by Rogue Writer
One persons search for the reasons behind a major decision in his life.
Duty is an icy shadow.
“Wait here, the base bus will be by in fifteen minutes!” With a swish of compressed air, the door closes and with the roar of the big diesel the Town bus lumbers away. The small shelter provides little protection from the bitter cold wind, whipping off the bay. It’s a drab and dreary day, overcast with fast moving heavy clouds. As I pull the collar of my pea coat about my neck, I can see the gray Navy base bus moving down the perimeter road on the other side of the runway.
‘What the hell am I doing here? I could’ve been at NAS Jacksonville.’ I watch that little blur of gray sputter along to the end of the runway. It’s about to start its turn in my direction when the traffic light turns red. I switched my gaze down wind and can see the landing lights of an approaching aircraft. There must be a lot of turbulence, as the pilot is working hard to keep it on the centerline. He’s banking and twisting violently like a kite in a stiff breeze. Where I stand, is only two hundred yards from the overrun apron and the big C-130 is lumbering in against an unreliable headwind. He touches down hard, I watch the spoilers extend and hear him reverse the prop-pitch almost immediately, a rough but safe landing.
The short gray bus finally arrives; I toss my duffle bag up next to the driver and follow it up the three steps, “Hi Boats, Admin Building please?”
The Administration Building is at the far end of the base in a cluster of four hangers. ‘This is to be my home for the next three years.’ I sit behind the driver; a third class Boatswains Mate.
“Where you from sailor?”
I answer, “Right here in Queens, about two hours by bus and subway. How bout you?”
“Newburg New York! Been on station a year and gonna transfer to fleet, can’t take this horse shit anymore.”
At the gate the guard walks around to the door and sticks his head in, looking at me, “ID card?”
I fumble for my wallet and produce a green military ID card. He takes it, glares at it and me, then hands it back and waves us on.
Sarcastically my driver exclaims, “It’s not like you’re not in uniform or anything!” As an afterthought he adds, “My names Dexter.” He reaches around and shakes my hand.
“Bob, Bob Bellenger.” I ask the same question of everyone in uniform that I meet. “What made you join?”
He shakes his head and chuckles. “Well… I don’t know. My great-granddad survived mustard gas in the first one, my granddad lost most of his hearing in the second, we lost two of my great-uncles in Korea, my dad flew door gunner in Nam and I felt it my responsibility to carry on the tradition, I guess.”
“That’s quite a tradition, you should be proud of your family. Married?
“Yep… Three girls, two, five and seven… Lillian is a teacher, they live with my mom up in Newburg.” We’re about half way to the hangar complex. “How about you, what’s your story airman?”
“Nine-Eleven, I had a lot of friends and relations that went down with the towers.”
I thought back, why did I join? We were just married at the time and couldn’t fathom an attack like that on US soil. My wife Susan was also angry but more saddened. When it happened the rage in me over-road my reason. Mom and Sue were against me joining, my dad remained quiet at first; then took me aside, reminding me of my family responsibilities and told me that it is my choice.
I’m not a flag-waving patriot, but there is a shadow of debt that comes with living in this land of our freedoms. We are all indebted to every person that laid their lives on the line to guarantee our rights. The blood of so many real patriots was spilled to ensure our freedoms. So I guess it’s that shadow of duty that made me volunteer.
“My granddad was in WWII also and my dad was Naval Air during Nam, I felt it my duty to carry on our family tradition.”
“You planning on going with fleet or gonna stay here?”
We pull up and stop in front of a two story stone building. “Don’t know yet, I’ll make my decisions as I go, I guess.” He stops me from picking up my bag.
“I’ll drop it at the Master-at-arms in the barracks, they’ll be assigning your billet.”
As I dismount the bus, I see the C-130 is parked in front of one of the hangars and it is being unloading. There is a line of hearses in front of the hangar and one at a time moves forward. An honor guard stands at attention as one draped casket after another is carried down the ramp and loaded into the waiting vehicles. As each casket passes a salute is rendered. The Yeoman in admin can wait, I advance to the rear of the aircraft, join in with a short line of base personal and add my sign of respect to these fallen hero’s.
As I stand there and slowly raise my hand in salute, I think about them and their families and their reasons for this sacrifice. What ever, it was the right thing to do.
I swore an oath to protect and defend this country just like these heroes’s did. It is an oath that commits me, if need be, to give my life in defense of this nation. It is the duty of every American to put their lives on the line to defend the right of free speech, religion that includes the right to demonstrate and protest.
I finally realize that I did the right thing, and whatever comes, wherever I am assigned; I know why I’m there and what I may have to do.