Chapter 5

What Do You Think?

There are two kinds of assurance. The kind found within and the kind found in others. For some, assurance in others is the only way to find confidence. Sad as this fact may be, not everyone is blessed with limitless amounts of self-confidence.

Doubting Thomas could not have been a more perfect moniker for Milloy. As an adolescent he was not known for his popularity. His lanky form and naturally shy demeanor served to inhibit any chance for his self-confidence to blossom.

Milloy was not always such a confident warrior. He used to be a person that never quite believed he was worth much of anything. If you tried to tell him he was handsome, he would say he was ugly. You told him he was smart, he would say dumb. It had never occurred to him that he really was a bright young man.

Several years later, Milloy thought he changed. The days of doubting Thomas were finally behind him. Victory was his. Unfortunately, for lack of better words, Milloy was dead wrong. On the battlefield, confidence was never an issue. He loyally followed orders, would give his life for fellow comrades, and never question his commitment to country. As a warrior, Milloy was confident. But as a man, he was one of such little faith.

Over and over he would be warned that his lack of faith would lead to a sad and worthless existence. It was not his family, not his friends, not his pastor, and certainly not his pshrink that warned him of such a negative lifestyle. So, if the advice was not uttered from the mouths of these familiar faces, then who? Ironically it was someone much closer, himself.

A two front war had befallen Milloy. He had to fight a war on the battlefield and a war in his soul. Compared to a war on the battlefield a war in his soul was much more difficult. Milloy was a man stuck between heaven and hell. For years he tried to balance his somewhat fragile faith with his deadly profession. At times it was quite hard for him to understand just how God could love a man that killed for a living. His life lacked a true meaning as far as he was concerned. Taking lives while destroying his own was not what he envisioned a career in the Navy to be. Every life he took and every personal failure that had cursed him was killing him slowly. He had been searching for redemption for a while. Maybe he needed to find God or maybe he just needed to find himself. Regardless of the road he traveled, both were surely difficult journeys, difficult journeys, that for the most part, Milloy preferred not to embark upon.

As was customary Milloy was going on one of his usual rants with his fellow teammate. The two of them stood on the deck of Iwo Jima staring out across the Indian Ocean. Such an empty sight got Milloy's often-philosophical mind churning once again.

"Sort of depressing when you look at it, huh?" Milloy said randomly.

"What ya mean?" Garson asked.

"The ocean. Nothing but emptiness out there." Milloy replied.

"Not really a whole hell of a lot to look forward to."

"Yup. Life can be the same way sometimes. We search for something but never end up finding it."

"Guess that bright light at the end of the tunnel ain't heaven then."

"Maybe. Maybe not." Milloy shrugged his shoulders.

"But you'd like to think that life was something more meaningful than just a nasty, short, and brutish existence."

"Sorry man, but I don't think I can think of life in any other way." Garson apologized. "But don't let my opinions stop you from trying to find that elusive something. Whatever the hell that is."

"I was just thinking about the Biblical story of Exodus. You know I'm not a religious person. But this has been on my mind for quite some time. Exodus, as I see it, is like a metaphor for the story of our lives. Just imagine if you believe in God for a sec. Personally I think God is trying to show us that life isn't all happy go lucky. As a matter of fact it can be pretty damn shitty. I mean it was shitty for the Israelites. They were slaves first. It took them 40 years to reach Canaan and like ninety percent of 'em died."

"Not the best of odds." Garson managed.

"Yeah, you're right. Not the best of odds. But hey, eventually they made it. Life is the same way. Through all the pain and the shit life throws at us, we manage to pull through, one way or another. Like all those Israelites that did in the desert, so do we. Granted we don't die literally, pieces of us do. For instance, our hopes, dreams, our confidence, love. All those things die and fade away. Sorta like this Godsmack song I listen to. Think the guy says, uh, 'my fears come alive in this place where in this place where I once died'. Now, where am I going with this? All of us find ourselves in or recall situations where everything went to hell. We where depressed, angry, terrified. We felt a variety of emotions. But once we realize we made it through those times, just the mere fact we survived causes those fears to subside."

"So who or what do you think is responsible for helping us out of these so called shitty times?" Garson asked just out of curiosity.

