Episode 79 - Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to

I put my life on hold while serving in the Military. I hoped that when I finally ventured back to real life there would be tremendous seduction and incentive for me to stay there. Unfortunately, a sense of emptiness filled up my days after I left the Mulberry Ridge Area. I was granted 2 months of Military Leave in compensation for a job well done at the PondPatrol Mission. I had to disagree with my orders, though. Ivanov and his men were still at large and my dear friend Ben was still missing. The Mission was a complete failure. Many had died and the threat of radioactive contamination was still real. All things considered, one good thing had been accomplished: I had gathered enough photographic evidence to charge Ivanov and Major Munsch with manslaughter, plotting to attack an U.S. Army post and the unauthorized production and possession of radioactive material. The American Military had already charged Major Munsch with "aiding the enemy," a rare and serious accusation that carries a maximum sentence of death. He was being held at Fort Lewis Detention Center. Roy was only charged with a minor disciplinary infraction, thanks to Sgt. Palmer’s help and he was probably going to be dishonorably discharged from duty. Ivanov and Dr. Johnson were the only two left. Afraid that the evidence would end up in the wrong hands, I contacted Buffalo FBI agent Richard Fleisher earlier this week. We spoke on the phone about the new possible charges against Ivanov and the Major and scheduled a meeting where I would present my camera and the undeveloped rolls of film. Mr. Fleisher had attended Lafayette High with my late dad and has been an active member in the Erie County community for many years. I took the bus earlier in the morning and headed towards Niagara Square through South Elmwood Ave. A brisk north wind made the weather feel more like winter, instead of spring. I arrived at the FBI Plaza a little late. Mr. Fleisher was already waiting for me. After going through security, I finally made it to his office. We shook hands and went straight to business. He first took my deposition then he asked me about the camera. I explained that the film inside the camera was the most important one and it could’ve been damaged. That’s why I never attempted to get the film out of the camera; it should be treated with caution. He acknowledged my concerns and thanked me profusely for my courage and services to our Nation. - I did my part Mr. Fleisher, I sure hope you will do yours…- I told him while heading for the door. Leaving the camera with the FBI took a huge burden off of my shoulders. It sure was a relief. On my way out of the building, a TV crew was waiting for me. Someone must’ve tipped them off. - Mr. Harris!? Can we ask you a few questions? - said the short-haired female reporter. I never liked giving interviews and the fact that the crew belonged to Fox News didn’t make things better. To me, they always blurred the lines between objective reporting. Before I could even agree, the reporter asked me on camera whether I agreed with the outrageous (in her view) attempt of Congress and the President to seek the death penalty against Major Munsch. A bit surprised by the question and the new developments of the story, I replied: - I believe that not only the Congress and the President, but also every level of our government should be involved to make sure the Major gets the proper punishment for the crimes he has committed - It was a safe and easy answer, and I left it at that. I crossed the street and headed back to Niagara Square, where I intended to catch the bus back to my hotel. While standing at the corner of Perkins Drive I ended up grabbing a newspaper. And to my surprise our story had made the headline. I got so caught up reading the article during my bus ride that I ended up on Bailey Avenue, blocks away from the house I grew up in. I walked around the neighborhood till I stumbled upon my family’s old house. After my father’s death, my mom sold our home to a friend who transformed it into an apartment building. A closer look around revealed a “FOR RENT” sign attached to the fence. Coincidence or fate, I decided to call the number written on the sign. That same evening I moved in… While soaking in the tub of my new apartment, I couldn’t help to feel blessed. I was a lucky man: I had survived the worst. I picked up the newspaper again and continued reading the article. The New York Times’ story read like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it was real; I was there. I tried to clear my mind and enjoy the moment. I was home after all; it was hard to believe… after all those years.

by Corporal John Harris, June 07, 2007