The Cry of Duty

October 2, 2012
By Anonymous

Rick McArthur trudged home, his mouth stretched to a thin line. I’ve been drafted to the military. God, why have You done this to me? Is it because I got a B in middle school? It was only in math! Mom is not going to be happy about this with the war in Vietnam going on right now. thought Rick. He finally got to the pale blue house at the end of the street. A fiery red car stopped right next to him. The black tinted window rolled down slowly as if someone or something inside wanted the encounter to be very… special. A friendly and familiar voice called out from the dark interior of the car.

“Why the long face, Rick? You got a two thousand four hundred on the SAT test today! A perfect score. You should be happy,” exclaimed Vladimir with a French accent. His date peeked out from behind his head. She looked impressed. Tough luck. I’m not looking for a date. Rick thought. It took a few moments before Rick replied.

“The counselor just gave me letter and told me that I’ve been drafted,” said Rick unhappily,” I’m supposed to meet the recruiter today at six in Fort Knox.” Vladimir sucked in a deep breath through his teeth. He looked at Rick with sympathy.

“I’m sorry for you Rick. I hope you make it back alive,” drawled Vladimir,” See you when you get back. I hope.” Vladimir muttered the last line under his breath, but Rick heard it anyway. He didn’t get any comfort from it at all. The red car sped away into the next bend in the road. Rick arrived at his house. He opened and closed the door gently and snuck quietly up into his room. Unfortunately, his mother saw him.

“What are you holding in your hand, Rickey?” asked his mom. He paused in midflight.

“N-nothing. N-n-nothing at all,” stuttered our doomed hero.

“Hold at your hands and let me see the envelope,” she commanded. He held it out gingerly like it was filled with paper bombs waiting to explode, shutting his eyes and waited for judgment day.

“Oh Rick. What have you done? Well, no use crying over spilled milk, young man. I don’t even know if you’re going to make it back alive and in one piece. I’ll drive you to Fort Knox. Pack up your clothes and get ready. We’ll be leaving in fifteen minutes. I guess it’s father like son, huh? Well hurry up. We haven’t got all day,” declared Mrs. McArthur. She hustled into her closet for a last minute pack up. He could not believe his good fortune. No tears after all and no lectures. What a relief. I vow to not be like dad and end up dead in a muddy ditch or something. In fact, I will not die at all and will emerge unscathed. I have to. Rick promised to himself. He emerged minutes later finely dressed. He still managed to look spectacular without a fancy suit.

“I’m ready mom. Can we go now? I’m nervous,” stated Rick. He wasn’t just anxious, he was fidgeting madly.

“Very well. We can go now,” Ms. McArthur replied in a resigned voice. They hurriedly got into the black jeep. The ride to Fort Knox was silent, and neither of them made an attempt at a conversation. The car stopped at the entrance to Fort Knox’s massive gates, and Mrs. McArthur stared him down,” Be safe during training and when you’re fighting, you got that? I don’t want you to die or be handicapped. The first thing guys do when they’re out in the line of work is going out to some cathouse. Don’t do anything bad like mom’s good little boy and don’t you get addicted on any drugs and drinking, ok? I won’t put up with it. Never under estimate your opponent like your dad did.”

“I’m not a little boy anymore, Mom. I’m eighteen. I promise I will not get into drugs and drinking. Hey, stop it. You’re choking me!” joked Rick while he managed to pretend to say the last sentence in a strangled voice. His mom stopped hugging him. She had a proud look on her face. He hated to break the moment, but he said good bye and got out of the car. Much to his surprise a recruiter was already there waiting for him. They exchanged pleasantries and headed towards the barracks with no questions asked. A large diversity of people was hanging out in the barrack. There were African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and among other races, too. My life will be in the hands of these people during the battlefront? Well, why not? Let’s give it a try. They won’t let me die, I won’t let them die. thought Rick. They all said something to him in different tongues. He couldn’t understand them, but he got the general idea of what they were saying.

