The Unknown Soldier

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Historical Fiction short story about the Iraq War

Submitted: March 02, 2008

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Submitted: March 02, 2008

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THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The sunrays poured down on the soldiers of Task Force Lightning, a unit of soldiers located north of Baghdad in the Diyala providence. The air was humid with not even a breeze to relieve the worn out soldiers. Lately the area has witnesses serious fighting between US and Iraqi forces with Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. But luckily, the area has been somewhat content, with only minor threats occurring.
“Sergeant Harper, you are hereby relieved from your patrol duty. Orders from Colonel Marchetii are as followed. You are to return to the base promptly. You are free to do as you please for the rest of the day, unless actions take place that require your assistance.”
“Thank you Corporal. It’s been pretty quiet out here today. If you run out of water, the gentleman in the building on the corner over there is more than happy to refill your canteen. Good luck.” Harper turned to walk away.
“Sergeant,” the Corporal beckoned. Harper turned around and faced his comrade. “Jassim is at the base waiting for you. Better hurry, if you don’t want to keep him waiting.”
Sergeant Harper smiled, “Thank you again Corporal. I’ll be sure to return quickly.” He turned around again and proceeded on his way. Removing his helmet was a relief to him. The heat was almost unbearable. While on patrol, he was required to wear a heavy and thick camouflage uniform with boots, a canteen, a knife, a walkie-talkie and an M-16 assault rifle, which was currently hanging from the strap on his shoulder.
The village road was sand, small shops and houses adjoined it. The villagers sat outside, under animal skin awnings, listening to the radio or watching small TV’s. Small children played tag often throughout the street. Several of his fellow soldiers were still on their patrols. Some stayed in one spot, others walked the area, and some were sent out just to socialize with the villagers, generously giving candy to the little kids.
He very much enjoyed the socializing patrol. He seldom got the chance to do it but the few times Harper was given the chance to do it, he loved it. He made friends quickly with the townspeople. The man who Harper pointed out to the Corporal was one of those he befriended. Several people outside their homes and stores knew him and waved as he was walking by. Smiling, he waved back.
Harper had arrived at the base and greeted the Sergeant who was stationed at the checkpoint, “Hello Sergeant.” The checkpoint man didn’t make eye contact and grunted in response to Harper’s greeting.
Uptight bastard, Harper thought.
“I.D. badge please,” the little man said, never making eye contact. Harper pulled the badge from his jacket and handed it to the guard. He took the badge, compared face to picture and slid it through a machine that marked him as ‘returning to base’. He returned the card to his rightful owner.
“Thank you. Enjoy your day,” Harper said as he moved inside the base. The man didn’t respond, but Harper was pretty sure he heard “up yours” mumbled under the man’s breath. He let it roll off his back. It was to hot and not the right time to make a scene. He didn’t approve of the man’s disposition, especially in a time where we need to count on one another. He’ll take it up with someone who could do something about it.
The base was full of activity. There were squat and platoon marching drills, physical training, rifle training and those off duty playing a variety of sports, cards or reading. Harper headed towards his barracks, which was buried in the middle of the base.
The sun continued to bury him with heat the entire way. Finally, he was able to see the ugly metal building that has been his home for the past six months. He went inside to find about three men sleeping and another one reading. He nodded to the one awake, and continued towards his bunk. Once arriving he laid the M-16 down on his bed, while he got changed. Finally able to get out of the stuffy military gear, he hung them up in his locker and put on a brown t-shirt and olive green shorts. He stuffed his military I.D. into his pocket.
Harper picked up the rifle and started towards the exit. As he left, he pondered as to how the other guys could stand it in here? It was hot as hell in there.
Next stop was the armory, where he was to return his weapon. It luckily wasn’t that far from his barracks, literally almost next door. He walked into the building, which was just as stuffy as his barrack.
He walked up to the booth, where a man was stationed. The man apparently heard Harper and turned around. After seeing his insignia, Harper snapped to attention and saluted. “Good afternoon, sir.”
“Good afternoon Sergeant,” the man said with a smile, returning the salute. “As you were; what may I do for you?”
“Sir, I have completed my rounds today and am here to return my assault rifle,” Harper informed.
“Very well; do you have your I.D. card with you?”
“Yes sir.”
“May I have it please?”
“Of course, sir,” Harper pulled the card from his pocket and handed it to the man.
The man slid it and looked at the information on the computer, “Ok, Sergeant Harper, it says you should be returning an M-16 assault rifle. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir, that is correct.”
