried as hell about you. Don't worry, this mission is a cakewalk and we're going to do fine."

 

"How do you know what I'm feeling?"

 

"Because it's the same thing everyone feels on a first mission. You're one of the best I've worked with and you're going to do fine." He smiled and it did relieve my concerns, but not completely.

 

The little plane swooped in and touched down on a patch of land that seemed barely large enough for us to stop, let alone take off. Jack said a few words to the pilot and we jumped out of the plane and immediately headed into the bush in the wrong direction from our target and waited until we heard the plane leave.

 

"Jack, why did we head the wrong way?"

 

"Did you forget already? Never trust anyone, not even your pilot. For all we know when he's not working for the spooks he might be working for the drug runner we're sent to kill. If you head in the direction of your target and he sees you he has information he can sell." I looked at Jack and was thankful he was my spotter.

 

We sat there about an hour, finally I whispered to Jack, "Why are we just sitting here? Shouldn't we be heading out to our target?"

 

He grinned at me, "I was wondering when you were going to ask that question. I figured you'd only wait thirty minutes. I'm proud you lasted a whole hour. On a mission like this, where time is not critical because we know the target will be in the area for a very long time, I'm never in a hurry. And if you have the time it's always a good idea to wait close by but not in your drop area to see if the drop attracted any attention. Let's take it easy for another thirty minutes and then we’ll start moving towards the target area, I'd like to get there just about sundown."

 

"Why's that?"

 

"Good question! The guards will be distracted thinking about dinner. Tell me, what did you learn about our target before we left?" Jack asked.

 

"I learned he's a major drug producer that uses slave labor to keep his costs down. That he's wanted in most countries outside of this one and that he has a large fenced compound that has a total of five guards at all times. There's the family house in the compound along with the drug processing and storage facilities and a small motor pool." I proudly recited.

 

Jack hissed at me, "Damn you! You sound just like a parrot. You memorized the details but you didn't analyze them. Now analyze the details and tell me something the spooks didn't tell you."

 

I took my time and thought about what they had told us. This was like trying to figure out the killer in a mystery story. Finally, I looked at Jack and whispered, "The number of guards doesn't make sense - the number is too small. Either the spooks lied to us or the guards are used for keeping the slave labor under control, not for protection from attack."

 

He smiled, "I knew that you had a good head on your shoulders. So which one is it."

 

"I think the guards are used for slave control."

 

He answered right back, "If that's the case then why aren't they worried about attack?"

 

I felt like a cartoon character where the light bulb goes on over their head, "Why didn't I see this at first? They must have some sort of perimeter warning or defense system."

 

"It took you long enough to figure that out, but I'm glad you did." He replied.

 

"How long did you know?"

 

"I knew it the minute they briefed us. Make sure you always read between the lines and remember they won't tell you everything." He said.

 

"Do you think they know about the perimeter defenses?" I asked getting pissed.

 

"Most spooks are damn smart, that's why it's hard to stay a step ahead of them. You can bet they think there's a perimeter defense, but unless they are sure they won't tell you. There's one more thing they didn't tell you. Do you know what it is?"

 

I thought but couldn't come up with anything, "Sorry Jack, I'm drawing a blank."

 

"That's okay Banzai, I didn't expect you to know this but you will now. Killing this target won't make any difference in the grand scheme of things. About a week after he's gone he will have been replaced and things will be just the same as they are now."

 

"Then why are we killing him?"

 

"That Banzai is the million dollar question to which I don't have an answer. It could be one of many reasons: He could have gotten someone upset, he could have forgotten to pay his protection money, or it could just be that he's a bastard that needs killing. The important thing is we took the mission and agreed to kill this target and that is what we'll do. You need to come up with your own justification for this."

 

I wished I had asked him exactly what he meant, but I didn't and in later years his words came back to me and finally I understood.

 

Jack looked at me, "Let's head to the target area, I'm walking point this time. Only step where I step and make sure you keep your eyes open." With that we silently moved towards the target area.

 

We hadn't gone far when Jack held up a fist and I froze. He bent over and scoured the ground then he motioned me forward. I looked down and could barely see the trip wire, he whispered, "That one's fake." Then he pointed where a little branch went across the trail, "That's the real one, those sneaky bastards are really good." We walked past the two traps, "Ben, look behind you and remember this exact spot. If we have to bug out don’t mess up and trip this trap."

 

We ran across five more traps before we reached the target area, each one was different and Jack saw them all and explained them all to me. As we approached the area, I looked down, where I was going to place my foot and froze in mid-air. I carefully moved my foot back and matched it with the other and whispered, "Jack, you missed one." He stopped and came back looking even closer, "Shit, you're right. I knew you had good eyes, but you're also lucky." We marked the spot and went on.

 

"If you need to take care of your needs, you better do it now." Jack told me. I went to the side of the trail and tapped a kidney. A short distance further we stopped and crawled towards the spot Jack had figured would give us the best vantage point. There was still some light so Jack set up the spotting scope and I got my rifle ready.

 

He quickly scanned the compound and whispered, "Banzai, you need to see what this bastard does to his slaves."

