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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2147232
by Andie
Rated: E · Short Story · Military · #2147232
A radio transmission is dropped and a soldier's duty is tested.

Radio Silence and a Soldier's Duty



Sargent Gabe Horton was a soldier. He followed orders. Regardless of physical pain, mental anguish, he marched his men over every patch of grass that came between the soldiers and their orders. Each blade of grass, covered with blood; each tree riddled with bullets was a reminder that brothers died side by side. The marching soldiers of Horton's company moved on with their haggard faces, pain filled eyes wondering when the end would come for the war and their souls.

Broad shoulders with a rolling walk that ate up the miles during a pushed march, Sarge wasn't afraid to push his men to the point of thirst and hunger if he achieved his superior's whims. The men in his patrol did not see him as cruel and uncaring. Gabe pushed himself as hard as he pushed his men. He drank the same water and ate the same food. As a result, Gabe Horton carried the same lice and dysentery as his men. His mustached face, bright red and hardened by the sun, dirt, and gunpowder, rarely smiled. The death and tragedy of this war did not escape him. The weight of every man lost in his patrol caused his broad shoulders to stoop as on an older man. At the age of 23, Gabriel Horton, seasoned and tenacious soldier, felt mentally and physically aged beyond years.

The man known as Gabriel Horton rearranged his cap, which barely harnessed the curls and frizzes of his knotted red hair. Rarely cutting his hair as in the tradition of his warlike Irish ancestors, Gabriel appeared as a combatant from the fields of Erin. His battle cries, heard above the fighting, rallied his men. Many close to him said that if Gabriel's war cries did not scare the enemy, his fiery bush of hair did.

One thing, however, always brought the Sarge to his knees and that was the sight of a young soldier lying dead on the battlefield.

Sarge questioned himself daily, "How many of these children must he kill before the armies Sarge carried the souls of every man in his patrol as he carried the souls of his family. The family he held close to his heart survived without him for the last four years. The New York homestead in Platteville is his reality; his legacy is his land, not this God-forsaken war. The small farmhouse, hay barn, hay fields and orchards will outlive the remains of this war's folly.

His wife, blonde and endowed, relieved his mind from the war when he allowed himself a few moments. The children she raised on her own, for now, were his pride and joy. He waited impatiently for the time he would walk through the front door of his home and breathe.

Three red-headed boys blessed with the hair of Gabriel's ancestors worked beside their mother until the day of his return. Until their father's return, the boys practiced many of the old Irish sports, jousting, and swordplay, with weapons forged by their father's hands before his leave. Reading filled the quiet moments for the sons of a schoolteacher. Even as a farmer and homesteader, Gabriel allotted abundant space for the book collection that traveled miles on ships, wagons, and horses. In their father's home, the boys were expected to understand the rudiments of arithmetic, English grammar, German and Latin. They practiced also the art of handwriting. Sergeant Horton believed that a farmer had no need of ignorance.

Learning the basics of civilized education always guaranteed against money shortages and crop failures. Gabriel believed that a book relieved the darkest solitude and loneliness.

Static laden radio in his right hand; bugout bag in his left, Horton moved his company north following the sounds of humanity in pain. Soldiers shooting their weapons, bombs exploding, wounded crying echoed in the man's psyche.

The orders were to march North and to contact the commanders in this explosive region of battle. Communication among units was unpredictable and often blind. Two-way radios were useless, messengers were slow to report. Progress along the blood soaked, bomb riddled road is slow as Horton's company continued forward.

Horton carried his old transistor radio for it's simplicity and usefulness. As the company marched, Horton listened to the static. Then, the news erupted through the soundwaves, "This just in, breaking news from the corner of North and South street..." said the broadcaster, before the radio signal faded and then dropped entirely. You were on the corner of North and South Street.

Without the orders, Sarge's soldiers came to a sudden halt. They stood on the edge. They stood on the edge of the corner on North and South Street. Each soldier asked, "What is the breaking news?"

The man known as Gabriel Horton rearranged his cap, which barely harnessed the curls and frizzes of his knotted red hair. Rarely cutting his hair as in the tradition of his warlike Irish ancestors, Gabriel appeared as a combatant from the fields of Erin. His battle cries, heard above the fighting, rallied his men. Many close to him said that if Gabriel's war cries did not scare the enemy, his fiery bush of hair did.

One thing, however, always brought the Sarge to his knees and that was the sight of a young soldier lying dead on the battlefield.

Sarge questioned himself daily, "How many of these children must he kill before the armies withdrew and counted the losses of such young minds?"

But the news coming from the radio signals stopped him. "What did the broadcaster's words portend?"

"Was the war over?" he wondered.

"Were the current orders rescinded?"

"Do I follow orders, and march my company forward past the North-South line?"

Following orders and moving his company past the North and South corner held ramifications, but following orders was his leadership trademark. His orders were clear, "to march North and to contact the commanders."

His walkie talkie was down. His hand-held transistor was down. How does a leader make a decision without up to date information?

How does a leader put his men in further danger?

The thoughts running through Sargent Horton's mind were conflicted; put his men in further danger and move forward, stand in place, or retreat to a known safe zone?

The radio transmission was cut off with the ambiguous notice that there was "breaking news." Newscasts were not part of a chain of command sequence which was Horton's normal avenue of information. Still, the walkie talkie was out of commission, and messengers were not getting through from the command center.

Sargent Horton battled his training and moved his troops forward. He found that the "breaking news" was an armistice. An end to the war on the men's souls; an end to bloodshed and violence; an end that leaves hope and a brighter future.










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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2147232