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Dean was a young man born in Missouri, who had just finished high school at the age of 18 and then decided to join the military. He was simple minded but straightforward individual who had felt that joining the military was not only obligatory but also something that he could potentially enjoy.
He shipped out to Basic Training and then advanced training as soon as he was eligible and passed with ease. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan where he would perform reconnaissance missions for a year. In these missions he would patrol for hours, maybe even days at some times in the scorching heat of the desert, always on the lookout for an enemy. Throughout this time one constant thing that had been on his mind was his family. Once he finished serving in the military Dean thought he would make a great career in the medical field.
Dean was currently in his room relaxing on his bed and enjoying a nice break from the constant danger he always faced which always consisted of a rain of shrapnel, a barrage of bullets, or the constant fear of stepping into the blast radius of the much feared IEDs. Then his roommate Tanner, a seasoned 39 year old war veteran came into the room and sat right beside him.
“I can’t wait until Christmas. Tanner! I can finally see how my mom and old man are doing.”
“ Yeah you’re telling me, Dean! Three more weeks and I can finally go back home.”
“Your eight years are almost up, right? What’ll you do once you’re finished serving?” asked Dean piqued with a slight hint of curiosity.
“I’ll do what I should be doing now. Taking care of my family. I’ll raise my boy and love my wife, I’ve missed so much these 7 years… damn, do I miss them.”
Tanner’s voice stumbled.“It’s not fair to them that I left ‘em like that on their own. Just three more weeks in this stupid Goddamn desert and I’ll never have to come back again. I won’t ever leave the side,” Tanner said loudly, his eyes on the verge of tears.
“It’s alright, man.” Dean firmly patted Tanner’s back. “Three more weeks until both of us can finally see our families.”
“Say, Dean, you haven’t been here for that long have ya?” asked Tanner. “You been here ‘bout a year or so. You’re very young.”
“Yeah but ever since I got here I felt like I left my youth back at home.”
Tanner stood up and walked in front of Dean staring him in the eyes, “It don’t matter, you’re still just a kid, you got a lot to live for. Now me? I’ve gotten to live life and see many things, but you still gots a lotta of time. I’m old God damn it, 43 years old, I ain’t got much left to see that I haven’t already, so…” Tanner placed his right hand compassionately on Dean’s shoulder, “Don’t get yourself killed.”
Tanner then turned around sharply and exited the room Dean was inside. Dean thought hard about what Tanner had said - could he really risk losing it all? Everything Dean was, is, and was going to be would all be void if he died now. Death was always at a moment’s notice here in Afghanistan, and Dean was well aware of that, perhaps too well aware. However, Dean couldn’t afford to think about death right now, the thought always demoralized and frightened him. Instead he needed to prepare himself for his mission tomorrow.
Wondering what time it was, Dean raised up his right arm and examined his gray field watch, which he had received from his mother as a present for his thirteenth birthday. For a brief moment, Dean reminisced about his childhood and family, once he finished he saw that the time was 7:58 PM.
“Looks like it’s time to eat Dinner, I better get going,” Dean mumbled to himself while standing up to leave his dorm.
Dean opened his dormitorium door and exited. He began to walk through the long narrow hallways of the military base while passing by many of his fellow service men. Dean walked, walked, and walked, but it seemed as though the more he walked, the farther away the mess hall door would be.
Gradually the hallway became an increasingly thin dark tunnel, all the while Dean’s desperation had grown as he went from walking to jogging. When jogging wasn’t enough to close the distance he ran. When running wasn’t enough, he sprinted.
“What the hell is going on? Where am I?!” yelled Dean as he was mad dashing for his life. Soon the mess hall door at the end had become some divine source of light, but this time it was getting closer.
Finally he was within reaching distance of the light, after a time lapse of what seemed to be hours. He went into the light only to see the facade fade away and find himself sweating bullets exhaustedly in the mess hall. Dean was deeply bewildered and frightened by what he had just witnessed.
“What the hell was that!?” Dean yelled. “I-I, I swear to God I almost died!”
The soldiers that were eating their meals all eyed Dean curiously. Dean took notice of this and was deeply unnerved.
“What are you guys looking at?” demanded Dean of the entire room while panting heavily.
“A mad man.” said one of the soldiers.
“Whatever,” Dean gasped, as he finally caught his breath and managed to regain some of his composure.
The soldiers continued eating their food as usual and Dean walked in line to get his food.
A tall soldier was waiting in line right in front of Dean, he turned behind him and remarked “Damn, Dean, didn’t realize you were in such a rush for meatloaf.”
Dean recognized the man’s scarred face, how could he forget that brownish red diagonal gash that lied right across the center of nose. That man was no other than Corporal Farrack, a 28 year old who Dean has only spoke to on rare occasions.
