John Marion Francis
I looked at Shelly's picture that's taped to my gun stock. "I'm gonna make out of here honey, I promise" I whispered.
The bombs were landing everywhere. “Jimmy, crawl towards me. Come on! Move now!” I shouted to my best friend. “Gary, I’ve been hit in the leg!” he shouted back. “Stay there, I’ll come to you.” I started to crawl towards Jimmy. I was almost to him and could see his helmet through the thick dust. “Jimmy, take my hand; I’ll pull you towards me. I am almost there!” I said stretching my hand out to his. Our fingers were nearly touching, when the sound of another incoming shell hit.
“Jimmy! Jimmy!” The blast was so close my ears began to ring like bells in a clock tower. I knew he was gone. I starred at the dust filled wind and knew this could be the end. We we’re under attack with no way out. Looking to my left then to my right, I could see we were pended in. “Keep low. Keep low.” I shouted out to my troops waving my arm up and down. Searing bullet fire wizzed by my helmet as I tried to look up and see a way out.
Spits of dirt from gun fire forced me back down. “Roger five, roger five, this is Red Dog leader Charlie six, over?” I whispered into my radio. “Go ahead Red Dog”. “Roger five, we’re pent down at co ordinance alpha, three, five, delta two. We need a flyby.” -- “Roger that red dog, we’re sending in the Hogs, over”. More fire from the enemy was flying over our heads. “Keep down, the hogs are comin’. Get ready to pull back on my command!” I said to my men. “Red dog, Red Dog, this Papa Bear, over” I heard come on my radio. “Papa Bear, this is Charlie six standing by”. I responded. “Set the table we’re bringing in diner, over” – “Roger Papa Bear. Men prepare to pull back!” The screaming sound of the approaching A-10 “Warthog” turbines could be heard in the distance. “Pull out Red Dog, we’re comin’ hot and heavy”.
“Pull back now! Move it, move it!” I shouted as we leaped up and started running back to the bunker line. The Warthogs were coming down at the same time laying down suppression fire behind us at the enemy before dropping there full load of bombs. “We’re clear Papa Bear!” I shouted into my radio as we ran and jump behind the bunker line. “Roger Red Dog, dinner is on the table” said the leading A-10 as he dipped his left wing and swooped down like a hawk going after prey. They released their bombs diving in, out and over the enemy. I pulled out my binoculars to check the fire line. The gun fire from the enemy was silent as red plumes of smoke and fire burned across the line.
“All clear” I said to my men walking towards them pulling up my goggles onto my helmet. “Sir, I am sorry about Lieutenant Struthers” said Sergeant Bender. “Thanks Sergeant B, it was a collective effort of on all of our parts.” I said shaking his hand. Now the tough part was yet to come, writing his parents. I knew no one else could write the letter but me. I reached in my pocket and pulled out is dog tags. “I am sorry buddy. I just couldn’t reach you in time” I said to myself clinching his tags in my fist. I went to my tent and opened my laptop.
Part 2 “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Struthers”
I pulled off my helmet and wipe my eyes. “Jimmy. I’ll never forget you buddy. Everyday that I am here, it will be for my country, you and Shelly.” I said to myself looking at my laptop waiting for a secure channel. The glow from the screen with the words “SECURE CHANNEL ACCESS GRANTED” symbol washed over my face as I waited for the final clearance to start my letter. “SECURE CHANNEL CLEARED – YOU MAY BEGIN”.
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Struthers,
You already know by now, that if you are receiving this email from me instead of from Jimmy, we had problems on our last mission today. “I swallowed hard as I paused before continuing”. We were under heavy fire from the enemy and Jimmy was pent down. I could see him, I could see his face, I could see his love for you, I could see his memories, and I could his words on his lips… “Tell mom and dad I love them if you guys can’t get to me in time”. I do realize that at times it seems unrealistic that our government may ask us to put upon the alter of freedom our lives, so that others may live in peace and our fathers, mothers, and future children will live without knowing this terrible part of humanity that ask us to kill fellow human beings, so that in this moment in time when we pull triggers that take lives, means our country will live in peace.
