“Look, Honey,” Susan clutches James’ arm as she points out the airplane window.
James wraps his arms around his bride. He leans over to look at the bright spec of land. It seems to float in the vast stretch of blue water thousands of feet below.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
James smiles at her and nods. Susan pecks him on the lips as she snuggles in close to enjoy the scenery together.
“You’ve been to Hawaii before haven’t you?”
“A couple times. But this is different, I have you with me. Plus I’m not on my way to some vast desert war zone.”
A bong came over the PA system. “Ladies and gentleman, I just turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. We will make our approach to our destination in just a few moments. Please fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright position…”
“I’m so excited,” Susan said, beaming with a smile. Her doe eyes looking into James’
James’ heart skipped a beat as his gaze was now captured by her.
*Note: The uniforms are not period correct in this collage. It amazes me how hard it is to find a photograph of the backside of a group of Marines.
The mid-day southern California heat stifled the classroom. Men dressed in Combat Utility Uniforms. Waited for their Commanding Officer to start the training. They were agitated. The Class was to have started at 10 hundred, it’s now 10 O’ 5. Marines are known for many things, being late for a date is not one of them.
“Anyone want to volunteer to check on the Major?” said an agitated marine.
“Shut it Yates, if he’s late then there is a damn good reason for it.”
The classroom door cracked open. By the time the Major’s boot hit the deck, Lieutenant Danforth had already called out. “Attention On Deck!” Chairs jarred and screeched across the old tile flooring simultaneously. Every single Marine stood at attention.
“At ease gentleman,” said the Major. “I suggest you all get comfortable. This isn’t a training session. Well, perhaps that is not accurate. I have someone here to introduce to you and quite frankly this is unorthodox.”
A cough from the back row disturbed the eerie silence.
“This young man will be working with us from here on out until the Pentagon says otherwise. It will be our duty to train him and mold him as a Marine. To make matters even more complicated. He’s not a Marine. He’s not even old enough to enlist.”
The Major held up his hand, “I know you all have questions. In a moment you will have dozens more. For now, just be patient.” He walked over to the door and pushed it open. “James, Come in.”
A young boy wearing a matching set of combat utilities with no rank insignia timidly walked into the room. He scanned the new surroundings. His nervousness of the sight of so many marines staring in his direction blurred his vision. The Major guided James by the shoulder toward the side of the podium. “This is James Haynes. James, this is the Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company.”
Standing up swiftly Yates exclaimed, “With all due respect Sir, is this some sort of joke?”
“No, it’s not a joke Corporal Yates, Now sit down!”
Yates slowly sat down.
“Many of you came from complicated situations. Some of you are part of the Corps because of them. James is no different in that regard.” The Major scanned the room as he spoke, pausing for a moment to collect his words. “How many of you would be in prison right now if it were not for the Corps? How many of you sat behind prison bars before a recruiter came along, that gave you a chance to turn your life around? James here is just like you, albeit much younger.”
A Marine raised his hand.
“Montoya, What is it?”
Montoya stood up at attention before he spoke in a light Spanish accent. “Sir, What could this young man have done to find himself in a Prison. Surely you jest that he is some sort of larcenist or murderer. He’s only what, five years old?”
“He’s six years old. More than that. To answer your question Montoya, yes he has killed someone; In self-defense of another.”
Some of the men gasped at such a statement. Many of them wondered what sort of situation could drive a child to murder and how.
“Gentleman, before I go any further. I must remind you all, that everything discussed here is classified TOP SECRET. For all intensive purposes, James here doesn’t exist. Does anyone have anything further, or can I continue with this briefing?” The men stared at the Major, motionless. “Very well then. The events of June 6th, 1986…”
James felt like a freak on display as Major Bowman went on and on about the events of that fateful day. The more the Major spoke, the more he shied away. The camouflage of his uniform was a poor match for the podium. Yet, the young man clung to it tighter and tighter while the room full of marines gazed upon him and the Major.
A perplexed face among the back row raised his hand.
“Strickler,” The Major called out.
“Major, are you suggesting this boy is some sort of Jedi or something?”
“What the hell is a Jedi son?”
“Sorry, sir. A Jedi is a type of character from Star Wars, they have the ability to use telepathy and telekinesis.”
“I suppose in some regard, Yes. James has shown a great ability to manipulate objects around him. As far as telepathy goes, that remains to be seen.” The Major looked down at the young boy pressed against the podium. “James, is there anything you want to add?”
James, frozen stiff like the podium he was trying so desperately to blend into.
The Major placed his hand over James’ shoulder. “James,” he said in a soft tone.
Startled, he flinched as the chalkboard eraser leaped from the blackboard ledge. It flew across the room toward the slack-jawed audience. James took a breath as he looked up to the Major, “—No sir.”
