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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Tragedy · #1512793
Even soldiers have alternate lifestyles. Based on a true story.
A new beginning!

The young boy clinging to his distressed mother was safe. After three days lost in the wilderness, I had found him curled up beneath a rock ledge, hungry, half-frozen, scared but alive. The Cochise County Sheriff, a close friend of mine, did not have the manpower to cover such a vast expanse of territory and asked if I could help in the search. After receiving tacit approval from my Brigade Commander, I brought my entire Company of 212 soldiers to his rescue. Within hours we found the youngster.

I politely stood as Sheriff Whitehorse brought the young mother over to where I was resting with my First Sergeant. "Ms. Dalton wants to thank you," the Native American Sheriff said. "That goes double for me also.”

She was a pretty little thing with a pixie nose, bright blue eyes, and a charming smile and I didn’t miss the fact that the Sheriff had called her Ms. and not Mrs. "Sheriff Whitehorse told me that without your help they may never have found my son," she stated, her eyes red and swollen from anguished tears, her voice cracking from the incessant strain of the past few days.

"Pleased to have been of help," I replied, glancing over towards my men sitting idly on a patch of nearby rocks. "They’re good men," I continued. "I had many of them with me in Iraq and the majority of our missions were helping local civilians. They’re more than happy to have been able to help."

"From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Colonel, or whatever rank you are," she gasped, seemingly out of breath after her lengthy ordeal.

"Captain, Captain Stuart Fitzgerald, but a simple Stuart will do," I answered.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say and for an awkward few moments I simply watched her watching me until she finally turned and headed in the direction of an old model SUV. Another attractive young woman, possibly her sister, met her at the open door of the SUV.

Several months later, after having received alert orders to go back to Iraq for a second tour, I was having lunch in a restaurant highly recommended by my friend Sheriff Whitehorse. I was waiting patiently for my sandwich when someone tapped me on the back. Turning quickly I was rewarded by the pretty smiling face of the young mother.

"Ms. Dalton," I blurted, "nice to see you again."

"Just Andrea." she smiled. "The meal is on me."

I started to protest until I recognized the look on her face, that look that says refusal is not an option. I also noticed that she had on an apron with the restaurant’s logo embossed on it. "How’s your son doing?" I asked.

"Thanks to you he’s doing well. He remembers his adventure, as he calls it, but most of all he remembers the brave soldier man who picked him up and carried him to me. I also gotta say that so long as you come in here don’t expect to pay for anything."

For the next several weeks I did return to that restaurant, over and over again, leaving an outlandish tip in repose. The young woman fascinated me. Something about her carriage, her demeanor, her very essence made me want to know her better. I was not in love with her, at least not in a physical sense, but I think I was in love with her spirituality. She was a vibrant outgoing sort of person, full of laughter, sparkling with humor, gaiety and simply a joy to be around.

Unfortunately my own emotional state was far below what it normally was. I was under extreme duress. Not because I was due to return to Iraq within a few weeks, but because my beliefs were now being challenged and I did not know how I would cope with the inevitable.

"With a face like that you would scare the bogy man," Andrea remarked, sitting down in a chair next to me. "What’s with the sad ‘tears-in-your-beer’ bit? It’s not like you at all, Stuart?"

I could tell from her voice and her body language that her feelings were genuine, that she really did care for me and that my depressed mood truly upset her.
Of the many things my father taught me; to be faithful to my beliefs, to be bold and decisive in my actions, and to always help those who cannot help themselves, are among the most cherished.

Those are among the many reasons I chose the military as my profession. I learned through him that patriotism and serving ones country was a wonderful and rewarding calling.

After making my choice I also learned that being a leader was not that difficult so long as you applied the principals taught by the Academy. Chief among those principals was decisiveness, audacity, determination, loyalty, and above all else honor.

After the Academy, the third part of his teaching exposed itself. There is no greater place than in a war zone to learn to help those who cannot help themselves. My entire tour of duty was devoted more to this effort than that of opposing the enemy.

However, there is another part of my father’s teaching that I have not been able to fulfill, and that is being faithful to my beliefs.

That was now about to change ¬ dramatically!

"I need to talk with you, Andrea," I replied. "I need to tell you something but not here, not in front of a bunch of strange people."

