The boy wasn’t the only one, that cold December morning, lined up outside the nearest recruiting station. Brought together as only a nation in tragedy can, hundreds of men and boys signed up to join the military in the weeks after Pearl Harbor. They were lined up, and passed through a medical examination, before handed a uniform and bayonet rifle.
“Name?” was the most common question asked.
The boy had struggled at first, casting his eyes about, until the officer looked up at him in annoyance.
“Look, it’s not that hard of a question. What is your name?”
The boy’s eyes landed on a shipping box in the corner - Malexing Shippers - the name so faded that only the first half remained.
“Malix.” he said, “Malix... Navnløs.”
The army training was like nothing the boy had ever experienced. Life as a hobo was hard, there was no denying that. The man and boy had often gone to bed hungry, the gnawing pain in the stomach was more of a friend to him than many of the other young men at the training camp, and jumping on or off a train required a certain grit that he was sure several of the others lacked, but to become a soldier required something the boy had never needed - trust.
It required trust to stand in front of a line of men firing a gun at invisible enemies, while behind him more boys like himself did the same thing. He had to trust the others to not steal his things while he slept; for a while even going so far as to sleep with his belongings, until the ridicules of the others so far surpassed the need for security, that he finally gave it up. Most of all the boy missed the constant motion of the train, and the mystery of where they were going to end up next. Even as war raged on across the oceans, and the future of the United States was forever unclear, the boy couldn’t help but feel a monotony with his daily life. He rose every morning to the bugle call, dressed, ate, drilled, ate again, drilled some more, and then went to bed, to repeat the process the next morning. Some of the others had sweethearts back home, wherever they called home, and they marked the passage of time by the letters they sent and received. The boy knew nothing of sweethearts - there had been girls on the rails, for sure, but they were as hard as the boys; sometimes even more so.
Yet he persevered, and soon enough it payed off. His division was being sent to the Pacific - to Midway Island.
The crossing was considered rough by standards of many of the men. Most were seasick at one point or another; some more so than others. The boy, however, was long used to the rocking and shaking of the train, and found the ship’s movement comforting. The smell of the ocean was foreign, but he found that if he bunked near the engine room the smell of oil and grease was similar to a train.
At night sometimes, the boys would gather and tell stories. They spread rumors about the officers, and tall tales about the enemy.
“Didja hear Sergeant Luke once bit a bullet in half with his teeth?”
“Once those Japanese get a sight of us, they’ll run scared.”
When they reached Midway, though, they lost some of their steam. Wounded soldiers were carried onto the ship they had just vacated, limbs missing, wounds bleeding. The battle of Midway was raging, and the boys had been stuck in the midst.