“Sir, when are we going to start training?” Rick asked his recruiter.

“I’m glad you asked. About…right now,” his recruiter told him with a nasty grin. At that statement, a score of recruiters appeared and began to shout at the crowd in different languages. Rick was pretty certain they relayed the same messages. Training starts now. Move it. The color drained from Rick’s face. Oh boy. Why did I have to ask? Me and my big mouth these days. He reflected. Rick jogged along beside his teammates without a complaint. They all shot him dirty looks from time to time, and they let off strings of colorful words in their own language at him. They probably couldn’t understand what he asked, but they could guess at what he inquired at the recruiter.

“First stop, the obstacle course. After you complete it, go to the shooting range, and you’ll get your instructions when you get there. Go!” The recruiter instructed them. Rick and the others hopped over logs and crawled underneath barbed wire. Rick’s heart was beating hurriedly. All he wanted was to finish the training for the day quickly. He suddenly tripped over a rock hidden in the meadow and he bloodied his knee. Rick ignored the dull sting coming from his leg. Finally, the gates to the shooting range appeared before him. The chatter of a Thompson machine gun screamed into the night.

“Get over here, soldier,” yelled a lean officer. Rick went over to the weapons stand in a flash. There were ammunition boxes, sniper rifles, bazookas, M1 Garand, and among other weapons that seem to be from his fanciful wishing. Has Santa granted me my wish? Rick tried to pick up a weapon for a closer look, but the sergeant slapped his hand anyway.

“Not for you, Rick. You get to handle the bazoo…get your wandering hands off that firearm! Don’t touch anything until I say so. Every weapon has a safety lock. Before you fire your weapon, you have to pull the lock away, and then you fire or the mistake will cost you your life. Now take up the bazooka,” reprimanded the sergeant,” and fire at the tank over there.” Rick sheepishly picked up the bazooka. It was incredibly heavy. He struggled to hold it up, sighted his target, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Rick frowned. I didn’t pull the safety lock! Rick considered. He corrected himself, and shot at the target. The tank burst into flames upon contact. It was a beautiful yet horrifying scene. Over the next few months, he practiced different obstacle courses, and tried different weapons including the mortar until he mastered them all. He aced all the “tests and quizzes” that his teachers gave him. One afternoon, all of his trainers observed him during his whole training session.

“You’re now ready for the battlefront, Rick. It was nice knowing you. We’ll meet you again soon if you survive. You’ll be in Special Forces. Take care of yourself. You will be the best soldier out there, and you are going to the jet to Vietnam. Make sure you kill some Viet Cong for us all right,” whispered one of his recruiters. Hearing that speech made him fill up with a rush of emotions. He ran to the airfield, and got on the plane to Vietnam with the rest of his teammates. As the jet rose into the crystal clear sky, he waved good-bye to everybody left at the army base. He quietly fell asleep to the soft thrumming of the propellers.

When Rick woke up, he was surprised to see that they were over a dense jungle. It looked more like a green carpet than a canopy. So this is what Vietnam is like. Rick thought. The view soon gave way to a bustling city full of pedestrians and bicyclers. There were a few motorcycles and cars here and there. This was totally different form America. It looked so peaceful. How can there be a warzone just a few miles away?
The intercom crackled on to life, and the pilot relayed to them,” This is an enemy city. You are to storm all enemy fortifications. Our forces are waiting to attack outside the city. Arm yourselves with your respective weapons and prepare to parachute. Over and out.” Rick’s heart beat frantically in their ribcages. Our first mission so soon? He contemplated. He donned on his uniform and M1-Garand, and prepared his parachute. The cargo door opened, and they each dropped out and not a moment too soon. The fighter jet that carried them only moments before had erupted into a massive fireball. They could hear the pilot screaming mayday. The plane crashed a few second later. The soldiers themselves opened fire into the streets below. What do the civilians see dropping from the sky? White, brown, yellow, and tan people pumping rounds at them? Rick entertained the thought to himself. As the first legs touched ground, the cry of,” take cover,” bounced around them. Even Rick, with his hard core training, had to hide while he traded fire with the Viet Cong. It was impossible to see through the smoke screen. Civilians and communist soldiers alike wore dark black clothes. One could not tell friend from foe. Luckily, he had a glimpse of exactly where the muzzle fire of an AK-47 was hiding.

