As his men advanced in the rugged, barren terrain, the sound of spraying bullets suddenly appeared from nowhere. Sean froze and stood motionless as he watched enemy fire mow down his men.
He’d ordered his men into a killing zone and could do nothing but watch. He heard their cries and looked into their pain stricken faces as bullets minced them into pieces. The demons of war didn’t let him rest. The trauma of Afghanistan now blended with the horrors of Iraq.
A resounding blast tore open the entrance to the hospital and smoke billowed from the fiery remains of the massive explosion, the smell of tritonal and cordite hanging in the air. Spattered arms, legs, and parts of bodies were everywhere. Dear God in Heaven! Was that the decapitated head of Charlie Brown hurling through the air…or was it Marissa’s Charlie? Now he could see Sergeant Washington’s disfigured face sailing across, followed by the shattered remains of Sergeant Walsh…Sergeant Maskin… Lieutenant Uthman… Colonel Franklin. His agony was unbearable. But the worst came last. Helplessly, he screamed out in pain as the torn up body of Marissa catapulted through the air with her teary eyes begging for help.
Marissa sat in her bedroom tightly embracing her five-year-old boy. With tears rolling down her face, she tried to calm Charlie down. But the pressure of his little arms tightened even more around her neck. He held onto her for dear life. Only his pleading little voice broke up his bitter sobbing. “Please Mommy! Please don’t go. Mommy…pleeeaaase stay here. I want you to stay with me.”
Charlie finally fell asleep. Marissa laid him gently next to her. With a heavy heart, she watched him sleeping and deeply engraved every feature of his beautiful little face onto her memory. His looks made her thoughts drift back to Jack. Remembering her husband only added to the pain.
It was Marissa’s last night with her son. She couldn’t block the thought from her mind that she might never hold him again. Charlie had only recently recovered from the loss of his father and now his mother had to leave him, as well.
She finally fell asleep in the early morning hours resting her head on the tear-soaked pillow.
Little Charlie was the spitting image of his father. He’d his father’s clear blue eyes and athletic build. A lock of blond hair fell down on his forehead, and just like his dad, he’d a cowlick that wouldn’t stay down.
Marissa remembered when she first fell in love with Jack. If only that wonderful, strong man, with those large blue eyes could be with her. She missed and needed him now more than ever.
Sergeant Marissa Collier Linz was one of the unlucky ones called-up for active duty, assigned to the First Cavalry Division as a medic. She’d a morning flight to Fort Hood TX. Her new unit was bound for Iraq. She knew the risks involved. Twenty-four year-old Marissa, a single mom whose husband had died in a car accident four years earlier, was in her third year of nursing school. As a member of the Reserves, the Army paid for her tuition. The additional paycheck from the Army, and working as a nurse’s aide, helped to make ends meet. She’d moved in with her parents after her husband’s death. Her parent’s financial support, and watching Charlie, was an immense help. Her father owned and operated an auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey with Marissa’s brother.
Fifty-five year-old Charles Collier was a decorated Vietnam Veteran. He knew the nightmares of battle and had a Purple Heart to prove it. Marissa remembered her mom’s stories about the painful uncertainty in waiting for news. Charles had been missing in action, and had been seriously wounded. He’d teetered on the brink of death when they rescued him.
After a few hours of sleep, a gentle knock on the door awakened Marissa. It was time to get up and head for the airport. She slipped quietly into her uniform. Not even the unflattering fit of the desert camouflage could hide her beauty. She was tall, slender, with shiny black hair that framed her fine-featured face. Her milky white skin accentuated her transparent green eyes.
She joined her parents for breakfast, but she’d no appetite. At her mom’s insistence, she forced down some toast and orange juice. It was a silent breakfast as they wrestled with their emotions. Her grief-stricken face didn’t go unnoticed by her parents. Her dad gently stroked her back. “It’s time sweetheart. We have to go.”
Nodding, Marissa went upstairs and said good-bye to her little boy. As she caressed his hair and gently kissed his cheek, a tear fell from her eye and rolled down his forehead. It broke her heart. Not wanting to wake him, she whispered, “I love you my darling. May Jesus bless and protect you.” She dried her eyes and walked away.
Now it was time to bid farewell to her mother. Marissa held on to her and cried in silence. Mom marked the sign of a cross on Marissa’s forehead, and said, “May the Lord bless and protect you and bring you safely home.” With a last squeeze, Marissa rushed out to the car.
Marissa’s dad parked the car in the long-term parking lot of the Liberty International Airport at Newark. He took the travel pack and walked her to the Continental ticket counter as specified in her orders. Five other reservists were already waiting there.