Michael The Shooter

Michael The Shooter

He was sweating as he labored over the model 70 Winchester held in the vise on his work table; hot and humid the day was near Springfield Missouri. Michael wasn’t sure how hot but it was hot, he grinned to hisself; not as hot as he was going to make it for whoever was borrowing his cows and not returning them. Now Michael was a Missouri country boy, bred, born and raised to be neighborly and if folks needed to borrow stuff that was okay with him even if they didn’t have time to ask but please return as good as you found it. Most folks did ask and usually returned things but whoever was a borrowing his cows were forgetting where they got em from and that was the problem.

Not a rich young man by any means he was sure bent on making a home for hisself and hopefully the right girl someday; hadn’t met ‘Miss Right’ just yet but there were a few prospects around, a few that weren’t even cousins; 2nd or 3rd cousins that was. Gotta draw the line somewhere, folks around here don’t marry that close anymore; just the same he’d had a few cousins that were damn sure fine kissing partners but that was as far as it had ever went; like he said, gotta draw the line somewhere.

He had never shot a man before and wasn’t sure just yet if he was really gonna plug someone or just scare the hell out of them; decide when the time came he figured.

The 270 cal Winchester otta reach out far enough to put the fear of death into whoever was putting a wrinkle in his plans as far as his future wealth was concerned. Just a bit more carving and sanding here and there on the rifle stock and then a nice job of glass bedding so as the barrel was free floating and then he was done. Wouldn’t be finished tonight, but soon enough; tonight a little moonshining with some ‘white lighting’ and telling stories with his cousins; boy cousins that is, not the hugging and kissing kind.

*****

“You got any idea who’s a stealing em Michael”?

“Naw, not really, it don’t matter who’s a doing it; ain’t right and I’m gonna put a stop to it”.

“Damn straight man”, his cousin Jed took another pull on the jug; “damn if that ain’t good stuff even if I do say so myself”. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth belched and then a huge grin of satisfaction and pride spread across his lips.

Michael took a turn at the jug and after catching his breath, ‘White Lightening’ made by the hand of Jed Carson was sure the finest around these parts; possibly the finest anywhere. Still took Michaels breath away at times but it was purely good stuff. There were days when Michael and Jed figured they were born a hundred years too late, should be 1860 something instead of 1960 something.

“Yeah cousin gotta admit you got every reason to be proud of your family trade”.

Jed grinned at him in appreciation “when you gonna set up for these folks that you’re a hunting”?

“Couple a nights from now; wanna come along”?

“Thought I was going to have to invite myself, would have been justifiable insulted if you hadn’t asked”. Jed was doing his best to act slightly wounded that Michael had waited so long to ask. Then the cousins grinned at each other like a couple of raccoons and took another pull on the jug laughing and joking the night away.

*****

The Judge looked more than a bit unhappy; might have been that he had ate something that hadn’t agreed with him but under the circumstance Michael figured that he was responsible for the Judges sour look.

“Will the defendant please rise”.

Michael stood to his feet.

“Young man I have the power to put you away for a lot of years, possibly for most of your adult life. Had you killed someone instead of wounding them that is exactly what I would do but taking all things into consideration I have a better idea. You have up to this point a clean record so I am giving you the choice of 2 years in the Marine Corps or jail; it’s up to you. If you choose to go into the Marines in 2 years if you mind your manners you will receive an honorable discharge and nothing will show on your record. But I can assure you if you misbehave in there you won’t see freedom for a long time”.

Michael was being railroaded and there wasn’t a damn thing that he could do about it. With a plea bargain he had gotten the charges against his cousin Jed dismissed but he wasn’t going to be so lucky. Jed was just an onlooker when the shooting started and with a young wife and two youngins there was no need for him to go to jail. He nodded that he understood.

“Young man I need a very audible, verbal reply from you that you understand completely what is about to take place, in fact a ‘sir, yes sir’ would be appropriate”.

Michael looked the judge in the eye and without a trace of malice but with a firm conviction that he understood completely what was about to take place replied; “sir, yes sir”. The Judges gavel made an ominous sound after he finished reading his sentence.

They didn’t wasted anytime getting him to MCRD Parris Island; after stepping off of the bus the deputy sheriff unshackled him and removed his hand cuffs. “Have a good time sweetheart”.

Michael glanced at the deputy, under other circumstances he would have been more than obliging in removing the deputies grin. “How’s about I look you up in a couple of years”?

