Four U.S. Marines stood together as one before their adversary. They knew if they failed everything would be lost, possibly even their lives. They had called for support, but it was slow in coming. Other men had tried before. Marines, Army, Navy, even the Air Force. Headway had been made; many were left wounded. Some did not survive.
These men were survivors. People called them heroes. That only emboldened their antagonist. He stood there mocking the 4 Marines. “It’s like in the movies or television. You kill a few bad guys, and then come home and party.” But they knew that wasn’t true. How many of their friends had they seen killed? How many brothers had pieces of their arms and legs scattered on the road, or embedded inside a humvee? Somehow, they had survived. None of them could explain why they weren’t in that vehicle, that helicopter, called for a particular mission.
They lived for months, sometimes years, in constant danger. Your newest local friend could shoot you in the back. No place was safe. No place is safe. Coming home to the adulation felt so out of place, but if the admirers understood what real horror looked like they would not cheer. They would grab everyone returning, hold them, and weep together. If they knew what had to be done to survive the hours of nothing and terror they might back away in shock.
For centuries everyone tried to discount this truth, to bury it under pomp and circumstance. Parades, flowers, and kisses were the balm for the terror inside those who appeared strong. Sure the men drank, most too much. Winks and nods came as people walked by and pretended everything was fine. Then war dragged on for years, later half a decade, then a decade, fifteen years. The consequences piled up. Those who survived the trip home could not survive at home. Victims of the demons and ghost that returned in their gear.
Theories came, simple answers sought. Acronyms created, so we did not have to face what we had done to our children. Although our children had died, and men had grown in their place. Men who are hard, alone, and often lost in a world that cares nothing for what they had done. A society that thanks them for their sacrifice and service without desiring to know what the words even mean. One leader went so far as to call those carrying these horrors “weaker than others.” A man who had never stepped into their world, but demanded to lead it.
Four men stood together. Four brothers in arms. They knew they could not rely on those who had not walked in their path. They knew they could not rely on those who promised always to bring them home. Those people only dropped them off. The four men knew they had each other. They would seek out other brothers and sisters who fought the dark enemy that demanded their soul if he could not have their body. They would hold each other up. Show death and darkness they were still brave. It was their rescue mission, and they would succeed. Not only for themselves but for the memory of all who had gone before.