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The Stain of the Purple Heart
The Stain of the Purple Heart
Chad Anderson had it all, he was the captain of the football team, he had the perfect car, his parents had money, and he had a 3.8 GPA. The one thing he didn’t have was the girl. When Chad began his senior year there was a new girl in school. Chad said hello and asked her name, “Callie.” Callie didn’t know about Chad’s reputation, so she just went on her way, not knowing the captain of the football team just talked to her. It annoyed Chad that he didn’t get what he wanted. He was so used to having things just handed to him. He did some background checks and found out Callie was taking a group of students to volunteer at the Open Arms senior home.
When the day came to go to Open Arms, Chad was excited to spend time with Callie. When the group arrived at Open Arms Callie told everyone to go into the common room. “Except you, Chad. You get to spend time with Mr. Cross.” “What, why me?” “Because I don’t think you’re here for the right reasons.”
Chad knocked at the door, “Mr. Cross?” no answer. As he opened the door he saw a sad old man sitting in a rocking chair in the corner. He was holding a black and white picture of a beautiful young woman. There was a picture on the table next to him with two young men in it. One of the men resembled Mr. Cross. There was a pair of dog tags wrapped around the picture. As Chad walked closer to Mr. Cross, he noticed a frame on the wall. “This Purple Heart award is presented to Lt. Camden Cross, for showing true bravery on the battlefield.” Chad sat down next to Mr. Cross and neither said anything for at least thirty minutes. Then, Mr. Cross broke the silence, “Son, are you happy?” “I’ve got good grades, an awesome car, and I’m captain of the football team.” “I didn’t ask what you are or what you have. I asked if you were happy.” Chad opened his mouth as if to say yes, but then he started thinking. He looked out the window to the courtyard and saw Callie. Mr. Cross looked as well. “Ah, I see.” “You don’t see anything! You’re just a stupid old man!” Chad stormed out of the building to his car and drove home.
He didn’t know what to do, that old man had something about him, something special. Chad knew their lives had met for a reason.
The next day Chad drove to Open Arms at 8am. He went straight to Mr. Cross’ and didn’t bother to knock. “No I’m not happy, okay? The one thing I feel that would make me happy I can’t have.” Mr. Cross looked straight into Chad’s eyes. His stare was so deep it was almost as if he were looking into Chad’s soul. “Me too. Come and sit.”
When Mr. Cross was in high school he went through almost all of the same problems as Chad. He used to have a best friend, Adam Daniels, and they were so close they were practically brothers. They had known each other since they were in elementary school. They played sports together and hung out all the time. Neither of the boys ever thought anything would get in the way of their friendship, and then they started high school. On one of their first days, Mr. Cross saw a beautiful girl, she was absolutely stunning. He had seen pretty girls before, but this was completely different. The feelings he had were so much more than that. He started talking to her and hanging out with her a lot. It wasn’t long until Mr. Cross, Adam, and their new friend Lacey were all best friends. That wasn’t exactly what Mr. Cross had wanted, but it was better than nothing. As far as Mr. Cross knew, he and Lacey were better friends than Adam and Lacey were. They told each other everything and understood each other. They always had fun no matter what they were doing and Camden decided he was going to ask her out the next time he saw her. He never did. Years passed and the three stayed great friends. During Cam’s senior year he had made up his mind one Sunday night. He was going to ask her out the next morning, no backing down. That Monday morning he walked into the hallway of the school and saw Adam and Lacey walking towards him as usual. Only this time was different. They were holding hands. This killed him. He couldn’t really blame Adam for this; he never told him that he liked Lacey. So Cam just hung in there, feeling as though his heart had just been ripped out. Every time they kissed he had to look away, and whenever Lacey looked at him his heart nearly stopped. He knew Adam meant no harm, but he still felt as though this affected their friendship. When the three graduated, Adam and Lacey were still together. Cam and Adam both went to enlist in the army. It was 1955, the beginning of the Vietnam War. It wasn’t long before they both were deployed to Cambodia in the winter of 1955. The whole time that Adam and Cam were still in the United States he was exchanging letters with Lacey. Adam asked Cam what he thought if he and Lacey were to get married. Cam replied “That’d be great!” his biggest lie ever. Cam would also have to be Adam’s best man.
