Eddie Martin was laying awake in his ruffled queen-sized bed staring off into never-never land. Sheets were pitched this way and that. Pillows were at the bottom and sides of his resting spot. But for Eddie, it had not been a night of bliss. He had tossed and turned, put pillows over his head and under his rump. But sleep did not come peacefully.
"Whatever", said Martin disgusted with the situation. Eddie, a thin 5 foot 11 inch, sandy haired dude was deep in thought. He'd graduated from Johnston High School in the Spring of 2010 after joining the Iowa National Guard while a senior in school. Not because he felt pushed by anyone in doing so, but he'd felt directed to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Charlie, who enlisted roughly a year earlier. Eddie loved Charlie. He idolized him in so many ways and treasured the ground he walked on. But he was scared or maybe conflicted. He wasn't sure which. At 18, what do you know for sure? So he signed up.
As Eddie looked out the windows at the big blue summer sky above he was trying to decide how this day would unfold. It was drill weekend at Camp Dodge and Martin was supposed to report for duty. Martin, though, had other ideas.
"Eddie", time to get up and head to drill" said his dad, Rod, from the first floor living room. Silence. "Eddie", he repeated. Again no reply. Eddie was hoping the notions of his dad would go away. But not so. Seconds later, Mr. Martin entered the bedroom and stared at his middle son. He sensed there was trouble and the looks of the situation spelled it out. Eddie was laying cross wise across the bed in his underwear and it was quite apparent he wasn't planning on leaving the house anytime soon. "Dude", said elder Martin. "You need to get up and head to drill". Confidently, Eddie responded, "not going Dad."
"And why not?", said Mr. Martin. "I'm just not going. I don't feel all that great, anyway", said Eddie. Rod took a deep breath and slowly let it out. This wasn't good but his thoughts suggested there was much more to it than lack of desire or illness.
"Okay", said Rod. "We've told you before, you have free will but if you don't make the right decision, you'll have to accept the consequences....so you need to call the base and tell them you're sick", he added. But those words weren't acknowledged. Already Eddie had made up his mind. He had no intention of telling anyone, anything. Whether it was the body language or the glazed look, Martin's dad held his tongue which was a surprise considering the spike he was feeling with his blood pressure. Just then, older brother Charlie sauntered into the bedroom. Charlie, 19, had joined the Iowa National Guard a little more than a year ago and was set to deploy along with roughly 3,000 other Iowa National Guardsmen to Afghanistan in October. Charlie would be among the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division comprising soldiers from Iowa, Nebraska and another 100 from other states. It was to be this groups largest deployment since World War II. "What's going on", said Charlie. "Your brother thinks he's going to skip drill this weekend and not tell anyone". Charlie stopped in his tracks. Immediately disgust swept over his face. "Bro, not a good idea. Things don't work like that", fired Charlie. Eddie equaled Charlie's disgust with an attitude of his own. "I don't care. I don't care what they do to me, I'm not going", said Eddie. Charlie and Rod looked at each other certain they weren't going to change any decision Eddie had made. "Alright then", said Mr. Martin. "Just be aware that whatever you do will affect Charlie. Your last name is the same and everyone who's anyone knows that you're brothers."
Mr. Martin and the 6' 2" barrel-chested Charlie retreated to the living room. Their conversation was in agreement. What Eddie was doing was stupid and selfish. As they continued their discussion, Mrs. Martin entered the room. Hope's female senses quickly kicked in. "Eddie's not going to drill", offered Charlie. "And his idiotic idea is going to impact the both of us."
Just then, the ring of Eddie's cellphone brought everyone to attention. From the exchange taking place it was apparent his drill sergeant was wanting to know where Eddie was. The Sgt. was known as a no-nonsense type of guy. Had very little if any compassion and was a distinct double for Jim Taylor, the Green Bay Packer fullback of the '60's. Square jaw, the look of a bulldog and the presence of Rocky Balboa. Crap was not in his makeup. He dished out a butt load of attitude and for obvious reasons got none back. The talk lasted about three minutes. Then the cursing started, littered with a multitude of four-letter words. And the throwing of pillows, tennis shoes and anything else he could get his mitts on. "I told them I was sick", Eddie yelled. "And in addition to that, I told them my recruiter lied to me about my ADD not being an issue with the miitary. I told the sergeant I wanted out", he continued. "He asked me if my folks were home...and I said yeah, why?" "Then he said you'd better round everybody up and be at the base in the next half an hour. Or else", he said defiantly. Little did Eddie know, crew cut man had been updating the major during their dialogue regarding the reason for Martin's absence. The military wheels were now in motion. A half an hour from now, the talk was to begin.
