A Tale of a Soldier's Sacrifice
This is an original story by Terencio Safford. I wrote this story based on anecdotes verbally told to me by a battle buddy who served in a different unit than I. This story is based on an actual event that happened to a soldier before being shipped to Afghanistan for the second time. The Bush Administration was so adamant about getting U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan that some considerations were ignored. The note at the end of this story illustrates the author’s intent. If you have similar stories or know someone that has served their country in this unselfish way of courage, please submit your experience. Go Army: Hooah!!!!
Halfway through the hallway Staff Sergeant Seychille Knight halted before the closed door. The tap on his right shoulder let him know that each man was in place and all sectors were being covered.
He quickly moved to the other side of the door. Specialist Tony Diaz prepared a stun grenade. Sgt. Knight counted to three, then with tremendous force, kicked open the door. Diaz promptly tossed in the flash grenade. Two seconds later, after the deafening boom and blinding light, Knight and Diaz filed into the small room clearing their sectors as they moved. No sign of hostiles.
After a quick and precise search, Knight located the target case and passed it to Diaz who in turn handed it to Sgt. Wombosi who was surveying the hallway for enemies.
“Contact. North corridor,” came over Sgt. Knight’s earpiece. It was Sgt. David Webb, also in the hallway. Gunfire. “Priority secure. Let’s move!” ordered Knight.
They all filed into the hallway methodically moving in the direction from where they had come. Knight brought up the rear walking backward with his weapon trained down the corridor.
There was movement. Two men were coming directly at him firing wildly. Knight managed to double-tap one in the chest. The other dashed into an empty office. They continued to move.
“Exit clear. Moving out,” Webb.
“Covering,” Knight returned. He took a knee at the corner waiting for the signal to disengage and retreat. He received three taps on his shoulder. Suddenly, three men emerged from a room only fifteen feet away with weapons trained directly on him! He took out two before he felt the impact to his chest. Knight was shocked. He looked down to confirm. Tightly grouped over his heart were two splatters of bright, neon green simunition paint.
Knight’s earpiece crackled, “Exercise complete. Mission success. Casualties: one. Prepare for debrief.”
The man responsible for Knight’s “death” was Sergeant First Class Holifield. He reached out his massive hand to the now smiling SSG Knight who happily took it.
* * *
“Sar’ent Knight, sir?”
Knight turned around stirring sugar into a mug of black coffee. It was E2 Private Jason Sims. Sims wasn’t much of a soldier standing at 5’7”and 130 lbs. He wasn’t much of a mechanic either being that he had been recycled through the Army’s aviation program three times with no signs of progress. He had been relegated to an administration job at the Joint Special Operations Command. Sims father was a retired Army colonel who served 28 years at JSOC. He figured that by sending his son into the service, that would somehow make him a man but colonels are known for their physical contributions in the field and not so much for figuring.
“You call me ‘sir’ again Private, and I will personally rip out your tongue and staple it to your neck. You follow me?”
“Hooah Sarge! First Sergeant wishes to see you.”
“Is that right?” Knight sipped the hot mixture of crushed coffee beans, sugar and water. It tasted like shit.
“Yes sir.” The kid was hopeless.
“I tell you what Sims,” Knight started walking toward the massive hangar doors beckoning Sims to follow him. He pointed to the wood line surrounding the airfield. “About two clicks into that treeline there’s a Sapper team finishing a bivouac. Why don’t you go find them and help bring back the M-111… The M-111, you know what that is right?”
“Uh, no I don’t think so Sarge,” Sims said timidly.
“Sure you do. It’s the new Army issue all-terrain vehicle. Like a four wheeler with a Hemi. Listen, I don’t trust those guys out there to bring ours back. Why don’t you run out there and collect it for me. Tell ‘em I sent you.”
“Sure thing, Sarge.” Sims took off at a brisk jog, clearly ecstatic at the prospect of driving an official Army vehicle. Knight wasn’t cruel hearted by any means but one thing that really got under his skin was an incompetent soldier. There are cures for many ailments and disorders but no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t fix stupid. So he didn’t feel too bad that he knew there was no ATV out there in those woods. There wasn’t even a such thing as an M-111. Neither did he feel bad that Sims would probably walk miles into those woods before he realized there were no Sapper units training in them and he’d been had. What could he do? Knight smiled to himself. It will teach him to think for himself; like a man.
* * *
“You want to see me, Top?”
“Have a seat, Knight.” First Sergeant Tommy Bloodgood was a short stocky man with a menacing scowl. The scar on his left cheek was a reminder of Mogadishu, Somalia. A knife fight that almost didn’t go his way. The guy slashed Bloodgood’s face before being pummeled and sliced into french fries by the monster everyone secretly called The Butcher. Bloodgood reached into his desk and pulled out a manilla envelope. He launched it across the table.
“Orders? But my tour is up next weed and I didn’t plan on re-enlistment.”
“I’m aware of that but this is a temporary extension of your duty. The mission, if you accept it, is very important. It is also optional but I need only people who I can trust to get the job done. This one comes down from up high. I’m hoping you make the right decision here.” Bloodgood took a cigar from a drawer in his desk and leaned back in his chair preparing to light it.
“When are wheels up?”
“Oh two hundred hours. Tomorrow morning. You’ll puddle jump in a CH-47 to Fort Benning for mission prep. This mission will be extremely dangerous and involves high level enemy targets.”
“How high?” Knight pushed.
“Nice try but you know the rules. You’ll be briefed enroute to Benning.” Bloodgood lit his cigar with painstaking scrutiny. “I need you to be lead on this one, Knight. You up for it?”
As Knight watched the clouds of smoke billow out into thin sheets of ethereal shapes, a million things were going through his head. He was to marry his pregnant fiancee next week. This mission would inevitably post-pone that – again. Kelly was starting to become weary of his Army life. She accepted it for what it was and knew what to expect, but feelings change and Knight was afraid that hers were beginning to. He wanted out of the service so that he could start a family. He looked forward to the new life that they were about to bring into the world. Knight joined the Army for action and adventure but that was before he met Kelly, the only woman that rivaled his profession at endless discovery. How could he make this decision? Whether it was fortunate or unfortunate, he had already made this decision the day he joined the United States Army.
* * *
The sound of the helicopter’s rotors were comforting and familiar. Staff Sergeant Seychille Knight silently cleaned and inspected his custom M4 carbine. He looked up and caught the gaze of SFC Holifield.
“Why do you do it?”
“Because,” Knight began, “it’s the right thing to do.” Everyone who knew him knew that his duty and loyalty to his country and flag was unshakable. Seychille Knight was a soldier, through and through. As a boy, his G.I. Joe action figures would ‘rescue’ his sister’s Barbie dolls from hostile doll houses and kitchen ovens; as an adolescent, he wanted to be Captain America; as a young man, he became a Boy Scout; today, Seychille Knight is a man. A man who believes in everything good, even when others can’t. He risks his life and his future because he is compelled to do so by the goodness in his heart. He fights for freedom and democracy. Anyone standing in the way of America and her freedom may one day find themselves in the sites of SSG Seychille Knight’s gun sights; and there’s only one way that story ends.
Knowingly, SFC Holifield leaned back and proceeded to double check his gear. The chopper lifted off.
The moral of this story is that we often are presented with challenges in life and we are called to make choices that are not always easy and more often than not, involve personal sacrifice. We hope for the best outcome as a result of our decisions but ultimately the outcome is contingent on whether or not we make the right choices. In this story, I try to create the altruism that having confidence in good character will produce the best outcome even when it is difficult to see how.