“Ok good. I’ll take it from you now, and then you are free to leave.”
Harper handed him the rifle and said, “Thank you sir. Have a good day.”
“You do the same Sergeant.”
Harper turned around and exited the building, back out into the blazing sun. Initially blinded, his eyes began to focus on his surroundings. “Ry-un, Ry-un,” he heard from a distance. He found the source; young Jassim, a 10-year-old Iraqi boy who was orphaned three months ago. The boy had grown to adore Harper, and the feeling was mutual. With him was another man who Harper knew very well indeed.
“Hi Ry-un,” the young boy said.
“Hello Jassim, how are you?”
Jassim smiled and said “very good.”
“Way to keep him waiting Ryan,” the man who accompanied Jassim said.
“Sorry sir, I was rather busy this morning,” Harper responded.
The other man laughed, “Its ok little brother, I’m off duty right now.”
Ryan smiled, “Now we can bond right Evan?”
“Sure.”
Evan Harper is Ryan’s older brother. He has been in the military for a good number of years now and has reached the rank of Captain. At first he was a little skeptical of his little brother coming over here, because of his views but has seen a great transformation in him.
“You know the Colonel doesn’t like this boy hanging around here so often. He thinks he’s a threat,” the elder Harper informed.
“We you can tell the Colonel to get a life. This boy is no more harmless than a fly.”
“I know that and you know that and the only reason he has to put up with Jassim is because the Brigadier General felt guilty for the death of his parents.”
Ryan looked at the young Iraqi boy. He was orphaned three months ago when troops accidentally raided the home of innocent civilians, since he order for the raid, and gave orders that he was to be protected by the soldiers. He took a liking to the Harper brothers the most.
A crackle came over the loudspeaker, “Attention all available soldiers, there is a suspicious vehicle parked outside the south perimeter of the base. Everyone is asked to go to their threat stations immediately at this time.”
The brothers looked at each other, with surprised expressions. They looked around as soldiers, dressed in uniforms, physical training gear and civilian clothes scrambled to their posts.
“I have to go to the south wall,” the elder Harper mentioned. “Where’s your station?”
“East wall, what should we do with Jassim?”
The two men looked at the young boy. Evan spoke up, “Take him with you, he’s not going to want to be alone. It should be safe over there.”
“Ok, be careful Captain,” Ryan said showing respect to his brother.
He smiled, “You do the same Sergeant. Take care of Jassim.”
Ryan nodded, picked up Jassim and sprinted towards his post. They got there quickly and suited up in protective gear. Jassim was told to stay towards the rear of the area. The radios in between posts were going crazy.
A message coming in from the south wall said, “Use extreme caution.” Five bomb specialists surrounded the car with high tech machines that were able to indicate whether a bomb was present. They carefully maneuvered around the subject, listening to the machines beep and buzz.
One of the specialists radioed in, “The car seems to be safe. There is no threat. I repeat there is no threat.”
From his post, Captain Harper gave a sigh of relief and radioed to the other posts, “This is Captain Harper of the south wall post, the area is secure. I repeat there is no threat. That is all.”
“Well I’m glad that’s over,” a colleague said to Captain Harper.
“Yes, me too; but in these days it pays to be care---” A large explosion occurred and shook the entire ground. It wasn’t on the south wall, but somewhere else. Captain Harper peered out of a small window and saw smoke pouring up from the site.
A message came over the radio, “A car bomb was just set off outside the east wall. All soldiers are to remain at their posts.”
Captain Harper felt his heart sank, and against the orders that were just given, dashed out the door towards the site. The entire time he thought, Oh no, Jassim, Ryan, are you ok? Please let them be ok. It was my fault, I radioed in. That set it off. It had to of been. He reached the site which was devastating, bloody soldiers everywhere, some missing limbs, some unconscious, some screaming out in shear agony, a horribly gruesome sight.
A medical response team was already on the scene trying to save as many as they could and bring them to safety. Captain Harper searched among the dead and the barely living for his brother and Jassim.
“Ryan, Jassim,” he screamed many times. His eyes finally came across a small figure lying on the ground. Captain Harper ran to him. It was Jassim, he was alive but barely able to speak, shaking from head to toe, and bleeding. Harper feared he would die from loss of blood. He handed him over to the medics immediately.
The search still went on for his younger brother. The mood had calmed down though as it got later in the day. He found a medical attendant working the scene.
“Private, what are the fatalities?” he asked first.
“Well sir, as far as we know, we have nine soldiers killed and 20 wounded. The small Iraqi child was airlifted out along with a few other personnel.”
“What about my brother, Sergeant Ryan Harper?”
The Private’s face turned pale and his voice became soft, “I’m sorry sir, but I’ve been told that… Sergeant Harper was killed in the blast.”
A look of disbelief crossed Captain Harper’s face, “What?”
“I’m sorry sir, your brother is dead.”


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