Always Rememberand Always Believe
The weather was chilly, and I zipped up my jacket up to my neck, but I scratched at the wool scarf my mother insisted i wear to keep my warm, it itched like you wouldn’t believe. In fact my mother was quite a stickler about just anything. Coats, mitten, scarfs, and then eating habits, schooling and homework, friends, driving, everything. She always found a way into every aspect of my life. I didn’t dislike my mother by any degree, but sometimes I wished she would just lighten up, you know? I guess I should introduce myself, the names Stan. Stan lad..
I was taking a stroll in the park, in a section I had never really paid any attention too. I wasn’t focused on the walk though, all I could think about was how I must’ve had the most protective mother in the world. Why did she worry about me so damn much? I was plenty old to take care of myself, a full 17 years old. I knew what I needed to, and with that in mind I continued to think of how overbearing she had was, even just today. She had always been like that, but i never saw or thought of my friends mothers as so protective or watchful. I was told it was because my father wasn’t around, which I guess made sense. I had never even met him, he had left before I was born. My mother didn’t like to talk about it, so I never pressed her, but I was always resentful of him for not being around. Maybe if he’d been here for my birthdays, graduations, other stuff my mother would be more light hearted and not so fricken protective. I kicked a rock across the ground and balled my hands. I just wanted to have freedom to live my life without always being second guessed. But that wasn’t ever gonna happen I knew. I relaxed my hands and kept walking.
She had insisted I wear mittens even though it was 30 degrees out, along with the scarf, and she warned me as always not to be a stranger while I was out along with the gazillion other rules she always laid on my conscious before I left to go anywhere. She always looked at me before I left with glassy eyes, like I wouldn’t come back. I just wanted some space, it wasn’t like I had any intentions of not coming back, maybe just not on time ya know?
Among other things she was always on my case about praying too. Like, I believe there’s something above, but I’m not so sure I believe in one all mighty God. It just seems a little too convenient if you ask me. Regardless she made me pray with her at every meal, and then before bed with her too. I didn’t much care for it, but I did it just to get it done so I could move on with my life. I just wished- I looked up at my surroundings, and realised I had strolled farther into the park then I usually do.
I realised I’d probably be late getting back and I reached into my pocket for my phone, yet another thing my mother picked me about all the time, to give her a call to let her know where I was. However there was no answer on the home phone, and i replaced my phone in my pocket and I turned on my heels and started back. I hadn’t walked five feet when a figure on a bench caught my attention. He was about thirty feet away, dressed in long draping clothes and he was staring at me. I had never seen him before and I was a little nervous. I took my phone out and pretended to be occupied with it, and I slowly started to backup and retrace my steps. The unfamiliar area of the park seemed safer than going back, seeing as the figure was still staring directly at me.
I turned and made my way further into the park, all the while glancing over my shoulder at the figure who had, moved up a bench now, even closer. By now I was more than frightened, and moving at a swift pace. The unfamiliar surroundings, the man behind me and the coming of night was getting to me. I turned around and scanned the area, as the figure was nowhere to be seen now. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. But refusing to go back, I continued forward. I was really starting to get lost, and getting ready to panic. I looked back and forth trying to pick out something I could find I’d recognize, but there was nothing but trees, shrubs and monuments I had no business knowing who they were. The spotlights in the park were starting to come on and every tree trunk looked like the figure I’d seen earlier, and in my mindset I walked even faster. In my intense haste and looking everywhere but where I was going I ran right into a massive statue blocking my path.
Almost like fate, the spotlight overhead came on as I stumbled back and regained my balance. I couldn’t breath as all the air seeped out my gasping mouth. I blinked my eyes twice but the letters on the plaque refused to change… In bold bronze letters, “John Lad, husband to Maria Lad, father to Stan Lad, dedicated father, fairest husband, and honorable, noble…” The word just continued down the plaque, words I couldn’t conceive described my father. I fell to my knees and draped my hand across the words.
My father hadn’t just up and left us like I had believed. He had been a Corporal in the United States Army. His squad had been pinned down in Afghanistan by snipers, and without anyway to contact inland troops, he had volunteered to go back, by himself to get help, leaving the safety of the dune, going out at night for the best chance of survival, to save his fellow brothers. He had been one hell of a sniper, and had found several spots and picked off snipers along the rugged path all night long, while evading patrols and sniper fire himself. And it was his bravery, his courageous act that enabled the safety of the squad. Getting back to HQ, my father had gotten word to the airstrip to send off reinforcements to his fellow soldiers. Harriers bombed the sniper's nest just before dawn, and the soldiers had been saved from certain death. All because of my father. And here I thought he had been living off somewhere lavish, having abandoned us all those years ago. I felt a tear slip from my eye as I read more... My father hadn’t even made it out of Afghanistan... during an invasion of American forces into a terrorist operations depot, my father had been stationed as a sniper to provide the ground troops with covering fire, only it had been one of the spots he’d used in his get away from the night of the sneak away, and the Arabs had readily marked the spot for future patrols to find. A rival sniper caught my father’s arm, and rather than be dragged off to an internment camp by an oncoming patrol, a live grenade found in his hand killed the patrol and destroyed the sniping perch, so no more soldiers would make the same mistake he had.
I sat still for a moment, forgetting everything, and took a deep breath and removed my hand from the plaque. I felt another tear slid out of my eye and I heard it hit the concrete on which I knelt. I noticed another smaller plaque above the main one, it read only a few words. “ Ghillie Raider, the scourge of Stan” This plaque stated my father had never gone into a single battle or engagement without the ghillie cloak that my mother had made for him. . And with the last of the words rolling of my tongue, a light flapping noise caught my attention. On the tip of the rifle on the statue of my father, waved an article of clothing. I reached up and it was a cloak. It was the cloak the figure in the park had been wearing. It wasn’t a cloak at all, it was a ghillie suit. I immediately recognized the material, as it was the same material around my neck in the form of my scarf, not wool at all… more tears fell from my eyes. I looked up at the bronze statue of my father and within the sockets of metal, i felt a spark of life, and at that moment I awoke from a trance. I was sitting in front of the memorial of my father, the suit wrapped around me. I stood up and raised my hand to my forehead. I stood at attention and then relaxed slightly. As I stared up at the statue, I felt a rush in my veins. I was in the ghillie suit, a rifle in my hands, and the enemy in my sights. I lowered my hand and put on the suit.
I left the park that day no longer a boy, but a man. I left that park no longer a skeptic, but a believer. And I left that park no longer in question, but with a purpose. The answers were clear, and nothing was going to stop me. I, Stan Lad, was the son of John Lad, proud father, devoted husband and dedicated and decorated soldier. And I vowed… to make him proud.