Jimmy and I would be play war in each others backyards. Little did we know that one day in our future it would come true? We enlisted together. Side by side we stood pledging that we would defend our country without question. Now both of us have to answer the question without question. “Are you willing to die for your country?” The answer is and always will be yes, yes, yes. I know that this is terrible news and if I could trade places, I would have without question. It could have easily been Jimmy typing this email instead of me.
But, it’s me and we promised each other that we would be the ones to write our letters and no one else. My heart is heavy, my soul is in pain, and my eyes weep endlessly for him. But he’s coming home to you. I know you may be angry, but I know you are proud of him. Know that his words to me when we had to be silent were that he loves you both as he reached for my hand. There is and never will be no greater love than the love Jimmy had for you.
I will fold his flag myself tonight. I will salute him for his country tonight. I will bless him with father O’Malley tonight; I will say good-bye to my best friend tonight. The stars are bright and shining for Jimmy. I pray to God that he will bring me home safely so that I can tell you both how so very sorry I am that this is the place were me and my best friend had to leave each other. I want to come for Jimmy to let him know that his gift that he gave to his country was priceless and that I would have trade places with him without question.
Captain Gary McGowan
Infantry Division, “Red Dogs”
Part 2 “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Struthers”
Chapter 3 – Confirmation orders – “Operation: Trojan Horse”
“Sir, we’re receiving a red signal from Eagles Nest” said PFC McClain punching in his security access code on the login screen then looked up at Capt. McGowan.
“Let’s open it up McClain”
The screen turned red for a few seconds then green: Login in confirmed. The screen turned red then green again then displayed:
Operation Trojan Horse
TRANSMISSION CODE: AIXXE337SSPF
Please enter receiver confirmation code: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
McClain entered in the confirmation code that only he and McGowan knew. They were given this code before deploying three days ago.
Receiver Code Confirmed… Download starting in ten seconds, was displayed next.
The screen turned black then bright red Matrix encrypted characters drizzled down the screen. McGowan laid a special filtered film over the screen to reveal the mission. The film has a special high resolution responsive laminate coating that burned the imprint of the mission from the screen on to it. This is the latest in cryptology messaging. The film will dissolve after fifteen minutes of exposure. McGowan quickly reviewed the mission then punched a special code from it into his MDHS (Mission Deployment Hand Held System) that he carried with him at all times. The only way to activate it is by retinal biometric scanning.
“Sergeant B, gather the men and have them ready for a debrief in twenty minutes in the mess tent.” Said McGowan.
“Yes sir” said Sergeant B saluting the Captain.
The men were at the mess tent waiting for McGowan to arrive.
“At ease men” started McGowan “men we have a new mission; Trojan Horse. We have the honor of securing Tiger Hill and setting up a communications tower and command post. There are hostiles in the area within a two hundred yard perimeter. Our drop zone is three miles out. We will approach from the west. This area has semi heavy forest and brush to give us cover. Paint up and put on full camouflage gear head to toe. Raven Squad will fly in low and drop a small bomb load to draw them to the east side."
"Sergeant Miller, your sniper squad Lost Boys will be on point after we land and will move out immediately. Lieutenant Drake and the Ace of Spades Special Forces team will fan out five by five one hour later. Sergeant Kroger, you and your men The Moon Raiders will follow two hours after the Lost Boys confirm their position. That’s it; we are to move out in three hours. Father O’Malley will be available until 0730 hrs, dismissed."
McGowan went outside for a smoke. Sergeant Miller and Kroger followed.60
“You think it’s gonna be ugly Captain?” said Miller holding his lighter up to McGowan and Kroger’s cigarettes.
“We never know Miller” said McGowan taking a long slow drag.
“Yeah you never know. I know some of the men are gonna ask me though.” Said Miller.
“They always do Serge. Hell, sometimes I’m scared myself. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t” said McGowan
“Yep, that goes for me to. But ya know something Captian, from the moment I jump out of that helicopter and see my men following behind me, all of that fear goes away.” Said Kroger.
“I know what you mean. Seeing the brave look in the troops faces as we descend makes me proud and pumps me up for the fight.” Said McGowan looking up at the sky.