The deputies grin faded for just a second, then he fired back “sure thing, alls you gotta do is survive Vietnam; just a walk in the park for a tough guy like you”. Then shoving Michael towards the waiting bus he got in his car and drove away.

Turning and decking the deputy was instinctive for Michael but he was approached by a Drill Instructor wearing a campaign hat and walking at a brisk gate; the man had an air of authority about him, not ignorant not arrogant just a man in charge.

There had been a half a dozen other young men on the bus, Michael being the only one in hand cuffs and shackles was something of a celebrity but his celebrity status had just been cancelled.

“All right girls fall in, by that I mean put your feet in the yellow prints here on the tarmac; left foot in the left print and right foot in the other one. For those of you who don’t know left from right we will start your education right now”.

Someone snickered and the DI jumped in the middle of their shit “oh you sweet little things think that this is some kind of joke do you, well we’ll see who’s joking in a few days now fall in”.

Boot camp wasn’t to Michael as hard as some had made it out to be, number one thing was to stay in the middle of the pack, don’t stand out, don’t do anything that causes the rest of the platoon to be punished on your behalf, mind your manners so to speak as his momma would have put it.

Momma; someone that he thought about quite often, not that he was a momma’s boy but she wasn’t in the best of health and he worried about her. He wasn’t convinced that his dad was going to take very good care of her while he was gone. Daddy wasn’t mean to her he just didn’t see things that Michael did.

Probably should have handled the cattle rustling differently but it sure seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Maybe if the one kid that he shot hadn’t been a Senators son it would have turned out different than it did. Kid’s dad had a lot of pull and things went bad for Michael.

No sense in belaboring the point now; at least he had got Jed off without any charges being filed against him.

“On your belly’s girls, on your backs, now up and running” a DI screamed at the Platoon. Mud was stuck in every part of Michael’s body that it could find its way into but just try and wipe any of it away and another round of screaming and water hosing would begin. Finally when all were too exhausted to stand the DI’s stopped punishing them. They got to their feet one more time and in formation with as good a cadence as could be mustered, covered with mud they marched to the shower.

He wasn’t sure what week it was that they finally made it to the rifle range; he shot high ‘Expert’ on qualification day.

After boot camp came Basic Infantry Training (BIT) and then Infantry Training Regiment (ITR). Somewhere in there he did two weeks of KP and then he was home on leave for twenty days. The time went fast and he stayed out of trouble but when he got back to his unit he was delayed heading overseas. Idle Marines are most often bored Marines and that usually spells trouble.

It was a cool little bar, the beer cold and the women hot, just the way he preferred it. She might have been a few years older than him but as he was fond of saying ‘momma never raised any fools’ and he damn sure wasn’t gonna guess at her age. Besides what he wanted from her had nothing to do with how old she was; so long as she was at least eighteen.

She could dance like crazy and after swinging around the floor a while they loaded up in his 56 Ford Fairlane. It wasn’t fancy but he had picked it up cheap and it was clean and ran good. What county road they pulled off of to park on he wasn’t sure but the prospects of the night looked good. From the sounds in the back seat his buddy was doing alright.

Valerie, as her name was, was a real make out artist but try as he did he couldn’t get past making out as they called in the late sixties. He was frustrated and the fact that the couple in the back seat was plenty uninhibited only added to his anticipation as well as his frustration. Finally after the couple in the back seat had cooled down they drove back to the bar.

“Will I see you tomorrow night” she asked as he dropped her off?

Puzzled he replied “sure”.

With a kiss goodnight she left.

The next evening he was back at the Blue Moon as it was called and there she was all smiles. They danced for a while and she seemed genuinely glad to see him. He was without his Marine counterpart tonight, after a while she suggested they go for a ride; did she just want to tease and frustrate him or what? None-the-less he didn’t refuse her request.

He wasn’t sure if they ended up at the same spot as the night before but he didn’t care, he figured it was going to turn out the same anyway. As he pulled to a stop she slid over a bit from him, ‘here we go again’ he thought but to his surprise and amusement she reached up under her dress and hooked her underpants and slid them off over her legs, struggling a bit to get them clear of her high heels. She flipped them up on the dash and then slid over against the door with her gorgeous legs stretched across the seat in his direction and stared expectantly at him.

The car was still idling as he looked at her.