"It could be just about anything. Some may give credit to God, whereas others may just give it to blind luck. I'm not trying to be like one of those Jehovah's Witness's knocking down your door. It's just that, for me, I think something beyond me has something to do with this. I think I'm startin' to understand some things here. Just like God supposedly delivered the Israelites, I think he is trying to deliver me. I mean, I have died many times before, but it was that force that brought me to life again. Sorry for this rant here, but I just need someone to listen to my crap. Kinda helps me to find my way. Ironic to be hearing all this deep religious stuff from a trained killer."

"Well, usually I would have said you were bullshitting. But hey seems like you're on to something."

"Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong profession." Milloy laughed.

"There's always retirement." Garson replied patting his friend on the back.

"And end up scaring the shit outta my grandkids with stories of slittin' guys throats?" Milloy asked rhetorically. "I don't think so."

Garson laughed, "Hey, I'd love the thought of scaring the little bastards half to death."

"That's you, Garson. Not me." Milloy sighed.

"Hey guy, cheer up. You'll find what you're looking for. Maybe not today. But eventually." Garson smiled.

"Hope so."

Garson hid his jealously. Or was it really jealousy at all? His teammate seemed like he had it all together as if he solved one of life's greatest mysteries. Was there some benevolent force, up above, watching over him? Reflecting on his past, the answer was a big no. But Garson wondered briefly. He had gone through a lot in his life and managed to survive. His parents may have abandoned him and he was even poor for a time. But he conquered those challenges and ended up being a man that others looked up to. Garson believed he could have given up on life a long time ago. What was that thing kept him from going over the edge? There were more than enough reasons to pass up the chance to go on living. Was it God or was it his head on approach to life? The young sailor did not openly admit that he wanted to believe in somebody or something. This time, however, he felt like he should have. His parents claimed to be Christians. From what little he knew about Christianity, he knew it was a religion based on forgiveness. Obviously his parents weren't Christian, because if they were they would not have kicked him out the house for smoking pot. Parents have a right to get mad but they have an obligation to take care of their children as well. Garson could never forgive his family for doing such a thing. They were hypocrites, not devout Christians. That was why Garson had refused to believe in God. He lived with Christians and they left him in the cold. But then he realized there were good friends like Milloy, a man who was trying to find his purpose in life. Could Milloy have been an example of God working in mysterious ways? It had been a long time since Garson tried to believe. But after recalling Milloy's interpretation of Exodus, taking another chance on faith was not such a bad idea.

---

Delaney finally had the chance to walk away from the operating table and useless paperwork. He had no idea about how he was supposed to spend the rest of this day. Sleeping would have been a good idea. But his body was still used to catching only a few hours of sleep. Realizing he couldn't force his body to fall asleep, he opted to stay awake and wait for his body to feel tired again. Only then, did he feel like he should crash, hopefully, for a solid eight hours.

Figuring he'd have to wait before falling asleep again, Delaney decided to take some time to nurture his artistic side. Taking a seat in a dormant helicopter, he began scanning the deck, not for targets, but for something to draw. Delaney had quite a knack for being able to replicate what he saw done to even the most minute details. Many of his fellow sailors suggested he had another calling in life and they were probably right. Delaney was an excellent artist. His artwork was inspiring but inspiration couldn't save the world. Being a SEAL, made a difference, at least to him. Could he have made a difference as an artist? No one knew for sure, but at least it was food for thought.

His attention was fixated on some seagulls flying around an American flag. Striking the page with the graphite of his pencil he began to wondrous process of drawing exactly what he saw. The flag was the first object he started on. Making short marks and long marks, Delaney skillfully recreated the flowing banner. Against the backdrop of the white sketchpad, old glory looked rather lonely. A few seagulls should give it some company.

Drawing the seagulls would be a challenging endeavor. None of them was going to sit still for him. Instead, he would have to study the features of each of the birds, taking into account head shape, wing length, even the feather texture. Delaney was a perfectionist even in his leisurely pursuits. He was determined to make this piece of art nothing short of fantastic.

"The flag looks a little crooked if you ask me." A familiar voice said.

Delaney looked up from the sketchpad. "Well, your stick figures could use a little work too." He grinned.

"Hey, those stick figures are gonna be worth millions of dollars one day." Michiko joked.

