During the last war I was drafted. But I was lucky and got a desk job at Fort Freedom. I was away from all the fighting, nice and cozy with army desk-jockeys. Except they were professional soldiers, so they had rifle ammo stashed in their desk drawers, right next to the staplers. And my commanding officer, do you know what he had in his closet? Two rifles and a case of ammo. He had a gun rack with rifles in full view, but I guess he wanted to keep a couple of rifles out of sight? Or maybe they were his backup rifles, I don’t know.
Anyway, the reason I know this is because he would sometimes invite me back to his quarters. He had a little house within the perimeter, used to be a local’s house, but then they turned the village into Fort Freedom. I guess I should say “we turned it into Fort Freedom,” but I digress.
Evenings at the CO’s house. We played chess and talked. He would always tell me war stories from other wars, I think three other ones, before he got promoted to the sidelines. In those stories, somebody else was always the hero, and my CO was just there to watch, and live to tell the tale. I guess this is what makes a good leader? A good leader lets others grow, props them up to achieve glory. Props them up to die for freedom. I guess.
He told me one story about a kid who risked his life for a box of fuses, so they could fix up a helicopter, so they could lift the wounded out of a battle zone. That sounds noble enough, right? Some kids who got in trouble, needed to get out of the frying pan, needed to get to a hospital, and their friend risked his life to help them. Everything about this story just says “what a good kid. What a fine, upstanding citizen.” So I ask my CO:
“What’s going on with him now? Do you know?”
“He was wounded in the battle of Dead Man’s Peak. He’s back home now, out of service for good. Making a living in his home town again. Got two kids.”
“Just like that?” I ask. “A hero just gets back to making a living, huh?”
“He was just doing his duty, son. We all are.”
“I guess we are,” I say. And we keep on playing chess and talking. One of many nights before it’s all over.