“Well, are going to keep a girl waiting”?

He smiled as he turned the ignition and lights off “now that would be just rude wouldn’t it”?

Sometime later as they lay sprawled across the front seat in various stages of undress both smoking a cigarette and relaxing he asked “what was up with last night”?

“What do you mean” she asked with a furrowed brow?

“No matter what I did last night you were only going to go so far”.

With mock seriousness and bit of a scolding tone she replied “really Michael, what would you think of a girl that would go all the way with you on the first date”? The smile that covered her face made him burst out laughing.

“Good point”. His lust for this girl could be turning into love; he was hoping that she was no in hurry to go, with any luck they might get around to ‘round two’ so to speak.

Hours later he dropped her off at the Blue Moon, “when can I see you again”?

She smiled a bewitching smile at him “next Friday”.

“Eight in the evening”?

“Sure” she smiled and slid over and kissed him once more, her lips lingered sensuously; yes sirree just might turn into love after all. He wondered briefly if she had to go just yet, after all it was still dark and the parking lot was deserted. She opened the door and slid out without another word or a look back. He watched her drive away then started his car and headed to base.

The week passed slowly, not being busy wasn’t helping, tempers were growing short and Marines were edgy with each other. Everyone had orders to Vietnam and the waiting was wearing on them. Attitudes seemed to be ‘to hell with this sitting around, let’s get this fight started’. Finally Friday night rolled around.

“Mathews you’re on duty tonight”.

Michael looked up from polishing his boots “hey sarg, I got a hot date I can’t be late for”.

Sergeant Webster wasn’t at all amused by Michael’s reply. Short with a slight belly he looked soft, 15 years in the Corps and not past buck sergeant. Never a combat Marine but a bully with his men; had to take his meanness and frustrations out somewhere.

“I don’t give a damn how hot she is, you’re on duty tonight”.

“Man is there any way I can swap out with someone else”?

“Its sergeant Webster asshole and no you can’t swap out with anyone else”. Webster was getting pushy and Michael didn’t appreciate it.

With an all knowing grin sergeant Webster taunted him “hell give me her name and I’ll fill in for you, best she hell ever have I can guaranty”.

Before he realized what he had done the sergeant was on his back out cold, the problem for Michael now was he was in hand cuffs heading to the Brigg; it was a week before he was released.

He walked into the Blue Moon the next Friday night following his release looking for her. He sat around for a while watching everyone that came in hoping it would be her but after a few hours he was starting to lose hope; he sat up to the bar and ordered a beer.

“Has Valerie been in lately”?

“Who” the bartender asked?

“Valerie, cute little blonde; got a mole just off the corner of her mouth” Michael pointed at the spot on his face where the mole might be.

“Oh you mean Billie”.

“Billie? No her name was Valerie”

The bartender laughed “is that what she told you”?

“”What do you mean ‘is that what she told me’, that was her name”. He was growing red faced with anger and couldn’t control the emotion that was welling up inside him. How could she lie to him; why would she?

“Well now let me get this straight’ the bartender started with “you’s in love with her after a one night stand, more than likely didn’t make it to a motel, front seat of a car just fine. Now you can’t find her and it being true love and all, y’all is feeling kinda jilted. Sound about right”?

Michael hated this smart ass son-of-a-bitch but he was starting to think that maybe he was telling the truth or at least stating the facts as they really were. He nodded at the bartender that he was on track and the truth was starting to settle in.

“Don’t know for sure where she’ll be tonight but I heard a rumor that her and the husband and kids were heading to Okinawa”.

“Okinawa”? Michael looked at the bartender in a daze.

“Yep, her husband is a flyboy, flies a tanker for the Air Force. Probably be stationed there for a while”.

“Husband and kids” he muttered under his breath; no way, how could it be possible. He looked up at the bartender; the man had an ignorant smirk across his face.

At 5’ 11” and 165 pounds Michael wasn’t a big lad nor was he small, in the words of his daddy he was ‘a strappin youngster with broad shoulders and wrist bones that would rival a Belgian work horse’s cannon bones’.

He put a couple dollars on the bar and stood up to leave; the bartender was leaning towards him with his hands resting on the bar still wearing his all knowing, ignorant grin, as he reach for the money he failed to see the left hook that dropped him. With a clatter of glasses and bottles he went down in a heap, he wasn’t out cold but he was a few minutes getting up. Michael was long gone by the time he found his feet and no one had witnessed the assault; the bartender was unsure what freight train came through his bar and blind-sided him.