“I thought I saw a ghost or something back there,” Dean replied.
Dean and Farrack moved forward in accordance with the mess hall line while still continuing their conversation.
“Really?” Farrack said while sarcastically feigning interest, “You’ve been seeing ghosts, huh?”
“That’s not quite exactly what I meant,” clarified Dean while struggling to find what words to say, “I jus-”
“Well I’ve seen ‘ghosts’” Farrak firmly ascertained. “I see them at night in my dreams, they haunt me.”
“You don’t mean-”
“No, I do mean it. I can’t stop dreaming about all my dead friends, I see their horror stricken faces every night, I hear their piercing screams every night, I feel their writhing agony every night!”
Dean was visibly uncomfortable and could hardly get any word out of his mouth.
“I- I.. I-”
Farrak realized how heated he was getting and relented.
“I’m sorry, man, all this baggage is just getting too much for me. Don’t take it personal. I don’t have any problems with you I’m just stressed is all.”
Dean, still on edge, cautiously replied, “It’s cool, it happens.”
Farrak was then at the front of the line and turned around, getting his food. Dean grabbed his tray and got fried green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, a grilled chicken breast, and a crumb cake for his meal. Dean, feeling unwelcome in the mess hall’s awkward atmosphere he created, decided that he would eat his food in his room.
He exited the mess wall and walked down the long hall, but this time it took much less longer than before and he was at the front of his room’s door within seconds. He entered his room and quietly ate his dinner. Once he finished he lied in bed uncomfortably and thought about earlier when he saw that light . That light had made Dean scatterbrained and disturbed, the only thoughts he had were questions.
“What the hell does it even mean?”
“Why won’t it stop coming?”
Dean was seeing that light for a long time now, it all began a month ago when he first saw it in a dream. Now, Dean would see it occasionally regardless of where he was, escaping the light was a fruitless endeavor. Dean knew this all too well, and decided it would be best if he tried to get some sleep, so he said a quick prayer and closed his eyes.
It was morning once Dean woke up and almost immediately he was told to get ready for the reconnaissance mission he was too, so he quickly got dressed and grabbed his M4 carbine assault rifle.
Almost immediately, Dean and his group met up and Dean noticed that both Tanner and Farrak were accompanying this mission, an occurrence which rarely happened. The squad leader, Sgt. Reyes, stood in front of his amassed soldiers and cleared his throat.
“Alright, men, you know the drill, we’re gonna get in the humvees and secure the base’s perimeter with some recon, make sure none of them Taliban are around, is that clear?”
“Yes sir!” replied everyone in the group.
The group of soldiers then split up and piled into the four humvees. Dean was in the third to last humvee as they had begun to drive off.
Dean turned his head to the left and peered out the window and saw nothing but the same old dry boring desert that he had been seeing for about a year now.
“Doesn’t get much better than this,” the soldier to Dean’s right said to him.
“No kidding,” Dean replied to him.
“This here’s my first mission, just got transferred here from Korea, name’s Fred hope we can get along.” he reached his hand out towards Dean
“I’m Dean, pleased to meet you.” Dean shook his hand firmly, “You’re definitely gonna miss Korea after a week or two.”
“I miss the place already and it’s only been two days, weather where I was was pretty nice. Now this place? I can feel the blood in my veins boiling that’s how damn hot it is.”
“Don’t worry you’ll get acquainted to it pretty soon, I sure as hell did.”
The brief conversation between Dean and Fred, had ended with a lie. Dean was not used to this place, not one bit. Afghanistan was not where he belonged, he belonged anywhere else, but not here. This lie had almost immediately caught up to Dean when suddenly he heard a loud scream.
The humvee in front of Dean was hit directly in its front by a rocket and somersaulted on top of the humvee he was in. The driver was screaming in agony as his legs were crushed by the vehicle’s impact.
“Aghhh! My legs, my legs, my legs!!!”
This sudden occurrence woke Dean up from his easygoing attitude, he snatched his rifle and rushed outside the car door almost instantaneously. He had found that the first and last humvee had also stopped with the soldiers outside exchanging fire with the Afghani insurgents.
The insurgents were in danger-close proximity to the American soldiers, they lied on two steep slopes surrounding the soldiers. The insurgents were all armed with outdated Soviet weapons and had cloths wrapped around their heads, leaving just their eyes visible. Dean grabbed his rifle, took aim, and started firing his weapon at the insurgents.
“Men it’s an ambush, counter attack now!” The squad leader had desperately yelled.
The scent of burnt flesh was far too strong for Dean’s liking and was disorientating him. Dean managed to shoot one of the insurgents square in the chest before the jumbled mess of voices and chaos got to his head.
“Kill that damn towelhead!”
“Get him over there!”
