The Unsung Hero: Chapter 1

Minutes to Midnight Arc

September 8, 2015

Oceanside, California, USA

03:30 Hours

1st Lieutenant Roman De La Rosa, USMC

Roman groaned, rubbing his eyes as the alarm on his phone sounded off. He turned to his right, looking out the window as the rain started to get a bit heavy. Despite September being considered a very dry month for Southern California, the rain was still expected but at a very low percentage, even lower if it was predicted to be heavy. He hoped that the Brazilians he was supposed to work with wouldn't mind the weird humid and rainy weather. The young Marine Officer continued to stare out the window for a few more minutes, enjoying the sounds of the rain hitting his window.

His SEAL colleagues down in Coronado will probably join in on the fun as well.

He checked the time on his phone, it read "03:35". Roman sat upright, enjoying the few minutes of peace before he needed to prepare for the day. He then turned to his left, smiling at the sight of his beautiful fiancée, Captain Ashley Greenland.

Yes, Ashley Greenland, the daughter of Major General Amanda Greenland, Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division.

Roman knew he was going to be in really deep shit if he were to upset the feeling of the Division Commander's daughter. Major General Greenland was fully aware of the relationship between her daughter and the Force Recon Lieutenant. She was supportive of the relationship, of course, as long as it did not interfere with their line of duty. But, Amanda gave a threatening glare to Roman when he broke the news of the relationship.

No words were needed.

"Hey Ashley, it's time to wake up. Your mother is going to tear us a new one if we're late to formation." Roman nudged his fiancée.

Ashley groaned, turning to face Roman "She wouldn't need to tear me a new one as you already did that for me last night."

Roman blushed lightly. No matter how light Ashley's teasings were, her words always managed to turn him into a babbling mess. And he took all of her idle and empty threats very seriously as well. There was no way in hell that he was going to make Ashley upset or angry. He knew that Ashley wouldn't snitch to her mother, as she wasn't the kind of person to rat someone out but Amanda just had that ability to sense whenever her daughter was in a good mood or not.

Roman kissed Ashley's lips before walking into the bathroom to shower. He was thankful that the Marine Corps allowed them to live off base and covered most of their living expenses. The costs were much lower off-base compared to on-base. It wasn't that Roman didn't want to be around his Marines. He loved his Marines and would die for them but he also valued space, time, and privacy. Which was very scarce due to the job that he had.

He turned on the showerhead, closing the glass door as he waited for the water to heat up. He then stared at his reflection in the mirror. He lightly flexed his arms, observing his muscles, tattoos, and scars. Both of his upper arms had various tattoo designs and he was looking to add more to both of his forearms within the next year or two.

It was obvious to the Marines in Roman's team that he took really good care of his body. He followed a really strict diet that allowed him to maintain his weight (235 lbs) even after a physically demanding week. And despite a physically demanding day or week, he would always try to sneak in time to workout at the gym or to go down Coronado to train with his SEAL buddies. His strict workout routine earned him the nickname "Crazy Mustang".

Though, he does let loose on his diet on every given Sunday.

He was about to apply the shaving cream on his face until Ashley peeked her head through the door. She was wide awake now.

"Hey baby boo, I'll make us some chow. Don't waste all of the hot water now." Ashley teased.

Roman chuckled as he started to shave "When are you going to stop calling me baby boo?"

"When you are older than I am, which is never." She replied with a snort before closing the door.

Ashley was three years Roman's senior and was also one rank above him. The two initially met in Afghanistan when Roman was a young Sergeant and Ashley was a fresh butter bar out of tank school. After the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, President Sonnen ordered the full withdrawal of US Forces in the country, codenamed "Operation Allies Refuge". Roman's team, which included Lance Corporal Stephen Miller, Lance Corporal Joseph Waller, and a few US Army Rangers, were tasked with escorting several American delegates to Kabul Airport. Before reaching the airport, they were ambushed by the Taliban, which resulted in the deaths of seven US Marines and Soldiers.

Before the Taliban could overwhelm Roman and his team, a platoon of M1A1 Abrams commanded by Ashley, managed to save what remained of the team and the American delegates.

They were initially friends as romantic relationships between officers and enlisted Marines were strictly prohibited and would face UCMJ if found out. Nonetheless, they exchanged text messages almost daily as they were in different units and were stationed at different bases. Romantic feelings between the two developed after Roman's commissioning at OCS.

Roman knew that his head would be on a pike if something happened to Ashley.

After shaving his face and cleaning himself in the shower, he dried off and changed into his service alphas. He smelt the scent of the delicious food Ashley was making in the kitchen, causing a smile to form on Roman's face.

"Look at you, forgetting to tighten up your tie yet again," Ashley commented, walking up to Roman.

Ashley knew the game that Roman was playing with her. He purposely keeps his tie loose and untidy so that she would be the one to adjust it for him. Her adjusting his tie often resulted in him peppering kisses along her cheeks, jawline, and lips.

Ashley playfully punched Roman's chest as she started to fix his tie. He smiled, kissing her forehead in return.

"You know, I'm getting real tired of you not knowing how to fix your tie. Aren't you supposed to be smarter than me?" She asked, humor mixed with her tone.

"Yeah but you know Infantry Marines are the dumbest Marines. Force Recon Marines are…a special kind of dumb." Roman snorted, kissing Ashley's lips.

