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“Welcome to the U.S. army soldier!” The recruiter violently shook my hand as if a seizure had taken hold of him. I could tell from the exuberant look on his face that I was the first and maybe only enlister of the day. That thought didn’t comfort me but it reinforced that what I was doing was right.
“Thank you, sir! What’s next?”
“Now you go enjoy yourself, knowing that you just did a great thing for your country. You’ll start training in two days and after that you’ll be assigned to a platoon. After that… well that’s for your superiors to decide. For now go home and relax. I’ll see you soon Mr. Reeves.”
“Thank you, sir!” I was now a soldier of the greatest country in history. I was so ecstatic I felt like I was strutting through the clouds. I left the office and floated out to my car. This wasn’t just any car anymore; no this was the car of U.S. Army private Charles Reeves. I hopped into the driver’s and drove the key into the ignition and turned it on so that the low hum of the engine could be felt reverberating through my seat. Instantly, my senses calmed and my mind slowed its pace. I put the car into drive and looked forward past my dash onto the road. Then, something caught my eye: a picture. It was the picture I took of Diana over the summer, at her sister’s wedding. She looked absolutely stunning in the sky blue dresses of the bridesmaids. Diana! I had forgotten to tell Diana about the meeting. I gassed the car and sped home. I was late for dinner with Diana and my folks. I tried to take in as much as I could during the fast drive. This would be the last drive through Burton, and I didn’t want to miss anything.
“You signed up for WHAT?!?!” To say that my father yelled would be an insult to the capacity of volume his lungs and vocal cords could produce. An erupting volcano would have told him to Shhhh!
“I enlisted in the Army, Dad. Why? Is this a problem, Dad?”
“If this ain’t a problem, then I’ll give you one smart a**!” His blood began to boil as if there was a volcano erupting from within him.
“Hank, please calm down. Let Charlie explain himself,” coaxed my mother. If there was one thing that could take the pressure off the eruption, it was my mother’s voice. She enchanted the entire congregation every Sunday with it.
“There’s nothing to explain. He signed up for a death sentence. He signed up to go fight a war that’s 6,000 miles away that we have no business fighting in the first place.”
“I’m sure there’s a good reason behind it,” pleaded my mother.
“I’m waiting for one,” he said exasperated.
“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to do something that I could be proud of,” I explained.
“Still waiting,” he said.
“You know what Dad, I don’t need a reason. I’m eighteen, I graduated high school, and I want to do this.”
“Can’t you just cancel your application?” asked my mother.
“No,” said both my father and I simultaneously. “According to the government, all applications are final and any attempt leave or escape the duty you signed up for will be considered desertion,” I said.
“Oh,” she said as quiet as a church mouse. “So then there is nothing we can do?”
“There is plenty we can do. We can get evidence that he was not of sound mind at the time of signing and render the contract null and void,” lawyered my Dad. I hate lawyers.
“Good luck. Dad, I had straight A’s and I have been clean for the past eighteen years,” I said triumphantly.
“I’ll find a way.”
“And I’ll find another way to enlist, you can’t win.”
“Then every time you enlist, you’ll be doing it without my approval.”
“I don’t need your approval. I don’t want your approval. Do you think you approval counts for anything? Do you think that if I have your approval I won’t die? Their bullets and rockets and bombs and knives won’t distinguish between those who got their Daddy’s approval and those who didn’t. Dad, if I die, I die because I did something wrong, not because I didn’t get your approval. I leave the day after next, and I may not come back. Are you prepared to face that truth, or will you hide behind your shield of arrogance and denounce me as your son. If I have to man up to be a soldier than you have to man up and finally realize that this is my life. You lived your life, it’s my turn to live mine, even if that means that mine may end soon.”
The room was silent. No one moved. The words I had just orated were still soaking in like sunscreen. My father just looked down at his shoes. My mother gave me a blank stare, as if nothing was going on in her head because she was in shock. I knew better though. She was reading off every prayer she could think of for me. The silence was then ruptured by the sound of the doorbell. It was Diana. She had called just before I dropped the bomb to tell us she was running late. My mother rushed to the door and opened it, fighting back tears all along the way.
“Hi Diana, it’s so good to see you. Please, please, come in,” choked my mom. She walked in and sat at her placemat next to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. Her attention was then drawn to my father, who always greeted her with a hug and a smile. At the moment he was still engrossed in his shoe. She noticed something was up, but didn’t probe for information. My mother sauntered back to the table and sat back at her place.
“So, Diana how are you?” pondered my mother.
“Nervous and a little excited, you know, with high school being over and everything. The rest of our lives are ahead of us.”
“Yes I do know,” cried my mother so softly that Diana didn’t hear her.
“But I have big news!” Betcha’ 20 bucks I top yours, I thought. She probably finally decided on a college, a task that has been daunting on her ever since the letters got mailed back. She was absolutely enamored with Baylor but Notre Dame had really been appealing to her in the past couple of months. If I had to guess she would probably go to Notre Dame just because she was Catholic. But then again she had surprised me with her decisions before, so I really couldn’t guess.
“Everybody, I’m pregnant!”
I just lost the 20 bucks I bet myself.