“Heads up,” Rick yelled while he lugged three grenades in the general direction. A resounding boom with satisfying screams floated in the air towards them. They all shook hands with Rick, and cautiously left their makeshift hiding place.

“Well, that was one hell of a bang,” cheered one of his teammates. Indeed it was. Three huge craters filled the middle of the street. Bodies were strewn all around and inside it. Suddenly, one of Rick’s guys spotted something gleaming dully in the soft evening night.

“Look! It’s that darn AA gun that took down our plane. Let’s get ‘em,” he proposed. They all agreed. Rick was getting fired up by all of this fighting. He scrambled up the stairs with the others falling into step behind him. Suddenly, he was the leader. Shouting and gunfire met his ears when Rick finally clambered to the top of the stairs. The man behind Rick was torn to shreds by the bullets of several AK-47s. That man could have been Rick. The walls inside the stairwell were painted with his blood. I can’t use grenades anymore, I’ve run out. All I’ve got is my gun. Here I go. Rick reasoned. He signaled to his teammates to copy him. They all burst out of the stairwell as one, guns blazing like well made fireworks. Everyone who wore black in that room was slaughtered like pigs. It couldn’t have taken just Rick to do the job. It took the whole team, and not just any team. Rick’s team. There it was. The AA gun shining in all of its glory.

“Maybe we can use it to fire at the building across from us. You know it has some of the Viet Congs stored in there. ,” suggested a Vietnamese man to his right. For a second, Rick thought he was one of them. The suggestion sounded sweet to his ears.

“We can blow it to high heaven if we wanted to,” agreed another. Everyone looked expectantly at him, waiting silently for an answer. Rick carefully considered his options. The admired captain was going to say something when an explosion suddenly rocked the very foundation of the world. Rick hurried to the balcony and peered down. What he saw shocked him to the very core. Somehow, the Russians had managed to supply a tank to the rebels. It was barely standing ten feet away. Rick’s heart leaped into his throat. The metal monster had blown a hole into the side of the building. It was a miracle that it was still standing. Already, men were leaping out of the fiend from every soldiers’ worst nightmare. Orders were shouted in a language that sounded very similar to Chinese.
An ARVN soldier reported to Rick,” They’re thinking of charging up here, sir.” The unit fell into absolute chaos. A man ran to his weapons. Others flew to the door.
“Silence!;” snarled Rick, “ We will make a foxhole starting this instant.” No one moved a muscle. All Rick received were blank stares from all around. Rick’s face expressed exasperation.
“A barricade. A blockade at the chokepoint,” hinted Rick. He signed in frustration. With laughter, smiles broke out all around despite the situation. They patted him on the back, and all of them set to work, creating an improvised barrier out of chairs and overturned tables. It only took minutes, but to all of them, it felt like hours. They fitted their m1-Garands with bayonets and readied themselves for the destiny that laid ahead of them. It-was-nice-to-meet-you’s wandered around the room. Finally, the thumping of footsteps and yelling echoed up the stairs. The first wave came, and the first bullet burrowed its way into Rick’s chest. The force blew him across the room.
“Captain Rick,” echoed around inside his head. Someone was calling him, but it was to no avail. The battle slowly faded into a dark black tunnel. His last thought was I’m sorry mom. Then, he remembered nothing. Rick awoke to white surroundings and his vision was cloudy.
Rick questioned to himself out loud,” Am I in Heaven or in a hospital bed?” One can only guess where he was and what happened to him.

The author's comments:
I really needed to do something for my writing competition, and I thought it would be great if I did this one. I always wanted to write a story.

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