You guys are AWESOME. Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, alerted, and favorite. You guys are everything to my writing. You make me love to write more. Hopefully this story will be a lot of fun for you guys to read.
As to what inspired this story? I volunteer for an organization called Soldiers Angels. To make a long story short, one of the most known things we do is something called adopt a soldier. I have adopted someone who is deployed to a war zone, and for the length of their deployment have sent letters and care packages reminding them how important they are, and how much I appreciate what they do. I don't hear back from everyone, and actually, you don't hear back from most. Maybe one in five. But the one you do hear back from... makes it worth it. People say letters make all the difference. Things in a package are nice, so they say. But a letter brings you home for a moment, takes you to a place you can't find in a war zone. To me, that's special and I think that should be written about. For the sake of this story, no one is real. As in, no one outside of the show is a real person. That's against the organizations rules, but things have been based off things I've been told, and some locations and things you will read are true. Some things about this chapter:
I tried to make it so you could understand if not, but again, if not here are some tips. Also, I'm not an expert. I have friends who email me in military chat and I just sit there and go... English please? And they laugh and tell me what they meant.
SSG Staff Sergeant. It's someone who is usually second in command of a platoon (about forty men usually). In retrospect, they're not that high up, but they do have authority.
FOB Sharana is a real base. It's one of the top five most dangerous parts of Afghanistan today. An FOB is a forward operating base. It's a larger post that usually has a PX on it (place to buy things), a chow hall, and of course living places. The FOB isn't the worst of them out there, but it's by the mountains where it's highly dangerous for anyone to be at any time.
An IED is an improvised explosive device. One of the leading killers of soldiers in this war. They can be set off from miles away, sometimes from a cell phone, or sometimes when you roll over them. They're usually filled with gross things, and if they don't kill you, can really hurt you.
PVT is one of the least authority holding titles of the army, usually for someone just out of boot camp.
And I believe that's all that you see in this chapter for military speak. If you have any questions, let me know. But that's mostly what inspired this story. As well as the songs Travelin' Soldier by the Dixie Chicks (a lot of the first chapter was based off that song) and then the title of the story was taken from the actual song Letters from Home which doesn't actually have as much to do with the story, but really is the basis behind what matters in this story. Now that I've talked a lot... sorry. This chapter is another one to set up the story, and then in the next one, you'll see why Ally and Dallas aren't going to work in the long run, you'll meet some of Austin's buddies, and you'll see a bit more of Afghanistan and such.
Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Austin sat on the plane that would take him to a land he had never been to before. Around him, sat men and women on the same journey as him, some handling it better than others. Some you could tell they were nervous, through ticks or obvious actions, while others were the epitome of what the army did to you… expressionless. Austin was somewhere in between. Nothing back home was really holding him there, but it didn't mean he wasn't scared shitless about flying into a place where people wanted him dead just because of the uniform he wore. He was barely eighteen. Barely of age and barely able to make his own decisions if you asked others. But according to the papers he signed, he was able to do this.
He just hoped they were right.
His mind was whirling, unable to stop to honestly process anything. For the next year, a foreign land would be his home. He would bunk with complete strangers. Sure, some of them trained together, some he'd even become friends with… but he didn't really know them. He didn't know what made them happy, or what made their lives. The one to his right would talk about a fiery Latino who he swore he didn't like constantly. How she was a crazy person, someone that he could never see himself with… yet his words seemed to scream the opposite. He was surprised they weren't together. And the other to his left… well, he left behind a young woman who he swore to marry that could be pregnant with his first child… but they weren't sure yet.
Austin didn't have any of that. His family left his side the moment he decided to take his own path and not follow down the footsteps of his parents. They didn't want anything to do with their son, the one who wanted to join the army, instead of running the family store. He didn't mind working there growing up, but he didn't want to spend his life there. There wasn't much to be desired of it, either. It brought in a steady income, enough to make ends meet and allow for a family vacation every year, but his parents didn't exactly live on the crazy side. He wasn't asking for millions. But he did want enough to maybe explore the world a little. His education would be paid for by the army when he completed his four years. He could get a degree; do whatever h wanted after that. Who could say no? Well, despite the fact that he was on a plane to Afghanistan right then… who could say no?
He stopped at the thought of the last person he'd seen before boarding the bus that took him to where he was. A gentle soul, a sweet girl who had gone out of her way to make him happy, with no motives other than to make him smile. He had to admit; she was a beautiful girl. She seemed so honest and pure, someone who he'd love to get to know better. Of course, she had turned him down the moment he tried to do so, but he couldn't really blame her. Who wants to get involved with a guy who might not even make it home? It was an unfortunate reality to some, and he couldn't pretend he was not a part of that small chance. No one was guaranteed a plane ticket home. It was part of the thing you signed up for when you put your name on that line. You might not make it back.
He didn't want to think that way, but it was clear that she might have. Besides that, she mentioned a boyfriend. And who wouldn't want to date someone like her? She probably was just as perfect to the boy she had mentioned. Maybe he was going to be a lawyer, or a doctor. Someone with a secure future and a steady income. What did he have to offer her anyway? A rifle and a shaky next year? Someone like her deserved so much more than that.
