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Government Issue (standard:action, 3379 words)
Author: Tom SoukupAdded: Feb 18 2003Views/Reads: 2211/1294Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A gung ho Marine, frustrated by his lack of combat experience, completes the last part of Special Forces training on a solo desert excercise. He is confronted with very unusual circumstances that take his career in a very different direction.
 



GOVERNMENT ISSUE 

By Tom Soukup 

Sixty watts was plenty of light to put on the final touches.  That was a
good thing since nothing more was available anyway.  And to top it off, 
it was unlikely that a change . . . particularly a change in that 
direction  . . . would occur any time soon.  It sure hadn't in the past 
nine years, and eyes eventually become accustomed to such things.  The 
bare bulb hung singularly from only a wire, and the gentle breeze that 
sneaked through the barracks door swung the glowing pendulum in a 
rhythmic arc over his head.  He rubbed the black of the boot to an ever 
increasing shine, the way he was taught years ago, and the moving light 
caught the curve of the toe to reflect back into the steely blue of his 
handsome eyes, tracing zigzag paths across their stare.  Almost done, 
he thought, but he never minded such tasks.  It was a part of the 
Corps, his choice for life. 

Satisfied that there was no further benefit to be gotten from his labor,
he laced the heavy boots in place, tucking the cuffs of his pants into 
the tops just before drawing up the last of the leather strips.  He 
stood in place, stamped his feet firmly on the wooden floor with a 
one-two drum sound, and bent rigidly over to position the blouse of his 
trousers above the boot-tops.  The formless patches of browns and beige 
covered the uniform in a pattern distinctively that of desert 
camouflage.  It was clearly military dress, designed for function.  He 
studied the pressed creases of his attire as he fastened the 
rectangular name plate, black background and etched white letters, that 
said "Sgt. B. Winston" . . . with U.S.M.C. proudly displayed below. 

Sergeant Bart Winston had decided long ago that the United States Marine
Corps was the life he wanted.  Bart was really Bartholomew, an ancient, 
almost biblical name that belonged more rightfully to the grandfather 
who passed it along than to this young man, and he blackened more than 
one eye defending it as a child.  But the shortened version of "Bart" 
was acceptable enough, and now few knew where it came from anyway.  
Bart had grown in the perfect image of the military.  The care taken 
today in the simple dress of combat was a ritual he piously performed 
despite the occasion or lack of one.  The blue and red of Marine dress 
was his favorite, and he'd gladly rise in the early hours to ensure 
that it was nothing less than perfect, the completeness of government 
issue . . . GI.  But his fatigues were no less cared for, and today's 
battledress of dusty camouflage gave him the added opportunity to 
fantasize over wars he never fought.  Born as the world licked its 
wounds after Viet Nam, he grew up in a relatively peaceful time.  Still 
wet behind the ears at the start of Desert Storm, he had one foot on 
the transport plane with a ticket for Kuwait in his hand when the whole 
thing folded in, and Iraq tucked tail to run.  He was so close to 
action then that he could smell the camel sweat.  But his dream went 
unfulfilled. 

Now he was presented with this new opportunity.  The training over these
last months had been hard . . . harder than the rigors of "basic" years 
ago.  But it was almost over now and he knew it would be worth it.  
"Special Forces."  It had a good ring to it, and if it could get him 
nearer to the combat that he desired, it would be time well spent.  He 
placed the cocky beret on his head, his nearly shaved scalp having just 
enough hair to hold the hat at a slight forward angle, and he walked 
out into the morning sun of Camp Lejeune. 

*       *       * 

"Sergeant Winston reporting for orders, Sir."  Bart stood at statue-like
attention before the great mahogany desk of Colonel Anthony Guano, 
commanding officer of the Special Forces Training Program, and referred 
to quietly as "Bull" Guano behind his back.  Bart's arm was unquivering 
in salute, waiting with the patience taught only in the Corps, until 
Bull motioned a quick return. 

"At ease, Winston," he said without looking up.  His bushy eyebrows hid
his eyes from view. 

Bart stepped one foot slightly to the left and rested his hands one in
the other behind his back.  He released his tensed muscles almost 
imperceptibly, and fixed his gaze into the wall beyond the old man's 


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