Leslie Ulysses Kerr

Discussion in 'Character Biographies' started by Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Homeless_Les.JPG RcyhxlI[1].jpg

    "They say I'm crazy. They say I'm broken. Maybe I am broken. Maybe it takes being broke to be able to see the world the way it really is. Maybe they'll see it too... I hope not."


    "Eat a steaming pile of dog shit."
    #1 Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2019
    Guardian, Alex12, Devon and 2 others like this.
  2. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    The story so far...

    Leslie Ulysses Kerr was born a military brat in Fort Carson, Colorado, home to the 4th infantry division. His father Fred was high school sweethearts with his mother Barbara. Much to Barb’s concern, Fred enlisted in the United States army out of high school, with the intent to serve his country overseas in Vietnam. They stuck together throughout Fred’s training, and before his deployment he felt it fit to pop the question. In truth, Barbara was caught off guard. But she loved her boyfriend and there’s no way she would say no to the man she loved who was about to be shipped out, so she accepted his proposal.

    She remained at base, waiting patiently for the brief times every few months when Fred would come home to her with some leave. In the Summer of 1972, Fred’s father died of unexpected heart failure and that family emergency allowed him to get approved for leave to attend his funeral despite the fact his Unit was currently fighting in the ongoing Easter Offensive. On the fifth day of his five day leave, he made love to his wife and readied himself to return to combat. About two weeks later, Barbara theorized she was pregnant from the encounter. Two seperate pregnancy tests proved her theory, and she wrote to Fred to tell him that when he returned from war, he’d be a father. Two months later, in September of 1972, Fred Kerr was killed in action.

    Barbara was devastated at the loss of her husband. To make matters worse, she didn’t have ample time to grieve as she had nowhere to turn and needed to work out how to support herself and her unborn child. Her father Leslie had died from prostate cancer when she was a little girl and her mother was an alcoholic who she hadn’t spoken to in years. As her husband was dead and thus no longer employed by the United States army, she wasn’t permitted to remain in her house on base and the meager sum of money they give to a military widow is not enough to support oneself, much less with a child on the way. The Family Readiness Group on base were made aware of Barbara’s situation, and did all they could to petition for her to keep her house on base until she could work out another living situation. Their dissent succeeded in buying her time to try to come up with a plan to support herself and her child, and gave her time to grieve her husband. The FRG even got money together to get her a plane ticket to fly to Arlington, so Fred could get the military burial he deserved in Washington.

    A month later her time was running out and she was still not set up with a decent place to live, but it was also that time when Fred’s unit returned to base having finished their tour of duty overseas. They took it upon themselves to help their deceased friend’s family, and Barbara was set up in a nice apartment not too far outside base. It was close enough for her friends from the FRG to visit her regularly, providing her the support she needed while pregnant. On April 9, 1973 her son was born. She named him after her father, and Leslie ‘Les’ Ulysses Kerr came into the world.

    Les had the same deep blue eyes as his father. Barbara had the dominant gene with her big brown eyes, and she assumed Leslie would inherit those from her. That wasn’t the case, and everytime Barbara looked down at her beautiful baby boy, she’d see her dead husband’s eyes looking up at her almost as if from beyond the grave. Those eyes became all Barbara could see, and almost every time she looked at her son she found an uncontrollable urge to sob. Her friends from the FRG all had their own lives, and it was very difficult to stay a part of their happenings living off base. She felt isolated from them and alone and by God, she could not stop thinking of her husband’s eyes. It all became too much, and she started to drink. The alcohol allowed her to hold her son without thinking of Fred, it allowed her to be a good mother - or so she told herself. It didn’t take long before it got out of hand.

    The men from Fred’s unit and their wives caught wind to the situation as it deteriorated and Barbara became a full blown alcoholic, not dissimilar to her mother. While the army didn’t pay well, they all thought of Fred as family and put together what little they had to send Barbara to rehab, leaving baby Les to stay with the family of Corporal Jameson Littleton, a man his father served with. Little Les stayed with the family until Barbara was out of rehab, and then went back to live with his mother. It was less than a month before she fell off the wagon again. And again, the situation deteriorated until it got worse, and in a true sense of deja vu not three months after getting out of rehab Barbara was sent back, again on Fred’s fellow soldier’s dimes, and now the ever growing Les went to stay with Jameson.

    Les was born a sizeable baby, and he rapidly grew during the months his mother was away at rehab the second time, starting to make the developmental changes seen in the early stages of the transition from baby to toddler. When Barbara was released from rehab again, she was devastated to see how much of her child’s baby years she missed. He was practically a toddler now, and a big one at that! She could see that just like his daddy he would grow into a big man, and she blamed herself for missing the start of that transition. She was determined to stay clean for him.

    Determination wasn’t enough. She stayed sober five months this time, an accomplishment to be sure but not enough to keep her where she needed to be. As the FRG, Jameson, and the rest of Fred’s unit saw her staying clean visits to the apartment became less frequent. And Barbara was proud of her ability to stay sober, and she determined that she was doing so well that she could probably have a glass of wine with dinner without falling off the wagon. It ended up being a whole bottle of wine. She went to pick up her baby, now quite intoxicated, only to find that he wasn’t as light as she remembered him being. She dropped the baby, and broke his arm. The screams caused the neighbors to call the police, and Leslie Ulysses Kerr was finally taken away from his mother by the State of Colorado.

    The toddler healed from his wounds nicely but his mother was determined incapable to care for him, and custody was transferred to the government. Jameson Littleton and his wife had three kids of their own to care for and not enough money to do so, and ultimately decided to support the boy as best they could but not adopt him. No other member of Fred’s unit seemed willing to take the boy in either on a permanent basis. So Leslie was sent to an orphanage until they could find a foster family for him. He remained there for around two months receiving suboptimal care until a foster family was found for him.

    Jeffery and Maggie Spoden, two leftist anti-war activists who found themselves not knowing how to spend their time after the end of the Vietnam war, took the young boy into their home. The care he received there was better than the care he got at the orphanage, but he was still less of a priority to Jeff and Maggie than their own two children. He stayed under their care until he was around four and a half years old when Barbara petitioned to get custody of her son back. Jeff and Maggie were getting about ready to give Leslie back into the group home until he could be placed under the care of another foster family and Barbara was able to demonstrate sobriety for a six month period, so the government allowed Les back into her care under the stipulation of regular welfare checks by a social worker.

    The next year rolled around, and Les was sent off to kindergarten. As soon as Les was back in her care, the drinking resumed and yet while it was in excess, it wasn’t to the point she wasn’t able to pass the smell check of the social workers and she was able to provide adequate care for her boy. He remained with her throughout his formative years. During his time living with his mother, Les loved to play with toy army men. He had a whole bucket of them, and whenever his mother would go drink he’d play by himself with the soldiers, setting them up in strategic positions and orchestrating battles between them. It wasn’t uncommon to find an army man wedged in the corner of a shelf or meticulously balanced atop a sink faucet in the home. At the age of eight, Barbara’s drinking again picked up to an unacceptable point and she was plastered upon a scheduled visit from Leslie’s social worker. So Les was pulled away from his mother and the only home he remembered, and was taken to a group home.

    He was terrified, and he missed his mom. There were some general rules Les started to realize about his life, and the rules helped as they helped the young boy have some general idea of what to accept. The first rule he told himself was that he was not in control. He figured that one out early, it didn’t matter what he wanted. He was taken from his mom no matter how much he cried, foster families sent him back to the group home no matter what he did, he was constantly changing schools, changing homes. So all he could do was accept that fact that he had no control. Rule number two was that even the good foster parents put him lower than their own families… and that everything was his fault. Particularly when he was first moving into a new foster home, if something went missing they suspected Les stole it. No exceptions. Rule number three was that there are no other set rules. In one house, for example, it might be perfectly normal to walk around the house with shoes on. That was fine, acceptable behavior. Yet in another, he would be ostracized and scolded for that same behavior. He learned that he should expect to be yelled at, and to not know what for.

    There was no consistency, some foster families were good people trying their best to help him, some were assholes, a few would hit him but he always was taken from those homes quickly. It made it very difficult for him to come up with a standard of behavior or any notion of what a home was. Some homes he would stay in for as long as a year. His shortest stay with a foster family was 9 hours. It averaged somewhere at around two months per family, and if he was lucky he got to stay in the same school district. He stayed with people of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and had foster parents and siblings of wildly varying personalities. Luckily, he did have a constant face come around, even if it wasn’t with a degree of consistency.

    Leslie’s mom would visit him from time to time. She’d tell him that he was going to get to move back in with her one day, and Les liked to think about that whenever he got sad or if he was with a family he really didn’t like. Especially if he was in a family where the foster parents biological kids were mean to him… that happened a lot. He’d go where he could be alone, and he’d think about moving back in with his mom. Sometimes the visits were once a week, sometimes he wouldn’t see her for months - but she never, ever missed his birthday. Most of his foster parents talked badly about his mother, and this upset him. He didn’t see why they couldn’t understand that is wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t be with him, that she was just sick. At 11 years old, Les moved in with a foster family that told him they intended him to stay with them for at least a few years, which would be a new phenomenon for him (as he was too young to remember the Spodens.)

    Their names were Barry and Jo Fischer and they had one biological son and another room with five empty beds for foster kids, many of which moved in and out and some which stayed around for longer durations. Les liked Barry and Jo better than the majority of the other foster parents he was with, and he liked their biological son Martin. He even began to think of Martin as his own older brother after a few months with the family without being uprooted. He did not, however, like all of the foster siblings that come through. He helped Barry and Jo with the little ones, taking care of and playing with the kids, but a lot of the older ones now began to see him as an older kid himself. Remember, Leslie was a big kid and at 11 he easily could’ve passed for fourteen. So a lot of the older kids began trying to get him to go to their parties or use their drugs, and it made Les very uncomfortable. That said, Martin did a pretty good job of keeping Les away from the more rowdy older kids.

    Les liked the school he went to while living at Barry and Jo’s house. When he started 6th grade, they gave him an assignment in class where he was asked what it was he wanted to be when he grew up. The boy thought about the assignment carefully, and come to a realization that gave him almost as much comfort as his mom’s promise that they would be together again someday… that we wanted to be a soldier, like his dad. During the time Leslie was living with his mom, from 4 to 8 years old, his dad’s buddies from Vietnam would go to visit him sometimes, especially a man he called Uncle Jameson. They’d tell him all sorts of stories about his dad, and the things he did, and often about the men he killed. Sometimes his mom would get mad when they told him about the men his dad killed, but Les didn’t get why - his dad was killing bad men! He was enamoured not only with the war stories, but with the portrait they painted.

