The Soldier: Part 1 in a series

September 8, 2009
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Ryan was pumped, he was ready, he had trained and could now enrol in the US army. Just a glance showed why the army appealed to Ryan he stood a commanding 6’7 and around his neck he draped the star spangled banner.
Today Ryan would travel up to the nation base located in Fort Irwin, California. His father looked on proudly as Ryan kissed Amber his girlfriend goodbye and prepared to serve his country. In Ryan he saw a well raised child fast becoming a man, he had a good car, beautiful girlfriend and was now prepared to offer his country the ultimate sacrifice.
Ryan bid farewell to the sunny streets of his hometown DePaul located just north of the Windy City and punched his roaring V8 Audi Engine down the never ending freeway headed toward Fort Irwin, along the way he would pass through many sites in journey that would take 31 hours on the road and pass through 4 states and cities like Denver and Las Vegas.
Despite the cocky mantra he had adopted, Ryan’s mind was plagued with doubt ,never had he qulamed with putting a bullet in another man’s head and yet the thought of love and losing Amber haunted him. She would certainly gain many admirers with her tanned skin and long brunette hair. Ryan knew he wasn’t as close to Amber since he returned from his first training at Fort Irwin, since his return she had not wanted to hold his hands in public, she talked nervously and often averted his gaze, she just didn’t seem to love him anymore.
Ryan had quickly become the apple of many girls eyes in his youth, his dark skin, curly hair, rough attitude and toned abs quickly attracting many girls, who Ryan wasn’t interested in, his heart went out to Amber but none of this appealed to Amber, only when he truly opened up to her and revealed his softer side did she fall in love with him. She had never approved of Ryan’s military training; she said that he was throwing away his prestige DePaul college education and fine job for a senseless bloody war that would change him. Ryan scolded her and insisted that to take a gun in hand and go where no others would go was the very definition of patriotism, Amber argued that Public Services like teaching were more constructive.
He cruised along the Kennedy Express whistling Born in the USA, with his roof down in the blazing sun that bathed the Prairie State, rolling along Ryan felt like along his problems fluttered away in the soft Chicago breeze. As he stared out the window at endless rows of corn that dominated the landscape his mind wandered, he thought of all the things he would miss he left his homeland. He thought he would miss friends from DePaul, his car, his girl, his job, but as his mind travelled back, he figured he would miss the rainy days back home in DePaul, or the fishing trips with Dad up to Lake Michigan, those days in the back of a pick up truck admiring the Illinois sunset with Amber. He would miss the basketball court down the road where he had learnt to shoot, or the football field where he had learnt to catch. America offered so many attractions that he loathed to relinquish for the dusty streets of Kabul, a land far from home.
Ryan realised he would miss even what he was doing now, cruising along the American heartland and just thinking, thinking about all that had occurred, all that was occurring and all that would occur. He put all these thoughts from his mind and just lay back and revved his engine and rolled across the familiar highway.
Ryan now without a thought in his mind, at peace with his doubts was enjoying the Open Highway a chance to feel the power of his German engine, he realised the adrenaline he felt from touching 100 mph would be quadrupled in the heat of combat and it thrilled him, he recalled how nervous and excited he had been by the training missions in a matter of weeks, the real deal was on the table.
Ryan hauled in the Audi and pulled up along the white sidewalks of Englewood, Colorado. He strolled up to the brown front door and rung the door bell, at the door he was welcomed by an old friend Marcus, he welcomed him in happily. Marcus was an old friend from back in DePaul who had agreed to watch Ryan’s car for the night. Marcus busied himself preparing some tea.
“I wish I could take you round Denver myself, but I gotta watch the kids tonight, I already flunked once and they got school tomorrow, I hope you don’t take it personally.” Marcus lamented
“Hey, man its me Ryan we too close for any of that polite stuff, you can’t take me round Denver, you can’t take me round Denver, no big deal, I’ll see you properly tomorrow night.” Ryan assured Marcus
Ryan spent about 10 minutes with his old friend but left pretty quickly because the last train from Englewood was soon departing for Denver, he was tired from the 14 hour drive he had just endured but still he felt a certain freshness powered by the excitement that he felt about leading a new life. He was also excited about seeing the famous Denver city, his grandfather’s hometown which he had heard so many stories about. He was calm though and as he entered the deserted carriage he saw just one other passenger, a girl with jet black hair and her face buried in a book.
Ryan decided with a half hour train journey ahead he could use the company of another passenger and sat next to her. She barely noticed her and kept her head in the book, eventually Ryan said,
“Chomsky, eh?” He asked
“Yeah.” She smiled nervously
“I’m not sure I agree with all that Chomsky stuff, I mean he is constantly criticising our great nation simply on the basis that we fulfil our responsibility as Guardians of the World.” Ryan said
“That is your opinion.” The girl said trying to avert any discussion.
“What are you scared of? I’m not gonna get aggressive everybody is entitled to their opinion, now come on tell me what you think.” Ryan smiled
“I don’t really want to get into it, I mean I don’t know you and I don’t want to offend you.” She forced a smile again
“Okay, let me tell you who I am, my name is Ryan Banks, I am a proud African American hailing from DePaul just outside Chicago. Today I drove up from there and I am on my way to Fort Irwin where I will receive my placement for the US Army, I in no way mean to threaten you, I just wanna talk kay.”
“You really want to know what I think.” She said now firmly engrossed in the conversation
“Lay it on me” Ryan grinned
“If I am completely honest with you sir, I think that you Americans are too proud in your ways and try to extend your responsibility beyond your place and make a mess of other countries and just abandon them in turmoil when you have got what you want, I think the US Army is a disgrace, an I think that violence only breeds violence. Now if you want to shout about how I should respect what the Army does and be grateful, please just do it now.”
“I’m not gonna shout or scream, I told you are entitled to your opinion no matter how stupid it may be. I don’t want to argue with you, I just wanted to hear what you thought, also just so you know Chomsky claimed that violence usually works.” Ryan said triumphantly
“So what I read an author and I have to brainwashed by his every statement, are you kidding me? Now I don’t want to repeat myself but I don’t know you well so please don’t take offence at what I am about to ask you. First off, have you got a girl waiting for you back home.” The girl asked
“Yeah , what does it matter to you.” Enquired Ryan
“Imagine she is the one who went to war, and she never comes home, every soldier you shot, that’s what you’re doing, taking some ones mother or father, brother or sister, girl or boy away tearing them out of their hands, but let me guess that doesn’t matter to you, serving the motherland and all. When you are on the ground shooting every innocent man, remember me, remember what I told you.” She said exasperated
The train pulled up and the girl picked up her bag announcing this was her stop, but Ryan wasn’t listening, when he finally saw she was getting off he managed to ask her name, Biancha she responded. Ryan’s firm foundation had been violently shaken his confidence in his country rocked by this small girl with a big voice, he figured he should just shake it off and enjoy Denver.

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Samuel M. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm
awesome article, really vivid descriptions bring the story to life, and pull you into the story, more desciption of the actual train journey would be good, to make that a little more alive
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