"And I'll just wait 'till hell freezes over." Delaney replied.

"Okay, okay. You're good, I'll give you that. But you still can't write your name with a rifle."

"Depends on the type of rifle you're referring to." Delaney smirked. "Maybe you just shouldn't speak anymore."

Michiko struggled to find a witty comeback. "You're lucky I don't have anything to say. But I'll think of something."

"Call me back in about five years." Delaney rubbed it in.

Michiko took a seat next to Delaney. "How's life been at the operating table?"

"Like hell." Delaney replied eyes still focused on the page in front of him. "Just happy this war's over."

"Think we all are."

"That's why I'm out here trying to take my mind off of things. Seen enough blood."

"And I thought staying on this ship was safer than being in the box."

"It is, but in exchange for not getting shot at, you see the stuff of nightmares. Over and over again. Makes it kinda hard to sleep."

"Think I'd pass out if I had to look at some of the things you've seen."

"Well, you see some nasty things too, especially after you squeeze that trigger."

"Yeah, but I only watch someone's head get knocked off from a mile away. I don't see the blood and guts up close."

"Ain't for everyone bud."

"Neither is killing people. Shoot I'd rather do what you do. That way, I can take a life, and save a life." Michiko kidded.

Delaney chuckled. "If only things were that simple. But a lot more baggage comes with this job than most folks anticipate."

"Judging by your creativity." Michiko looked at the sketchpad. "You probably could have made more money doing other things."

"You're probably right. But I've always wanted to be a doctor of some sort, even though I'm just a simple corpsman. Helping to save lives is something I've always wanted to do since I was a kid."

"And I just wanted to be a truck driver."

Both sailors had a good laugh at that.

"Hey, don't feel bad. Truck drivers are real important to us. How else would we get all our grocery food, furniture, office supplies, shit, just about anything you can think of."

"Breaker, breaker one nine. Hell no." Michiko chuckled. "I'd rather get shot at."

"After seeing the things I've seen, I'd rather do something as boring as driving a truck across the country. It's a sick routine of having to try and save a life, only to watch it fade away. I've saved plenty of people and watched just as many die. Call me wrong, but watching an enemy die is something I can live with. But seeing our guys not make it, time in and time out, is one of the worst things I have ever experienced."

"Only so much we can do man."

"I agree. It's just that when people trust you to save their lives and you fail, the feeling is miserable."

"None of us are Superman, buddy. Hell, you're doing a lot more than others can. How many people can look at a gruesome injury and keep their head on. I'm a trained killer and I couldn't even do that. You really should give yourself more credit."

"I know, but I feel like that'll only give me a big head. Ego doesn't save lives."

"Neither does stressin' yourself out. Take it easy, you're startin' to sound like an old lady on menopause."

Delaney managed a light laugh. "Maybe I am and I don't mean to act like one. I only want to do the best I can for the guys that can't help themselves. But then again, nobody's perfect."

"THANK YOU!" Michiko shook Delaney. "Now get back to that sketch, 'cause I wanna share that one mill, after the work of art goes on sale. I'm gonna see who's winning the NFC divisional. Sorry ass Cowboys are facing off against the Eagles. Two teams I hate, can ya believe it? Have fun with the artwork."

Michiko left while Delaney remained to finish his sketch. When he made an errant mark, he silently cursed to himself. As he erased the rather insignificant scratch, Delaney realized he was turning into a perfectionist. Was I always this way, he wondered. The possibility had never occurred to him before. Delaney started to see his passion for drawing was beginning to mirror his desire to save lives. He knew that saving the life of everyone was not possible. Some would live and some would die. You could never negotiate with death. If these musings were true, then why did Delaney lie to himself, why did he try so hard? His passion for wanting to give people a second chance at life was so strong he risked being a miserable man for the rest of his life. Was that what he really wanted, to constantly beat himself up for the things he could not change? Delaney knew he was not truly living life by thinking this way. Was I ever supposed to? This may have been the sacrifice he made for others. But no one ever asked him to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders in the first place.

---

Mendez was an avid movie fan, cheesy action flicks being his absolute favorites. Each of these corny films required a blend of special ingredients. You had to have hot dumb blonde, overdone explosions, bad guys that couldn't shoot, and a single hero that manages to kill his arch nemesis in a climatic fistfight. Whoever came up with the recipe for these movies was a genius, at least in Mendez's mind.

