The sun was just rising over the trees, birds were singing and all was quiet, all was right. So they thought, a platoon of soldiers deep in the jungle, completely cut off from their communications. The air was thick with humidity, it seemed that you were sucking in half a glass of water with each breath, to add to it the water was already steaming out of the ground just adding to the humidity of it all. Being fresh off the boat they were a little giddy, and were absolutely terrified, every bone in their bodies was shivering with fear, just now realizing that signing up for this was a big mistake. Not knowing if someone was lurking in the thick, heavy fog that had come upon them this morning. There was Jed who was the youngest of them from good ol’ Illinois, he was fresh out of high school and only 19. He had wanted to serve his country since he was a kid. His father and grandfather had served before him so he was a legacy, he felt it was his duty to uphold the tradition and serve. Now he wasn’t much to look at, he was 5’8” and there were tree branches thicker than his limbs. He had just finished the 2 am till sunrise watch shift. His eyes had started to sag, his body was showing the burden of the last shift of the night, bags under his eyes, a look of just wanting to ignore everything, that look that you may see on someone who had been shot a day or two before. Sadly he only had time for a short hour of sleep before they had to move for the day.
Jed was awakened to the screaming sound of artillery. Just before it hit the ground, he heard the sergeant yell to take cover. Then, about 20 feet, away the shell hit and the other half of the platoon was hit. They all got up and ran not knowing which way, just wanting to get away. Jed looked over to his friend James, but was called Irish because he had a thick celtic accent. They heard someone screaming for help, they both looked at eachother and went back to get this guy. Shouldering their rifles they pick up this guy who had some shrapnel in the back of his leg. Putting his arms around their shoulders the carried him off.
Jed and James had been close buddies ever since the first day of basic, he was friends with the other guys in the platoon but him and James were inseparable. They were basically brothers. They had the strongest bond, working like one unit all ways knowing what the next would do. As they retreated to safer ground the sound of artillery shells just kept coming, not letting up. They ran between trees, vines, and branches hanging down. Not stopping, just running. If someone had no clue what was going on they would think the boogeyman was coming after them. All the soldiers faces had this look of absolute terror, and they all seem to carry the weight of sorrow and loss for the men who had just lost the battle. They ran for a solid ten minutes covering about a quarter mile of jungle, the artillery had stopped its retched screaming. After they got safe they started attending to the wounded. The guy Jed had just saved had blood soaking his right pant leg, he was called pretty boy cause in basic all he was concerned about was his hair. He didn’t bother asking how his leg was all he asked was:
“Hey Irish, does my hair look good enough to steal your girl?”
They all broke out laughing and joking turning a bad situation into a good one. They looked at the back of Pretty boy’s leg and found a 2in piece of black shrapnel, coated with blood sticking out of it, calling over the medic and having him looking at it, he said he was going to pull it out then stitch him up.
“Now this is going to hurt, but not as much as it would hurt your pride if I was cutting off your hair.”
Pretty boy cringed at the thought of his hair being cut but then laughed telling the medic to get it over with. Next thing you know he’s screaming like a child who had just dropped his ice cream in the sand at the beach. Jed and Irish were sitting on downed tree, having a smoke and just talking, they were telling stories about when they were younger. Jed had just finished telling a story about taking his dad’s chevy when he was ten, the humor of him crashing it still hung in the air as if it was the smell of freshly baked cookies. Then a loud crack rang in the distance and then all of a sudden Irish was jolted forward and blood exploded from his shoulder, knocking him off the tree and on the ground, blood seeping into the jungle floor. Jed hopped off the tree and put pressure on the wound trying to make sure he didn’t lose too much blood.
“Come on stay with me, don’t you dare die on me. Where’s a God damn medic?”
The medic came over, felt his pulse, and put a hand on Jed’s shoulder. Blood still staining his hands from when he tried to keep him alive. He stood up trying to take it all in and then fell to his knees instantly, in pretty much one fluid motion. He had lost his best friend, his brother, the only thing that was going to brighten his days in the god awful place. He felt all alone. Pretty boy hobbled over and moved him away from the Irish’s body, trying to keep his mind off of the loss that they had all just endured.
A few days later Jed was still shaken, his face had lost its shape. He started to look more like a ghoul than an actual human, his cheeks had slednered out, and the little fat that had been on his body had disappeared and he was nothing but a little bit of muscle and bones. The lost of his best friend had left him with nothing. All the other guys had been trying to make sure he ate, trying to keep his spirits up. They tried playing cards and getting him to just talk about anything but what had happened a few days ago. Jed had gone from this up beat person to someone who carried the weight of what had happened on his shoulders and didn’t let anyone else share the load. His best friend was gone. No one could replace him, no one could fill that hole in his heart. He’d never be the same again...