Episode 16 - Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get

It's been a hectic week for our Recon Team. In addition to installing underwater cameras by the old waterfall, we re-surveyed the pond area, packed unused gear and stocked Base Camp with enough fire wood till our return in January. We also built a small shed to store the extra fuel for our new generator. Sgt. Palmer wants Base Camp illuminated during the night, to avoid undesirable visits by the unknown creature. I heard the men replacing us for the holidays are coming from Camp Lejeune. Some got back from their first tour of duty in Afghanistan a few months ago. I felt blessed to be on leave, particularly because I'm not even in Iraq. And so were Roy and Ben, that's all they talked about during this last week. I was also excited about seeing Jill before I went to Philly with Roy. My early Christmas present sure was a nice surprise. So with our week filled with plenty of tasks, the departure day came fast. Sooner than expected, we heard our helicopter approaching around 1300 hours this afternoon. Then, a familiar candid voice came on the radio. It was Jill: - Hotel Pond Patrol, this is Little Bird 1, do you copy? - It was time. The first group to leave included me, Roy and the Professor. I looked over to Sgt. Palmer, he nodded and then said - You did good soldier. I'll see you in a couple of weeks. We grabbed our gear and started to make our way to the valley where a landing site was designated. Ben and Dr. Johnson waved goodbye from the distance, they would stay with the sarge, till the new recruits were brought in later this evening. Just for safety. We walked a few yards passed the first watchtower and the blue fuselage of Little Bird 1 appeared behind Wolf Rock. Within minutes the helicopter was hovering in front of us, ready to land. I could see Jill smiling through the cockpit windows, unfortunately the wind gust caused by the chopper's blades blinded me almost immediately. After the skids touched the ground I led the Professor to the cockpit passenger door and helped Roy load the rest of our gear. I got in the back and yelled: -All aboard! It's good to see you Captain! - Roy smacked me in the back of the head while chuckling. It was obvious, I had the hots for our pilot. It wasn't long till we arrived at our Command Base. We landed smoothly by the hangars. I said goodbye to Professor Evgeny who was spending the Holidays with his wife Antonina in Washington. He's such a dedicated man on his old age, it amazes me. While Roy was unloading the helicopter's cargo to a jeep, I gained confidence to talk to Jill. At first it was awkward. I wasn't sure what to say. But the conversation picked up and I found myself feeling like a kid again, palpitating with excitement. I thanked her for my new socks. She told me she didn't get dismissed from the Pond Patrol assignment for Christmas. I felt bad. I told her I would find something pretty in Pennsylvania to make up for her lost "vacation" . She put her right hand on my shoulder and suddenly, Roy had the jeep's horn blaring. - C'mon Harris we're gonna miss our flight, man! - said Roy impatiently. She kissed me in the cheeks and said - Have fun, John. I'll see you soon. - I probably blushed. I know I did. And that was it. We reported to Major Munsch not long after, took a much needed shower and headed to the airport. - And soon we were flying. - The oil refineries never looked this good down there - said Roy pointing down to West Philadelphia's housing projects and industrial plants. Roy was going home, he was happy and so was I.


by Corporal John Harris, December 22, 2005