“Well, let’s give ‘em hell tonight.” Said Miller
“Got that right.” Said Kroger
“I’m glad you guys aren’t the enemy.” Said McGowan as they went back into the mess tent.69
Chapter 4 – Tiger Hill landing
“Puff smoke” said Miller “here come the Dragons”
Cruising over the ridge and slowing down towards us are Two Pave Hawk choppers code name Green Dragon. Their large whipping blades hovered over us then landed. The door on the lead chopper opened and a full bird Colonel jumped out and headed over to me.
“Captain McGowan I’m Colonel Wilcox commander of the 54th Green Dragon SF Division, are your men ready?”
“Yes sir, we’re packed and ready to go, you ready for us?”
“Yeah, have ‘em file in and we’ll take off”
“Move out!” signaled McGowan to his men waving his hand towards the choppers.
We loaded into the choppers. It was pitch black inside with only the glow of the choppers instrument panels illuminating. The commander and his pilots have their night vision goggles on looking forward as we weaved and climbed towards Tiger Point.
“Five minutes to drop” said Colonel Wilcox
“Ready sir. Ready sir. Ready sir.” Answered the troop leaders as very one powered on their night vision goggles. The green light over the side door came on signaling we have landed and can depart. We all jumped out and ran ten yards away from the choppers and disappeared into the woods. The choppers revved up their blades and took of as quietly as they had landed. I unfolded my map and turned on my MDHS after I scanned my eye to unlock it.
“Sergeant Miller, we’re here.” I said pointing to our location “take your snipers and move out in five minutes. Here are your coordinates. You have full authority to use lethal force without confirmation. We’ll rendezvous with you here. Use secure channel Delta Six for all radio communications.” I said reviewing the mission with Miller.
“Thank you sir. Men let’s move out!”
Miller and his squad gathered up their gear and disappeared into the dark forest without a sound.
“Boy those guys are quite” I said to Sergeant Kroger
“Yep, that’s how they got their nick name Lost Boys” said Sergeant Kroger who has been on three tours with them.
“Lieutenant Drake, The Lost Boys should be at this point by the time you deploy. You’ll find extra ammo and gear at these coordinates when you get within ten yards. Check your GPS tracker for a signal. They were left there from the last recon.”
“Miller, the rest of us will split up after we reach arrow head point. You’ll take half of the men and head out two miles towards the eastside. I’ll take the other half and go in the opposite direction two miles. Break radio silence when you arrive. Remember, use secure channel Delta Six. If you run into any resistance radio me and we’ll double back to close them in and take them out.”
“That’s it. Gods speed to everyone.”
Chapter 5 – “Let’s take the Hill!”
The Lost Boys arrived at their position twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Bobby got out his night vision high powered binoculars and began scanning the ridge.
“You see any thing Bobby?” whispered Sergeant Miller.
“Keep your eyes peeled and let me know the moment you do”
The Ace of Spades took positions around the base of Tiger Hill in a five point half mile radius.
“Ace one to Ace two over”
“Ace two, in position over”
“Roger that. How about you Ace three”
“Okay, everyone stay sharp, call in on the first sign of movement over.”
The forest was quite as The Moon Raiders arrived and went into position.
“Raven this is Moon Raider do you read me, over?” I said looking through my binoculars scanning the sky.
“Moon Raider this Raven, go head.”
“We’re in position and holding, over”
“Roger that Moon Raider, ETA twenty secs, standby, over”
“Roger that Raven”111
“All units stand by” I said watching for the first bombs to hit.
Within a few seconds I felt the ground shaking slightly then the beginning of what sounded like thunder. I grabbed my binoculars and looked up towards the top of Tiger Hill. The Ravens have started their bomb run on the east side. Orange and red flashes were glowing off the side of the hill.
“All positions advance, all positions advance, over” I said into my radio to the men
“Roger Moon Raider.” My men said as they checked in one by one.
We were taking heavy fire as I buried down behind my bunker. I looked at Shelly's picture that's taped to my gun stock. "I gonna make it out of here honey, I promise" I whispered.