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Harold F. Hester

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The Citation
By Harold F. Hester
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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A young mother is the target... and she has done nothing to deserve what she and her childern receive.

The Citation

Philip was a good person and commander. He was infantry and he had led his men into one fire fight after another and always for the good of his country. He believed in motherhood, clean sheets and apple pie. He was third generation military and there was never any doubt in his mind that when orders came down, they were well thought out and never put his people in harms way if there was other courses of action.
But there was that one…
In his troubled dreams last week, there had been one battle his mind saw that woke him in a cold sweat. He dismissed it as just a nightmare because he believed in the chain of command and the good old USA. Command would never do something dumb. They would never let this young captain lead his weapons company into any battle that was not necessary. Take that hill – he took it. Secure that perimeter – he secured it. No retreat, hold – he held.
Three months in-country he was still a bit wet behind his military command ears, but he believed. He believed that their cause was just and the world would be a better place because of him and those he commanded. His dreams told another story. They told about what was to happen, but he still believed. They told him he would lose his life on a combat sweep near the village of Ash Shinafiyah Iraq when his truck convoy would receive fire from an innocent looking sandy defilade. His reports would say that area was clear. They lied.

During the cool crisp morning hours of 20 April 2004, he saw one truck on fire and two others to his immediate rear, bullet and rocket riddled. He saw death.

The official citation of the Silver Star read in part - Captain Philip R. Hoge disregarded his own safety as he ran to a damaged and burning APC. His M-16, with safety off and selector on full auto held tightly next to his chest protector he shielded his people from sniper fire with his own body. As he saw two enemy soldiers’ heads, he reacted for the safety of his men. He saw one enemy with a still smoking grenade launcher and the wide-eyed look of wonderment from another. The enemy holding the still smoking tube looked scared but the look quickly disappeared as a full burst of 5.56mm steel jacketed slugs from Captain Hoge tore away his face.
The vehicle driver and shot-gun driver were dead. They had been mangled beyond recognition by a rocket grenade. A sick green vile was spat on the sand as young Philip dropped to his knees and threw up his mornings MREs.
The acidic taste of the Meals Ready to Eat eggs was still being spit as Capt. Hoge wiped away strained tears as he focused on his other enemy running as fast as the sand and his saddled feet would allow. Capt. Hoge had a good sight picture of the running figure as he squeezed off three rounds. The running figure suddenly stopped, turn and fired. Capt. Hoge probable saw the flash and heard the sound of the rocket firing before a black curtain fell and his world.
Knowing him as a good person and from word games he sometimes played, his men thought that boyhood clichés probable raced inside his head as his life spilled upon the sand. His eye dilated as his brain said…Let sleeping dogs lie… Life is just a bowl of cherries… Never look a gift horse in the mouth… then a heavenly silence.

A military sedan stopped in front of the duplex for Captain and Mrs. P.R. Hoge on Cannon road in the officer quarters of Fort Bragg, NC. The young captain that emerged from the back seat looked as if he had been the poster boy for a recruiting poster. Dressed in summer Class A’s, the crease in his trousers and shirt were clean and crisp. He had a square chin, clear complexion, calloused hands and piercing steel blue eyes but he was soft and gentle as a handsome lady answered the door bell.
“Mrs. Hoge?”
“Yes.” Her eyes welled and she knew.
She didn’t hear the words as the young man read from the Silver Star and Purple Heart citations of the heroic deeds her husband had completed from the other side of the world in a political war.

Less then an hour after the military sedan left Mrs. Hoge and her two small children were still huddled in the living room consoling each other. Two neighbors had come over to help as they could.
The Hoge door bell rang once again as a UPS person dress in their clean brown uniform delivered a smallest package.
With heavy heart, she tipped the deliveryman, closed the door, and pulled the glittering ribbon from the golden wrapped shoe-sized box. Inside, she was puzzled to find four fortune cookies and a string nestled in gold satin. She picked one up, cracked it open, and pulled out the white slip of paper. What goes around comes around. She frowned and opened another one. As you sow, so shall you reap. She started to tremble as she read the third. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. She had not noticed the package return address of Iraq as she pulled on the string before opening the fourth.
Her life ended along with two children, the neighbors and the government furnished brick duplex as the explosion was heard two mile away.

This short story was written in 2 hours as part of a writers contest and limited to under 950 words.

       Web Site: haroldhester

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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 4/27/2004
Sad story! Very well done!

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