    Whether true or not, from the stories told Leslie’s dad was portrayed as a hero, a man who always did the right thing and was brave and bold and didn’t back away from a fight. Les wanted to be just like him. Somehow, Les began to love a man he never even met, or rather the idea of a man who may or may not have been an accurate portrayal of his actual dad. Leslie was sad that Uncle Jameson and his dad’s other friends never visited him once he had to leave his mom again, but he wasn’t surprised. Why would he be… it was one of the rules after all - he was lower than everybody else. He mattered less. Nevertheless, Les proudly told the class that he wanted to be a soldier like his dad. The idea made him well up with a sense of enormous pride.

    About a year into living at Barry and Jo’s house, the two went to sit Les down on a couch. Leslie has a clear memory of feeling an intense rush of hope… this was it. He was finally good enough, this was finally the moment where he was going to be adopted. He would be Martin’s actual brother and he’d have real parents and be a part of a real family. That wasn’t the case. The two told him that his mother had passed away. Jo and Barry discussed with each other at length how they were going to break the news to the boy, and they ultimately decided that even though he was only 12, his experience in the foster care system has made him more mature than he should have to be and the best policy would be to be honest with him.

    So they were, and they told him as gently as they could that his mom had drank herself to death. Les didn’t seem to react to the news, just staring blankly ahead, reverting back to those old thoughts about that one day in the future when he’d move back in with his mom. The two sat with him for hours, and as night fell they left him on the couch. Les knew that there was a cabinet high up above the fridge that had a bottle of vodka in it. Barry drank from it sometimes, albeit infrequently. So the boy dragged over a stool while everyone was asleep and climbed up onto it, taking the vodka from the cabinet and pouring a little bit into a glass, like he saw his mom do so many times. He put the glass to his mouth, and poured the liquid down his throat. It was horrible.

    He puckered his face at the horribly bitter taste, coughing and feeling very uncomfortable as the liquid burned his throat with a fiery sensation. He put it back in the cabinet above the fridge, moved the stool back, and went to sit back on the couch. He still had a very yucky taste in his mouth and he had a bit of a stomach-ache and his head felt fuzzy. Les sat there, deep in thought, trying desperately to figure out how his mother loved that disgusting stuff more than she loved him.

    After his mother’s passing, Les was in a bad place. He found himself constantly feeling depressed and often struggling to get out of bed in the morning. In fact, the only thing that gave him any amount of joy was the fantasies of what being a soldier would be like - fantasies that were grounded in likely fictionalized stories over objective truths about military life. Barry and Jo Fischer tried to help the young boy as much as they could as they had grown to truly care for Les, and they provided a decent enough support system to keep him getting out of bed and off to school during those tough times.

    A year passed and the pain of losing his mother was still with Les, but he had begun to learn to function with the pain. He was now thirteen and nearing graduation of middle school at the same time as Martin was nearing graduation of high school. Barry and Jo talked it over, and ultimately decided to be able to give Martin the opportunity to go off to college, they would no longer be able to financially support foster children as the stipends they’re given are hardly enough to care for a human being. Moreover, Martin had been accepted to a school out of state and they didn’t want to have to organize care for the children every time they went to visit him. Somewhere in the back of Leslie’s mind he had always hoped the Fischers would adopt him… but he never expected it and he wasn’t surprised when they told him that it was time for him to go. Jo cried at their parting but Les couldn’t find any emotion within himself to reciprocate those feelings. After all, it was just a part of life in the system.

    They often had harder times finding foster homes for the teenagers, and many spent more time in the group home in the city. The group home wasn’t a great place. There was a lot of under supervised angry and hormonal kids, which often led to bullying, substance abuse, and a general lack of a safe environment. However, Les got lucky and was only there for two weeks before being brought to the home of Steven and Linda Leavitt. Steven was an enormous football plan. He played for University of Colorado Boulder in College and had the desire to go pro - but not enough skill. When Leslie came into his home, the man was ecstatic at his size. Here was a boy who had just turned fourteen but was as big as most eighteen year olds. And he was just now entering high school!

    Steve was confident he could groom Les into a fantastic football player. And who was Les to say no to the man giving him food and shelter. So just like that, Les adapted into liking football. He played in the yard with Steve despite the fact that he thought Steve was too rough. He practiced when Steve made him practice. That whole Summer he worked harder than he had worked in his life, because he felt he had too. It paid off in regards to his image. Big as he was, he was a bit of an overweight kid and had quite the gut on him. In fact, he was bullied throughout middle school for his weight. But after the Summer, his fat had begun to burn and muscle started to take its place. Les was no longer just big, he was now big and strong.

    He started high school and joined the football team as Steve had groomed him to do. He hated it. The other boys were overtly crude when talking about girls, they made racist jokes, they were rough with one another. Les found it totally inappropriate and harmful. He was outspoken about this, and it led to bullying and teasing that he was somehow soft. When Les punched another boy on his football team for saying a racial slur to another student in the school, he was scolded by his coach for lack of team spirit, and was given detention - with warning of suspension if it ever happened again. Additionally, Les didn’t like the sport. He didn’t like the practice. And he hated Steve’s constant badgering and questioning about his experience. And all this was in the preseason, before they even played their first game. Les stopped going to practice, and was eventually taken off the team.

    Steve was horrified. After everything that he and Linda had done for Leslie, and Les just throws it all away! More than he was sad, Steve was angry. The man started to yell at Les, and after years and years of sitting there quietly as people yelled at him Les found he no longer could. He punched Steve in the face, and the next morning he was taken away from the family as Steve guaranteed the young man he was fortunate he was being taken back to the group home and not to jail.

    Now labelled with ‘emotional difficulties’ Les found it harder to be put into foster homes. Throughout his freshman year, he mostly just lived at the group home with the other disenfranchised youth. He was teased for having a girls name, teased for his size, teased for being a pussy, teased for just about everything under the sun. So he eventually stopped making himself a target. He started picking on some of the younger and/or smaller kids too, he started getting into fights when people picked on him, and after being pressured by another boy he was friendly with, he started smoking weed. The weed helped his social status quite a bit, and he finally began to make friends. It was almost as if the illicit substance validated him as cool. He liked the feeling of being high well enough, but more so he liked the sense of acceptance his peers gave him from being high. He began to be invited to high school parties, and it was through these parties that he began to drink too.

    Les liked the parties. He didn’t feel any real, deep kinship with the other kids - but he felt accepted as one of them. He felt as if he was deemed cool, and it gave him a sense of validation. Leslie did well enough at school to pass, as he knew he was need a high school diploma to pursue his goal of being a soldier. He mainly got C’s. He struggled to keep that C in English, sometimes cheating to get good enough grades to pass, and earning the occasional B in Math and History as he was more naturally inclined in those subjects. He got As in PE.

    Leslie continued to party with the other kids at his school. Sometimes he’d drink so much that it’d provide a valid excuse for him to stay the night at the house he was drinking at rather than go to the group home. If he got ‘fucked up’ enough, people wouldn’t kick him out. They didn’t seem to empathize much with the fact that he didn’t feel like he had much of a place to go. In fact, Leslie found most of the kids to be totally unempathetic entirely. When Les did get a foster family willing to take him in for a time, he began to steal things from them. Money for weed and booze if he could find it. He didn’t feel that bad about it because he knew they’d suspect him of stealing whether he did or didn’t. If people assume you’re a thief, why not be one? He never got involved in the Criminal Justice system, he just got deemed more and more at-risk by the state which made less and less foster families willing to take him in.

    By his Junior year, he was pretty much exclusively living at the group home. He hadn’t been working out much since he put on muscle his freshman year, and he had put on quite a bit of weight from all the munchies that came as a consequence of the marijuana, so he was again a bit of a fat kid. Some of the kids still teased him for having a ‘girls name’ or for being overweight but he had gained a reputation for having a temper and as a result the teasing was greatly diminished. His life pretty much consisted of doing his best to maintain passing grades in school, partying, and fantasizing about life after highschool when he could finally fulfill what he saw as his destiny in the Army.

    His social status changed drastically one night at a party about a month into his Junior year. It was a smaller party, just about two dozen kids holed up in the house of a boy Les was friendly with drinking booze and smoking pot. Nothing too out of the ordinary, really - both boys and girls present. As the night progressed, Les drifted away from his spot in front of the television to go take a piss - only he opened the wrong door by mistake. He found a boy from school on top of a girl who appeared to be passed out on the bed, her pants around her ankles. This kind of behavior wasn’t uncommon during parties in the late 80s. In fact, to Leslie’s blissful ignorance this same kind of behavior was exhibited at other parties he had been at, he just hadn’t bore witness to it before now. And even if society viewed it as almost an unspoken cultural norm, it was far from okay in Leslie’s eyes.

    For a brief moment, he looked at the scene. The boy turning to look at him, an almost annoyed look in his eye as he was disturbed from his act. The girl he was mounting, totally passed out on the bed, on her back, her pants around her ankles. She could’ve been dead for all she was moving. Les felt as if he related to her helplessness. While his life experiences are certainly not comparable to rape, he understood what it was like to have a total lack of control in the things done to you. But for him, it was a systematic thing. As he saw it in this moment, it was this boy who was doing this to her, this boy taking away her personal agency. And he was overcome with a rage unlike any other he had felt before. Furthermore, some voice deep down in the back of his mind told him that this was his opportunity to be like that fantasy of his dad - to be a soldier and to fight for justice. So he did.

    The look in the boys eyes turned from annoyance to confusion to fear as Les charged at him, pulling him out of the girl and throwing him down to the floor. He then proceeded to get on top of the boy and slam his fist into his face. Big as Les was, the single punch did ample damage to his opponent but Leslie kept hitting him until his face was smashed to a pulp and the boy was unmoving. Staring at the broken boy, he became overwhelmed with fear. He wondered if he was dead, if he had killed him. He didn’t know, and he didn’t check. Afraid, overwhelmed, and sickened Les ran. He ran all the way back to the group home, his knuckles busted and breathing fast. When thinking over the series of events as Les lay in his bed that night, he realized that he probably was supposed to feel bad about not checking if the boy was dead - only he didn’t. The only thing Les felt badly about was that he didn’t pull up the girls pants before he ran.

    The boy Les beat didn’t show up in school for a week and a half. During that time, people stopped talking to him. They knew how the boy had wound up, and they knew Les had left the party unexplained. When they saw his busted knuckles the next Monday, it wasn’t hard to do the math. Nobody snitched and no cops or teachers got involved, but the students knew. And what Les did was not acceptable to them, so he was cast out. Les didn’t try to find out what happened to the kid he beat, and he didn’t even know for sure that he wasn’t dead until he showed up again in school after being released from the hospital. Rumor had it that the boy told the doctors he got hit by a car. Les was isolated again, a social pariah. Naturally, this attracted another group to the young man. The goth and alt crowd came to him, telling them that they thought what he did was pretty metal. So just like that, Les started to hang out with them. They drank and smoked much less, so Les drank and smoked less. They wore their hair long, and as Les developed rather quickly he was able to grow a beard at his young age of 17, so he did. They liked that. He listened to their music and he hung around with them, but at the end of the day he felt just as much a bond to them as he did to the party crowd before… they were just people he was around to drown out the noise of being alone but they weren’t truly his friends.