Ashley hummed, smiling even moreso as she returned the kiss. Her hands went to his cheeks, cupping them tenderly as his arms wrapped around her waist. Roman pressed his fiancee's butt against the kitchen counter. His hands then wandered up and down her waist.

"Has anyone told you that you're beautiful?" Roman whispered.

"Yeah, you have. Everyday." She whispered back, her lips centimeters away from his.

"I don't want you to forget, that's all. I also want you to not forget that the eggs might burn." Roman laughed, pulling away from Ashley.

Ashley's eyes widened as he swiftly turned and took the eggs off the frying pan before transferring them onto a plate. A single drop of sweat formed on her forehead, which she quickly wiped away. She thought that she was going to burn the food.

"I thought I was going to burn our food," Ashley commented, dividing the eggs evenly between herself and Roman.

Roman wiggled his eyebrows and chuckled in response.

"I'm still surprised that they named you Company Commander of Rhino Company despite your clumsiness." Roman joked.

Ashley's mouth widened slightly. Her eyes looked around for something to throw at Roman but couldn't find any. She knew that he was joking and that there was no ill-intent behind his words but she was still surprised to hear them.

"But being named the first female Company Commander of a tank company is a huge accomplishment. I'm very proud of you my love." He added.

Ashley's facial features softened. She returned to being a blushing mess. Only he was capable of turning her emotions from a stone-cold machine to a babbling mess. The Marines that served with Ashley called her the "Iron Queen" due to her tenacity in Afghanistan.

She walked up behind Roman, jokingly wrapping him in a rear-naked choke.

"Thank you. But don't think for a second you could get away with insulting me. Got it?" She asked while laughing.

"Never….ma'am!" Roman pretended that he was getting choked out.

Their little act continued for a few more seconds before the two relaxed. Ashley wrapped her arms around Roman from behind, resting her cheek on the back of his neck.

"Thank you. Even though I did want to be the Company Commander of Rhino Company, it's still a surprise." Ashley commented.

"Yeah, that's true. Let's hope that there ain't rumors spreading around that you only got that position because of your mother." Roman replied, sipping his coffee.

Ashley hummed. It was one of the fears that she had when she was assigned to Rhino Company as their CO. Rumors tend to spread around Camp Pendleton like wildfire. And it would take a very long time to put it out.

"Yeah, I agree…..try to not finish my share of the food?" She asked.

"No promises ma'am," Roman replied with a smirk.

Ashley simply responded with a smile. She squeezed her fiancé's shoulder before walking back upstairs to take a shower. He stared at her back, his eyes wandering down to her butt and silky legs. He wondered how he got so lucky.

After finishing his breakfast, Roman sat in the living room, turning on the television as he waited for Ashley to finish with her shower. As much as they loved seeing each other naked, there was still a layer of privacy, which both Roman and Ashley respected.

"In the past four days, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran conducted several maritime operations in the South China Sea. Reports suggest that more ships from the four participating countries will join in on the activities. The increase in activity is rumored to be in response to the United States reducing its presence in South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. However, the United States has started to conduct its own maritime operations, with the majority of the North Pacific Fleet moving from Hawaii to Guam and the South Pacific Fleet from New Zealand to the west coast of Australia. In Europe, tensions are even higher. Several German and American troops are being deployed to several key points along the Ukrainian-Russian border in the scenario Russia invades Ukraine, which currently has 150,000 troops stationed on their side of the border. The tension in Europe is due to speculations of Ukraine being admitted into NATO as its newest member."

The news anchor paused for a moment before continuing.

"There is potential for this to be the best of times or the end of time, depending on which direction we take at this critical juncture in human evolution. Technology has given a new, global meaning to the Biblical injunction: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live. To avoid extinction, we must take action to shift from an old mode of thinking which justifies war as necessary for survival to a new mode of thinking which recognizes war as the ultimate threat to survival."

Roman hummed as he slightly turned up the volume of the television. He wondered what a Third World War would look like. The threat of nuclear weapons is always on the table, as there are hostile countries that possess nuclear weapons. Despite all that, a full-scale nuclear war is very unlikely as it would mean the extinction of humanity and the eradication of most, if not, all of sentient life on planet Earth. Roman was aware that the United States was currently developing a new superweapon as the US was planning on scrapping most of its nuclear arsenal.

War is very troublesome. The war in Afghanistan was a scary time for him even though he didn't spend a lot of time in the Middle East. A Third World war sent a chill down his spine. Roman definitely felt physically prepared for a full-scale war. But, he wasn't sure if he was mentally prepared.

Roman was deep in thought, evident by him not noticing Ashley coming down the stairs. The clicking of her dress shoes drew a bit louder as she approached her future husband.

Ashley snapped her fingers in front of Roman.

"Lost in thought again?" Ashley asked, who was now dressed in her service alphas.

She walked into the kitchen when she didn't get a response from Roman. She seemed upset. She didn't like it when Roman was upset because it would make her upset. Ashley hated seeing Roman, not in a good mood.

"Yeah. Was just overthinking, that's all." Roman replied.

As the two were now in uniform, Roman simply gave Ashley a fist bump and a pat on the shoulder. The two hopped into their F-250 and off to Camp Pendleton they went.