Episode 61 - No man can worship God or visit his neighbor on an empty stomach

In the past few months I lost as much as ten or fifteen pounds. Living out here in the boonies, always makes me hungry. Sometimes at the end of a particular day, I often resort to live on water and on a few cigarettes. I was starting to realize that in order to prove my innocence and rescue Ben out of this terrible place, I had to stop thinking about food. It was too distracting. Just like any other day, I woke up hungry this morning. I turned my radio on and scanned the air waves for patrol activities in my area. Before I go out hunting it is always wise to make sure no Marines are around. I sat by the fire pit, staring at the almost extinguished fire from the night before and listened to the radio crackling. A few minutes later, a faint but audible voice brought the radio alive: - Blue 4 Romeo; this is Pond Patrol Hotel, what’s your 20? - said a metallic voice through the speaker. The radio went silent for a few seconds, and then another voice replied: - This is Blue 4 Romeo; I’m 40 clicks away from the main gate, over. - Again, a silent pause, then a reply: - Roger that, we’ll meet you at the rendezvous point at 1200 hours. Pond Patrol Hotel out. - With the snow all but gone, supply routes through the old logging road were re-established once again. “Blue 4 Romeo” was on its way to Base Camp carrying lots of goods to the Marines stationed at the Mulberry Ridge. I didn’t really have a plan, but I decided to head over to the logging road and take a look. I grabbed my gear and took off running, mirroring the logging road up north, while hiding in the woods. Supply trucks usually drove slowly, since the driver could be carrying ammunitions or explosives. I figured it wouldn’t be hard to ambush a loaded truck since they usually drove with no protection. Concealed behind a dead tree trunk, I glanced up and down the dirt road. It was now 1115 hours and Blue 4 Romeo had to be getting closer. I eased a crystallized piece of Silver Maple sap out of my pocket and took small bites, ignoring the bugs. I was just finishing it off when a M998 cargo Humvee made itself visible up north. It was riding down the dirt road so slowly that I thought the truck would never make it passed my hiding spot. As the Humvee got closer I noticed Baxter on the driver seat and another soldier making him company. It was going to be tough. Now that I think of it, I should’ve shot its tires, but I took a much different approach. Patiently, I waited till the Humvee passed by my position; quietly, I snuck behind its path avoiding the Humvee’s single rear-view mirror. I had to take down Baxter’s friend first. I picked up the pace and started to follow the truck side by side, till I finally made it close to the truck’s cabin. - All or nothing! - I thought to myself. I quickly opened the passenger side door and shoved my machine gun inside the open window. - G’Morning, how about some breakfast gentlemen? - I said sarcastically. The two men immediately went for their guns. I grabbed the passenger soldier by his head stopping him from reaching his rifle. I was still pointing my gun at Baxter who now, stomped hard on the gas pedal, almost throwing me out the door. While I struggled with the other soldier, Baxter managed to grab his pistol. Things were heading for the worse when one of my legs dropped out of the truck, dragging dirt and dead leaves along its path. I dropped my gun inside the truck’s cabin and held tightly to Baxter hand to avoid being shot. Using Baxter’s arm for leverage I pulled myself inside, almost dropping the other soldier from the truck who now screamed scared while his back dragged on the dirt road. The only thing stopping the soldier from falling off the truck was me. My fight with Baxter was pretty even: He had one hand on the stirring wheel and I was using one of mine to hold the young soldier. It was almost like Baxter and I were arm wrestling. I had to let the young kid go. Using all my strength I pull the kid away from the truck’s wheels and let him go. He tumbled a few times on the road. I had no time to waste. I grabbed Baxter’s hand hard and twisted. He uttered a thin shrill and dropped the pistol on the floor. Realizing that he needed another hand to fight, Baxter slowed down the truck. But before he could let go of the stirring wheel, I knocked him unconscious with a left hook. Quickly, I moved his feet out of the way and climbed over the gears to stop the Humvee. The morning temperature wasn’t all that warm, but my body was pouring down sweat. With the truck stopped, I opened the driver’s door and dragged Baxter out of the truck. Using some of the truck’s bungee cords, I tied him up to the back wheel. I had to check on the young soldier. He had taken a big fall. I ran back a few meters and found him still moaning in the middle of the road. I grabbed his pistol from his holster before checking for any bleeding or concussions. I helped him up. The young soldier had giving up fighting. - Are you ok, kid? - I asked him. He nodded, still discombobulated from the fall. We walked up to a tree and I told him: - Listen, kid. It’s nothing personal but I’m gonna tie you up to this tree, alright? Someone will be here shortly to get you out of this place. He moaned something inaudible and nodded again.
I felt really bad. Before I left I cleaned up one of his cuts on his forehead. When I got back to the truck Baxter was already awake. He didn’t say anything at first. He just looked out into the woods. I opened the truck’s back gate and pulled the camouflaged tarp away. Lots of goodies! I went through a few crates and cases looking for supplies. - Bingo! - I said it out loud when I found a box full of MREs. - You are a crazy foolish man, Johnny! - said Baxter suddenly. - You will never get away with this stunt. When the others realize I’m late they will head this way. What are you gonna do? Shoot me like you shot Corporal Gilman? - Baxter continued. Shocked, I didn’t reply. Last week Dr. Johnson had shot Gilman and now he was framing me for it. What a scoundrel! Ignoring Baxter, I kept going through the supplies. - Nice! A box of full of smoke and gas grenades... - I thought to myself. I was ready to go. Besides I couldn’t carry much more. Baxter was smiling. - Johnny, I just want to let you know: your days are over… They are here to stay… - said Baxter looking away from me. What is he talking about? I thought. - They who? - I asked him. Baxter, realizing he had said too much wiped the smile off his face. He knew something. I grabbed him by the neck, and told him calmly: - You know Greg, I was going to shoot you like I did it to Gilman, but I just had a better idea. - I reached inside my vest and grabbed a fragmentation grenade. Baxter’s face changed again. I place the grenade inside his camo shirt and set my finger around the safety pin. - I’m going to ask this once: Who’s here to stay Baxter? - I asked him looking straight in his eyes. He looked away, not saying anything. Baxter didn’t know, but the grenade I had, contained an extra safety pin: a jungle clip. Experience in Vietnam showed that jungle growth had an unfortunate tendency to snag hand grenade safety pins. The jungle clip was created as a secondary back-up safety device, used to clamp the lever to the grenade in the event that the pin was accidentally pulled. - Well, that’s too bad then…- I said, pulling the safety pin off the grenade for Baxter’s horror. - Do…doc…Doctor Ivanov!!! Ivanov and the others!!! They… they’ve been using the old Mulberry Ridge Lab!!!! Oh, God! I don’t wanna die!!! - Baxter cried out all I needed to know. I grabbed the grenade out of his pocket and put it back in my vest. Baxter looked puzzled. I went inside the truck and grabbed my gun back. It was time to bail. I had just found out that I had new neighbors: I had to carefully plan a welcoming visit.

by Corporal John Harris, December 14, 2006