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Preface of:       "Reluctant Hero"

The blinds over the windows had been raised to their full height, which now allowed the bright sunlight into the room from the outside. The room was now very bright, the grey and white walls of the room reflecting the light. It was even brighter where the bed sat, the large fluorescent light directly over the bed adding even more light to the room.

Still the god damn room was cold and the man reclining on the bed was cold, but when there is no longer any motion or activity, the body has a tendency to get cold. With motion the blood flows faster and keeps heat within the body.

Why do you keep these hospital rooms so god damn cold he said to the nurse, who was standing beside the bed. “Now why did I say that, it is not the nurses fault the room is cold” the thought now ashamed of his outcry. He was tired of laying there in the bed, he felt miserable, his body hurt and it was cold in the room, he was cold. The thin hospital gown did little to add any warmth or to even cover his naked body. He hated those god damn gowns. No more than it covered he might as well be naked, hell he was naked. The gown had been untied from around his neck and dropped to his waist, where it just barely covered his mid section.  The blanket, normally on the bed, had been removed also, as the nurse checked and changed his bandages.

Joe Key eased back gently onto the pillows that Nurse Baker had just fluffed up for him, Even though his movement was slow and gentle, the pain was still there and seemed to be getting worse.

Trying to get his mind off the pain, he now watched as she finished putting a fresh bandage on his left leg. He had found that if he concentrated on her movements, or really the movement of her large breast, he forgot about the cold and pain. He didn’t know which hurt worse, the pain in his leg and that in his shoulder. Leaning back onto the pillow behind his back he found that it was pressing against the place where the bullet had exited his shoulder, this was beginning to throb quite painful now, and reluctantly he told her so.

Up to this point she had ignored his comments, “Yes I’m sure it does, just let me finish this and I will get your medicine, which will relieve the pain some” she said in a concern way as she finished taping the bandage. She then pulled the blanket back over his leg and straighten it across his body and up over his naked chest. Naked in the sense that the gown did not cover him, but it was covered, Covered with bandages that were wrapped around it and over his shoulder, almost completely covering his upper torso. After doing so, she then left the room without saying anything more.

Nurse Baker was an Ensign in the United States Navy that apparently had been assigned to care for him, for each time he rang for a nurse she always came. Now this was okay with Joe, for he had noticed some of the other nurses, and he felt that he had been given the ‘pick of the litter’. He would not call her beautiful, but for sure she was somewhere between attractive and pretty, leaning closer to pretty.  It was a big improvement over those women of Vietnam, a great improvement.

She wasn’t big, about five feet six inches he had guessed, and was nicely rounded out. For a woman her size she had the biggest breast he had ever seen. Her uniforms fit her nice in the hips and waist area. Howevit was in a strain in the chest. Joe was just waiting for the day when the top buttons went flying off.

Nurse Baker returned a couple of minutes later carrying a small paper cup and a glass of water. There were two pills in the paper cup, a sedative she had told him which would ease the pain and help him sleep. He quickly threw the pills into his mouth and then took the water to wash them down. Handing the glass back to her he let his hand fall to his hip. After setting the glass on the small table, she reached across him to straighten the arm sling on left arm. As she did so one of her breast crossed over his hand, almost touching it. “Hot damn, I could just turn my hand over then I could feel that big thing” he thought, and was just about to do so.

 “I am sorry for my comments a minute ago, it is not your fault the room is so cold” he said, “besides, I need to watch my manners, after all  you are an officer and I am just a marine grunt” he said trying to get on the good side of her.

“Right and I know about you marine grunts and how you think, so if you put those thoughts in your head right now into action, then the next time I give you a shot you will regret it.” She said smiling as she stood back up straight. She really wanted to laugh at the look on his face.

How the hell did she know what I was thinking? Well I guess I am not the first marine she has tended to” he thought. It caught him off guard, but he had a snappy come back and was about to say it.

That was when the door opened and the head nurse, a very big robust woman, a Lieutenant Commander, stepped into the room and leaned back against the door holding it open for two officers. The first thing Joe noticed was the stars on the officer’s shoulders, general officers, who were followed by three other officers.

Smiling the two star general walked to the bed, “how are you doing son” the general said, “I’m General Wotack” and then indicating to the other general “and this is General Lewis” he said as the second general then stepped closer.

