Solemn Vow: Chapter 10
The debriefing had been extensive. The brass were all over it. Digging deeper than any debrief I had been involved with. I asked a few questions. Got even fewer answers. Perhaps the colonel knew what he was talking about. Speaking of the colonel, we never saw him again after we arrived at the base. They separated all of us. The process went on for hours and I had to go through it more times than I cared. They said they were dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. I suspected there was more to it. I also knew enough to have a memory lapse when it came to certain details. Specifically, about my talk with the colonel. I’m sure he did not mention it when they grilled him.
Eventually, the higher ups were satisfied, at least on the surface. I was totally exhausted and found T.C. in the billets when I arrived.
“Fun night, huh?”
“Yeah, a real party, Bry.”
“Got to say, they know how to bring out the welcome wagon. Although, did I miss the hors d’oeuvres?”
“Wise ass.” His eyes dug in deep and he gave a little nod of his head letting me know he checked for video cameras and bugs. He had found something so I kept the conversation light. It got me thinking even more about the colonel’s warning.
Two days later we were paraded out in front of the base commander who was now all smiles. I guess he caught up on his sleep or maybe it was the general who had flown in from somewhere to pin medals on everyone’s chest. I guess they wanted to keep us happy and give us something for all our hard work. They gave Kyle a posthumous Bronze star with a “V” for valor and a Purple Heart.
They saved me for last, adding a silver oak leaf to my Bronze Star. A Purple Heart just like that shot in the ass Sergeant Ryan received. At least I was not limping. I was taken aback when they announced I would also receive the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry and heroism above and beyond what duty necessitated. I had not given it much thought. We needed a way back home and if I did not steal, let me rephrase, borrow that helicopter, we might all still be digging camel dung out of the soles of our boots.
Someone decided I deserved the DSC as a thanks from the nation for my sacrifice, or perhaps to shut me up. You should know I don’t like the word deserve. Never have. You are given something in life. You may earn it. But to me deserve indicates an expectancy. I do not like the word and rarely fit it into my vocabulary. T.C. called it. I am a pain in the ass. I admit I can be when appropriate. It adds a certain something to my charming behavior.
Orders were handed to us indicating we all needed to take three weeks leave and given first class accommodations back to the States. Unfortunately, the flight back to Andrews did not include good looking flight attendants. Our host was Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Riley who had a face more akin to a bulldog than a fashion model. The old bastard could tell a joke and kept us laughing most of the trip home. I knew there would be people glad to know we made it back. For others, not so much.
Nearly two weeks had passed since my Iraqi holiday ended as the bugler’s last note echoed mournfully along the rolling hills. It brought me back into the moment. Hadn’t slept much since returning. Replayed all of it countless times to see if there was something I could have done differently, for Kyle; other than to see he had a spot in Arlington with full military honors.
“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your friend’s honorable and faithful service.” The officer’s eyes then drifted to the fruit salad on my chest and back to me, following up with a quick nod of respect.
“Thanks,” I barely managed.
The burial squad and horse drawn carriage meandered away. I stood alone with my thoughts as a last peal of thunder rumbled distantly in the heavens. When I decided to finally leave, I came to attention and snapped off a salute in honor of my friend, Master Sergeant Kyle Owens. Turning away, a view of the nation’s capital greeted me with the familiar skyline. Somewhere out there in the heart of the city, there were people responsible for Owens’ death.
I mumbled under my breath, “I will find them.” I tucked his memory away and began the long walk back to my vehicle. “That is a solemn vow, Kyle.”
"This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.""This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.""This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service."
### The End (The Beginning?) ###