Much to the sailor's discontent, directors were not making movies like that anymore. They aimed for realism nowadays and storylines that spoke about the human experience. Cheesy action movies may not have touched upon the deep meaning of existence. But at least they dealt with comedic displays of ego, bravery, and stupidity. All these themes accurately portray humanity, don't they? Siskel and Ebert may not have agreed, but Mendez did. Movie critics always tried to mess things up for everyone else.

It just so happened that one of the marines found a cheesy action film stored deep in his locker. With a week's worth of downtime to spare he invited a few of his comrades down to the maintenance deck to share some beers and some laughs around the small television set. Mendez decided to join the party as well. A great deal of time had passed since he had the time to enjoy such a painstakingly crafted motion picture. He definitely wasn't going to pass up a chance to see this one.

"I miss anything?" A familiar voice asked.

Mendez turned around. "Just a hot chick changing her clothes." He grinned.

"Damn." Kaufman replied sarcastically. "Well, they start shootin' anyone yet?"

"Got here just in time jefe. And… Here it goes." Mendez pointed to the screen.

A couple of marines yelled out HOORAH when someone shot off a bazooka. Mendez rolled in laughter when a handful of actors went flying thirty feet in the air.

"Y'know, I wish our stuff did that." Mendez managed between laughs.

"Shoot, if we had one of them MX four thous… Whatever the hell they called it, we'd be outta work."

"Wouldn't that be something?"

The hero pulled out a rifle and started shooting.

"Aw man, here he goes shooting from the hip, nailing guys left and right." Kaufman chuckled.

"And he's walking by the bullets treating 'em like harmless drops of rain."

"How long you think we could get away with something like that?" Mendez questioned, wiping his eyes.

"Oh, I'd say three seconds." Kaufman chortled.

After the hero managed to kill his arch nemesis, he embraced his attractive female sidekick. Everybody crowded around the screen hoping to a catch a more revealing look of the heroine.

"TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!" The marines cheered in unison.

Just when their wish appeared to be granted, the video suddenly turned to static. In a panic, one of the marines rushed to the VCR and started to shake it. Mendez, amused by the situation, decided to comment.

"Hittin' it ain't workin' dumb ass!" Mendez shouted.

"Hey, shut your mouth Mendez. We're gonna fix this thing, just you watch." One of the marines retorted.

"Yeah, if they grow brains first." Mendez whispered, to Kaufman.

Kaufman suppressed a laugh. "C'mon man, give the boys a break."

"Not with 'em hoppin' around the television like a bunch of monkeys. Throw 'em some bananas, that may help 'em out. This is a prime example of how dumb us guys get when we see a pair of boobs."

"You are a ruthless somebody." Kaufman chuckled.

"I know, don't ya just love it?" Mendez replied, behind a wide grin.

"Well, at least it seems like your jokes are all in good faith."

"Yeah, sometimes I guess. But I just do it to make people laugh. And who doesn't like a good laugh now and then?"

"People who end up being the joke." Kaufman chided.

"They'll get over it." Mendez lit a cigarette. "Oh and look, the dumb apes got the tape to work."

Kaufman threw his hands up. "That's it. I said it. Ruthless."

Mendez laughed. "It comes with growin' up in the Bronx. You see, I saw a lot of fights in my time. Being the small guy I am, well, was, getting my stuff handed to me didn't seem like all it was cracked up to be. So I learned early, that making people laugh was a good way of preventing a spectacular ass whuppin'."

"Hold up." Kaufman said. "How the hell did a trash talker like you not get beat up? Because around here you talk so much stuff about people."

"No worries there. I had everything down to a nice routine. A whole bunch of folks know that the Bronx has some pretty rough cats growing up there. Even a few gangs here and there. I mean you had ya Puerto Rican, Black, Asian gangs, shit, just about every ethnicity had a gang. Now, talking about one of those cats to their face was never a good idea. Did my fair share of runnin' away before I got the point. Afterwards, I learned to just talk about people at certain times."

"Oh so you went back and forth on people huh?" Kaufman figured it out. "You slick bastard." He laughed.

"Old wisdom from Richard Pryor my friend. I was in every gang. Whoever was winning I'd be like, this is my side. There's always a strategy to everything."