Back in the Martin's living room, Hope and Rod shared glances. The deep brow on Rod's forehead was showing more clarity and Hope's nervous twitch of her eyebrow started up. As Eddie hit the bottom of the landing in his military gear there was a much less confident person than a short time ago. Like in a little swarm, the three hit the two-stall garage and fired up the Martin's black 2009 Yukon. Inside the house, Charlie was explaining the morning ruckus to the youngest Martin, Dan. A burly high school junior, Dan was seeing military life all too personal. Probably wasn't his cup of tea. The garage door creaked as it began its downward run. As the truck backed down the drive, mom and dad were in agreement. They hoped their middle son hadn't shot himself in the foot. Eddie had indeed dug himself a big hole. He just didn't know the depth of his decision yet. He was about to find out.
As the Martin's headed down the street from the two-story end of their cul-de-sac home there were definitely changes taking place. The sky which a little over an hour ago was a deep rich blue now looked more ominous by the minute. A storm was on the horizon in more ways than one. Hope Martin, a woman in her fifties with mid-length blonde hair swept behind her ears who could have easily passed for someone half her age, piped up. "Guys, I don't like the looks of this", she offered. "The sky's getting so dark and the clouds are moving fast." As Hope turned to her husband she observed someone lost in thoughts, yet a person she admired for his persistence in enduring many different trials in his 60 year life. Although a tad bit overweight, Rod handled his 5 foot 10 inch frame with ease. His brownish-black hair showed a few signs of gray and his face was adorned with a thick full beard. "Rod. Rod", said Hope. Rod was completely lost in his own thoughts. The radio might have had something to do with it. Blaring through the dashboard was a song from Skillet, entitled "Hero". The lyrics no doubt were making their impact.
"It's just another war. Just another family torn. Falling from my faith today. Just a step from the edge. Just another day in the world we live."
Far, far away Rod was hearing his name being called again, "Rod." "Rod." "Did you hear what I said?" echoed his wife. "Can you turn down the radio so we can pray?" Being the spiritual person Mrs. Martin was, she turned to prayer each and every time she knew her own power was not enough for a situation. Rod turned down the sound and looked in the rearview mirror at his middle son. The reflection mirrored a young man that looked as though he was headed to the electric chair. It was obvious, Eddie's choice of trying to skip out on drill was not a good one. As Hope began her prayer you could see some relief come to the Eddie. "And we also ask you Father God for a compassionate man for Eddie and us to meet with. Please provide a man that can see all sides of a situation and provide a proper direction for us all." As she ended her words, the Yukon arrived at the south gate to the post and a huge hulk of a solider stepped up to the Martin's window and asked for identifications. "Can I help you folks?", said the gate man. Somewhat sheepishly, Rod's words came out, "we're here to see Major Fritz Jenkins." As the guard took account of the three individuals in the vehicle, he no doubt wondered what a family would be seeing Major Jenkins about. But that wasn't his issue. Safety was. "Okay, you can go on through, first building on your left after the circle."
Entering Camp Dodge was a step into military history. When Charlie had joined the Guard his family had googled Wikipedia to educate themselves on the base. "Original construction of the post began in 1907, to provide a place for the National Guard units to train. In 1917, the installation was handed over to national authorities and greatly expanded to become a regional training center for forces to participate in the First World War. Along with the numerous National Guard units located at Camp Dodge, the post is also home to the Sustainment Training Center (formerly the National Maintenance Training Center), Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa's Emergency Operations Center, a MEPS installation, and the State Police academy. The camp is the home of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, a member of the Army Museum System". Formerly the town of Herold was surrounded by the Camp. But in 1990 the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers purchased the town and it is now known to reside in Johnston. Many soldiers had come here over the years. Each with a story unto themselves.
The sleek truck came to a quick and complete halt in front of Building 1285. And then it hit. Buckets of rain poured down from the skies. The kind of moisture that beats right into your brain. Along with that the northwest winds began to howl in dog like fashion. More than 30 miles an hour. The Martin's made a mad dash up the sidewalk and into the new red and cream brick structure. Shaking off the droplets from their clothes, Hope, Rod and Eddie began their slow walk to Major Jenkins office. Entering the room, the Major, a man about 6'2" and perfectly proportioned, who no doubt had been anxiously awaiting his visitors, stood up and greeted the three. "Hi', I'm Major Fritz Jenkins, what seems to be the story here?"
Everyone's eyes went to Eddie and the nervous appearance fully apparent on his face. The big bulge in his adam's apple said even more. This wasn't going to be an easy story to tell. But he was clearly on center stage. And the curtain was up. Action!