    His senior year came and went with Leslie continuing to hang around the alt crowd. His grades improved slightly when the partying ceased, but not much. Around halfway through his senior year, he began studying for the ASVAB. As he was not used to studying for school, he didn’t have great study techniques but it didn’t stop him from trying to put in the work. He knew that his odds of being assigned where he wanted were greater if he succeeded in the test, so he did what he could to get the best score possible. When Les took it nearing the end of the school year, he did slightly better than average with a score of 53. As he got his diploma not long after, he welled with pride and excitement. He had done it, he had survived what he was convinced were going to be the worst years of his life. He had survived the foster care system, and now it was time for his lifelong fantasy to become a reality. It was time to become a soldier. Leslie followed up with the recruiter who assisted him with prepping for his ASVAB, again expressing desire to pursue the 11x enlistment option. He didn’t pay much attention when the recruiter was explaining promotional opportunities to him along with the workings of everyday army life. Les didn’t care, he had a fantasy of how military life would be and he was disinterested in hearing this man's reality. This later proved to be consequential, as navigating promotions in the military can be complex, particularly in peacetime, and likely his lack of attentiveness to his recruiter caused him to miss out on some future promotion opportunities.

    Nevertheless, he enlisted with excitement and pride. Leslie signed an 8 year enlistment contract, five of which he would serve on active duty and three of those he’d be a reservist. Not long later, he was informed that in one month he was to be shipped out to Fort Benning, Ga where he would go through the 13 week, 3 day One Station Unit Training. This was the 11x enlistments combined basic combat training and Advanced Individual Training program. They combined BCT and AIT for this enlistment option to help streamline training and foster camaraderie between recruits, with the unit seamlessly switching from a BCT unit into an AIT unit. During his last month in Colorado he spent time with his high school buddies and attempted to enjoy his last moments of civilian life - but the whole month went very slow for him. He was ecstatic to begin his life as a soldier, and at the opportunity to be like the man he envisions his father was.

    Slow as it went, the month passed like any other and before he knew it Leslie Ulysses Kerr was hopping on a plane to fly out to Georgia. It was the first time he’d ever been on a plane, or left Colorado for that matter, and he was already excited at the new experiences. The first thing that struck him as he got off the plane and into the Summer heat of Georgia was how damn hot it was. He was not at all used to heat being from Colorado, and it felt as if he was being cooked alive. Les was both excited and deeply nervous as he boarded the bus with the other recruits at the airport and they began transport to Fort Benning. He sat next to a lanky boy from Alabama named Boyd Robbins. Leslie introduced himself as Ulysses, not wishing to be teased about his name like he often was in the group home. The two chatted idly and nervously as they were transported. Upon arrival, the last boy to get off the bus, an Oregonian named Jeremy Cook, was the first person Les saw smoked. He was scolded for being the last one off, and questioned how he could possibly be so lazy. Les smirked at the scene, in his head this was all just a part of his fantastical world of Army life. The drill sergeants gave you shit - but he knew they didn’t mean it. It was all to ensure that you had the mental fortitude to go off to war. If you couldn’t handle your drill sergeant calling you a retard, how could you be expected to handle the harsh realities of battle? Before BCT started, they went through Reception.

    Reception was a four day period undertaken before Basic begins where initial preparations for training are performed. He shaved off his beard, and was given a buzz cut. Upon his physical examination, he was called in by his name ‘Leslie Kerr.’ The boy behind him, an Ohioan named Daniel Coates, had already been introduced to Les under the chosen name Ulysses. In truth, if he had simply introduced himself as Les there likely wouldn’t have been much fuss. But because he had chosen to go by Ulysses, it shone light on the fact he felt ashamed of his name. Dan latched on to that, and dubbed him Princess Tubbs on account of both his feminine name and his extra weight on his gut. He passed the name around the recruits as Les was given his physical examination, and Boyd Robbins was nice enough to give him a heads up about his new nickname before he could find out himself. While Les saw the smoking to be all in good fun when it was done to Cook by the drill sergeant, it was a whole nother ordeal when his fellow recruits were already starting to tease him, and before Basic had so much as started. Les felt his stomach sink, and it bothered him deeply. The other boys noted that it peeved him, which of course only encouraged them more. You have to keep in mind, most of these boys were straight out of high school and were still kids in many senses - and boys tease other boys. But Leslie repressed the rage and thorough disappointment he felt and kept on, not allowing his hopes to be dampered by a nickname he didn’t like.

    During the next three days of Reception, he was distributed his personal gear such as his uniform, his ruck, and a mouthguard, he was inoculated for various diseases, and he and the other recruits were instructed in basic marching and standing, as well as proper upkeep of barracks and latrines. With that all done with, it was time to begin the Red Phase of the BCT portion of OSUT. As BCT progresses, recruits are slowly given more responsibility, independence, and privileges, but upon starting Phase I you are constantly monitored and led along by your Drill Sergeant. The first matter of business now that Reception was over was for the recruits to meet their Drill Sergeant. Their Drill Sergeant picked them up from Reception Battalion and marched them to their company area. The company area is the common area for the entire company of 200 recruits and is surrounded by four barracks - one for each 50 recruit platoon in the company. Upon arrival at the company area, they were told to participate in what was called a bag drill, where all their duffel bags were dumped into one large pile and all the recruits were instructed to find their personal duffels simultaneously and within a set time limit. Then they all had to hold their duffels over their heads while they were separated into their platoons. The Drill Sergeant talked slowly when assigning them, as to increase the amount of time they spent holding their duffels over their heads. Les was one of the last people to be assigned to his platoon, and his arms were shaking with exertion by the time his name was called. He was disheartened to see that Dan Coates was in his platoon and Boyd Robbins wasn’t.

    Upon being seperated into platoons, they were lined up and lectured by their Drill Sergeant. They were informed that his first name was Drill and his last name was Sergeant. Anytime they wanted to address him, they would start by saying his full name ‘Drill Sergeant’ and end by saying his full name. The name on his uniform was Murphy but nobody dared point out that fact. They were lectured about what to expect during Red Phase and Drill Sergeant didn’t miss any opportunity to smoke them for even the slightest discretion, real or perceived. Furthermore, Drill Sergeant told them that they had not yet earned the privilege to talk in the barracks.

    The days were long, starting at 4:30 in the morning and ending at 9 at night. There was never enough time to sleep. Les already knew the soldier’s creed and core values of the United States military, having memorized them as a boy in excited preparation for his future in the Army. He was mortified to see that the battle buddy he was assigned was none other than Dan Coates. For the Red Phase, you are forbidden to even walk anywhere without your battle buddy by your side and you participated in all drills with them. Dan teases Les all the while. By day three, Drill Sergeant gave them permission to start talking again during the days very minimal alloted personal time. Basic Training is a rather intense experience to begin with, but while this particular group of recruits was going through it there was a war brewing. The Gulf War was in full swing, and there was a particular pressure on the Drill Sergeants to get a group of kids ready to be instantly shipped out to war if need be.

    Having gotten out of shape, Les struggled with the physical drills which only exacerbated the teasing from Drill Sergeant and his platoon alike, often led by Coates. By week 2, they had finished learning how to properly stand at attention and march and had the core values and soldier’s creed instilled in them and they were ready to start learning more practical skills. They began learning Ground Fighting Techniques (GFT) and Coates found himself very competitive with Princess Tubbs over this particular drill. Les was bigger than him, even if he was out of shape, and had experience fighting - even if it wasn’t with any trained fighting techniques. Coates gained some respect for his skills in the area, but Les didn’t pick up on the change of demeanor. He was too upset that they got paired together to begin with and he wasn’t feeling any sort of deep bond with anyone else like he’d hoped. When it was time for the Victory tower exercise, Leslie was understandably nervous. They were to navigate through several obstacles at extreme heights, including climbing and traversing rope ladders and bridges. They must then rappel down a 50 foot wall. Leslie performed horribly in this exercise, and Drill Sergeant smoked him out worse than he’d ever been before. He made the whole platoon give him 75 pushups, citing that “if Princess Tubbs can’t get in shape, you all need to be in good enough shape to carry him up that wall.” Les was beyond mortified.


    Later that night, Les found he couldn’t sleep at night despite the physical exhaustion. He started to think. It was a mistake. His thoughts went wild, and they turned dark quick. Leslie had always figured that his time in foster care was going to be the worst time of this life, and if he could just grit his teeth and bear it then he could go to the Army, where he’d belong and where he could make a family. A real family, with deeper connections than even a biological family could offer. Only here he was, constantly teased and harassed by his battle buddy who was supposed to support him and become his brother, getting smoked out by Drill Sergeant, and generally feeling a lack of acceptance by his platoon. It manifested into a truly horrifying thought. What if his time in foster care were actually the best years of his life. He found himself feeling beyond sick, and he couldn’t breathe right. We’d likely call the experience an anxiety attack, but Les didn’t know the name for it. All he knew was he felt like he was going to die. He ran to the head, not wanting the other soldier’s to wake up to his heavy breathing which he was convinced was loud enough to be heard throughout the fort.

    Sure enough, Dan Coates woke up having to pee just as he heard the loud pitter-patter of Kerr’s footsteps rushing to the head. He went that way himself, opening the stall to hear the sound of crying interjected with breathing so heavy it sounded like he was choking on air. Coates displayed genuine concern, asking if he was okay. Les, in his state, misinterpreted the care for sarcasm and harassment and anger overtook his anguish. He went out of the stall and punched Coates in the face… hard. Coates yelped and Les looked at him in horror. He was going to get section 8’d, he was sure of it. His dream would be dead and he’d nowhere to go. Scared and confused, Les did the same thing he did in that bedroom when he beat that boy those years ago, he just left.

    The next day, Drill Sergeant walked in to see Coates with a wicked bruise over his temple and a horribly swollen and blackened eye. He demanded to know what happened. Coates stood straighter than straight, puffed up his chest, and answered “Drill Sergeant, I’m a heavy sleeper, Drill Sergeant!” Drill Sergeant asked if he was sure that was the case, to which Coates again asserted that he was indeed a heavy sleeper. Les was baffled, and for the life of him could not understand why Coates did that. That same day, the recruits had their Teamwork Development Course. Drill Sergeant insisted that if Coates simply injured himself from being a heavy sleeper, he didn’t need to go to the infirmary. So the clearly concussed Coates was sent out to participate in the obstacle course, somewhat similar to the last one, but with more obstacles that centered around teamwork. He made a point to do his best to help Kerr through the course, and Kerr did what he could to keep up. The two finished dead last due to Kerr’s lack of agility and Coates’ concussed state. However, Drill Sergeant noticed their teamwork and due to it, hardly smoked the pair out at all.

