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A Simple Life
It’s always scary when you’re getting shot at. It’s even scarier when you don’t have a gun. There were two soldiers armed with M 16’s in Robert’s squad, but they were both dead due to sniper fire. When Robert thought about the kind of people he would be up against, he thought that the Iraqis would have at best AK 47’s, and at worst sticks and stones. He never imagined they would have sniper rifles with infrared scopes.
Most of the battle pictures shown in the newspaper showed plenty of debris, but there would be none here. Robert’s squad was not in a crowded city, but rather in a wooded area looking for road side bombs.
There weren’t enough guns for every soldier. The two soldiers with guns were supposed to protect the entire squad. And now they were dead, and nobody was going to dare run back to their corpses to retrieve the weapons.
The second the soldiers heard the sound of the sniper being fired, they immediately had an adrenaline rush. Suddenly, they no longer cared whether the road contained bombs or not, they just wanted to get out of there alive.
Actually, Robert had a gun, but he had forgotten about it, and even if he had remembered, it was only a handgun, and therefore useless.
Fear was everywhere. The soldiers running away were scared of getting shot at, and the insurgents chasing them were scared of the consequences they would have to face if they returned with only two corpses. Robert heard the screams of a soldier next to him, who has hit by a bullet that had ricocheted. On instinct, Robert ducked under him and caught him before he hit the ground. “Ahhhh!” screamed wounded soldier.
“It’s ok…we’re gonna get outta here.” Robert moved as fast as he could move while carrying a wounded soldier. He saw a van speeding towards him. It was a big, dirty army van but to the wounded soldier it was like a chariot descended from heaven.
* * *
All throughout high school, Robert dreamed only of taking a break. He had no clue what he would do with the free time, but all he wanted was to sleep late and do whatever he wanted the rest of the day. That is why when he graduated high school; he decided he would take a break before going to college. He had been in school for as long as he could remember, and enough was enough.
However, Robert knew he could not take a break forever. His parents’ patience was running out, and soon they would kick him out, which would force him to get a job. But Robert didn’t have any skills or prior experience so the best job he could find paid fifteen dollars an hour. And Robert didn’t want to work for fifteen dollars an hour and he didn’t want to go to school again. And he needed a place to live. It seemed that the army would solve all his problems.
The van was driven by a corporal. The van wasn’t just there by chance; the corporal had received a message via radio to rescue any survivors of the insurgent ambush. All the soldiers wasted no time getting in. They were fourteen of them now, just half an hour ago there had been over two dozen. The van was only supposed to hold ten people including the driver, but nobody complained, not even the claustrophobic soldier, because they had other problems, such as hundreds of bullets flying toward them. It turned out that the injury to the wounded soldier was minimal; the bullet had scraped his right hamstring. He would survive without future repercussions.
Robert was only a private, but rank didn’t matter when you were about to die, or when you thought you were about to die. And when you enlisted in the army, you knew that you were always going to be shot at, especially since even lieutenants, who were officers, were getting shot at. He was only nineteen years old and he felt like he had experienced everything there was to experience in life. The only good thing about being in Iraq is that Robert’s life had become drastically simpler. In the United States, he had to finish college, pick a career, find a house, and other overwhelming responsibilities that he could not avoid.
Actually, Robert did find a way to avoid those responsibilities. He joined the army. He wasn’t thinking about whether he would get sent to Iraq or not, the last thing he needed was more worries. Robert’s parents were not rich, but they had enough money for him to go to college, but after having an unpleasant time in high school the last thing he wanted was to continue his education. By joining the army, he created for himself a simple life. And if the bullet that had just missed Robert’s head went just three inches lower, his life would have became even simpler.
“I miss basic training” said a nostalgic soldier.
“Pfft, basic was boring. This is much more fun. You get to shoot people, get shot at…” replied a sarcastic soldier.
“Stop your complaining.” said the corporal that was driving. The corporal couldn’t have been happier with the current situation. Here were these soldiers risking their lives so his car wouldn’t turn into an inferno, and all he had to do was drive. The corporal didn’t care at all about whether these soldiers lived or died. But he would much rather think of himself as the soldiers’ savior than as some kind of apathetic cynic.
“Easy for you to say. All you freaking have to do is drive a van!” said a soldier who had just recently arrived in Iraq.