One night while their squad was sleeping in their tents on a humid Cambodian night, they heard gunfire. “WAKE UP WAKE UP! WE ARE UNDER FIRE!” the sergeant yelled. Adam and Cam grabbed their bags and their guns. They ran out of the tent to see fire. Fire everywhere. Cam thought for sure he was in H*ll. The two found a small hill to use for cover and readied their weapons. One down. Two down. Three. Four. As the two were shooting at the men running up the hill, they could see their comrades slowly getting cornered. Cam yelled, “Adam! Give me some cover while I call in a chopper!” Cam took cover behind the hill and started to radio in a helicopter. “We are in camp Alpha-Charlie-Echo and we need back-up now! Men are dying and our numbers are depleting!” As he said this he turned around. He saw the man pick up his gun. He saw him aim it and then he heard the shot. He looked to his left and saw blood gush out of his best friend’s chest. “No!” Cam picked up his gun and unloaded it on the murderer of his best friend, his brother. He ran over to Adam who was on the ground. “Adam, I, I--” “Cam, don’t say anything.” Adam reached in his pocket and pulled out a ring, a woman’s ring. “Give this to her and tell her I love her. I know you do also, I’ve known from the very beginning. Just promise me you two will stay together. We’ll meet again someday, brother.” With that Adam’s eyes closed and Cam began to cry, and then realized he was in war. He grabbed his gun and ran down the hill shooting at every hostile he could see. Five. Six. Seven...
He reached his cornered comrades and told them they had to hold out for the chopper to get there. They held out all night. The hostiles seemed to be weakening. Two-hundred twenty two. Two-hundred twenty three. Then they just stopped. The American forces were all cheering, all except Cam, who walked up the hill to where his best friend lay. As he passed by the body of the murderer, he began shooting it, again and again. His sergeant ran over and had to stop him. “Cross! Stop! What’s wrong?” Cam began to cry, “He killed Adam, Sarge.” The rest of Cam’s time in Cambodia was a blur. All he remembers is the look on the face of Adam as the life left his body.
When Cam returned home, nothing was the same. Not even the sun seemed to shine as bright. He didn’t even have the guts to talk to Lacey in person after everything that happened, so he sent her a letter with the ring in the envelope. He got a letter back, saying that she did not want to see him ever again. There were drops of water stains on the letter. Cam’s life was ruined, his best friend was dead, and the woman he loved might as well be too. He didn’t know what to do, he had nowhere to go. He couldn’t even fulfill Adam’s dying wish, to stay with Lacey. Shortly after Cam returned to the United States he was called to Washington D.C. for a ceremony. “We would like to present this Purple Heart award to Lt. Camden Cross, who called in a helicopter for his comrades and stuck by them until it arrived. Congratulations Lt. Cross!” As he walked to the stage, the clapping began to drown out and Cam heard gunshots. He looked up and didn’t see his General holding his medal; he saw a hostile aiming a gun at Adam. He shook his head and everything came back. As he stood on the stage shaking the General’s hand, he looked out into the crowd. He saw a familiar face, one he had not seen in a long time.
After the ceremony Cam practically ran to the door, only to see Lacey getting into the backseat of a cab. As she drove away he looked down at his award, “April 15, 1962.”
“It has been forty-seven years since I’ve seen the woman that keeps the air in my lungs. I haven’t been truly happy since I don’t even know when.” Chad didn’t even know what to say, he was in such shock. “Gosh Mr. Cross... I had no idea.” Chad could tell Mr. Cross was holding back tears, he had never seen someone in such pain in his entire life. “I know, son. Why don’t you go home now, I’m very tired.”
As Chad was driving home he couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Cross and this girl, Lacey. He had to do something to try to help this poor man. He’s been living in pain for at least 40 years, he doesn’t deserve that.
At school the next day Chad went up to Callie, “Hey can you help me find someone? Her name is Lacey Sears.” “What do you mean?” “It’s one of Mr. Cross’ old friends. I’m just trying to help him out.” “Oh! Okay sure I’ll help you out!” Chad and Callie began to ask around neighborhoods and even around Open Arms for Lacey Sears. The only answers they got were from people in the senior home. “Isn’t that the girl Cross always talks about?”
One April 15, 2009 Chad walked into Mr. Cross’ room. “Hey Mr. Cross you here?” “Chad m’boy come on in! How are you today?” “I’m doing well. I have someone here to see you.” “Oh do you? Who did you br--” Right as Mr. Cross was talking, Callie walked in with Lacey Sears. Mr. Cross was so astonished. “Chad... Chad... Is this real? Or am I dead and in Heaven?” Lacey spoke, “No Cam, this is real.” They embraced each other. Callie started to cry quietly and Chad went to comfort her. As he went over, she kissed him. He was so surprised, but so happy.
On October 21, 2011 Chad went to the local cemetery. He came to a tombstone that read, “Here lies Camden A. Cross, comrade, brother, friend, and husband.” Next to him there were two other tombstones; Lacey Cross and Adam Daniels. The three were together at last, and finally happy. “Chad, let’s go! We don’t want to be late to Cam’s first soccer game!” Chad looked over to see the love of his life, the one woman he would give anything for, and never give away. Chad thought back to the first day when he walked into Mr. Cross’ room and he asked Chad if he was happy. “Yes” he thought. “Yes I am happy.” “Chad let’s go honey!” As Chad got into his car he looked over to the passenger seat and said “I love you Callie.”