 

I scanned with my scope and almost threw up. There were women, many even looked like girls, tied up naked and spread out on a wall. Men would walk over, beat them, and then rape them. One bastard pulled out a knife and started cutting one of the women's breasts. I took aim getting ready to kill him and Jack said, "Banzai, do not fire! These men are just doing what the boss lets them do. It's more important to kill the bastard that lets this happen."

 

I was damn pissed and wanted to kill someone, anyone. "Banzai control yourself, we have a mission to finish. After you shoot the bastard, if you want to take out some of his men that's fine with me. But for right now stay on mission."

 

It was getting darker, but Jack kept scanning the area. Just before it was too dark to target, Jack said, "Banzai, target sighted at twenty degrees, range six-five-three meters, wind zero at zero."

 

I swung the rifle and could just make out the target. The bastard was fucking one of the girl slaves. I did the mildot hold that I needed, took a deep breath, let it part way out and tickled the trigger - nothing happened. "Shit, I forgot to take off the safety." I clicked off the safety and went through it again. This time the rifle barked, the bastard's head exploded and even in the darkening sky I saw my first red mist. I jacked another round in the chamber and drilled another bastard. I did it one more time but by then they'd all taken off and I didn't have any more targets.

 

"Banzai, great shooting. Let's get the hell out of here," Jack said as we started crawling back the way we came and I followed right behind him. We'd only gone a short distance when we heard the dogs. "Oh shit! Banzai we need to move it. Don't forget about the traps." Jack jumped up and I was right behind him. For an old guy Jack could really move when he needed to. He had slipped his pack around in front of him and was messing around in it. "First trap Banzai, be careful." He yelled and jumped, I matched his jump and wondered how in the hell he remembered where it was because it was getting very dark.

 

"They're going to have to hold the dogs at the first trap unless they let them get blown up." He yelled back at me. "Get ready to jump, jump now." And we cleared the second trap and heard an explosion behind us. "Shit, they must have enough dogs so they don't care."

 

He brought something out of his pack and handed it to me, "Drop this on the trail." It was sort of metallic feeling, soft and squishy with a hard center. I dropped it on the trail. I brought my hand back to my face and it smelled like meat, "Jack what the hell was that?"

 

"Next trap - get ready to jump, one, two, jump!" We cleared this trap, "That was a little treat for the dogs, a grenade wrapped in an MRE. The dogs will find it and tear open the foil and set off the grenade." I was amazed at how much knowledge Jack had, it seemed like he was ready for everything.

 

"Slow up Banzai." I just barely stopped in time. "I don't like this, something doesn't feel right." He was right; the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. "Quick off the trail," we dove into the undergrowth. About a minute later five men ran by. "Time to NV Ben," we both put on our night vision gear and the black night turned an ugly shade of green. "Let's move it." We jumped back on the trail and took off, then we heard another boom behind us, and the dogs stopped barking. "Did you notice how that one sounded different, that was the grenade."

 

"Next trap, slow up for this one," we walked up to and over this one, it was strange looking at it through the NV gear. Jack stopped me, "Something's been changed." We both looked at the trail, "Those bastards have set another trap and it's going to be hell to find with this gear on. Banzai, take my M25, go back about a hundred meters and cover me." I grabbed his rifle and headed back, making sure to miss the trap. I sat off to the side of the trail and waited. Damn, I hope Jack finds this trap soon.

 

Ten minutes passed and still nothing. I see some movement down the trail and then recognize the outline of men. I bring up Jack's M25, range them with the mildots, do the holdover I need and start unloading on them. Three of them fall on the trail, dead, and the rest dive into the bushes.

 

I hear Jack yell, "Got it Ben come on up." I took off, jumped over the close trap and ran up to Jack, "I disconnected the trip wire so let's move." We took off again and cleared the last trap. Jack held up his fist and we both stopped, He pulled a claymore out of his pack and set the trip wire across the trail, we ran up another twenty meters and did it again. "That should slow them down. Let's get to the extraction LZ."

 

We took off at an easy trot and thirty minutes later we heard the first claymore explode. Jack picked up the pace some and I followed right behind him. Ten more minutes and the second claymore went off. "Let's hope they get discouraged and turn back," Jack said and picked up his speed just a bit more. We continued trotting for three hours until Jack stopped, "I need a drink of water and you should take one too." We both took a big drink.

 

"Another two hours of easy running and we'll be at the LZ." Jack said, "How are you doing?"

 

"I'm doing great; you think they're still chasing us?"

 

"I don't think it matters anymore. If they are, we're far enough ahead that they shouldn't be able to catch us. You ready?" Jack asked.

 

"I was born ready," I replied and Jack laughed. "Shit you kill one man and get all cocky on me."

 

"I knew you were getting old but I thought you still knew how to count. That's five men."

 

"With what ten shots?" Jack teased.

 

"The day I take ten shoots to kill five men I'll retire," I laughed.

 

"Okay, we've BSed enough so let's get moving. Those spooks better have a chopper ready or they're going to die." Jack said and started off at a trot.

 

We made it to the extraction sight, Jack called in on the radio, the spooks sent in a chopper, and we were headed back to the small airfield and then to America.

 

I couldn't wait to get back home, brag to my girlfriend Susan about the mission and to give her the engagement ring.