So why couldn't he get her out of his mind? All he wanted was to talk to her again. Hear her voice, that soft giggle and gentle, honest smile. He was a good person, couldn't that be enough? He sighed as the plane shook just a bit, maybe going over a bit of a storm. He glanced out the window, peeking over the redhead next to him to see nothing but clouds. They weren't there yet, but it couldn't be much longer.
Ally nearly collapsed onto her bed after a grueling day at the diner. She had been asked to stay late when her afternoon replacement had a family emergency and wouldn't be able to make it that day. It had left her working a nearly twelve hour shift, and while the tips she'd made doing it were amazing, she never wanted to work that long ever again. Besides that, her phone had been buzzing nonstop. She cringed to see a familiar name on the screen. Five missed calls from Dallas.
"Shit," she swore under her breath, forgetting she had made plans to hang out with him over an hour ago. She didn't have the energy to call him just yet; her body was begging for a shower. She quickly sent him a text and then dragged herself into the bathroom, putting the hot water on and slipping inside the shower. It felt so perfect. Ally immediately forgot about the screaming child who threw food all over the place, or her boss's angry voice yelling at one of the other waitresses who showed up late again with no reason. Instead all she thought about was… the soldier? Ally felt her eyes fly back open. Why did he come to mind? And why now after all the hours she had forgotten about him in?
It was like he was thinking of her too, somewhere over the ocean on his way to the desert. Ally laughed at this. He probably hated her and hadn't thought of her face since she turned him down hours ago. She was rude, but he didn't understand Dallas. He was a really nice guy, but he did get jealous easily. If she started to talk to him, she would never fix their relationship. And Dallas was all she knew. She met him at fifteen and they had been dating since then. Of course, the last few months had been a bit rocky, but didn't every relationship have problems like that? Ally knew they just needed a break. It would all be okay, and she didn't need some boy, especially a soldier getting in the way of that, even if he seemed like such a nice guy.
Ally turned off the shower after a few minutes and slipped into a comfortable pair of jeans and a t shirt. Normally, she was prone to wearing dresses and things like that, but there was no way she could even think about something like that after the day she'd had. After grabbing an apple and a water, she picked up her phone again and decided to call Dallas and let him know what had happened.
"Ally?" was his answer, after picking up on the second ring.
"I'm so sorry, Dallas. Bridget needed me to stay late today, and I totally forgot about our… uh… date today. If you want to meet for dinner instead, I'm all for that."
He seemed calm. "Sure. That's fine. I'll pick you up at seven?"
"Sounds good," she replied with a smile. Good. No hard feelings. "See you then."
"Bye sweetheart. Love you."
Austin got off the plane and within an hour of being in the country, knew it was going to be the longest year of his life. Within an hour of being off the plane, he had seen some of the most bizarre things he'd ever seen, and had also heard more gunfire in the distance than he ever had living in a town that had its fair share of it growing up. They drove nearly an hour into a more rural part of an already rural country, driving past many cars and other vehicles some local, some foreign.
The others were chatting, those in his unit, about the country and what they had seen so far. He didn't have the energy to speak up himself, but was listening in on what they had to say. Most of it wasn't exactly positive. A lot of them were on their first deployment, first time away from home, and despite the obvious sucking up they were doing to each other, it was clear; everyone was scared.
"Okay, listen up!" a voice suddenly spoke. Austin looked up to see one of the higher ups in his unit stand, his eyes thick with concentration. "Prepare for a briefing."
Everyone quieted down.
SSG (Staff Sergeant) Lynch glanced over those in his platoon. He was responsible for about forty men, one of them being Austin. He didn't crack a smile as the others stared back at him. "We are close to arriving at our FOB. So I've been told, it's not the best amenities, but that is not of importance. We are not here to live comfortably for the next year; we are here to complete our mission at stake."
Austin attempted to listen, but the sights around him were getting less and less humanized and more and more mountainy. They passed maybe one truck over the next few miles.
"What FOB are we stationed in, sir?" PVT Worthy asked. The redhead smiled at his upper, despite the man's calm and collected persona. The redhead was always someone who was smiling and no one could ever seem to crack that.
"FOB Sharana. Our mail will be sent here, and while the actual base is quite well off, we will not be there often." Austin bit down on his tongue to keep from thinking about the coming months. Missions would be one of the many things to come while he was there. An infantry unit he was a part of, one that would be doing things such as clearing the route of IEDs, or explosive devices which have already killed many and wounded more, as well as patrolling the area to keep track of the insurgents (enemy) that were nestled in the mountains that they currently passed. He glanced that way. A person could be in any nook or cranny of those mountains, just waiting to hit a button and blow up their entire truck. It was a scary thought.
"Moon!" Worthy was staring at him.
He noticed the truck had stopped. "We're here," he realized.
Worthy nodded as he got up. "Welcome to hell," he added with a slight smile.