“Take this and die, Mohammed!”
Dean was beginning to panic amidst the chaos, he could not breathe nor hold his rifle without shaking. He stumbled, then crouched and leaned against the car, clutching the door handle desperately.
“Damn! Damn I-I can’t breathe!” Dean said with an increasingly faint voice.
Tanner, while firing his weapon, peered to his side and noticed Dean’s desperate condition.
“Ah s***!” Tanner ran to Dean’s side and perched him against his shoulder, as he attempted to relax him.
“Come on Dean, relax for the love of God just relax Goddamn it! Calm down and breathe!”
While this was occurring, more and more enemy fire filled the air. The enemy was overpowering Dean’s squad and the bodies were piling all around.
Dean began to breathe heavily, but still wasn’t able to return to normal, until he noticed one of the militants peering from up the hill with his rifle aimed on both of them.
“Tan-...Ta-... Tanner! Behind you!!!”
“God damn it!”
Tanner turned around quickly and raised his weapon as fast as he was capable of doing, but it wasn’t good enough to save him. The militant fired several rounds into Tanner’s upper body and he was killed instantly.
“You f***ing bastard!” Dean yelled frustratingly.
He recovered from his weakened state and firmly grasped his rifle, until the militant shifted his aim towards Dean and fired.
Luckily, only one bullet was fired before the rifle jammed. Dean tanked the hit in his shoulder and grunted in pain, “Go to hell!”
As the militant struggled to fix his jammed rifle, Dean raised, aimed, and shot him two times. He then falled back down the hill, dead.
For a brief moment Dean was able to pause and take a breather. His wound was not too serious, or at least, it wasn’t compared to the wound Tanner received. He looked down sadly at his late
“Damn it, you just had more three more weeks to go…,” Dean said to his lifeless body regrettably.
This small window of relief was shattered by a loud battle cry.
Dean looked towards the direction where the cry came from only to see an insurgent running up the hill and tossing what appeared to be two mortar shells attached to a bundle of different colored wires. The device made a metal bang as it hit the floor and landed mid range from Dean.
The insurgent then pulled out a cell phone and pressed a button, causing the device to blow up. The blast had wiped out everyone near it and the humvees, which it detonated next to, also exploded, sending a valley of metal fragments throughout the air. Dean was knocked back from the explosion and was just barely outside the instant death range, but he was unfortunately maimed in the process as hundreds of metal scraps from both the IED and humvee were lodged across his body.
Dean was groaning in pain, while trying his best to recover, but could not move his legs and his right arm.
“S***!… I can’t move!,” screamed Dean in pain. He then looked at the blast site, where a pile of scattered and scorched corpses laid. Among the bodies, he recognized Farrak.
“No! That won’t happen to me!” Dean made a harder effort to attempt to stand up, only to realize it was a futile endeavor as he gazed at his bloodied legs. He was bleeding out fast and his own pool of blood had stretched out nearly 10 feet from him. His fate was sealed.
“No, no, no!” Dean sobbed.
A stream of tears began to flow out of his battered and bruised eyes, then he looked up towards the bright blue sky and cried like a child. Dean thought of everything that mattered to him. The family that he loved and wanted so dearly to see. His goals and ambitions that he had set out to accomplish. The life that he had finally learned to enjoy and appreciate. He refused to let those things be taken away from him.
“I’m not going to die! I can’t die, I can’t!” Dean said trying to convince himself.
He then pulled out his pistol as he desperately held on his life, and aimed his pistol at the hill in anticipation of incoming enemy militants. It was difficult for Dean to see where he was aiming, his vision began to gradually fade to white.
Two insurgents then came up from over the hill and Dean fired his gun, hitting the one on the right in the neck. As the dead insurgent collapsed, the one on the left immediately ducked in cover.
“You’re not… going… to… kill… me.” Dean repeated to himself weakly, as he shakingly held his pistol in wait for the other militant to pop back up. As the seconds went, it became increasingly more difficult for Dean to muster the strength to carry on. By this point, the light had encompassed his eyes, and he could no longer see. This light was all too familiar for him, after all, it was that same divine light that he had been seeing for a month. Finally, Dean no longer had the strength to fight.
“You’re no-... gon-...,” mumbled Dean, before he coughed out blood and succumbed to his fatal injuries. His hand fell down gracefully on the ground and his eyes closed softly.
The militant popped out with his rifle scanning for the enemy soldier that had just killed the man next to him. However, he could not find that man, all he saw was the messy and bloody corpse of a poor horrified kid. The corpse of a kid that wanted to see his family. The corpse of a kid that wanted to become a doctor. The corpse of a kid that wanted to come home.
It only took mere seconds to destroy 19 long years. In the end, Dean was able to go home, in a bodybag.