Getting to Vietnam became a blur after that, becoming a woman hater was deep in his thoughts. He wanted to erase her memory but it wasn’t going to be easy. He tried to convince hisself that she was just having some fun; playing the game as the guys did. It didn’t ease the anger or the pain that he felt.

Why? Was he so madly in love that he couldn’t live without her? After all it was just a one night stand wasn’t it? Love, for a few minutes anyway, in the front seat of a car. Forget her, she wasn’t worth his time.

Da Nang, Happy Valley, and Marine Corps Snipers

“Any of you jarheads wanna be a sniper”?

The question barked out by a Staff Sergeant caught Michael’s attention; why not? After all it was his shooting that had landed him in the Marines; why not make the best of it. He raised his hand.

“Wu’d you shoot on the range”?

“High expert”.

“Fall out, we’ll give ya a chance boy but don’t waste my time if you can’t shoot just stay where ya are”.

“I can shoot”. His bad attitude came through with his reply; the Staff Sergeant glared at him.

“Don’t need any attitude from you or anyone else today, if you’re gonna give me trouble I got just the place for ya”.

Michael looked at the Sergeant, “I understand Sergeant, just having a bad day; I can shoot and I won’t give you any trouble”.

“Well hell son, you’s in Nam now, y’all can look forward to thirteen months of bad days”.

Vietnam in 1969 was referred to as ‘Down South’ and ‘Down South’ wasn’t a safe place to be. To survive took a certain amount of skill and training, some gut instinct and a bit of luck. Michael’s training up till now had been good but it was hard to prepare men for War, no matter how good their training was.

When playing War, at the end of the day most everyone stood up and went to chow; there were on occasion training accidents were someone had to be left behind to heal and then join another unit and a rare death. For the most part the United States Marine Corps took care of their fighting men, they had a lot invested in them and pride ran strong in the Marines.

But actual combat, or contact as it was often referred to, was a baptism of its own category. A rare few handled it as if it was another day at the office, some were frozen with terror and had to be blasted out of there frozen state by a senior NCO with combat experience. The majority were somewhere between the two. All would never be the same after tasting combat; some wouldn’t survive first contact.

“Not bad Mathews; where did you learn to shoot”? The instructors praise and question came as he scored Michaels group at 700 hundred yards.

“Missouri; grew up on a small farm and hunted a lot growing up”?

“Think you will have trouble pulling the trigger for the first time on a human”?

“Didn’t before”.

The instructor looked at his student, not sure that he wanted to know the details he studied Michael for a second then let it go. Where or when this sandy haired youth with a Missouri accent had pulled the trigger on another human wasn’t his concern, his concern was to turn out good shooters, and this kid could shoot; possibly the best he had trained in the past year.

Over the next three months he was assigned to grunt units going out for what was referred to as ‘search and destroy’; then he was attached to a firebase and would do some shooting form a hill top at distances up to a thousand yards. At five months ‘in country’ he had racked up 3 dozen confirmed kills and another 2 dozen possible.

Humping the hills of Indian or Arizona Territory in Vietnam was far different than sitting on a hill top watching folks. The grueling and exhausting days of humping from one hill across a valley or rice paddies to another hill had to be experienced to fully appreciate. His respect for ‘Marine grunt’s’ had gone up considerably.

Being a sniper assigned to a grunt outfit wasn’t a blessing by any means; the first words you would hear on making contact were “snipers up”. It was an adrenaline rush that supercharged an exhausted body, but along with it came the knowledge that you were up front; in the thick of it.

He had been on ‘his’ hill for about three months now and one of the first thing that he learned ‘in country’ was that whenever Marines stopped and built anything that looked like it was going to last more than a day the people of South Vietnam would start providing all sorts of services just out the camp gate with shanty’s and buildings sprouting up overnight. This place proved to be no different. The problem with the situation was that some of the Vietnamese worked with the VC and NVA. You never knew for sure who they were; to be safe you assumed all were.

Marine Corps relations with the people of South Vietnam were meant with honorable intentions for the most part and Marines did not normally fire on women and children but knowing that some of the locals just out the gate were giving numbers and distances to the enemy made everyone uneasy. Still at the end of the day most all of the Marines were out the gate getting a haircut or having their laundry done. Buying things that they wanted and couldn’t find anywhere else or enjoying the company of the local girls either buying them drinks or offering money, cigarettes or candy for other services.

