Waiting for the Parolee to come home and a neighbor on the other side of the shrubs lights a large firework and the noise echo’s off the brick house and comes back at me.
I am twenty in Ft. Benning with Drill Sergeants Bailey, Carter and Smalls; all are yelling at us to get our butts down if we want to live.
My stomach tightens up and I focus on the conversation with the Parolee’s mother and he pulls into the driveway. I do a breathalyzer, he passes and I drive away with heightened senses.
I am near the end of Infantry training running the grenade qualification with my Battle Buddy Josh Walton, we both score high enough to get the Expert Badge.
Next Parolee’s house, a trailer in a mobile home park, getting out of the car I hear fireworks a few trailers away.
I am still in basic training on the night infiltration course crawling underneath barbed wire an M60 is firing over head and artillery simulators are blowing up in sand bag enclosures.
The Parolee is waiting outside of his trailer, his neighbor is firing off those fireworks that whistle then go bang.
I am twenty-six out running with Sergeant First Class Pavlov near the American Embassy getting close to the MASH Unit when mortars start dropping. Dmitri and I grab a Malaysian soldier who is standing in the middle of the road confused and we throw him in the nearest ditch with us on top of him.
Talking to the Parolee he tells me about his new job and I am trying not to pay attention to the fireworks but I look down towards the tire of my vehicle wishing I was laying in the dirt smelling the black Firestone rubber.
I am still in Mogadishu but out with Major Ellerbe the S-3. I am riding in the gunner position of a unarmored no door Hummv leading the ambulances towards a few wounded members of the 2/14th Infantry on Operation Thor and Odin. Cobras are strafing the other side of the open area, I fire a couple rounds towards a flash in a window with my M-16. Our Hummv gets in a misunderstanding with a Malaysian Armored Personnel Carrier which flattens our rear driver side tire and hangs us up on a big rock. The wounded are in the ambulances and we head back inside the compound. We relax once inside the walls, then someone lets loose with a Rocket Propelled Grenade at the compound.
My insides are tight, my mind tells my body they are only fireworks and I am perfectly safe. My body wants to get behind some cover and draw my weapon and check for threats. I conclude the interview with my Parolee and drive away.
I can only tell my story and this is not for sympathy, what I go thru with a few simple small bangs is nothing compared to what some of my brothers and sisters go thru all the time and not just around the 4th of July. Please remember those that walk around all the time looking for a safe place.