I t was a busy day at the airport. This would be one of the last times I was comfortable in a crowded area. In a few short months, my life would change forever. I was getting ready to go to war for the first time. But on this day, I was not heading downrange. Knowing about my upcoming deployment, I had spent some days back home with my parents. While I did spend time with my folks, I was more preoccupied with boozing it up, getting into fights with young Marines, and bedding whatever drunken chick was willing to spread her legs ‘for her country’. Like the good scumbag that I was, I used the ‘I am about to deploy’ line, which in addition to my natural charisma, became the perfect aphrodisiac for the women who crossed my path. Undermining young Marines was pretty fun too, until they caught on to my mockery – they don’t like to fight one-on-one. It took a few times for me to learn this the hard way, yet I was always satisfied when I got the best of them. Prior to heading downrange for the first time, I was fulfilling what I thought were the needs of a young warrior.
Back at the airport, my parents and I were enjoying a meal and a few drinks prior to me boarding my flight back to home-station. I used to be aware of all the ambient noise in crowded places, but I never paid the kind of attention that I do today. This time the rolling noise made by the wheels of check-in luggage, the eternal footsteps and the mumbling voices of people talking on their cellphones was completely silent. My mother had to excuse herself from the table, and I felt that gut-wrenching feeling I had every time before I got into trouble. What I was about to tell my father was not easy.
Despite the fact that my father used to whoop my ass pretty badly every time I fucked up, he was a man who – at his core – did not believe in violence. He was against the war. My family had no idea I enlisted in the USAF out of a compulsive decision until it was time to ship out to basic training. When they found out what my job was going to be, they nearly lost their shit. It was difficult, but eventually my family supported my new calling.
Back at the table my dad wasn’t saying much and neither was I. The cheap double whiskey on-the-rocks I was drinking just pulled out of my mouth the inevitable words. I ran my sweaty hands down my jeans and noticed that my left leg was shaking uncontrollably. Putting pressure on it with my fingers, I took a deep breath and said to my father: “Dad, you know there is a chance I won’t come back.” My dad, with tears running down his face, did not make eye contact with me. He just shook his head agreeing with what I had said. “Dad, if I die downrange, please do not bury me.” From a young age I was disgusted with the idea of my body being mutilated and showcased to people. I asked my father to cremate me and dispose of my ashes as he saw fit. I also did not want my ashes to be resting in an urn or a cemetery. My father was silent. Suddenly I heard a loud male voice yelling at me : “Quit taking a fucking nap!” I looked back and it was my mother yelling at me. Confused by the voice, I said: “Mom?” and my mother, in that same manly voice, yelled: “I am not your Mom! Get up! Let’s go! Get me aircraft immediately!”
By this time I realized that I was not at the airport, but back at my Fire Base and it was my JTAC yelling at me. Our base had been attacked by 107 rockets. The first one missed long, while the second – a dud – had landed a mere ten feet from me.