Michael had not found it hard to keep the Vietnamese girls at a distance. Some were certainly pretty enough and he knew more than one Marine had exchanged the cigarettes from their C-rations for a village girls favors. No one condemned if you did, no one condemned if you didn’t, it was Vietnam, thirteen months of just surviving day to day; the locals were just trying o survive also but he was still being haunted by the memory of one woman and she had round eyes and blonde hair.

“Hey Mitch, take a look at this”.

He shot his spotter a sour look, he had told the guy a hundred times that his name wasn’t ‘Mitch’ but he still called him that. Maybe it wasn’t really that big of a deal though because he had a hard time remembering his spotter’s name which was kind of funny as much time as they spent together.

“Whatch ya got”? He lifted his binoculars looking off in the direction his spotter was viewing; he saw at once what it was.

“Three gooks playing with a mine; don’t suppose they are going to return it for the reward do ya”? Both knew the answer to that but the humor was not lost on Michael.

“Sure, for three Marine legs and few guts and maybe an eyeball or two”.

His spotter grunted in agreement, “hey, doesn’t that look like Mai Ling or whatever the hell her name is”?

“Dang sure does; not sure how you could tell that though, didn’t figure you had seen her with her clothes on”.

His spotter laughed “well I don’t figure you have seen her with them off so what do you think”?

Michael gazed through his binoculars, the distance was pushing 800 yards but he could make out her features fairly well. To a lot of Americans all gooks looked the same but it was her; he wasn’t real sure what her name was but she ran a laundry by day and was one of the local prostitutes by night. All though the day and night business’s overlapped at times. He had taken his laundry to her but had not partaken of her other services. He kinda liked her but not in any romantic way, she was just nice to him but then she was nice to everyone. Probably just trying to survive, too bad she was playing with this land mine; it moved her from a non-combatant to a combatant. They sat and watched the trio for a few more minutes.

“What do you think Mitch”?

“Not much doubt what they are doing, if I take one of them out the other two will likely make cover, at that distance a running shot is fifty fifty”.

“Yeah I agree; what if you hit the mine”?

Michael grinned “I was just thinking of that myself”.

His spotter grinned at him; “be a hell of a shot”.

“That it will be, at least I’ll have a witness”.

He settled into a comfortable shooting position, steadied his breathing, checked the distance and dope on his scope and took one more relaxing breath; holding just a bit high and to the right to allow for wind and distance. When most of the air had exhaled from his lungs he feathered the trigger.

The recoil of the 7.62 NATO round leaving the barrel of his 700 Remington took his eye off of the target for a split second; by the time he got the scope back on the trio he was rewarded with a resounding boom and water gushing high, tinted with red mist.

“Holy shit Mitch; that was the best shot I’ve ever seen”.

“Looks like were gonna have to find another laundry and ‘boom boom’ girl”, both Marines laughed.

“Doubt that’s gonna be a problem. Some enterprising gal will be at it by tonight”.

“Yeah no doubt”, Michael scanned the area for any signs of survivors. Remorse wasn’t part of his job, she shouldn’t have been where she was; it changed her status drastically.

*****

Momma had been sick for a long time and Michael wasn’t a bit sure that she would be alive when he got home from Nam but what surprised him most was when he received the letter, the United States Marine Corps shipped him home for her funeral.

He had known that when he took the law in his own hands that it had hurried his momma to the grave. He was wracked with guilt over the things that he had done to hurt her but it was of no use now, she was gone. He wasn’t sure if there really was a Heaven or Hell but he figured momma was in Heaven; and he was headed for ‘Hell’.

“Ain’t no use in blaming yourself Michael, you know your momma loved you no matter what you was up to”.

He nodded his head at aunt Flo’s words. Aunt Florence might have been his daddy’s sister but she had been more like a sister to his momma. Her being Jed’s momma she had always been like a second mom to him instead of his aunt.

“I know aunt Flo but I can’t help blame myself some for her being in the grave this soon”.

“Maybe, but likely not as much as you’s thinking; whatever was a ailing her from inside she didn’t die of a broken heart over her only child. Proud she was of you Michael, if you didn’t see that when the two of us came to your boot camp graduation then you is denser in the head than I ever figured”.

