Episode 15 - Remember, no man is a failure who has friends

I was on night guard last Sunday when Corporal Padalino came on the radio. We got talking about the 10 Marines killed by a bomb blast in Iraq a few weeks ago. The men were part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division of the California-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. To be more specific: Twentynine Palms base, where Corporal Padalino is stationed. He actually knew some of the men who died in the Amiriyat al Fallujah's Mill. - You are so lucky Harris! You're not in Iraq and if it wasn't good enough, your team is getting dismissed for Christmas leave next week. - said Cpl. Paladino with indignation on his voice. Christmas leave? It couldn't be. I haven't been home for Christmas in years. I wouldn't even know where to go. So the next morning before I could tell the other guys, Sgt. Palmer gave us the news - Boys, you are going home. We have a week to get this place straighten out. I'll be staying here with some new recruits, till you get back in January. Ben and Roy were jumping in the air. Dr. Johnson and the Professor just smiled at the scene, like they already knew about our short vacation. Unbelievable. As it turned out, new images shot by Argo 3 reveled the position of the missile. The bomb does not have its fissile core installed, which made Professor Evgeny a lot more comfortable about the radiation leak. The tritium bottle and the plutonium are still in place, but their retrieval can wait since the warhead seems to be intact. Since Roy and I were scheduled for pond patrolling that afternoon, our orders included recharging Argo 3's batteries and retrieving water and soil samples collected by the mini-sub. Unfortunately Argo 3 surfaced at the south corner of the pond, where the ice is pretty thick still. I had to use my ice-fall pick to break through the frozen pond. It took hours since Roy had to keep the guard. On our way back to Base Camp, Roy invited me for Christmas with his family. - It ain't gonna be much, Harris. With my mom in the hospital, my sister and I usually just sit around. Have you been to Philly? - asked Roy. I couldn't refuse his invite. Besides, I wasn't going back to Buffalo. As we walked up through the broken brushes where the mysterious creature disappeared a few weeks ago, I realized how much I became used to this place. Eating rations twice a day, washing clothes on cold water, my morning cigarette by the fire. My thoughts were interrupted by Ben yelling - Hurry up Harris, you got mail! Upon approach, I noticed a brown small package on Ben's hands. It was sent by Jillian Schneider. - You got a package from our pilot? Way to go there, Harris! - said Roy smacking the back of my head. I ignored the "camp idiots" and made my way to my tent. I carefully open the box, to find, for my surprise: socks! Mountaineering socks. Inside them there were a couple of chocolate bars. She could've sent me rocks and I would've been happy, I thought to myself. Folded inside the box there was a little note: "You are going to need these. What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of your socks? Merry Christmas, John".

by Corporal John Harris, December 15, 2005