"Gotta do what ya need to do."

"Yes sir. But I learned something else as well. Humor is universal, I mean we all laugh. To be honest, this lonely rock would be a better place if people just learned to joke around a bit. People are too damn serious nowadays. I mean as kids we laugh all the time. Why don't we laugh as adults? I dunno. Something to think about."

"I guess so." Kaufman agreed. "You ain't feeling bad whenever you're laughing, even if you're making fun of other people. "

"Wouldn't you rather laugh than be pissed off all the time? I would and doing what we do, we need as much laughter as we can get. Helps ya to kind of shrug off all the killing."

"Yup, 'cause killing gets old. Need something to take ya mind off the boredom of it all. And looks like we're watching another movie."

"What? Hooked on Phonics?" Mendez teased.

"Behave yourself."

---

Lazarre, like everyone else on the Iwo Jima, was not terribly thrilled about the arrival of a news crew. But who could blame them. The media had said some not so nice things to say about the fighting men and women, while others pretended to feel sorry them. Not every reporter may have been that way, but most of the warriors thought otherwise. Dealing with nosey people with nosey questions was this sailor's idea of fun. He did not bother complaining though. It would only make him feel worse.

Waiting around for a reporter to meet him, he began to wonder about the kinds of questions that would be asked. No dumb ones I hope. Dumb questions always irritated Lazarre, not necessarily those posed by reporters, but ordinary people instead. His favorite was how does it feel to get shot. What the hell do you think, he would often say. Hopefully this reporter, or whoever the hell they were, would have the decency not make such and inquiry.

What taking this guy so long, Lazarre wondered, aimlessly staring at a bulletin board. He really wanted to get this thing done and over with. The waiting was killing him. Lazarre remembered someone saying that chow was going to be good this time around. Too bad he was missing such delicious food. Standing around waiting for this guy better be well worth my time. If Lazarre was lucky enough, maybe he would have a short interview and have the chance to eat. Not with those hungry bastards stuffing their faces. Leftovers? Yeah, wishful thinking, buddy.

"You too?" Someone asked.

Lazarre looked away from the bulletin board. "Huh?" Briefly surprised. "Oh yeah. How ya been?"

"Okay I guess. Just hoping this reporter, whoever the hell he is, doesn't ask me to fly him around." Jaffer laughed.

"Don't jinx it man, they may force ya at gunpoint."

"With all the crazy things this war's thrown at us? I wouldn't be surprised."

"Neither would I." Lazarre looked back at the board. "Been to chow yet?"

"Nope." Jaffer leaned against the wall. "Heard it's the good stuff. Sloppy Joe and baked potato."

"Damn." Lazarre breathed. "The one time they get the cooking right and I'm nowhere to be found."

"How you think I feel?" Jaffer smirked. "You're not the only guy missing out."

"Still doesn't make me feel any better." Laughing to himself.

"Well, look at it this way. You're not putting all that fried food into your system. And if anyone, I thought you boys stay away from that kind of shit."

"Yeah about that." Lazarre smiled sheepishly. "You're right. I'm not supposed to be eating that kind poison."

"Damn right sailor. Think you're mother raised you to eat a well rounded meal."

"Shoot, Master Chief Beltran taught us better than that." Lazarre replied, remembering his BUD/S instructor. "He'd practically blow his top."

"Ouch." Jaffer hissed. " Wouldn't wanna see that."

"Believe me," Lazarre patted Jaffer on the shoulder. "You wouldn't."

A marine interrupted them. "Chow?" He asked.

"Sloppy Joe and baked potato." Jaffer answered.

"Better hurry up. I know you marines like to eat." Lazarre added.

"Thanks fellas." The marine ran off.

"Kid's in a rush don't ya think?" Lazzare asked.

"Yup… I'd say so." Jaffer agreed.

"Petty Officer Lazarre?" A feminine voice asked.

Lazarre was about to answer kind of rudely, but stop just short when he turned to see where the voice came from. Stunned by the sight of an attractive young woman he struggled to find something nice to say. Jaffer, who happened to be just as dumbfounded, stood up from leaning on the wall.

"Uh yeah, that's me." Lazarre came back to his senses.