    Seeing this act of kindness from Coates encouraged Kerr more than any smoking could. After what he did for him, or rather what he didn’t do, Les knew he had to make it up to his battle buddy by never letting the pair finish last again. He pushed himself harder than he ever had in PT the next morning and every morning after. For the remainder of the week, the platoon learned about map reading, land navigation, and compass use. They were then dropped into the woods and were left alone with the instruction to navigate their way through a series of points in the area before finding their way back to the Fort. Les picked up on the skills a bit quicker than the rest of the platoon, and he was shocked when they listened to his instruction rather than made fun of him or tried to shut him up. The final course of the week was the Combat Life Saver course, or first-aid training. They learned everything from field dressing a wound to application of a tourniquet and dehydration treatment. Everyone paid particular attention during these lessons, recognizing them as important skills to know as a soldier, something that could genuinely save a life.

    It was now time for the final week of Red Phase. During week three, you could really feel the transition from Red to White as the platoon began to work together in ways the previously didn’t. They began training with pugil sticks, heavily padded poles that simulate training for close quarters rifle and bayonet combat. They had fun with this, and Drill Sergeant let them, allowing them to cheer and jeer and altogether foster competition. They learned methods for carrying unconscious or immobile soldiers and worked through physical problem solving, such as finding a way to carry equipment from point A to point B given specific obstacles and constraints.

    The recruits were also sent to the gas chambers during this week, which is a large, sealed chamber where soldiers are subjected to CS gas while wearing their protective masks. This event was the culmination of a series of classroom instruction on proper gas mask use and maintenance. Before leaving the chamber, they were instructed to unmask to gain experience with operating under the effects of the gas. In doing so, they were forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before leaving, to demonstrate that they could inhale the gas while maintaining some level of focus. It was pretty miserable, but Les was used to discomfort and he handled it okay.

    Week three is also where they were introduced to their standard issue weapon, in this case the M16A2 assault rifle. They were not to actually discharge the weapon yet, but they did receive basic rifle marksmanship (BRM) fundamentals training (instruction in marksmanship techniques without firing the rifle. For instance, trigger control is practiced by placing a wooden dowel down the barrel of the rifle with a coin placed on the exposed end. If the recruit can pull the trigger without the coin falling from the dowel, their trigger control is satisfactory), as well as maintenance tasks, including "field stripping" (quickly disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling) the rifle. Having finished with Red Phase, the recruits moved on up to the next phase of training.

    White Phase is where soldiers begin actually firing weapons. With the service rifle, they will fire at various targets, which are progressively further downrange, making each successive target more difficult to hit, with additional pop-up targets at long range. Other weapons the soldier becomes familiar with include various hand grenades (such as the M67), grenade launches (such as the M203) and machine guns (such as the M240, M249 and M2). The second week of White Phase involves familiarization with anti-tank/armor weaponry and other heavy weapons. While Les didn’t go into basic with any experience handling firearms, he found relative skill in this area and was naturally a good shot. It felt good to have an affinity for something. Where he had to work extra hard at PT and even exercise some in his downtime to kick himself into better shape, he didn’t struggle with hitting the target. He certainly wasn’t an expert marksman, but he also managed better than Coates and was even able to help his battle buddy out for a change.

    There is also an obstacle course which the soldiers are expected to negotiate within a certain time limit, known as the "confidence course", since the main objective is to build self-confidence. There is also the expectation of working as a team with the assigned battle buddy. Having put in all the work he did in PT, Les was able to get through the course with Coates in a reasonable timeframe, which certainly increased his self confidence. The teasing he had endured had begun to change, and it felt less malicious and more good-natured. In fact, the boy Les had hated with a passion just mere weeks ago was soon starting to become one of his best friends.

    The recruits continued to receive intense physical training, as well as drill and ceremony training. At the conclusion of White Phase, the soldiers are expected to demonstrate proficiency with the various weaponry in which they trained, using many pass/fail exercises before they could move on to Blue Phase. Les was thrilled that he managed to perform satisfactorily in each of the exercises.

    Blue phase was the culmination of all their training for the BCT portion of OSUT. While arguably the most challenging, they were also given more freedom and Drill Sergeant had become much more lax with the platoon of young recruits.

    During this phase, an Army Physical Fitness Test is administered to determine whether the recruit has successfully met the requirements for graduation. Recruits failing to meet the standard of the APFT will be locally retrained by their drill sergeants and a specialized fitness program is developed to focus on the recruits weaknesses while continuing to maintain and improve upon those events the recruit has successfully passed. Les was nervous about not being able to pass and go through the rest of Blue Phase with his platoon. However, his hard work and strenuous training paid off and Les was able to succeed in the test.

    Having passed, he and the other recruits in his platoon moved on to "Bivouac" (camping) and FTX (Field Training Exercises), such as night time combat operations and MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training. There is no access to the dining facility during these exercises, so meals are given in the form of either MREs or field chow. Drill sergeants will make much of this an adversarial process, working against the recruits in many of the night operations by trying to foil plans. Other BCT companies also in their FTX weeks may join in simulated combat scenarios, generally at night, with intense competition to prove their particular company the better trained. Leslie got “killed” by his buddy Boyd Robbins who was assigned to another platoon in one of these scenarios. While these scenarios were certainly very intense, the adrenaline and excitement they created and the competition they fostered were undeniably fun and helped advance senses of camaraderie within the platoons. Les was exhausted every night, falling asleep the second his bed hit the pillow, but he was also having a blast despite the intensity of the training. He finally felt like he was learning to fight, just as he had always wanted. And he was keeping up, generally coming through for his platoon more often than not. It started to get him excited for war, where he imagined these feelings would be amplified even farther.

    Week 2 of Blue Phase (the 8th week of Basic Training) culminates in a special tactical FTX during which the drill sergeants will advise, but allow recruit platoon leaders and squad leaders to exercise primary decision-making. They attempt to make virtually every one of these exercises different. Because being a soldier is potentially an extremely hazardous job, recruits must demonstrate extreme aggression and fearlessness, tempered by intelligence and common sense. Only those that demonstrate these vital attributes will be permitted to move on to the AIT segment of OSUT training. Both Leslie Ulysses Kerr and his battle buddy Daniel Coates managed to demonstrate those attributes to the satisfaction of Drill Sergeant.

    They went on to their final week of BCT, often known as recovery week. Here, they serviced and repaired any items they weren’t taking on to their next segment of training and ensured their barracks were in good order to receive the next platoon of recruits. They also practiced for their graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony was bittersweet for Les. Since this was OSUT, the majority of the recruits in his platoon were going to stay at Fort Benning for AIT so there wasn’t the aspect of saying goodbye, except to the few who had washed out and the instances of soldiers who were assigned other MOS’s after showing proficiency in those areas during BCT. But Les knew the room was going to be full of proud parents and families watching as their children transitioned from civilians to soldiers, and he knew he wouldn’t have that. He resigned himself to that fact, which is why he was caught so off guard to see Corporal Jameson Littleton in the audience, his dad’s old war buddy. Leslie was truly taken aback, he hadn’t seen the man since he was 11 years old and he had no idea how he even found out he was in Basic, much less where. All the same, Leslie Ulysses Kerr went through the graduation ceremony as he had practiced and then went to shake Corporal Littleton’s hand. Uncle Jameson told Les that his father would’ve been proud. The whole conversation was surreal to Les. After they had conversed, Dan introduced Les to his parents. The ceremony ended and the recruits went to be introduced to the next phase of training, Advanced Individual Training.

    Given they were training to be 11b infantrymen, they didn’t learn a lot of new skills in AIT, rather it was a place where their basic knowledge was expanded upon and they continued to learn how to be soldiers. Les found it much more enjoyable than BCT. He felt as if he was being trained to be a warrior, and in fact he was. The Gulf War had ended when Iraq withdrew its occupying forces from Kuwait, and while Les was slightly disappointed there was no battle for him to ship out too once finishing his training, the recruits also saw a noticeable difference on the Fort due to the news. It was beginning to transition from a wartime fort to a peacetime one, and there was reduced stress all around. Leslie put in extra effort during AIT, often continuing his exercise outside of PT during his personal time to make up for starting OSUT out of shape. The exercises were often extensions of the FTX they saw in their last weeks of BCT, and Leslie continued to enjoy them, intensity and all.

    During this time, his camaraderie with the fellow recruits in his platoon increased, particularly his friendship with his once rival Dan Coates. He felt a brotherhood with these men unlike anything he felt in the past, and he was saddened that they were more than likely all going to be shipped out to different units and bases. Yet behind that sadness was the hope that in those new units he’d make new friends, forming an even stronger sense of camaraderie - a true brotherhood. Les hoped that through war, he could create the family he never got the chance to have as a kid.

    His hard work and extra training paid off, and after the five weeks of AIT were complete, Princess Tubbs found he wasn’t so tubby anymore. No, Leslie Ulysses Kerr was now a lean, mean, fighting machine. Where a gut once plagued him, he now had an impressive six pack that hadn’t graced his torso since Steven Leavitt forced him to play football. Upon graduation of OSUT, Les went around with the rest of his platoon to hear where they’d be stationed. It was bittersweet, knowing you were moving onto bigger and better things but leaving good friends along the way. Before they were given their orders, the platoon took a picture together. They were assigned in alphabetical order. Les gave Dan a nervous smile as his friend was given orders to report to Fort Drum where he’d serve as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division.

    When John Karringer was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, Les was coated in sweat. He knew he was next, and as ashamed as he was to admit it he was nervous. What if he didn’t form bonds with those in the unit he was assigned to? What if it was like the beginning of BCT but it didn’t improve? What if he wasn’t good enough, wasn’t ready to fight? He tried to stop the influx of negativity. He was passed through OSUT, he had lost the weight, he was a warrior… and he was ready to fight. The anxiety riddled thoughts left his mind as he heard his orders. Similarly to Dan, he was ordered to report to Fort Drum, where he too would serve as an infantry man with the 10th Mountain Division.

    Les was delighted to hear he was going to be stationed at the same fort as Dan. The Army arranged transport for them to have a week’s leave before being shipped off to Fort Drum. Leslie dreaded this. He reckoned he could go back to Colorado, but there was nothing there for him and he didn’t even know where he could stay. The young man was going to just ask if he could waive his leave time and arrange for transport to Fort Drum right away when Dan offered for him to come crash at his parent’s place in Ohio for the week. Les took him up on the offer, albeit feeling quite awkward about it.

    The awkward feeling was quite unnecessary, as he ended up having a very pleasant time. Dan’s parents were quite kind and didn’t make him feel like he was imposing in the slightest. It made Leslie wonder why Dan turned out to be such a dick. It was a pleasant week, and Les made sure to leave the house enough to give Dan ample time to be alone with his family before the was shipped out. He ate home cooked meals (Dan’s mother was an excellent cook) and played football with Coates’ little brothers. It seemed like it went by fast. In fact, Les was having such a good time he didn’t even have time to lament about how upset he was he never got a family like this one.


