Episode 51 - The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision

The bleeding finally stopped. I’ve been sitting in this hole on the ground for hours now, kilometers away from Base Camp. I’m cold, hungry and extremely tired. My legs are numb, a feeling I haven’t experienced since “Basic Underwater Demolitions Course”. The night is quieter than usual. Even the wind must know that something is wrong. I can almost hear my thoughts repeating themselves through the forest. Honestly, it’s hard not to think right now. I can’t stop questioning myself over my actions in the past 8 hours. Today I made a choice that’s going to make my life very difficult. Perhaps it was meant to be. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself. It all started this afternoon. Our task for the day was to set up a refueling station north of the logging road. I was eager to see Baxter, our driver. Things weren’t quite right at Base Camp in the last couple of days and I had a feeling Baxter had something to do with it. My letter to Aunt Ann could’ve gotten into the wrong hands. After we cleared up the site, Redman and Roy took care of the cargo. Baxter and the sarge kept talking about the new football season, while I made sure the area was secured. A light breeze blew from the west, making me wonder if the forecast for snow on Friday was true. Baxter kept avoiding eye contact with me. Not a good sign. The task was completed really fast. - All done here Sir! - yelled Roy, slamming the Humvee’s back gate shut. I wanted to light a cigarette, but with so many gas cans lying around it was definitely not wise. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the roar from a motor engine called our attention. Driving fast, another Willys MB Jeep was heading our way. - Who the hell are they Harris? - the sarge asked me nervously. I looked closely as the Jeep approached. My stomach turned into knots. Driving the vehicle was Steiger, the Military Police Sergeant who’d tried to arrest Ben in the past. Worse, Major Munsch was by his side along with Dr. Johnson in the back. - This is the end of the line Johnny… - I thought to myself. - What is this about, Major - the sarge asked immediately after the Jeep stopped in front of us. But before the Major could say anything, he was interrupted: - Corporal John Ulysses Harris, you are under arrest for the possession of military property, conspiracy and tempering with defense courier mail. You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but anything you say or do may be used as evidence against you. Now drop your weapon, soldier - yelled Sgt. Steiger, pointing his pistol at me. I looked at the sarge. He nodded. I then raised my gun up in the air, not sure what to do. Dr. Johnson kept pointing his finger at me. The bastard had me where he wanted: at gun point. Sergeant Palmer was confused. He tried to reason with the Major. - Can someone explain exactly what’s going on? No one is taking my best man away without an explanation! - said the sarge infuriated while grabbing his pistol. Dr. Johnson tried to speak, but the Major cut him off. - Alan, we have evidence that Corporal Harris is guilty of those charges. I’ll explain it later. Now please step aside before I have to arrest you too - said the Major, sort of irritated. I looked at Baxter and he finally looked back at me. He had “blame” written all over his face. Roy looked surprised and so did Redman, who was still standing behind the truck. Things got quiet for a moment. Sgt. Steiger came closely in order to retrieve my gun. Right then I realized what was really happening. I was going to be locked up for months and then, probably discharged from the Marines after some stupid trial. I just couldn’t let it happen. Ben needed me. I need to know the truth about this operation. I looked at Baxter and winked at him. - I’ll catch you later Greg - I told him. He looked at me puzzled. Sgt. Steiger reached for my Thompson and without hesitating I hit his face with the stock of my machine gun. The blonde MP opened fire but I managed to jump over the Jeep’s hood just in time to avoid being shot. I ran as fast as I could, leaving everyone in shock. Bullets flew all over the place. I just didn’t care. I heard the German Shepard barking not far behind me. I managed to run even faster. I had to make back to Base Camp and retrieve my backpack from under the mulberry tree. I was breathing heavily, regretting every cigarette I‘ve smoked in my life. It was just after I crossed the creek by Camp 1, that I felt a sting in my left arm. Upon close inspection, what I thought to be a scratch from a tree branch, turned out to be a bullet wound. It’s funny what adrenaline will do to you: I never felt the shot. I was loosing blood fast. I stood by a rock and ripped the left sleeve of my jacket. It didn’t look good. I had no nerve damage but the bullet took a big chunk of muscle away. Using the ripped sleeve and a strap from my leg-pack, I dressed the wound and took off again running, hoping that my stashed first aid kit would be still in my backpack. Going back to Base Camp wasn’t really the best idea, but I was betting that the MPs would think the same way. My arm was now hurting pretty bad, taking my mind away from the shortness of breath. I reached the mulberry tree easily. I could hear some commotion by the tents, while I retrieved my gear from a pile of dead leaves. I had to get going. Soon, it was going to be dark. I stood up and took a last look at my tent. I had walked over 6 kilometers east until I found this man sized crack in the ground. I decided to rest for the night well hidden in the hole. The MPs had ended helicopter flybys a few hours ago and I could no longer hear the search dog barking. Earlier tonight, when I opened my backpack looking for a fresh piece of gaze, I found 3 new magazines for my machine gun and a note from Malloy. It said:

They are coming for you. Run John. Run!

by Corporal John Harris, September 21, 2006