Sacrifice Without Respect

October 27, 2010
By Ryan Naugle BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Ryan Naugle BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Sacrifice Without Respect

Part 1


Ryan Naugle

The enemy slowly creeps across the cracked and dirtied tiles of the room. The flooring had changed from white in it’s making only 8-1/2 years previously to a disgusting brown. Its senses are scanning all over, looking for food. It stops suddenly as it notices the scent of something in the musty air. It goes in the direction toward the piece of bread on the floor, following its instincts. I watch and wait as it gets closer to the slice of stale baked goods, silently observing until it was within range. As soon as it got to the bread, I brought the rubber, non-slip grip of the walking cane down on the head of the cockroach. A couple more hits and it was dead. Around it were twenty some-odd more dead bugs, ones unlucky enough to follow their basic instincts. Funny, they can live through a nuclear holocaust, but can’t survive on their wits alone.
While I stared at the water damaged ceiling the bed below me sighed as I get back onto my right side, feeling the dull pain of lumps in the mattress. I could find out what’s under me, but I really don’t want to know. A fly lands on my chest, and I flattened it with my stump of a left arm. I looked it over for the thousandth time, looking at the divot between the radius and ulna, then the scarred flesh that had just last month finished recovering the protruding bone. I was hospitalized for an operation where the doctors tried to add a neural implant that would work an artificial arm, would’ve made me a two handed man again. Unluckily, my heart failed during the operation due to stress and drugs, so they had to abort immediately to save my life. I don’t particularly like technology, but an arm is much different then a computer. About then I again noticed the scratching in the walls. Oh what a terrible noise those stupid mice made, that and the possessions they’ve ruined.
I look over my sad, ugly and disturbing body once more as the nurse comes in again to check on me as she does every few hours. She always fakes smiles and pretends to care.
“Morning Mr. O’Sullivan, how are we doing today?”
“Terrible, can you do something about the rodents, insects and other uninvited inhabitants of this cursed place?”, was my snappy response. I strained to hold back obscenities as she gave the usual answer.
“I’m sorry sir, but you and I both know that due to the amount of patients with respiratory problems and other organ failure issues, we can’t use pesticides in or around the Veteran’s hospital, and the cost of mousetraps would equal around-,”
“45,000 dollars, I know”, I finish her sentence for her because she’s repeated this every day for the last week. I don’t believe any of it, I simply think they’re to lazy to do something about it.
She leaves as her pager goes off, muttering a quick “Bye” before she starts running down the hallway, the sound of her heels dying over the sound of other patients and poor air-conditioning units groaning. I realize that it’s time to face the fear that’s been eating away at me for almost half a century. I’m going to be alone for a while now, so I’ve got time. I’m too sad to get any worse mentally, so I decide to face my fears. I look to my right, searching the bedside table for the familiar leather cover. I see the corner and pull with my good hand, knocking over many gifts and letters from family who can’t wait to see me after the operation. I feel the messed up cover, no longer smooth, with a bullet hole in the upper right corner of the front, and shrapnel cuts in the leather, with the metal chunks long removed. It’s been around 47 years since I opened the now yellowed pages of this little journal. I begin to shake with fear as I open the little book. I turn to the page with my signature on it with my hand and manage to hold it open with my shaking stump. I stare at the cursive writing, spelling out Andy O’Sullivan. I flip to the first entry and stare at my writing for a minute, then give-up and put on my reading glasses. I guess a 65 year old man who has witnessed the horror of Vietnam isn’t supposed to have 20/20 vision. I focus on the page and begin to read, never forgetting to notice that bullet hole in the pages.
May 7,1963

-I can’t write well, but I picked up this nice little book and I wish to put down any thoughts I have about this situation. I guess when I have a little time I’ll jot down whatever I want. I can now show creativity that the Army would squash if they knew existed. I’m tired from my first day of deployment in a “non-combat zone”, even though you can hear the gun-fire coming from one of the nearby hills. I’ll write again tomorrow.

May 8,1963

-I have a little bit of time to write. I think I’ll begin with a description of me. I’m a New Yorker right out of High-School who had a crazy night with some friends and ended up selling some of my life to an Army recruiter. I woke up in a hotel with a splitting headache and a letter on the pillow next to me thanking me for my decision to join this branch of the armed forces and the date of my physical exam. I went through a few medical tests, they shaved my head, gave me a uniform and dog-tags, sent me through really basic training. That was easy, because the upper ranks decided they wanted us in combat ASAP and put us through less work, allowing us to get killed quicker. So I finished that and went around the U.S. to multiple forts in many different states. From there I had a week to tell my family about my new deployment to ‘Nam as it’s commonly called, and then they shipped me here. The first thing I did when I got here was learn how to say “bathroom” and “food and water.” I made it to the camp with little issue. The guys here are all-right, even though we use nicknames. I, apparently, am not worthy of a nickname. They said that because I’m new I have to do something to earn the respect of these guys. In that case I aim to do so. I met my commanding officer and he told me that his unit has two rules:

1-Your no good to me dead,
2-When in doubt, empty the clip.
I walk away feeling like he wouldn’t mind if I got picked off right now by a sniper, but I know he cares for all his men, even the green ones. That was my first day in ‘Nam, I didn’t particularly like it, but I’ll manage. I think.
I decide that it’s getting a bit late. My shaky hand lays down the book and then reaches to my scarred face to remove my glasses. I roll over and bury my head in the putrid fabric of the pillow and begin to cry, realizing that reading this is going to be a lot harder then I thought. That book is without a doubt the biggest problem in my life. I muffle my sobs and close my eyes as I remember all the evil that plagued my deployment. I remember the loss of my arm. I remember my lost friends. I’ll try to read a little more tomorrow.

The author's comments:
This was inspired loosely by the story of my great Uncle, who was a POW in Vietnam. I never met him due to other health complications, but wish I had.

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