Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 War Story Contest, Eugene Clancy, Rebecca Kent-Hughes, Darren Perdue and Terry Worrall. Their 300-words-or-less works of fiction or nonfiction, which follow, will earn them either a 1926 Paris Air Show poster, Once a Spy or Seven Grams of Lead. Thanks to all who entered.
[Untitled] by Eugene Clancy
If the sorrow didn't overwhelm you and the fear didn't rob your breath, the heat beat you down like a disease. The sound and smell of jungle became part of you and you part of it. The only thing the mind focused on was staying alive minute to minute wary of every sight and sound. As soon as the sarge signed down, men became part of earth all eyes and ears. Where was the shoeless enemy, the ones we were sent to kill in their country,their home, their land? In a heartbeat we knew and the killing began. Johnny boy, the BAR man ripped away at the smoke on the hillside and within seconds the VC were screaming, running down hill at us, and mortars behind us opened up. All of us firing for our lives, all of us ready to live or die in the frenzy. I shot one right in the face as he was about to toss a grenade, arching up then falling through the jungle toward my feet. Next to me Bronx Freddy took a bullet in his ear and his blood sprayed over me. Crouched as low and tight as I could I kept shooting at the living phantoms that leapt out of the jungle at us. The sounds of men killing filled my ears the fear and anger and insanity kept me at it, on the trigger, killing. From behind me came a banshee with a bayonet at full speed I shot him point blank and another one just behind him. A whistle somewhere and the gooks melted back into the vegetation. We fired at their backs but they were gone as instantly as they appeared. The ambush was over the horror evident. Our company suffered five dead and a dozen wounded. Around and among us were ten or more dead VC. All of us took stock thinking: how did I live through another combat in Hell? Why me?
She Was A Hero by Rebecca Kent-Hughes
It was twilight, she sat very still knowing that even the slightest move could give away their position. Her vest was fit snug against her muscular, well defined body. She knew she had it all speed, agility and a keen instinct. Her loyalty and her ability were never questioned and by the end of the day she would be a hero. That's what they always told her... She was a hero.
As she waited with eagerness she could hear the gunshots being fired, closer now, to their current location. Beneath the C-17 Globemaster lll the M16A2 rifles were sounding off three round bursts and then single shots here and there. The M14s 40 mm ammo was being spent without mercy against the enemy.
Then she heard it, the M24 sniper's rifle snapping off precise shots. That would be Diamond D finishing off the last of the assault. It would soon be time to move forward. Her body was ready for action, all she needed was the go signal.
Silence... the platoon had ceased the firing of their weapons. Soon now... the wave, the nod, Go! She crept out slowly forward. .. all of her senses alive! This was her call of duty, her time to shine. Her partner, Mike eased along behind her, watching her backside and guarding her back as she scouted the way ahead.
Danger lurked all around them; booby traps were common and mines had been planted all throughout the terrain. Incendiary devices were a constant threat to everyone in her platoon. It was her job, her responsibility to clear the path along with Mike and always to give alert to the others.
Such is the life of a war dog.
Such is the life of Lady Twilight Blue!
Seventeen MInutes by Terry Worrall
Seventeen minutes. It had only been seventeen minutes since we’d been outside the wire, since we had left the safety of KAF. I was scared. I mustered my best bravado, trying like Hell to seem ready, not to appear the least bit fearful in front of the patrol. They were gods to me, joking around, donning their kit, checking mags, making sure the new guy was ready. I don’t think he was, despite his protests. In fact, I know he wasn’t ready. I was the new guy, and I hoped the bead of sweat on my face could be excused to the summer heat of Afghanistan.
How had it come to this? What was I thinking when I joined the reserves and said I wanted to go? Our family hadn’t been to war since the forties and the last great fight. We’re patriotic, but not much beyond standing for the anthem at games. Typical Canadian family; good people, middle-class. War wasn’t our business, and the only battles we’d had were in hockey. Someone else always did it.
My parent’s tried to talk sense. They were probably right, and when I lay bleeding in the dust I wished I’d listened. I was almost done university. I didn’t have to do this, not now they’d pleaded. But I was afraid of missing my chance, and now I sure wasn’t missing it. It happened fast. We’d barely dismounted the LAV; we had merely entered the innocuous seeming village that lay waiting for us like a trap. Troops-in-contact, sniper fire, take cover. I just got here didn’t I? Most guys were getting hit by IED’s, I mean, nobody gets shot over here anymore right? I can’t be hit. Statistical improbability. New guy’s down. No way, can’t be. Impossible. I’m the new guy. Seventeen minutes.
Forever Yankee Boy by Darren C Perdue
November 13, 1982 Washington D.C.
Herman Jennings looked forward to this day, but he also dreaded it. He looked forward to it because it was high time the soldiers of his war finally got some positive recognition from his country. He remembered coming home from that war and being spit on and called baby killer. The total lack of respect from those who were not there, those who did not experience the horror of war, bothered him for a very long time. Unlike those people he heeded the call of his country without a moment’s hesitation. It was his first “adult” decision of his eighteen years of life.
It is also a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
He knew his friends by their Christian names, but were made brothers by the names given by members of their unit; Ace, Carolina, Tex, Haggard (because he always sang Merle Haggard songs), Tuck, and himself, Yankee Boy.
He was the only one in his unit to come from the northern part of the United States. His nickname was not an insult. It was a badge of honor. He even painted it on his helmet in grey paint. The very helmet he carried with him now.
Herman placed a hand on the polished black granite. On the names of those who were left behind. The names of his brothers, long forgotten by their country until now, forever remembered by him, Yankee Boy.
“I should be there with you.” He said as he choked back the tears. “I’ll always carry you with me.”
He placed the helmet at the base of that sheet of black granite. He stepped back and saluted.
“I’ll come back each year, until I can finally meet up with you face to face, my brothers.”