Michael looked at Flo then broke out in a grin as he remembered that day. He had figured like most Marines graduating from boot camp that it was gonna be a lonely event, one embraced with Marine Corps pride and tradition and a few hours of liberty on base and then back at it at lights out but then he looked up and saw momma and aunt Flo standing in the crowd; graduation that day at Parris Island took on a different color.

The two of them tried their level best to adopt every Marine graduating with him that day; even a few that Michael hadn’t been particularly fond of. He remembered aunt Flo’s words to him when he expressed his displeasure towards a few of his fellow graduates.

“Now Michael these boys have got mommas somewhere too and it ain’t right to shut them out just cause they can’t be here today with their boy’s”. He knew right then that aunt Flo was thinking about those boys mom’s as much as the boys. He also remembered being near celebrity status after graduation with Marines that hardly knew his name during boot camp because of his momma and aunt Flo. It was just one of a thousand memories about his momma that he was glad to have.

*****

On his first flight to Vietnam he had stopped at Okinawa but his time there had been short, this time on his way back he was held over for a few days. Why things happened the way they did in the Corps was beyond him and worrying or wondering why was a waste of time.

He was wandering around the base PX at Kadena airfield near Naha on a Saturday afternoon; it never dawned on him that ‘she’ might be there. He was walking down an isle absentmindedly looking for some items that weren’t available ‘down south’ when he heard a familiar laughter, he stopped in his tracks. It couldn’t be, but there was no mistaking that laugh. He held still then he heard it again, this time accompanied by her voice; she was talking with someone.

“Don’t you think we should wait until we get home”?

He heard a man laugh and then something was said that he couldn’t make out; she laughed again.

Murder flooded through his veins as he stood there trying to gain control of his anger; in the worst possible way he wanted to step around the isle and confront her but he held still. He could hear them move on down the aisle. He wanted to see if it really was her; there was no doubt, he just wanted a visual.

He moved the opposite direction down his aisle but paused to see what direction she was going, when he realized they had stopped at the far end he looked around but kept moving so he didn’t attract attention. He caught his breath, it was her; she was with an Air Force officer who looked ten years older than her, bald and overweight he didn’t look like a good match for her. Two kids were tagging along, one about five or six and the other one still in diapers. But it was her, brunette instead of blonde with short hair and visible pregnant.

Michael stepped behind the next aisle before she could see him. He stood there stunned beyond words. He had imagined this moment over and over again and all that he was going to say or do and yet he was frozen in speech and action. What could he do; what could he say? Nothing! There was nothing to say and nothing he could do; just leave and do it without making a scene.

He had moved half way down the aisle without thinking and was standing there collecting his wits.

“I’ll look down this aisle honey while you look over there”.

“Ok babe”.

Michael turned away as she came around the corner to where he was standing; she acted like she was looking for something, he couldn’t help it, he had to look, she was staring at him; expressionless.

“Hey honey I found it” came from the next aisle.

Michael continued to look at her; no emotion came from her green eyes. “Ok” she replied not breaking eye contact with him. She smiled slightly; then looking down at her stomach she smoothed the blouse over her protruding belly. She turned and walked away without a word.

He wasn’t sure how long he stood there; he wanted to watch her go but was afraid his emotions would betray him. He left the PX. He didn’t see her again; it was just as well.

The rate of venereal disease in Okinawa was 97% during those years, he didn’t care, for the next few days before heading out he was drunk and near disorderly; whoring and drinking was a favorite Marine pastime, throw in a good fight and you had the three basic entertainment for ‘off duty’ Marines. He managed to stay out of any fights but hit every bath house and brothel that time allowed before flying out; none of it helped.

Vietnam smelled like a wet dog, he wasn’t sure why that hadn’t registered the first time he landed there but sure as hell that’s what it smelled like. Odd though, the Vietnamese women had taken on a different look in his absence.

He had fourteen months in the Corps, seven of them in country so six more to go on his original tour; if his math wasn’t bad that would leave him four more to go after his original thirteen months ‘in country’, might as well extend and finish here. State side duty after combat might just suck; besides he could legally shoot someone here and maybe if he was lucky he would go home in a body bag. Aunt Flo and Jed would take care of his daddy; somehow going home to farm and raise hogs, chickens and cows had lost its appeal. As far as raising kids he had no opinion on the subject; at least not anymore.

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