To Become a Hero

May 29, 2009
By James Duncan BRONZE, Christiana, Tennessee
James Duncan BRONZE, Christiana, Tennessee
2 articles 1 photo 0 comments

On the plains of Versailles there had been nothing but silence, aside from the far off bombing on the horizon that lit up the scarlet pink sun rise. I stood in the trenches, my hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee as I looked off into “No Man’s Land” where the German trenches lie in wait. I lifted the mug up, taking a sip, and began to ponder how I got myself into this. Many people in Britain and France were drafted to fight in the defense of their countries. I, however, signed up willingly before my name was ever called on the draft sheet. I did this because the recruiters and veterans talked of the glory of war and the thrill of fighting side by side against modern heroes, fighting for their country. I remember how towns and cities would sing songs of heroes who fought and returned, how greatly they were honored, how brave they became.
So far, the only battle I have fought while out in these God forsaken lands, has been the battle of winter. It’s been brutally cold on the wind swept plains in the middle of Winter. Every one was down and depressed from the freezing cold nights and the grey skies every day. Shaking my head, I tried to think of something happier. Christmas was coming! Perhaps my family sent me a couple packages bearing delicate treats or, maybe even, a present! Inspired, I began to walk toward the bunker where they would hand out mail. Careful not to spill my coffee as I quietly tiptoed around the sleeping soldiers, curled up as much as possible underneath a small wool blanket.
Before I could reach the bunker, the silence of the early morning was interrupted as the sky started to scream a high pitched wail. Before I knew what was going on, the ground threw up beneath my feet, hurling a mountain of dirt and debris into the frozen air. I went sprawling backwards into several baffled and groggy soldiers. My ears ringing, I stared in amazement at the ground at where I once stood was torn apart thanks to a mortar that landed seven feet away. I started to panic, what was going on? Where did that come from? Am I hurt? Before I could actually check myself to make sure I was ok, handfuls of soldiers began pushing me out of the way as they scurried through the trenches yelling at the officers that we were under fire. My ears still ringing, I stood up but quickly fell back down as yet another mortar shell kissed the ground and sent it to hell. Dirt, snow, debris, and warm wet blood and organs began to rain down on me from all directions as shell, after shell, after shell, hit the earth again, and again, and again, turning the once peaceful early winter morning into the hellish nightmare of German firepower.
The ground shook with each punishing blow; BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! One after the other; no pause or hesitation between each round. There was no mercy from the German artillery this cold morning. Panicking, I got back up and fought each earth rattling hit, and I started to sprint to where the other soldiers were heading, our bomb shelter. My run there was worse than where I had lain on the frozen earth. People were torn to shreds as mortar rounds found their marks and they exploded, sending them to a red gory hell. The sky screamed out in pain as the rounds never ceased. I tried to listen to where they were going to fall but it was impossible, there were too many! An ear piercing shriek flew across the sky, much stronger and higher pitched than the previous. I quickly looked around for some kind of temporary cover as the shell came closer and closer. Finally seeing a spot, I bolted towards it, falling at the last minute to slide on the ice and grab a nearby metal pole to swing myself around the corner and into a crude bunker. As I hit the ground hard on the bunker floor, I saw several people already inside it as they looked in amazement at my stunning feat of sling shotting myself into their poorly built ‘sanctuary’. The ground where I once was only seconds before exploded, sending a fountain of ice and dirt to the heavens, along with some poor unlucky fellow. The screaming of the mortar rounds began to slow up as the last ones in the air fell towards the ground creating the last of the booms. And then, all was quiet. Not a whisper in the air as a handful of soldiers and I slowly began to crawl out of our hole and back into the open trenches.
Some chap behind me pushed me to the ground as he began screaming and shouting, “The ‘earth shakers’! They’re about to use the ‘earth shakers’! Everybody run for your lives!”
Not one of the soldiers from the mob even thought about running away as an officer stepped forward and fired off two shots into the screaming private.
“No one moves. Remain in your positions.” He said.
I quickly checked his rank and saw that he was a sergeant. Neither I nor any of the other privates questioned his word or authority after what we witnessed. A couple of them, however, were brave enough to ask the sergeant what an “earth shaker” was. As in response to their question, a deep, loud, far off boom sounded. At first I began to think that it was another mortar round that hit the earth, until I heard a wailing noise like non other. The scream was not near as high pitched as the earlier mortar rounds, but it was quite obvious that whatever was flying through the air was large and getting closer… Before I could finish my wondering of what the noise was, there was a huge KABOOM and the earth shook as though God Himself struck the earth with all His might. Falling to my knees from the shockwave along with dozens of others, we looked to where the blast came. There was no sign of the carnage that the blast must have made. Puzzled and scared out of my mind, I got back on my rubbery feet and mustered as much strength as I could to the edge of the trench to get a better vantage point. Once there, I about fell back to my knees as I saw a crater, in the middle of No Man’s Land, the size of half a football field. Gaping, I began to pray to God. My assumptions told me that, that was an ‘earth shaker’. And the, crazed with fear, man wasn’t underestimating that power of these rounds when he called them that. Another far off deep boom shattered the sky and I began to cry, please don’t let it be coming towards us Lord, please let us live! The earth violently up heaved and was torn to pieces only a 100 meters from our current location. Once again I found myself on my back from the aftershock as tears poured down my face. I wasn’t ready for this, I just turned 18 and I wasn’t ready for this. There wasn’t any glory in war like the veterans and the recruiting personnel promised. The towns and cities don’t sing praises of war like this. The heroes don’t mention this. My face hot with tears, I didn’t even try to get up. Some where in the back of my mind, I knew it was over, it was all over. As in agreement, the horizon let out a boom! and I lay there with my face to the sky, listening to the falling devil that tore through the clouds. I closed my eyes and waited for the fine German artillery to kiss me into oblivion. The shell screamed closer and closer and once again, everything became quiet.

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