“Very well then.” The Major looked toward his men stone-faced. “Alright, settle down everyone. I guess I don’t have to ask James for a demonstration now.”
A few men chuckled. The whole room began to bellow in laughter. James for the moment, felt more at ease seeing these hard faced soldiers smile.
“Welcome to Honolulu, we hope you enjoyed your flight with …”
“Did you see that beach, Honey?” Susan says with an enthusiastic tone.
James nodding, “uh-huh.”
“Are you OK?” she leans in close looking for James’ eyes.
The cabin door swings open as everyone begins to stand up and search for their belongings. James smiles and looks deep into her eyes. “I’m great. Come on let’s get out of here.”He stands up and pops the overhead storage open. “Have you ever smelled a desert beach before?”
“Just the beaches in North Carolina. This is the first time I have ever left the state you know.”
As they exit the plane a whiff of the salty air percolates through the Jetway. The couple breath in the new smells.
“Mmmm,” Susan coos.
March to the Range
Snake rattles echoed in the hot dusty canyon hills. The stomping of boots kicking dirt scared the wilderness into silence.
“M,” Yelled LT Danforth
“MOTIVATION,” yelled the platoon in harmony.
James struggled to keep up with the men. Labored breathing and dehydration. His feet were out of sync with the goliath fighting men as they ran through the desert terrain.
“SHOOT TO KILL.”
“WHAT’S THAT SPELL.”
“Pick up the Pace Haynes,” yelled Yates looking back at James as he continued to fall behind. “I don’t care how tired you are. This is the Marine Corp, we don’t leave anyone behind. Now suck it up and move your ass!”
“I — can’t.” James stopped. Leaning over and clutching his knees together. He panted like a dying dog in a ditch.
“Don’t Give me that crap Haynes. I dunno what the brass is thinking, trying to make you a Marine. You’re not a Marine. You’re a stupid kid with Frea—”
“Platoon Halt,” yelled Danforth. “Corporal Yates, Stand down!”
Yates grumbled under his breath as he fell back in line with his Squad.
Danforth walked up to James and held out his canteen. “Come on, drink up. You’re dehydrated as hell and we got another 5 miles to run before we get to the beach.”
James looked up at Danforth, shaking his head. “I can’t do this, I’m just a kid.”
“So what. I’ve had to shoot kids younger than you James. They came at me with everything they had. Grown men lay in the alleyways pissing their pants and yet little kids stood up and fought in their place.”
“So you want me to run until I die?”
“No James, I want you to train so you will live. Those kids in Libya had no training, yet they killed two of my men while we were lasing missile targets. You have an incredible gift. Unfortunately, you got pushed into something no kid should have to deal with. Especially at your age. But here we are.” Danforth could see that his words rang hollow with the boy. “You lost someone right?”
“Yea,” James said with a sigh as he looked down at the ground.
“You would do anything to get them back wouldn’t you.”
James nodded his head .
If those kids in Libya had the kind of training we did. The kind we are giving you. We would have a run for Uncle Sam’s money.”
James gave Danforth a perplexed look at the expression.
“James, we would have lost a hell of a lot more than two men and Possibly failed our mission if they had some actual training.”
“I don’t want to kill people.”
“I don’t want you to kill people. But, your abilities might help us avoid killing, or getting killed ourselves.”
“Come on Haynes, Your a Marine! Let’s Go!” yelled Strickler.
The Platoon Erupted into cadence as they begun marching in place.
Danforth nudged the canteen into Jame’s hand. “Let’s go, Haynes. You ever see a California beach?”
“I’ve never seen a beach,” James said as he clutched the canteen and took a swig.
“You’ll love it. Sandy as fuck but that ocean breeze is something like no other. You ready?”
James capped the canteen and handed it back to Danforth. “Oorah, Lieutenant.”
“What was that, sounded like a mouse.”
Danforth cupped his ear, “I’m not sure you’re ready. What did you say?”
James chuckled and screamed as loud as he could,“OOORAH! LIEUTENANT!!”
“NOW THAT’S A WAR CRY OF A MARINE! FALL IN LINE HAYNES!”
Dawn of time: RECON Marine version
Way way back in the dawn of time,
In the Valley of Death where the sun don’t shine.
A mighty fighting man was made,
From an M-16 and a live grenade.
He looked mighty big with his ALICE pack.
He drove mighty mean with his Cadillac.
This mighty fighting lean green machine,
Goes by the title of a RECON Marine.
Roll on your left,
And roll your right,
Roll on your left,
We love to double time!
I want to give special thanks to my Brothers and Sisters over at www.leatherneck.com for the cadences. Semper-Fi.
What’s your take on the story so far? Where will James, Susan, the Major, Yates or any of the other characters go? I would love to hear your comments below.
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