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A Warrior's Ghost

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." - Plato

My name is Joshua Blumenthal... I was promoted to sergeant after the company leader, Sgt.Livingston, took a Kraut bullet through the chest in Normandy. All of us were demoralized after his death, for he was a hard fighter and a brilliant leader. His loss left the squad in disarray; without any order or direction, so I being the corporal, was next in line to take charge of Company Alpha. I was so unprepared, it's a wonder how my men and I survived the inferno of D-Day. We pounded the German lines to hell through Northern France, and smashed through the borders of Belgium, making our way to the heart of the Reich - to the end of the war. Our squad ended up getting snagged in a labyrinth of trees known as the
Ardennes Forest in the December of '44. That was where we set up our C.P. Christmas came 'round, and my men and I had a jolly time exchanging gifts. I received a motley mix-up of souvenirs found in the cellars of French farmhouses, and a box of Lucky Strike smokes. I worshiped the young private from whom I received them; I hadn't had a good smoke for months. I eagerly tore through the cardboard box, and whipped out three smokes; sticking them all in my mouth at once and lighting them with joy. All of the sudden, the Krauts piped up and started singing Silent Night. At first, their wonderful voices brought me warmth, but then it sickened me - realizing we were just a few measly yards away from the enemy. It may be Christmas, but we're still at war. Out of the blue, the choir stopped and foolishly enough, we responded with Jingle Bells. It was all fun and games until we heard a great big THUD! "INCOMING!!! GET YOUR A**** TO COVER!!!" I blurted out in terror, diving into a foxhole. The radio op and corporal stood in the open, gawking at me with their jaws to the dirt. "What the hell are you two doing?! Yer gonna get killed! The Kraut bastards are shelling us!" I guided them to cover, but right then and there, a screech pierced the thick winter air. An 88mm
shell smashed down on both of them, spewing up red arterial mist and scorched rubble that tumbled into the treeline. I was shell shocked, staring into nothing, trying to comprehend the hell that just unfolded before my eyes. Suddenly, a faint voice echoed in my shattered mind. It was Pvt.Huxley, a long slender man in his twenties who would always wear a sarcastic sneer on his face. I glanced over at him, and his usual look of jest was contorted into fear and terror. "Sarge! BLUMENTHAl! Can you f******hear me?! We need to get outta here!" Apparently, he'd been hollering in my ears for a good minute or two to get my damn attention, so we could get outta dodge. I turned to him and gave him the order to fall back to the C.P. with the rest of the squad, but all that was said was a garbled mess of nonsense. I was screwed up and he knew it as well. He took me and loaded me onto his shoulders as the trees exploded and fell down around our ears. He raced me toward the rest of my men, jumping over fallen branches and stumps. The earth beneath me erupted, and I was tossed into the air and blinded by a brilliant white light. Surprisingly, I didn't hear the blast at all. Was I dead? A few eternities later, my sight came back. I was still stuck in the burning inferno of the forest. Why the hell are we fighting on the one day of divine joy? I pondered this as I pushed myself from the mud... I searched for Huxley, but he was nowhere to be found. A sense of panic brewed up in the center of my gut. "He's dead!" I squawked. "THEY'RE ALL DEAD!" I scrambled to their last known position. There I was - running helter-skelter as a godly hail of artillery shells shrieked through the heavens and pummeled the ground beneath my boots. To my dismay, all I could find were severed limbs and bloody craters in the dirt of what was left of my squad. I felt as if I had failed them as a leader. The barrage of shells stopped, and I continued my desperate search, just trying to find a living soul.
I came across a mangled corpse and uncannily, it looked very familiar. His face looked a bit like mine, but it was difficult to tell under all the blood and dirt. As I scanned his uniform, I found three chevrons: the mark of a sergeant. "Poor bastard..." I muttered silently, as I fumbled around with his dog tags. I read them under the metallic moonlight, and my heart sank. Blumenthal, Joshua. U.S. Army. Company Alpha. 163rd Rifle Battalion. DOB: 7-22-21. Blood Type: AB. "This is my body" I whispered as tears streamed down my mud caked face. I sat in front of my dismembered self and thought of my family back at home... I wondered if Santa came to visit my children while I fought for the sake of their freedom.



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