    The two flew out to Fort Drum to report for duty. Both were nervous, but none would dare express it. OSUT made it clear from day one that such emotions were never to be shared, and the young men took that message to heart. Warrior’s didn’t complain about being nervous, they grit their teeth and they pressed on. Upon arriving at the fort, they were showed where they’d be sleeping as bachelors. The living conditions in the barracks were better than what they had at OSUT and somewhat resembled college dorms. While the young men were content with them for the time being, they couldn’t help but take their eyes off the apartments the NCOs and married soldiers got to live in.

    It took some time, but the two acclimated to their new lifestyles and met new friends in their unit. As they were the newest batch of Privates flown in, new E-2s just out of Basic, the two of them often got stuck doing menial tasks that nobody else wanted alongside the other privates. Most of their time was spent cleaning toilets, maintaining gear, repairing whatever it was that needed repairs. And of course, guard duty. The whole thing was ridiculous, nobody was going to launch an invasion on Fort Drum in the middle of New York, and if they were a couple 18 year olds on watch sure wasn’t going to stop it. But it was about discipline, and Les knew that. Still, Fort Drum got to -30 °F in the dead of winter and even during the more favorable time of year, it still got damn cold at night. Even being from Colorado, Les had never felt biting cold like he did those nights standing guard.

    Of course, there was training. After all, that’s what they were there to do, ensure that their unit was prepared for the next war when it came. When, not if. The training wasn’t as intense as the FTX exercises during AIT though, and Les came to get bored quite quickly with the repetitive life on base. It sure as hell wasn’t why he signed up. Luckily, it didn’t last for long. On August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, killing 13 people, rendering an estimated 250,000 people homeless and causing damages in excess of 20 billion dollars. On September 27, the 10th Mountain Division assumed responsibility for Hurricane Andrew disaster relief as Task Force Mountain and Les was deployed for the very first time.


    There was some grumbling among the younger recruits. They were trained to be soldiers, and here they were being sent to clean up some debris. They were warriors, they should be given something to fight! Yet when the 10th Mountain Division flew over South Florida and saw the devastation caused by the hurricane from above, all grumbles ceased. It was clear that these people needed help. They quickly got to work, with Leslie obeying all the orders he was given to set up the relief camp. Once the relief camp was set up and they had a place to run operations, the soldiers distributed food, clothing, medical necessities and building supplies. Les felt good helping these people out. It just further cemented in his mind the idea Army mission he had drawn up in his head as a little boy. They were helping people. And the people were grateful. Never in his young life had people been so excited to see Leslie.

    As rewarding as it felt to hand out essentials to those in need, grueling work was soon to follow. Les, Dan, and the rest of the division soldiers got to work assisting in rebuilding homes and clearing debris. It was a ton of very grueling manual labor and his Commanding Officers did not let up. They treated the disaster area as if it was a war zone and every task was of the utmost importance. So Les worked his ass off all day, every day until they were sent back to Fort Drum one month later in October. As strenuous as the labor was, Les was not excited to be going back. He dreaded returning to the menial tasks and suboptimal training exercises. The boy wanted to fight. Poor guy didn’t realize just what he was wishing for.

    Les only had to suffer through another month and a half of menial chores and tiresome training before he was again called upon to deploy. Faced with a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, exacerbated by a complete breakdown in civil order, the United Nations had created the UNOSOM I mission in April 1992 to provide aid for the Somali citizens. However, the complete intransigence of the local faction leaders operating in Somalia and their rivalries with each other meant that UNOSOM I could not be performed. Nearing the end of 1992, the situation continued to worsen and by November, General Mohamed Farrah Aidid had grown confident enough to openly defy the United Nations and demand the withdrawal of peacekeepers. That’s when the United Task Force (UNITAF) was founded, a US led, United Nations-sanctioned multinational force with the mission create a protected environment for conducting humanitarian operations in the southern half of the country using “all necessary measures.”

    Les was shipped out on December 3, 1992 with the 1st Brigade Combat Team. The 10th Mountain Division’s mission was to secure major cities and roads to provide safe passage of relief supplies to the Somali population suffering from the effects of the Somali Civil War and he was thrilled to be a part of that mission. The joint service operation was based in a big sporting stadium, and there were soldiers from all over the world. While UNITAF was primarily composed of United States soldiers, there were also lots of Pakistani soldiers. It was made up of peacekeeping forces from more than just those two countries, and Les met people from Australia, to the United Kingdom, to Ethiopia, and Spain and a dozen other countries from all corners of the world. That said, they only ever interacted much with the Pakistanis and soldiers from other foreign nations were limited.

    Upon arrival, Les was disappointed (but not surprised) to find out he wasn’t assigned to the same squad as Daniel Coates. He was nervous about meeting his squad once he was assigned, but made himself tall and readied himself to meet the men he’d be serving with. There were two fireteams commanded by a Sergeant making for a total of 9 soldiers in the squad. Due to the nature of the mission, they’d seldom separate into fireteams and would often operate as a squad. On that same note, they hardly operated as a platoon. Their Sergeant was a man named Ethan Harrington, a hardened soldier who had fought valiantly in the Gulf War. The men in his fireteam were two other privates named Howard ‘Howie’ Stein and a PFC named Jose Guerrero along with a Corporal to serve as a junior NCO named Isaac Davenport. The other fireteam consisted of two more privates and two PFCs. Les respected Ethan instantly, he seemed the epitome of everything a soldier could be. He was clearly hardened, tough as nails, but still kind and fair to his men.

    The first thing that struck Les about deployment was how damn boring it was. He was beyond ancy to go fight, that’s why he signed up, that’s why he was in Somalia! But for over a week, there were no missions. Not having a mission to force them awake made it difficult for the soldiers to acclimate to the time zone, but they still had daily responsibilities of maintaining Division weaponry and, to some extent, vehicles, cleaning, and preparing for what was to come. They didn’t have formal PT, but they spent a lot of time in the gym to kill boredom. Les played a lot of cards with the boys in his fireteam. He liked them well enough, but they hadn’t yet experienced anything to really bond them together. They almost felt like the friend’s he had in high school. He played some football and would talk to soldiers from other countries from time to time, getting to know new people. But more than anything, he was waiting to be called into duty.

    Eight days after arrival and the wait was over. Harrington called the men to a meeting and briefed them on the scope of a mission they were to carry out that evening. He informed them that they were to secure a street in Mogadishu, or the Mog as they called it, so a food supply could be distributed to civilians. They were given the general plan of how to carry out the mission and were sent off to prepare. Given it was the first deployment for all of the privates, and some of the PFCs, Davenport and Harrington spent time assisting them with gear, informing them what would be necessary and what would just weigh them down. By the time he was suited up, Les still had a half hour to kill. He sat on his cot, shaking his leg in anticipation. He was admittedly a bit nervous, but he sure as hell wouldn’t admit that to anybody. And his excitement rose about the slight sense of impending doom of what was to come. Leslie Ulysses Kerr had waited his whole life for this moment, and here it was. His chance to be a hero.

    The Squad packed into two HMMWVs and drove down to the Mog. Once they arrived in the city they disembarked. This mission was to be done on foot. The second he stepped foot on the horribly disrepaired asphalt of the city, Les felt a wave of adrenaline rush through him. The streets had some civilians walking around, but for the most part were empty. The civilians all cleared when Harrington’s unit ordered them to. Some didn’t even wait for the orders before running in the opposite direction. Around ten minutes through carefully traversing the roads to ensure they were secure, they were engaged by the enemy.

    The neurological effect combat had on the brain was fascinating. Les wasn’t scared. He was scared before they were engaged and he was very scared afterwards, but in the actual combat he didn’t feel fear. Time slowed down, and he got this weird sort of tunnel vision - he noticed some small details very, very accurately and other things dropped out. It was an altered state of mind caused by an enormous amount of adrenaline pumped through his system. No matter how much OSUT trained him tactically, there was no way the could simulate that feeling. It was, in many ways, an amazing feeling. One young men chase futilely through their teenage years, driving around with their friends just hoping they’ll find something to do. It’s an experience people pay money to try to attain through skydiving or dirt biking or a variety of other activities. But nothing comes close to thrill of combat.

    Les got behind cover and fired dutifully at the Somalis. They were far enough away that he couldn’t see their features. As far as he could tell, there were four combatants. Private Kerr didn’t hit any of them, but they were all ultimately dispatched. Before Les had even a moment to internalize the feelings combat brewed in him or even fully register that he just had engaged an enemy in combat, the unit was continuing their mission to secure the route the aid convoy would be taking. Given the encounter of hostile forces on the rooftops, they moved slowly but steadily, each covering the one in front of them as they ran to the next bout of cover in the event there was still an enemy on the rooftop.

    Leslie was set to move after Stein. He dutifully had his weapon up and at the ready whilst Stein ran to cover. He was expecting that if he had to cover Howie, it’d be from fire coming on the rooftops. However, he heard sounds in the alley and he craned his head to see a skinny (that’s what they called the Somali militiamen) run through. He was young, no more than a year older than Leslie, and he appeared to be alone. Instinctively, Les moved his weapon, fixing his sights on the young man. The effect of combat had somewhat faded by this point. It felt different to Les, there were no shots fired since their previous engagement and his adrenaline wasn’t spiked quite to the level it was before. The boy also wasn’t some distant silhouette on a rooftop, and Les could make out the features of his face, the details of his run down clothing, and the sunken cheeks brought about by lack of nourishment.

    He didn’t pull the trigger. The skinny, who had only noticed Stein running to cover and not Leslie, moved to raise his gun and fix it on the young private. Harrington caught note of the scene. He knew he didn’t have time to raise his gun before the Somali did, so the Sergeant did the next best thing. He yelled, “Kerr!” That was all Les needed to enact his training, and he pressed down on the trigger filling the young man’s chest cavity with a three round burst. Les stared at the young man for a moment. He was still alive, twitching on the ground, barely clinging on to life. “Kerr!” he heard again. He ran to cover, as Guerrero went to cover him. Les didn’t think about the young man he’d killed any farther during the course of the mission. He had to stay focused. They didn’t engage with hostile forces again while securing the route, and they cleared the road for the convoy to be escorted through to supply aid. The squad walked back to the humvees and drove back to the Stadium.

    When he was back at safety, Les still didn't think about the young man much. They were specifically trained not to think, not to feel too deeply. So he didn't. One thing he knew for sure though was that it sure didn’t feel like he thought it was going to in all those fantasies he had as a youth.