"Nice to meet you." She extended a handshake. "Thea Anders."

"Welcome to the Jima Ma'am." Lazarre smiled. "How the troops treatin' ya?"

"You can tell there not too happy about us asking them questions, considering what some of the other media networks have been saying about them. But I don't blame them, they've been through a lot."

"Sure have. Just wish those bickering politicians back at home would understand that."

"So do I." Anders sighed. "We're, I mean, our network, is just trying to show how shitty this war has been. Means a lot, at least to me, that you guys put you're live in harms way so we don't have to. I figure the best way to thank you all is to tell your stories."

"Really appreciate that Ma'am. Honestly haven't heard anyone say that about us before."

Beauty had a funny way of silencing Lazarre. He was both intimidated and excited by this young woman. She was interested in who he was and seemed to actually care about others. Not only was she pretty, but a good person as well. This woman's the best of both worlds.

He stared at her for only a few seconds, but the moment felt much longer than that. She smiled at him briefly, after which Lazarre decided to break the awkward silence.

"By the way, you can call me Mitch. Petty Officer's a little over the top." Lazarre grinned.

"Okay, I'll call you Mitch, just so long as you promised to stop calling me ma'am. My first name's fine."

"Alright then Thea, where we headed?"

"Down to the hanger. Camera crew's down there waiting for us."

Anders walked ahead as Lazarre turned around to give Jaffer a quick look. He silently mouthed good luck before Lazarre jogged to catch up.

It only took a few moments to reach the hanger. Two cameramen where busy fiddling with various pieces of equipment. Lazarre exchanged handshakes with both gentlemen before taking a seat.

"So where you from Mitch?" Anders asked.

"Takoma Park, Maryland. How about you?"

"Other side of the country. Seattle to be specific."

"Rain a lot there?"

"It's rather on and off if you ask me. But its not as bad you'd think."

One of the cameramen started placing small lapel microphones on Lazarre and Anders.

"You're a SEAL I hear. What made you want to do that?"

"Let's just say I saw way too many Accelerate Your Life commercials." Lazarre laughed. "But my father was the reason. Intel officer in the Army. Worked at some kind of mapping agency. Always used to me all about these people he met. The Special Forces guys he talked about were really cool. So sometime down the road I decided to join the Navy."

"How'd your father feel about that?"

Lazarre chuckled. "Oh, he gave me the blues. Wanted me to be Army Special Forces instead. But SEALs appealed to me a bit more."

"Sounds good." Anders said. "Okay, Mitch, my cameraman is telling me we're ready. I'll just ask you a few questions about the conflict and how you feel about it."

"Lets do it."

"You told me you're father teased you about not becoming Army Special Forces. So between the SEALs and Army Special Forces, who would you say is better."

"SEALs of course no question." Lazarre joked. "But in all seriousness I would call us equals. Both of us risk our necks on the battlefield. I respect those guys just as much as my teammates."

"Would you call that camaraderie?"

"More like fraternity. I mean anybody that is willing to shed blood in the box is a brother to me and I don't just mean Special Forces. I'm talking, Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, everybody that serves."

"That's interesting you mention this fraternal bond. Is this something you can actively see in the heat of the moment?"

"Not really. Too much is going on, with guys screaming and bullets going over your head. But when you actually have the chance to sit down and think about things you begin to see the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, regardless of politics or objectives, we're really fighting for the guys next to us."

"Intriguing you say that. The marine I just talked to was telling me that, if he was injured and had the chance to go home, he would rather work hard to get better so he could be in the fray with his buddies. Something told me he felt guilty about leaving his comrades behind. You obviously feel the same way."

"Definitely, definitely. Most folks at home think we're crazy. But they'd never understand because they've never been in battle before. I mean the guys in my team are like my family. Granted, we don't come from the same parents." Lazarre smiled. "As a family we promise to protect each other out there. We'll die for one another if we have to."

"Got anybody waiting for you back at home?"

"My brothers and parents."

"No girlfriend?"

Lazarre grinned as his face turned red. "Nope. I wish, but nope."

"Can't see why. You're a very introspective young man and not to mention brave."

"Thanks."

"Anything to thank you gentlemen on the front lines. Now back to the topic of family, the ones back at home. What was it like communicating with them during the war?"