When she looked at me her smile faded and a look of concentration wrinkled her forehead. Perhaps she thought I was going to pop the big question, the one most women wait for, hope for. Her look did not seem inviting.

"There’s something you need to know too, Stuart," she said, in a low whispering tone. "Before we go any further I need to tell you that I am not what you may think I am. That young woman who met me at the van the day you found Joey was not my sister; she’s my lover, my soul mate, my life companion."

I smiled back at her and replied, "Can I meet you at your place around six this evening? It means a lot to me… a whole lot."

I could tell she was struggling with her answer and I knew a large part of it was her concept of being with me; an Army Captain, a paratrooper, a trained killer, a character far removed from her tranquil and peaceful beliefs.

"Seven," she finally said. "Dee will be home then and I would like to have her around when we talk. If you don¹t mind?"

"Seven it is," I stated, already thinking of what I needed to tell her, what I desperately needed to tell someone.

She lived in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. It was not your usual rundown trashy type of trailer park but well-kept and moderately clean and you could tell the residents took reasonable pride in their surroundings.

Her young son Joey met me at the door. At first he did not recognize me without the uniform, but a bright smile finally lit his face and he yelled back into the trailer, "It’s my Army hero, Mom!" he screeched, practically jumping into my arms. Joey was not blond and petite like his mother. He was dark with Asiatic features and a little on the plump side for a boy his age.

Her companion Dee was the first to open the door. She looked at me with a welcoming frown that held as much welcome as it did malice. Her message was straight and simple, don’t screw around with my Andrea GI Joe and you can bet I’ll be watching you.

After a second cup of coffee and a hefty round of getting to know Dee better, I finally decided it was time to open myself to whatever reaction I may get. Joey was in his little corner of the trailer, ostensibly sound asleep.

"It is obvious that you and Dee are deeply in love," I started. "Anyone with half a brain and poor eyesight could see it. You seem like you were meant for each other and I envy the warmth and spiritual freedom I feel coming from you both."

I paused to get their initial reaction, which was happiness on the part of Andrea and guarded suspicion on the part of Dee.

"I’m in love too," I blurted out, a sense of weary agony in my voice. "He’s stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina."

I watched them for a moment until the word "He" soaked indelibly into their minds. Slowly, then amazingly their eyes lit up and both returned a vibrant and enthusiastic smile. Finally Andrea said, "You’re like us. You’re…"

"Different," I answered, seeing how she struggled with an appropriate word to use. The names many people used to describe us; gays, fags, lezzies, homos, queers ad nauseam, were not terms of endearment we preferred to use or hear.

"But you’re a military man, an officer and a gentleman," Dee broke in. "They don’t allow our way of life in the military… do they?"

"It’s called, Don’t ask, Don’t Tell," I replied. "Unfortunately, should the truth be recognized, we would be ostracized, ejected and shunned. Everything we have worked for, all we have accomplished would be wiped clean, forgotten. Even the Medal of Honor and Purple Hearts I wear would mean nothing to them. The fact that my military record is among the highest in honors and deeds and I am at the top of the list for promotion to major would mean nothing. My career would end at the very moment the truth was known."

"How could that be fair?" Andrea asked. "What¹s the difference between your love, our love, and the love a man and woman has? True love lies in the heart and the mind, in the soul and in the everlasting spirit."

"Someday we will have equality under the law as we have in the eyes of God," I replied. "But, until that someday arrives, we must lead a shadowy existence, dwell in the realm of deceit and suffer the pangs of intolerance and ignorance."

"But your sympathy and understanding is not the reason I am here," I stated, passing a large envelope across the table to them. "In this envelope I have my Last Will and Testament, my bank account numbers, all my personal papers. Should something happen to me in Iraq I want you to mail it to my soul mate at Fort Bragg? His name and address is included. You must understand that there is no one, not even family that I can trust with this. His career and mine are both at risk."

"But you’ve been to Iraq Stuart, you’ve seen the worst. You’ll make it back safely," Andrea said, holding tightly onto my hand.

"Things are different now," I stated, tears starting to form in my eyes. "My little secret is out and in the hands of the enemy."

"I know they don’t like our alternate lifestyle," Dee spoke up. "But the Muslims won’t go after you just because of it."

"The enemies I was referring too are not the Muslims," I replied. "These are far more deadly enemies. These enemies wear American uniforms and have eagles on their collars or stripes on their sleeves."