    Later that night, the whole squad played cards together, not just the fireteam. It felt different, and Les felt closer to them. He had trusted them to save his life if the situation arose, and he was trusted to save theirs. That forms a sort of instant bond that would only grow over the course of their deployment. Stein made some sort of joke about how the boy twitched after Les had shot him. This made him feel quite uncomfortable for a moment, but he laughed nervously along. He figured it was better they commend him for the killing than give him shit for the brief delay that brought Stein a mere second away from death. It wasn’t long before he started to like the jokes. Soon after, he started to make them himself, saying things that he would’ve likely punched a kid in high school if he heard them joke about such things.

    “Why are skinnies so easy to kill?” He asked one night.

    “Why?” Came the reply.

    “Because eating lead is better than eating nothing at all.”

    That one got lots of laughs, and Les was right proud for thinking of it himself. He started to incorporate humour into his life a lot more, often cracking jokes. In time, he got accustomed to life on base. It was long periods of intense, almost deafening boredom interrupted by spurts of vigorous action and missions. He’d talk with Dan from time to time, but he found that he spent most of his free time with his squad. The enamouration for Harrington never faded, and he often followed his lead closely in missions.


    The missions often took place at night, to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. Some men in the 10th Mountain Division died in these missions, but nobody in Leslie’s squad. One mission, Davenport got wounded. They were engaged with the enemy and he caught a bullet to the leg. It hit his femoral artery, and they had to put their CLS training to use. Kerr remembered them saying that arteries would spurt blood during the training, but he never could’ve imagined it’d look like this. Every time his heart beat, a fountain of blood shot out of his leg with enough force to feel like it was slapping you. Thankfully, they were able to get the bleeding under control and send the junior NCO home with a purple heart. About a month into his tour, Les had reached the Time In Service requirements to be promoted to E-3 and he got bumped up to a Private First Class. Even if it was just for sticking around, the acknowledgement felt nice.

    While the infantry were doing the important work of securing roads for relief supplies, it was arguably the men of Task Force Ranger who were doing the real work over in the Mog. Task Force Ranger consisted of various elite special operations units from the Army, Navy, and Air Force special services. Arguably the most involved were the 75th Ranger Regiment and Delta Force. On October 3, 1993 Task Force Ranger began an operation that involved travelling from their FOB on the city outskirts to the center of Mogadishu with the aim of capturing two leaders of Aidid’s militia. It wasn’t expected to last more than an hour.

    It all started to go wrong when a young Ranger named Todd Blackburn missed the fast rope to deploy from the chopper bringing his unit into the Mog. He was badly wounded, and in the effort to med-evac him more people were wounded. Soon after, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by militiamen. The subsequent operation to secure and recover the crews of the helicopters resulted in the bloodiest battle involving US troops since the Vietnam war, and it’d hold that title until the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. The battle carried on into the night and to the next morning, when Harrington’s squad was deployed as part of a combined task force to rescue the trapped soldiers at one of the crash sites. The other crash site had been overrun by thousands of hostile Somalis over the night. Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart had volunteered to perform a rescue operation at that crash site the previous evening despite great personal risk. They both made their last stand there, and while figures vary on how many Somalis they killed before succumbing to the enemy, it was at least dozens. They both received medals of honor for their heroic sacrifice.


    Leslie and his squad were going to rescue the survivors of the crash site that hadn’t been overrun, its soldiers trapped inside a building in hostile territory surrounded by enemy forces. Les and his squad had seem combat, but in the form of various low profile missions. This was their first battle, and it was not the glorious image Les had in his mind. As they drove through the Mog in a Humvee, he felt fear brew in his stomach at the sight of destruction. The streets were littered with dead members of the militia, civilians, and US soldiers alike. He even saw some corpses of children. And he knew with the size of the task force they were sending in, the battle was far from over. The young man felt bile building up in his stomach, threatening to eject from his mouth. He tried to contain his nerves, he knew they’d calm once the adrenaline of battle kicked in.

    He wasn’t wrong. Things escalated quick. There was no warning, no gradual buildup of tension, one minute they were driving where the battle was and with the turn of a corner they were where the battle was still raging on. Hundreds of skinnies, maybe even as much as a thousand, were trying to lay siege on the few special forces soldiers holed up in the building. When their Humvee turned the corner, it was like a magnet for bullets. It lit up quick. Guerrero was on the .50 cal and he mowed down the skinnies while Harrington tried to drive out of the line of fire. That plan hit a roadblock when Harrington was shot in the neck. In the most badass maneuver Les had seen in his young life, the Sergeant put one hand over the bleeding wound and kept the other firmly on the wheel. He managed to sharply turn a corner into the alley and instructed Les to take the wheel as he placed his other hand over the wound as well to apply proper pressure. PFC Kerr kept the vehicle straight as Harrington slowly eased off the gas once they made it near a doorway. He instructed everyone out of the vehicle and hopped out himself, blood dripping through his fingertips.

    They rushed into a building. Kerr helped apply a pressure bandage to his Sergeant’s neck. He was no medic, but his CLS training gave him enough knowledge to know the bullet must’ve just grazed him, missing the jugular considering the man wasn’t spurting blood out of his neck. They moved to clear the building. Finding it empty, Harrington radioed the other Humvee in their squad containing the other fireteam they had lost in the commotion. Stein also happened to be in the other Humvee as their fireteam was a man short, due to one of their soldiers coming down with pneumonia. They responded with the information that they were engaged in a firefight with the forces on the street. Harrington commanded his men to the roof to get a bird’s eye view.

    Les always took his cues from Harrington in combat, but this was particularly impressive leadership. Here he was, slowly bleeding out from a bullet grazing his neck and still boldly commanding his men, keeping a cool head and maintaining a tactical approach to the battle at hand. The Sergeant was dedicated to the cause, assuring Guerrero and Kerr that he was not going to leave those soldiers in that building behind. They gathered what they could from the roof before some skinnies in a building across the street started shooting at them from some windows and they retreated back into the building.

    The three went down to rejoin the fight. Guerrero suggested Harrington head back to get treatment, but that only resulted in a brief smoke session for trying to give orders to your commanding officer. They turned out of the alley and back into the street, attempting to shoot their way over to regroup with the rest of their squad, who Les and co had seen up from their view on the roof. It seemed to be going well. Even though the joint task force was outnumbered, the militia consisted of very few trained soldiers and for every 20 of them they killed, the only lost 1 troop. Hell, some of the Special Forces guys probably took down close to 100 before they dropped. Leslie got wrapped up in the glory of it all for a moment. He was too focused to really think, but he knew he liked the feeling. He’d never felt closer to anyone in his life than he did to Guerrero and Harrington at this moment in time. At one point, a skinny popped out of an alley and Les saw a gun trained on him from the corner of his eye. Sergeant Harrington gunned the militiaman down before Les began to process how close he was to death. Not minutes later, Kerr did the same for Guerrero. They had each other’s back and trusted one another with their lives, and it was working.

    They were closing in on the rest of their squad and with the Special Forces soldiers assisting from their building, it looked promising that the rescue was going to be a success. Leslie’s tunnel vision was focused on a skinny in a window. He managed to shoot him down and he watched him fall with a sense of satisfaction. The young man couldn’t really hear much at this point, it all just sounded like ringing with the constant pops of gunfire. But he did make out Harrington scream “RPG!” Les knew enough to dive in the same direction as his Sergeant.

    A splash of rubble and asphalt and debris blew from the ground the rocket hit. It was close enough to the trio to do a temporary number on their already strained hearing, but they all seemed okay. Guerrero looked at Kerr in disbelief, before his mouth morphed into a smile and then a disbelieving laugh. He stood up, brushing himself off. Les made out, “Holy shit, I’m alive!” Those were his last discernible words. In his shock, he stood up right out of cover and a bullet penetrated his gut, with another following up to his chest cavity. PFC Kerr, in disbelief at his friend’s instant change in state, knelt down beside him - going to put pressure on the wound. Guerrero was struggling to speak. It looked to Les like he had something really important he wanted to say. Unfortunately, one of the bullets penetrated his lung and the young man was choking to death on his own blood. Les continued to press down futilely on the wound desperately trying to make out what Guerrero was trying to say. He never could, and the poor soldier died less than a minute later without saying whatever it was he thought was so important to say, making his last words “Holy shit, I’m alive!”

    During this time, Harrington shot in the general direction the bullets and RPG came from and screamed for Les to come with him as he made the final push to the rest of the squad. Les didn’t intentionally disobey him, he just didn’t hear. He was staring at Guerrero in shock and horror, trying to make out the dying man’s words. All of a sudden, the sounds and the smells and the sights weren’t thrilling, they were absolutely horrifying. Luckily, a bullet whizzing by his head gave him the push of adrenaline he needed to carry on. Only when he looked around, he didn’t see Harrington. All the same, he knew where the rest of the squad was so he pushed on in that direction. He turned a corner, hoping to traverse through an alley to avoid the brunt of the gunfire, when he saw a woman standing there in the scene of the battle. When she saw him, she started moving in his direction. While Les had never killed one himself, he was more than familiar with the fact that the skinnies had women and children in their militia. He ordered her to stop. When she didn’t, he begged her.

    She continued towards him and he fired. He never saw a gun, but he didn’t think too much about that. He never ended up thinking too much about it either. Sometimes he’d find the thought would pop into his head late at night… “you didn’t see a gun.” He’d push that thought right out whenever it came up. She may have not had a gun, but she didn’t stop either.

    He pushed through the alley to find none other than Howie Stein as he turned a corner. The man was pinned down by three skinnies, and Les managed to gun two of them down as they didn’t expect another man to turn the corner. Stein used the confusion to get the other one. He was bleeding through some field dressing on his shoulder. “Some shit, huh!?” The man screamed at the top of his lungs. Turned out he had gotten separated from the rest of the squad too. The two fought together until they managed to reconvene with Harrington and the others, and then the rest of the joint task force pushed through to the building.

    The whole place reeked of death. There was one dead soldier on a table with an open wound the same place that Davenport was shot. The artery was clamped, but they clearly didn’t get there in time to get him the blood he needed. There were only two soldiers inside the building who weren’t wounded. They got them all back to base safely and those who needed it where medevaced from there. Everything felt numb to Leslie. The base felt different, the air felt different, every damn thing felt different. And at the same time, he didn’t feel much of anything at all. Before he went off to get treatment for his wound, Harrington clapped Les on the shoulder and informed him he fought well. The Sergeant was about as pale as a ghost at that point, although Les didn’t know if it was from blood loss or fear. He figured blood loss, after today PFC Kerr was damn near sure Harrington wasn’t afraid of anything.