"My mom was worried sick and so was my father. The both of them sent me emails twice a day, one for the morning and one for the evening. My brothers also talked to me every now and then always asking me how things were turning out. Both of 'em are in the Army as well. They keep telling me how much they wish they could get in the fight. Guess they hated seeing fellow warriors dying out here."

"The Army wasn't fighting."

"They couldn't. Army Special Forces yeah. But all the other boys, conventional forces were out of work. They'd just be sitting ducks out there."

"That's a first, the Army being unable to deploy its full strength."

"Yeah it is and its all because of this super weapon we call the Peace Shield. Now, I don't as much as others guys do about it, but I know it's made our lives a living hell."

"Research told me that it was a joint venture between the U.S. and the Saudis to help protect against the threat of Iranian aggression."

"That's what it was originally intended for. But no one counted on the Said fella turning against us. It's supposed to detect stealth aircraft and emit some kind of force that renders all of our weapons useless. Planes and helicopters can still fly, but they'll be useless if their weapons can't do anything."

"So why use the Navy and Marines instead, if this Peace Shield is so powerful?"

"I asked myself the same question. Military advisors told the folks back at home that it would be a one sided battle and that this Peace Shield made it impossible to get into the Arabian Peninsula. Sad thing is they didn't listen."

"Didn't we try initially?"

"Oh yeah, we tried. We tried sending tomahawks from our subs first. When those failed to destroy the Peace Shield, we tried sending in our fighters to clear the way. They were able to get a couple of kills, but it wasn't good enough. Soon enough our CAR friends started downing our flyboys. And during all this craziness we're ordered to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, just to test the waters. That's when the real fun started. CAR fighters started bombing us since our fighters couldn't protect us and their Army just decided to run us over. After about a month and half, we were pushed back from Saudi Arabia all the way to the southern shores of Yemen. That's when we decided to get out of Dodge."

"Air Force couldn't offer any fighters?"

"They'd be too far away. Problem was, that no country was willing to offer us a base. Said threatened anyone who would assist us, with nukes. That's what prevented the Army from getting here and much needed fighters giving us close air support. In battle, without close air support, you're as good as dead."

"Did they defeat us then?"

"I wouldn't say defeated. Every dog has his day and it just wasn't ours. But like I always say, Karma has a way of getting back at people. Said will ultimately lose control of things. It's just a matter of how and when."

"Did you ever think you were going to die out there?"

"I did, but it wasn't something I necessarily feared. Death is an inevitable part of our existence and if happens while we're young then it happens. Ain't really a whole hell of a lot we can do about that. And besides, as SEALs, we're trained not to dwell on anything that can take our minds off the mission. Getting the mission done is paramount even if you're life is in danger."

"You agree with leaving this place so early?"

"Not really a matter of agreeing or disagreeing about pulling out. I'll do whatever I'm ordered to, no matter how crazy it seems. But I will say that if things aren't working and you're losing guys like we we're just pack up and rethink you're strategy. It isn't like you're abandoning things, you're just looking at for the guys that actually do the fighting. What's the saying? Live to fight another day."

"Is that the plan now?"

"To be honest, I have not the slightest idea what's next. All I know, is that all of us are just waiting for our chance to take the fight back to the enemy. It may not be the right war to fight, but I lost some good friends out there. Things like that don't go forgotten. But until we get that chance, us hear SEALs will keep training until we get the go ahead to do something."

"Well off the record, I hope you boys get that chance. Thanks for you time."

"No problem Ma'am. Uh. I mean, Thea." Lazarre shook his head. "Glad to talk to anyone who's willing to listen."

---

Hundreds of thousands of years ago human beings lived rather simply. They were hunters and gathers, people who daily scavenged for their food. Though most staunch modernists would call such an existence hostile and harsh, the reality was quite the contrary. Crimes were not committed and wars were not fought. Cooperation benefited everyone. These ancient bands of humans were not preoccupied with the trivial worries of who had what. They worked together in order to survive.

Eons later the planet is blanketed in death, poverty, disease and hunger. Suffering and strife defines what humanity calls the modern world. The differences between rich and poor are as stark as ever. Only twelve percent of the world's population lives in what is considered the developed world. Even out of that small percentile only a few million enjoy privileged and pampered lives.