Looking first at one general and then the other, Joe Key realized that the first general was an army general and the other a marine general, “oh shit, what kind of trouble am I in now, Generals do not go and visit with enlisted men, especially a lowly corporal” he thought. “Doing fine sir” Joe said, and then he almost yawned. “You damn fool, you don’t yawn in a general face” he thought, but once again he felt a yawn coming on.

“General” Nurse Baker said seeing the plight Joe was in, “I didn’t know you were coming and I have given him a sedative to help him sleep and it seems to be taking effect” the nurse said, “I’m sorry sir.”

“Nonsense, don’t worry about it we will just be here for only a minute or two anyway” he said smiling at her. Then turning back to Joe he said, “The battle that broke up our press meeting a while back, you made quite a showing of yourself” General Wotack said, “yes sir quite a showing. Which brings us here today. Two of these officers” he said nodding to the officer behind him, “are with the ‘Star & Stripes”, they were at the press meeting and are now here to continue the coverage of our award ceremony. We need to finish something we didn’t get a chance to do then: ready General” he said to General Lewis.

The generals aide handed General Lewis a piece of paper  and the general cleared his throat and said “attention to orders” and Joe sat up as straight as he could, pain allowing. He also noticed that Nurse Baker and the head nurse, as well as all the office, also came to attention. then the general continue to read about how Joe had risked his life, fighting the enemy against high odds while he was himself had been injured, and so on, and finished by saying “you are hereby awarded the Silver Star for your heroic actions and the Purple Heart with cluster, since this was your second wound, congratulations” he said, “sorry we did not get to give you the award then.”

Then General Wotack stepped up and said “Congratulations Marine, we want you to know your government appreciates what you and all the other service men and women are doing,” he paused for a few seconds then continued. “I want to ask you to think on something,” he said, looking at Joe directly and his voice changed. “ you have shown what we want our officers to show, ‘Leadership’ and the ability to handle men,” then pausing for a second or two, then went on “I want you to accept a battle field commission to a second lieutenant. How would you like to become an officer?” Seeing the confused look on Joe face, he added “what I am saying is that I am making you an officer retro back to the day of the battle, if you will accept it.”

“I don’t know” was all Joe could say at first, blinking his eye and trying to clear the sleep from his head, “sir, I don’t mean to sound disrespectful sir, but can you do that, I’m not Army sir, I am a Marine”

“Well if I can’t, and I don’t see why in hell I can’t, then General Lewis can, and he agrees with me, right Lou”

“Damn right I do, I was thinking of it when General Wotack suggested it, so how about it” the marine general asked?

“I think I would like that very much sir, but sir, I don’t have the education that is required to being an officer. I’m taking college courses by mail but have not finished them yet,” he finished.

“If you take it we can send you to OCS (officers’ candidate school)” then noticing the heavy eyes and the hidden yawn, “I see that you are getting tired so we will leave you to rest, but you think about it.”

“Sir, I don’t think there is anything to think about, yes I want it, which is what I have always wanted, that is one of the reasons I am taking the college courses.” Joe answer excited.

 “Good man” the General said, do you have any questions?”

“no sir” then he paused, “sir, this is silly, but if I ask it can I blame it on the medicine,” he grinned, “since you say I led the men, army men, into battle, does that mean that I am now entitled to wear the ‘CIB’ (combat infantry badge”) he asked, pointing to the one on the generals chest. This is a badge issued only to Army personnel who have led men into battle. “I have always admired that medal.”

The General smiled and almost patted Joe on the shoulder, then he turn to leave, “oh by the way, for you action there at the press meeting battle,” he said in a sly sort of a way, “I’m putting you in for the medal, your action proved that you deserve it, you were quite a hero.”

“Sir” Joe said, “Sir I’m no hero, nor am I brave, for I was scared shi…., scared to death.”

“Even so, what you did made you a hero, and I know what you did, I saw it, hell I even have it on film. You rest up now … er Lieutenant” he said then he was gone out the door with the others following him.

Me an officer” Joe lay there thinking “they can’t make me an officer, hell I am only nineteen years old …. Oh shit, for me to become an officer they will investigate me and will find out about my lie.” He thought. Sleep was really coming over him now; he couldn’t get his mind straight. Then Nurse Baker came in, she helped him slide down in the bed, fluffed his pillows and brought the blanket up. He heard her say, “you sleep well, who would have guessed that my little soldier boy is a hero. His reply was barely auditable, “I’m no soldier, I’m a marine and I’m no god damn hero.” Then darkness settles over him.