“I saved your life, you unappreciative b******!” replied the corporal. The corporal could have pulled rank on the private, but that wouldn’t do him much good because not only were they both enlisted men, but he was only one rank above him, which gave him absolutely no power over the private.
“You did your job. You were following orders.” said Robert.
A patriotic soldier decided to defend the corporal. “That’s how you win a war,” said one of these soldiers. “You think we’d get a lot done if we just ran around here doing whatever the hell we wanted?”
The sarcastic couldn’t resist the opportunity to provoke the patriot. “What if they ordered you to shoot yourself?”
“What the hell is your problem? We didn’t have a draft, you chose to be here. And my country would never do that to me!”
“Ok, maybe that example was a bit too extreme. What if they sent you looking for bombs without giving you a gun? It’s almost the same as shooting yourself, when you think about it.”
The corporal didn’t like the sarcastic soldier’s cynicism. It was bad for morale, and morale was good for the corporal. “If you shot yourself, you’d be dead. You’re alive, and you have two people to thank for that. Those are god, and me. But if you still want to shoot yourself, go ahead. I’m sure the rest of the soldiers wouldn’t mind the extra space.”
Robert didn’t like fighting for his life and his reasons for enlisted had nothing to do with money. Robert wondered what he would do when he got back to the States. He knew his worries were inevitable, unless he died here. But, at this precise moment, Robert realized that worries weren’t necessarily a horrible thing and that they were necessary for living one’s life. Robert realized that all he had done by enlisting in the army was avoiding the inevitable, and if he continued his life like this he’d either end of dead or just another veteran without a job. “Yes,” he decided, “I will get through my worries and live my life.”
Just as Robert finally convinced himself that when he returned to America he would continue his education, a call came in from HQ.
“What’s your status?”
“One of them has a small injury. The others are fine.” replied the corporal.
“Good. Your destination has been changed. Stop by the supply depot, re-supply the soldiers, and then return to the ambush point. Kill all the insurgents.”
“YOU B******!” yelled an enraged soldier. He was lucky that the man from HQ was no longer listening.
“Have fun guys.” said the corporal as he turned the van around. Suddenly, Robert realized that if they went back to fight the insurgents, there was a good chance that he would just be bait for the sniper rifle that had killed the two soldiers with M 16’s. If this happened, then his epiphany would be completely meaningless and he would just be another soldier killed in action. Maybe he would be mentioned in the news paper, maybe he wouldn’t. He definitely wouldn’t be seen as a hero on T.V. After realizing this, Robert did something that was completely out of character. He took out his handgun and aimed it at the corporal.
At first the corporal remained calm. “Do you know how many years in jail you’ll spend if they found out you pointed a gun at a superior officer?”
“First of all, you’re not an officer. And more importantly, it doesn’t matter what happens to me to someone that’s dead.” said Robert. “We are going back to base, we can re-supply there.”
“But the base is miles away! The insurgents will be gone by then!” started the corporal.
“Consider it that they’re gone. Consider that we re-supplied, and arrived only to find them gone. Go back to base.”
“Are you telling me to disobey orders?” asked the corporal.
“Are you going to argue with a man who has a gun in his hand? You know it wouldn’t be hard to shoot you, throw your body on the road, and say that the bullet came from an insurgent” stated Robert, and further extended his arm, causing the corporal to have to bend his neck. Robert knew that he would not shoot the corporal. Even if none of the soldiers told their superior officers, which they certainly would, they would eventually find the body, realize that the bullet was shot at point blank range, and trace the gun back to him. But the corporal was visibly nervous. He was sweating, and he started breathing faster. Robert prayed that the corporal wasn’t thinking clearly. Once HQ realized that they had never re supplied, the corporal would get in trouble. However, the corporal was only thinking about how if he didn’t turn the van around he would be killed. The corporal turned the van around.
“What’s with the sudden…rebellion?” asked the injured solider.
“Back in the States, I failed all my goals. I lived like I would die the next day, and I couldn’t care less about the future. Today, as well as plenty of other times, I always almost killed just because I was too fed up with school to go to college. Now, until I go home, I have only one goal, and I’m gonna see it through to the end.”
“What would that be?”
“To stay alive.”