Millions die from the calamities of warfare, natural disasters, and disease each year. Differences in ethnicity, religion, and nationality have created widespread hate and misunderstanding. Populations are manipulated and controlled by an exclusive minority of oligarchic elites, so far removed from the hardships of daily life. They take as they please and kill as they please, watching from afar as fellow human beings slaughter one another for pointless reasons.

Civilization was supposed to be a high point in human history. How and when did humanity lose sight of the simple egalitarianism enjoyed by its ancestors? The answer drowns in the depths of history, the ignorance of man driving it deeper and deeper. Nationalism and religious zealousness prevents all from realizing that they laugh, cry, and bleed just the same. Equality ceases to exist.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. What does it take to save a world so far entrenched in decadence? Could taking the alternate path truly make the world a better place? Hemingway gives no indication of a definite answer. Dillon probably could though. But this begs the question, what could a trained killer such as Dillon possibly offer in the way of saving the world?

Dillon took on a responsibility that was very unpopular. Not many people smile at the thought of killing and neither did Dillon. He just followed orders. But in following orders, he made sure no one else would have to do the things he did, such as taking lives. A road of death and destruction was the one less traveled, and it was this path that Dillon chose. If anyone ever wanted to see just how ugly the world could be, all they would have to do is look through Dillon's eyes. Would that convince the masses to exist in harmony? Judging by how ugly war could be, maybe it would. Thus, by being a witness to the evils of war, Dillon could offer a lot in the way of making the world a better place.

In speaking of better places, hundreds of sailors and marines were on their way home. Nothing was more beautiful to these men and women than getting the opportunity to see familiar faces. But before they got that chance, one little thing needed to be taken care of.

Dillon was relieved to see his commander once again. No longer did he feel like a fish out of water. Commander Andrew Zellers shared a similar sense of relief. It was reassuring that one of his team leads had survived the mess on the battlefield. He had lost two and on the battlefield already. He hoped Dillon wasn't going to be the third and fortunately, as it turned out, he wasn't.

"Dillon, glad to see your head's still on." Zellers grinned.

"Glad to see you haven't killed anyone." Dillon replied as he entered Zellers' make shift office.

"Almost was." Zellers sighed. "Take a seat."

"How things been going around here?"

"Lost two team leads and a few other guys. War's been messy for all of us."

Dillon's grin faded. "It sure has. Who'd we lose?"

"Ruiz, Harther, Raddick, Senza, Kim, and Tanaka."

"Shit." Dillon hissed. "We just can't replace guys like that."

"Imagine how their families feel. I have to personally contact each and every one, explaining why their loved ones will be shipped home in flagged draped coffins. I love this job, but God damn it sucks sometimes."

"A risk we take sir. You told me that."

"Sure did, but its one of those sayings you don't dwell on. If it happens it happens. Not really a whole hell'uva lot we can do when the end comes. But what about you, how was it serving with the boys in green?"

"An optimistic bunch if you ask me."

"Really?" Zellers asked.

"Hell no." Dillon laughed. "Those boys had it quite hard. And don't even ask about the casualties."

"Oh, I've seen the numbers. Ain't too pretty."

"Wasn't really a whole hell of a lot our presence could do for 'em."

"No sense in dwelling on the past now is there. But looks like we may get the chance to do something for 'em."

Dillon sensed something. "What's up?"

"CENTCOM wants to get these guys home as soon as possible. But there's a little thorn in the way."

"There not thinking…"

"Unfortunately yes, the Red Sea. Radar station overlooking the Strait of Yemen."

"Jesus." Dillon sighed disgustedly. "They're making a mistake. It would be a hell'uva lot easier for 'em to just airlift the marines to Djibouti."

"And they are thinking along those lines. But us here sailors got to stay and get the fleet back to Greece. You know this isn't the business of criticizing. We just do what we're told."

"Guess so, huh? Well, what's the plan?"

"HALO insertion via a CH-22. But you'll exit the area by swimming. A zodiac will pick you guys up a few miles out."

"And that's the plan?"

"Yup, and I know what you're gonna say."

"The best laid plans always go to hell."

"I knew it." Zellers said. "Well that's all I got for you today. Inform your team. Briefing's at eleven hundred hours tomorrow."

"Sounds good boss. See you there."