Ok, who the hell am I, and what are me and a few of my battle buddies doing in full battle rattle in the back of a minivan two weeks after it all went pear shaped?
That's going to take a little explaining.
Up until two weeks ago, I was MS3 Sam Weiss, Junior at Virginia Dominion University (Majoring in History with a minor in Poly Sci for those that care) in sunny Richmond, VA. I was also a ROTC Cadet with Cavalier Company, Ram Battalion of the 1st ROTC Brigade. Now? Now I am just a scared 21 year old kid with several other scared twenty somethings driving north to find out about our families. But hey, in our BDUs, LBE and Kevlar, not to mention loaded weapons we look like the Army? Right? Probably do a decent impersonation if nobody looks too close.
But I am getting ahead of myself…you wanna know who the rest of us are, and how we found ourselves alone on I-95 tear-assing north TOWARDS DC (yeah, the one somebody nuked to hell and gone) in some madcap effort to try and find our loved ones that will probably manage to get us all killed? I'll bet you did. Hey, I need to know myself. It's crazy, I play Twilight: 2000, I didn't think I'd be living it. Especially after Mr. Ivan said "uncle" in the wake of the 50 year socio-political throwdown we call the cold war. Again, I am so digressing here, right?
It all starts that sunny day in September two weeks ago. Do I have to say the damn date? Ok, it was the 20th. A favorite fictional villain of mine once said "Days of Infamy are always when the weather is bright and beautiful, people are so busy looking up, and they don't see the dagger coming for their back." Yeah, it was just that kind of day. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. It was pretty balmy for early fall, I remember seeing folks in shorts and tees. Considering what came next…perhaps that was a tragic oversight.
I was just leaving the Registrar's office at Lee-Jackson Hall, something about needing an overtally for a class they hadn't mentioned needed it when I friggin registered for it the first time, oh, did I mention I needed it to graduate? Yeah, nice weather out, and no classes till 2PM, when I had to change into BDUs and LBE and go run around Shockoe Bottom Park and scream "bang" along with the rest of the Company. It was lab day. Thing was, I was looking forward to it. I liked getting out in the field, most soldiers, and would-be-soldiers do.
I had to, of course, run some errands and grab my spare BDUs from the cleaners, they did a better job of starching them then I did. Hey, it was worth the money. I was thinking about my paper topic for Medieval Russian History and thinking the Boyars of Muscovy might be fun. Might mean a trip over to University of Petersburg, but what the hey? I had a few favors owed me and from what I heard round the flagpole, nobody's social life in the company was all that fired up these days. Too early in the semester really. As for me, I was the happy perennial bachelor.
I trotted into my dorm room and waved jauntily to my roomie, Thom. He was ex-navy and had a lot of good advice. And he was a hell of a nice guy. He had a steady girlfriend over at the Medical School and he was in the process of getting an apartment closer to her, so the room was kinda a mess. As I grabbed my gear out of my closet, Thom turns to me with a weird look on his face. He was gripping a letter tightly.
"Hey, Sam, you get any weird heads up from your ROTC instructors?"
"No Thom, why?" It was a weird question, it was then I got a look at the letter, it was typed on official Department of the Navy stationary. Uh-Oh.
"You get recalled?"
Thom sat down on the bed to his left with a thump. The pillows shook a bit and he had a pained look. "Yeah, ten days from today I gotta report to Little Creek. I told Darla I was done with the Navy, with the teams. Shit!" With that, he turned, crumpled the letter and threw it in disgust.
So that's why his Arabic was so good. I guess OJT as a Navy SEAL will do that. Thom had never talked about his time in the Navy. From his average build and looks, as well as his taste in eyewear (military issue horn rims, popularly called "Birth Control Devices" or BCDs for short), I figured him for an Signals Intelligence guy. Guess I was wrong, good thing I was a friend, eh?
"When do you have to report?" I asked.
"Five days from receipt of the letter. Sounds like we may be gearing up to get involved in the Siberian mess. Fucking Siberia. Cold and wet all the damn time."
The news coming out of that part of the world wasn't good. China was asserting old claims against Russia, and demographics were backing her up, there were more Chinese than Russians in the areas she was claiming. Both sides were mobilizing, and there had been "shooting incidents" that had resembled full on battles to observers like me, I knew the Russian Army was well, shit. They had one viable alternative: go nuclear, from the start. We of course, were on the side of the Russians. The Chinese, in response, had stepped up aid to North Korea and Kim Jong Il had increased his own army's readiness on the DMZ in Korea. I had a couple of friends there from the last graduated class.
I turned to Thom. "Shit man, you really think things are going to get out of hand?"
"Why the hell not, Sam? We're neck deep in the mideast, and Russia knows she can't stop the PLA conventionally. FUBAR is a mild way to describe it."
A chill ran through me as I contemplated that. Armageddon unbidden. Baruch Hashem, please don't let us be that dumb.
It was then that I noticed that I was running a few minutes late to catch the van from the military science building to Shockoe Bottom park.
"Thom, hate to cut this short, I gotta run. Look, we'll talk more when I get back, at worst, we'll send you off proper at Smiles. OK?"
I threw on my BDU tunic, hastily buttoned it and threw on my cap and threw my LBE over my shoulder, running out the door as I did. I was running like a madman, nearly taking out several co-eds and getting cries of "jerk" and "watch it gomer pyle" in my wake. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. I thought. Funny how I'd come to regret that a mite later.
I arrived at the military science building and its non-descript white row house façade within minutes. Master Sergeant Admunson was waiting on the landing outside with an angry scowl on his face, a normal condition for him, as least as far as most of us cadets were concerned.
"WEISS, GET THE FUCK OVER HERE!" he bellowed. Some of the co-eds across the street dropped their books in startled shock. Nobody told Sergeant Admunson he didn't have "command presence".
I came over at a run and assumed the at ease position. I knew I was in for it.
"Weiss" he said, after toning the voice down from a crashing roar to a low rumble "What is a dead second lieutenant worth?"
I looked at him quizzically.
"Not a goddamn thing! I saw you tear ass across Main Street without even looking at traffic. God fucking dammit, Weiss, you almost caused a two-car pileup. You got a deathwish?"
"No, Master Sergeant"
"I beg to differ, Weiss. I want to talk to you about that last FTX. Weiss, you act as if you have more to prove than anyone. You know what, you don't. I don't need any dead cadets on my hands because you get yourself in over your head. Cool it. And that is an order. Now get inside and get squared away before Major Bordon sees you like this."
"Yes, Master Sergeant" and I hauled ass inside the building.