I explained to them in detail that the Battalion Sergeant Major had somehow discovered my well-concealed lifestyle. He had evidently passed it on to the Brigade Commander and everyone now knew that the incomparable hero, Captain Fitzgerald, was a hated queer. Not fit to live among them! No longer accepted in this close knit band of brothers.

"They’re not all like that," I said. "In fact, the vast majority are tolerant, understanding, even sympathetic to alternate lifestyle living. But there are enough of the Neanderthal types left who will not embrace change."

I then told them that I had received threats, the kind of threat you could do nothing about. Threats like friendly fire, a lone grenade in my tent at night, a shot in the back during the height of combat and others.

I left their home that evening with a sense of relief, a feeling that I was not totally alone in the world. I felt like somehow I had lifted a burden off my shoulders and I had made a decision. I would come clean, as the saying goes, and tell the Army about my choice in life. I would live up to my beliefs as my father had taught me to do. But, I would wait until I returned from Iraq. There were far too many young soldiers in my company who had never seen battle and they would need a combat veteran to help them to survive, to bring them home to their loved ones.

My future suddenly looked bright! I would no longer cloak myself in fear and shame, for there was no shame in me!

Eight months later a military vehicle pulled up in front of Andrea’s trailer. It was Saturday so both she and Dee were home and little Joey was playing soldier in the hot sand in front of the walkway.

A Major got out of the vehicle and approached the trailer. "Are you Mrs. Dalton?" The Major asked, a somber look on his face.

"Ms. Dalton," Andrea suspiciously replied, "and this is my friend Dee."

"I have a package for you from Captain Stuart Fitzgerald," the man stated. "I mean I have a package for you left by Captain Fitzgerald. He was killed in action several weeks ago while leading his company in a ground assault against a strong enemy fortification."

Andrea did not invite the Major into the trailer but tore the package open allowing the envelope to fall to the sandy ground. Inside was my letter.

"Dear Andrea." I wrote in the letter.
"Dear Andrea, Dee and Joey I should say. I am well but still fear that the inevitable will happen. I know that you both do not believe in violence and that my military way of life is difficult for you to grasp or accept. I can only say that there is beauty in serving one’s country and helping others in need, a beauty that most civilians cannot understand."

"I learned from a friend - forgive me for snooping - that Joey is your adopted son as I suspected, and that he possesses a wonderful ability to learn. As a Medal of Honor recipient, I can select one youngster who qualifies for an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point. There is no time limit to this benefit."

"In a letter to the Commandant and to the Department of Defense I selected your son Joey to fill this billet. He does not have to accept the billet, but I must remind you that it is a free Ivy League education and once he has served his time he can get out of the military and pursue a rewarding civilian career."

"I have nothing else to offer other than my thanks and love for each of you. I wanted to wait until I returned home to tell this to you, but as I said, I still fear the worst may happen."
"My love to you. Stuart."

Andrea looked at the Major with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her throat was so choked up she could barely ask the question.


"I wasn¹t there," the Major replied. "It is my understanding that the Captain was pulling a wounded soldier to safety when he was hit. He was a hero many times over."

“Thank you sir," Andrea replied, looking at Joey who was smiling broadly at the decorated officer. She could see a gleam in his young eyes and a proud lift to his little chin. She suddenly knew that this was a life-altering experience, that there was love in hidden places and unknown hope in others. She suddenly knew that those she had looked upon as destroyer’s often hid gentleness and that the real enemy came from within.

"Joey will go to West Point," Andrea said to herself. "He will become a protector and a gentleman. This I swear to God. And maybe, just maybe, some day he will help defeat the ignorance that still shrouds out society. Someday…there will be a new beginning!"

As the officer left for his waiting vehicle, he turned as if he had forgotten something then said; His last words were, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do! I guess he was talking about the terrorists."

"Not the terrorists,” Andrea bitterly muttered to herself.” Not the terrorists!"

Word count: 2,785
I would have preferred to write this in the third person, however, contest rules noted it had to be in the first person narrative.

(Author’s note: Although I do not live an alternate lifestyle, I have had soldiers serving under me who did. In my personal (but often neglected) opinion they were some of the best I ever served with: brave, efficient, dedicated, honorable and true Americans.)

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