    The Sergeant was given transfusions and a purple heart. He was going to be okay. Guerrero wasn’t. Les had a brief moment of clarity as the thought of Dan popped into his mind. He sought out his friend, finding that his squad fared much better. Some wounded, not Dan, and no dead. Les clapped the man’s shoulder the same way his Sergeant had clapped his and then went to sit down. His whole squad ended up finding their way together by nightfall. Nobody said all that much for a while. Then the stories came. About Guerrero, about the battle, about everything and anything and a whole bunch of nothing. It felt good and strange and numb and awful and everything in between. Les felt like he was feeling everything and nothing. He figured that was what a real battle did to a man. He figured his dad felt much the same in Vietnam.

    By the end of his deployment in Somalia, they declared their mission a success. While they certainly took more casualties than it was thought they would, UNITAF successfully aided in the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid. Some suits in the United Nations estimated they saved 100,000 Somali lives as a result of outside assistance. The Battle of Mogadishu was an unfortunate mess, but the mission did what it was supposed to do. They were told it was a win. It sure didn’t feel like one.

    For his service in Somalia, PFC Leslie Ulysses Kerr received a Joint Service Achievement medal through the recommendation of his commanding officer, Sergeant Ethan Harrington. His conduct during the Battle of Mogadishu was reviewed, and he was awarded the medal. It wasn’t a particularly distinguished reward, but it was an acknowledgement that he served well and, at times, went above and beyond for his squad. The young man felt honored. He also received a Combat Infantryman Badge for seeing combat overseas as an Infantryman.

    At first, it felt good to be back in the States. Les and his squad all went out to eat all the foods they missed overseas. There was a sense of relief. It was over… they were alive. Maybe they all didn’t make it and maybe they left a part of themselves over in Somalia, but all the same they were breathing and Command told them they had accomplished their mission. So they went out and celebrated with steak and lobster and hamburgers and tacos and everything that wasn’t chow. There were lots of tacos, Stein thought it’s what Guerrero would’ve wanted them to eat.

    It didn’t take long before the initial euphoria of being back in country wore off and crippling boredom replaced it. You take a young man and you send him off to combat, to fight and possibly die among his brothers in arms, to hunt other men, and that’s a high that most can’t ever top. The intense rush of battle and the love it creates for the men fighting beside you feels like a peak. When you peak at 20 years old, all you can think about is how your life is never going to reach that point again.

    Leslie never really knew what a home felt like. He never had a consistent one growing up, and Fort Drum certainly didn’t feel like any sort of home. PFC Kerr came to the realization that he felt more at home overseas in Somalia than he ever has before. He began to miss it. The young man wasn’t a psychopath, he didn’t miss killing other people. And he certainly wasn’t crazy, he didn’t miss being shot at. What he missed what the action, the rush of combat, and above all being in that action with his squad.

    Luckily, he still had his Squad on base. The next year was slow going. Since he was an E-3 now he got stuck with less of the worst tasks, but the thing about being an infantryman was that your job was to fight. When there wasn’t a war for you to fight, there wasn’t a whole lot for you to do. They’d find things for him to clean or maintain to keep him busy, and of course he had to keep up with his PT and combat exercises to stay ready for when the war came, but all in all there was a lot of boredom. He and Dan got matching tattoos of their unit patch, right on their shoulders where they’d lay right under the patches on their uniform. He also got into winter sports. The history of the 10th Mountain Division was deeply rooted in skiing and winter warfare. Even if that wasn’t the case today, Les liked connecting with the historical side of his unit. As he never knew anything about his own families lineage, it almost felt like connecting with his ancestors.


    When he turned 21, he found something else he could do. It was crazy to think that Les was deemed old enough to fight and die in war, but not old enough to have a drink. All the same, he was old enough now and Les and his buddies started to regularly hit the bars in the evening, after they had finished all the days work. After a time, it became four of them going consistently. Kerr, Stein, Coates, and a member of Coates’ squad in Somalia named Calvin Webber. Sometimes other friends would join them, but the four of them were the constant.

    Soon after his 21st birthday, he was promoted to Specialist for meeting the time in service requirements and being in good standing. While Harrington was a bit older than Kerr and had buddies of his own, he’d sometimes stop by for a drink. There was a mutual respect there, Harrington thought Kerr was a good soldier and Kerr respected him as a leader. About a week later, Les met a girl at the bar. Her name was Jenny Hoskins and the two hit it off. Before long, they were dating. It was his first time having a girlfriend and he found himself enamored with the girl, happily spending time with her. He still felt very bored a lot of the time, but he happier than he’d been since returning to the States.

    About a month after he met Jenny, Harrington’s contract was up and the man decided not to reup. He was done killing for his country, now he wanted to save people. The man took his wife to New York City to join the FDNY. All the while, Leslie sat around base as his own contract creeped toward its expiration date, bored and trying to think only of the glamour of battle while pushing out unwelcome thoughts of Guerrero and the destruction they brought upon the Mog and its people. His found solace through spending time with Jenny and going to the bar with his buddies. Just when he was started to become accustomed to his new reality, he was told he was going to be shipped out again.

    In mid September of 1994, with less than a year of active duty left on his contract, Les was shipped out again in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. The mission of his division was to create a secure and stable environment so the government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide could be reestablished and democratic elections held. They put 54 helicopters and almost 2,000 soldiers to conduct the Army’s first air assault from an aircraft carrier, deploying the 10th Mountain Division aboard the U.S.S Eisenhower. Les was thrilled to be a part of such a revolutionary militaristic move, and was also pretty damn excited about being in a chopper for the first time. At the same time, he was saddened about leaving Jenny and nervous that she wouldn’t wait for him while he was gone given they had only been together a short time. All the same, she promised she would and he promised he’d write.

    Finding Les pretty well squared away and knowledgeable, the Army wanted him to take a little bit more of a leadership role and promoted him to Corporal right before they shipped him out. While technically a junior NCO, he wasn’t given too much responsibility as a Corporal and was more wrangling privates for his Sergeant. It was a nice in between point where many soldiers go before becoming a taking on more leadership responsibilities as a Sergeant. Les, however, was uncomfortable with the leadership thrust upon him and found the idea of farther promotion disconcerting. Luckily, you can’t get promoted to Sergeant unless you put in to be one, and upon doing so you have to appear before a board and answer all sorts of leadership and tactical related questions. He found it relieving that he wouldn’t be thrust into that role until he felt he was ready.

    In the largest Army air operation since the Doolittle Raid in World War II, the 1st Brigade Combat Team occupied the Port-au Prince International Airport. It was an intense battle that was overwhelmingly won by US forces. Killing over 100 Haitians and losing no US soldiers, they felt accomplished as they overtook the airport. Les performed valorously in the battle and found privates looking to him the same way he looked to Harrington back in his first time in combat. It was the only combat he saw during his time in Haiti, despite being there for six months. By far, his most challenging role overseas was trying to keep a bunch of horribly bored privates and PFCs in line while he himself was antsy and bored. Writing to Jenny was helpful, and unlike his time in Somalia Les actually found himself excited to go back. All the same, he was disappointed he didn’t see more action during his time in Haiti. Consequently, the bonds he formed with his squad felt less authentic than the bonds formed in the constant heat of battle back in the Mog. The Operation was considered a success, and Les and the rest of the 10th Mountain Division were brought back to the states.
    #2 Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2019
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  3. Anonymous

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    Les was happy to have somebody waiting for him when he came back to the States. For Jenny, distance made the heart grow fonder and she was also ecstatic that he was back. Corporal Kerr’s active duty was done within a month from him returning to the States. He was now in the reserves, and was only to be called to base one weekend a month and one week during the month to keep up with training in case he had to be called upon for active duty. Having lived on base or in a combat zone for the past five years, he had saved up a good sum of money. Jenny, on the other hand, was struggling to make ends meet and could barely pay her rent. It was soon, probably too soon, but Les suggested the two move in together so she didn’t have to worry about the rent as much.

    They got along well at first. Sometimes they’d drink together and Les would tell her stories from the occupation of the airport or the Battle of Mogadishu. She wasn’t enamoured by them, in fact they scared her. So Les opted to drink more with his buddies than with her. He still went to the bars every night with Stein, Coates, and Webber. Dan met a girl around the same time Les did and they were getting close. Les applied for a job driving and protecting an armored truck that transported cash and other expensive items between banks. He got this job. About a month into the work, one of the company's trucks got hit so they assigned everyone partners. Leslie’s partner was a Navy vet who never saw any combat named Jeffrey Holcomb. Jeff always wanted to hear his stories of combat. At first he found it flattering and was excited to talk about his experiences overseas, but it wasn’t long before he was annoyed. The man couldn’t understand any of the points he was trying to make. He didn’t like Jeff much.


    About a year into his time home, Dan proposed to his girlfriend. They married six months later and Les served as his best man. It was a beautiful ceremony, and Leslie liked seeing Dan’s family again. He and Jenny continued to live together, but Les made himself distant. He didn’t like that his stories scared her and he felt like he had a wall up around her. Nobody ever taught him how to act around women and he never had a set of parents he could watch as a reliable demonstration, and he always found himself feeling like he was blowing it. Dan put in to be a Sergeant, and he was promoted. It was more for enhanced opportunity in his civilian life than anything. He had been going back to school on the Army’s dime to try to get a degree in Criminal Justice, hoping to work as a cop.

    Over time, Les found himself getting more and more frustrated. Everything bothered him and nothing excited him. He started having nightmares. In them, he’d see Guerrero, he’d see a young skinny twitching on the ground, he’d see a dead woman but not a gun, he’d see an airport full of Haitian corpses. So he stayed up later, drinking with friends and if nobody would want to go out, drinking alone. In the fall of 1998 they were made aware of Operation Joint Forge. The 10th Mountain Division was to head up Task Force Eagle, where they’d be providing a peacekeeping force to support the ongoing operation within the Multi-National Division-North area of responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Les missed combat and he wanted to go. He confided that to Dan one night, and the man empathized. He shared that he was sick of school and the things he were learning about police work didn’t appeal to him. Besides, he wanted to actually work as a Sergeant at least once before he retired from Army life. The two decided to request being moved up to active duty in support of Operation Joint Forge.

    Les mentioned it to Jenny, and she did not approve. She told him that he couldn’t love two things and gave him an ultimatum. Her or war. Les tried explaining that it was something he had to do, but she was true to her word and moved out the next day. Les and Dan went to Fort Drum to formally put in the request. It was denied, they already had enough soldiers in support of the mission.

    Leslie was devastated. The next year, his contract ended and he was no longer a soldier. He was a civilian and he was alone. Stein had started working full time and no longer came by the bar, Webber moved away. It was just Dan and him now, and Dan’s wife was pregnant. Soon he’d be a father, and it would just be Les.

    He was surprised when Dan came up to him and told him he was going to reenlist. His reasoning was that he wanted to make sure the country was safe and protected for his daughter. Les didn’t question it, but he supposed he also missed combat on some level. Leslie happily joined him and the two were soldiers again by 2000. In his anticipation, Les got another tattoo - this time on his calf. It read ‘Climb to Glory’ the 10th Mountain’s motto.

