He gazed upon soil tremble with every explosion. Their beautiful alignment after each tremor gave him a smile, a smirk rather. It made him think of his father. Emerging smoke spread out like a veil and with no breeze to blow them off, it just got thicker and thicker. Though completely aware of his near surroundings, how can a living soul oversee blood stink and piling corpse, he chose not to panic. Brown camouflage helmet slide over his forehead every time he looked down but an immediate jolt with rifle’s barrel would put it back in its place. Shells and Grenades went off each minute, bullets aimlessly fired. Some even missed the 2 story tower by almost a foot, “Probably a newbie could not handle the recoil” he sighed. It was a clear strategy to destroy morale by heavy display of firepower. The strategy had minimal effect on Jon. But the new recruits were in bad shape. They were not hit nor wounded, but enemy’s brilliant plan played games with their inexperienced minds. Jon had his own way of distancing himself off – other worries.
“2 kilometers NNW” he muttered, estimating the explosion site with his eyes shut. This battlefield hobby developed over years and he enjoyed an excellent sense of hearing now. Being an Expertise as a front-line foot solider, Jon discovered a list of equipment that can be used as a cover. Concrete barricade, being his personnel favorite. Rifle shots went roaring past him, occasionally hitting the barricade. Every time a bullet hit concrete he would clench his Winchester M tight, bite his teeth in rage but patiently wait for the right time to strike back. Metal slug could not penetrate an 8 inch concrete slab; however each hit was making the slab thinner. An immediate action was needed to cheer his boys and save his concrete cover. He sprang up, took aim and shot a head on his crossfire. Turned 30 degree to right, fired another round and duck back into his cover. “Two down,” he cried with a racing heart. No wise men would stick his head out that long but sometimes a small courageous act can deeply inspire your comrades, especially the younger ones. That was all the motivation they needed. Failing to recognise that the second one was a lucky shot, they started singing war cries at the peak of their voices; Boys hiding themselves now faced the enemies with elevated aggression. This sudden surge in resistance took the enemies by surprise. They, Battalion Alpha 14, had explicit orders to restrict enemies from any further advance, on the contrary A14 managed to push them back. Enemy front-line became desperate, panicked and as a result they crumbled like a house of cards. Jon became a lynch-pin amongst peers. They all shared the same rank, but his gut to stand when it’s raining bullets was a quality none had. Enthralled over two digit kill, Jon was making way though dead and bleeding enemies when he heard something. Something very familiar, something approaching. He turned around, looked up and shout his lungs out, “INCOMING”!!
A potter by profession, family profession rather, in his late 17s Parents gave up their hopes of Jon becoming a reputed potter. He could not make proper clay, knew nothing about baking and took no interest in selling them. Teasing elders became his favourite pass time, elders who cannot chase him with a stick. Boys in that village either followed their father or joined the army. Hence for Jon, it was clear. Being witty and well build, road to army was a short and sweet one. Soon after which he married his childhood sweetheart, Mia. They became a source of inspiration for all teenage couples and sparked a tinge of jealousy among many. But the one thing he did hate was her habit of sobbing during departure. Well, she never really changed.
Every solider in that barrack eagerly waited for a Thursday. Letters were delivered on that day. Weekly inspections were carried out by senior officers from HQ and they brought along all the necessary supplies and mails. Boys on outpost duty to the messman cared less about weekly provisions. Some read the same letter over and over the entire week, while some read just one paragraph a day. Leon, the oldest among them would say, “Words doesn’t matter, it’s just to inform I am still alive.”
Jon held two letters in his hand. One being a reason for joy and other, smooth shiny paper with print, gave him creeps. It was from his commanding officer, a man of few words both on paper and in person. The three fold letter said very few words ‘Application for leave cancelled due to unavailability of replacement. Transferred to A14 as a front-line.’ Throwing himself on to the bed, his skull barely missed the upper bunk. Neck clinging without a support overside, eyes closed and hands spread out to its maximum he murmured “It’s the second time they have done this. Mia, needs me beside her. He quickly pulled him up, frisked the other letter, Mia’s letter. ‘It’s a baby girl. She’s got your eyes.” He burst into tears.
Very hazy outlines of people with masks were evident as he slowly opened his eyes. Took him several minutes to fully adjust to a bright light. Questions ran to and fro in his head, did they capture me? Am I a war prisoner now? Are they planning to torture me?
Straining to get a better picture, he saw a white apron approach. Overjoyed and excited he grabbed doctor’s hand and said, “Dr, I survived it, I am alive.” Little did he know that his excitement was short-lived. Shell explode pretty close to his legs, they suffered heavy damage, an irreversible damage. It was a miracle, not a scar above his hip. Dr Steve narrated the entire series of events. Prior departing he said “You survived shelling, you will survive this.”
Mia came in. She stood at a distance holding their child. It’s been over a year, a year and 13 days to be precise, but he could not say a thing neither could he look at her. No matter how much he tried that lump in his throat did not let him speak. He was engulfed in a strong guilt feeling, a feeling that he failed her. Mia was a simple village woman, not highly qualified but knew Jon inside-out and took great pride in it. Just a look was enough for her to understand his mental agony. Tears rolled down as she came close. She said nothing, sat beside him, gave him his daughter and said “This is your father and he is a war hero.”