    There wasn’t a whole lot to do. Dan lived off base with his wife and baby daughter and Les lived in one of the apartments on base alone, idling until such time as they were needed, keeping up with his training all the while. One night at the bar, he met a young girl, newly 21, named Naomi Wilcox. She thought him being a soldier was just about the coolest thing there was and he brought her back to his place. They kept seeing each other after that, and eventually she got the clearance needed to move in on base with him. He didn’t even like her much, he just liked having someone around. It wasn’t a healthy relationship and the two seldom talked. They mainly just fucked and then went about their own business.

    On September 11, 2001 everything changed. Les was in his apartment when the news broke and he went to a common area where a bunch of his unit watched it together. The emotions in the room were wild. There was fear, there was anger, and there was resignation. Everyone there knew they were going to go avenge what they were seeing and they all had the sense to know what was coming was not going to be easy. Even the dullest man in the room could see that this meant a big change for their country. For Les, there was an additional layer of fear as he thought of Sergeant Ethan Harrington. He left the man a message, but he knew he’d be too busy to get back to him for awhile.


    As time went on without hearing back, he began to worry. Eventually, he got a call. Harrington died in tower 2, doing all he could to rescue as many people as possible from the wreckage. He died as he had lived, a hero. The funeral was planned quickly, and within a week Les found himself in his dress blues, decked out with the medal Harrington had recommended him for among others, going to upstate New York. The man was being buried in a family plot instead of at Arlington, as were his wishes. Howie Stein flew in for the service, as well as a bunch of other men from Somalia who Les hadn’t seen in some years. He stood there tall, chest puffed out, not showing his anguish. Just as Harrington had taught him.

    After the service, Harrington’s widow came to him in her pain, her adolescent son by her side. Seeing him in his uniform, she asked him to avenge her husband’s death. Her grief made her angry. Les gave her his word, Ethan Harrington’s death would not go unpunished.

    He didn’t have to wait long. By mid December, Corporal Leslie Ulysses Kerr was shipped out to the Karshi-Khanabad air base in Uzbekistan, saying a customary goodbye to Naomi before he left. She told him she’d be there when he got back, but Les couldn’t find it in himself to care much one way or the other. They didn’t know exactly what they were going to have them do yet, but they wanted soldiers in the area for when they did and, admittedly, for the sake of the press. It took them until February to organize, and Les was sent to Bagram. He was in a fireteam commanded by Dan Coates, and while the two had always been shipped out to the same bases, this was the first time they’d be in a unit together. Given the nature of conflict in Afghanistan, more missions were done in smaller fireteams than in the past. Leslie’s had Sergeant Coates in command, himself as a Corporal to assist with leadership, PFC Albert ‘Al’ Jacoby, and a green private named Everett Smith.

    On February 15, two days after they relocated to Bagram, Combined Joint Task Force Mountain was put together. They were responsible for the planning of Operation Anaconda, the first operation in the Afghanistan theater to involve large numbers of conventional forces participating in direct combat activities. In took place in the Shahi-Kot Valley and the surrounding Arma Mountains where intelligence found members of al-Qaeda to be hiding out.


    The operation lasted from March 2 to March 16 and Les and his fireteam were engaged in direct combat fairly consistently throughout their time serving in its support. At one point, a soldier from another fireteam fell off the mountain, breaking his leg. Coates led his fireteam down the mountain and protected the soldier against heavy forces until backup arrived, earning a bronze star for doing so. At another point during the fight, Les looked to his left to see an enemy had the sights of his RPK centered on him. He was fairly sure he was about to die as he lowered himself onto one knee and went to swing his rifle in the mans direction right as the terrorists head exploded into mist. Les looked around, trying to see who just saved his life. He saw nobody. It was almost as God himself had exploded the man’s head. He didn’t know it, but he had just witnessed Canadian sniper Rob Furlong set the world record for longest combat kill.

    Dan and Les had always been close since their rivalry morphed into a friendship, but the fighting during this operation cemented their bond in a way they never could’ve imagined. They were no longer friends, they were brothers. By the end of Operation Anaconda, Les felt the same way about Jacoby and Smith. In the span of two weeks, they had went from being strangers to having a bond deeper than blood.

    Before the operation had begun, soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division had went to the mountain overseeing the valley to get a bird eye’s view of the terrain, escorted by German and America special operations soldiers. During this time, they were spotted by a Shepherd who immediately starting running off, quite possibly with intent to tell the insurgents about the incoming Americans. He was promptly shot by a United States spec ops soldier. Leslie recalls one of the German soldiers calling the act heinous. It stood out to him because he never heard the word before, and he thought it was strange that a German knew more English than he did.

    Upon the end of Operation Anaconda, Coates’ unit remained in country, moving in small fireteams to secure remote areas of the country. They’d often move between different Forward Operating Bases and small villages throughout the rural regions of the country as a small team, working closely with one another. One morning in one of the FOBs, Les found himself leaning against some sandbags, sort of spacing out. All of a sudden, something hit the side of his face - he didn’t know what it was. The thing about bullets is they go a lot faster than sound, so if somebody shoots you from far enough away the bullet will go by you half a second before the sound catches up to you. So the sand splashed the side of his face and around half a second later he heard the burst of a machine gun. He knelt behind the sandbags and went to return fire as the rest of the soldiers on the base convened at their positions. The bullet had missed his head by maybe three inches. After the firefight was over and they managed to hold off the insurgents, Les couldn’t help but think about the angle of deviation that saved his life. The shot had come from maybe 400 meters away and missed his head by no more than three inches. That meant that if the barrel were trained just a fraction of an inch to the left, he’d have been a dead man. He thought about that fact during the night, trying to reckon with just how close he had come to death.

    The insurgents used children to do their bidding, often having unarmed kids run in front of a convoy, and firing them up once the Americans stopped to avoid running over the kids. Sooner or later, the orders came to just stop stopping. Most of the time, the kids ended up getting out of the way when push came to shove, but not always. They’d fire the .50 cal at them first, tracing the line in the sand right up to their feet, hoping to scare them off. If that didn’t work, they’d run them over. That only happened twice. They started to call the kids Afghani speedbumps. When they were on bigger bases, they’d buy pirated movies from haji shops set up outside the American bases and spend their down time watching horrible quality recordings of new movies. They’d joke that the Afghani dogs were tougher than the soldiers. More often than not, they were vicious feral creatures that’d tear you open if given the chance, although some near the bases were friendly.

    During this time, Daniel asked Les why he wasn’t a Sergeant yet. It was a fair question, Leslie was certainly old to be a corporal and with his experience it was strange to see him in such a low rank. It didn’t fit with Army culture for Les to go on about his self esteem issues, so he simply shrugged it off. With Dan’s encouragement, he did find it within himself to put in for the promotion. He appeared before a board on base, and calmed his nerves as he was interviewed by a bunch of higher ranking officers.

    Soon after, in late April, Coates’ fireteam was sent out to help distribute water in a small town that's water tower had been destroyed by US bombings. It was starting to garner negative attention in the press and the Army wanted to put a lid on it. Given insurgent presence in the town, they sent a squad. Coates’ fireteam was taking the lead, driving to the region in their Humvee with the other fireteam following in their own vehicle. The town was just around a hill, and Coates ordered Les up the hill to make sure there wasn’t an ambush waiting on the other side. He hopped out and started walking to the hill as Coates stepped on the gas. That’s when Les heard the click of an IED.


    He knew what was coming next. Kerr turned around at the noise. There was a brief moment before it happened where he knew what was coming but he had no way to stop it. He opened his mouth and roared the word “No!” as he ran towards the Humvee right as it exploded. Jacoby was in the gunners seat. His body flew from the vehicle, landing a distance away. It was badly burned, but more or less intact, and he was barely managing to cling to life. The primal part of his brain seemed to fallaciously believe he could survive the mortal wounds. He couldn’t. Les’ tunnel vision was so intent on the Humvee, he hardly noticed the charred body of his friend as he ran into the vehicle.

    Around this time, the soldiers in the Humvee behind them started moving towards Coates’ vehicle. Les saw Smith in the back seat. His head slammed into the side of the vehicle with such force that it scrambled his brains and cracked his skull, all while leaving the Kevlar of his helmet intact. His brains were literally coming out of his ears. Les wasn’t focused on him either as he pulled Dan out of the vehicle. He was already dead, a giant shard of metal having torn open his chest in the explosion. Les, in his state of shock, starting pointlessly performing CPR on his brother’s chest, doing nothing more than farther pulverizing his already thoroughly pummeled organs. That only lasted seconds before two soldiers on the other fireteam pulled Les off him as the man wailed in agony.

    With all the adrenaline, he didn’t even realize a shard of metal from the explosion had shot into his right shoulder. The other soldiers figured they should leave it in for a doctor to remove, as they figured they’d be taking Les away with the rest of his unit. Corporal Kerr collected his fallen comrades dog tags as a chopper came to pick them up. The wound to his shoulder was quite bad, having damaged his rotator cuff. Additionally, with the trauma he’d just experienced they didn’t feel comfortable sending him back to battle right away. So Les was sent home with a purple heart. He hated the purple heart. That was all Coates, Jacoby, and Smith got too, a purple heart. They got it for dying in an explosion and here he was with the same damn medal for some shrapnel in his shoulder.

    In hindsight, the worst moment wasn’t seeing his unit, his family, all dead in horrific manners, it wasn’t pulling Dan from the vehicle and performing CPR on his long gone body, the worst moment was that brief moment in time where they were all still alive and Les couldn’t do anything other than yell the word no.

    Upon getting home, he was treated for his wounds. Les was given a cast and his arm was slung. As soon as the hospital released him, he went to do his duty of going to see the families of his lost fireteam. Leslie was well versed in bravery from his military career, but the fear he felt at the door to Dan’s house was almost debilitating. All the same, he knocked and waited. His wife opened the door. Of course, she had already received the news, but seeing her husband’s friend, a man who was with him when he died, brought her instantly to tears. She engulfed him in a hug and started to sob. Dan’s daughter stood idly by, looking lost.

    Les kept it together. He was a soldier, he was trained how to not feel, or at least how to not let those feelings manifest into behavior or be readily apparent on his face. He stood stiff as she hugged him, his arms wrapped robotically around her. He spoke to her, assuring her that Dan died a hero, letting the empty words and overused saying pour from his mouth. It was the same with Everett’s mom and Al’s grandparents. The man felt numb, as if he had already felt everything there was to feel.

    The numbness faded as he was driving home. He couldn’t get the sound of the click of the IED out of his head or the sight of Coates’ young daughter looking as if she was lost in her own house. By the time he went into his apartment, the man felt like he was about to explode. Naomi, true to her word, was there waiting for him. She was the last person he wanted to see right now. She started crying the moment she saw him, arm slung and face ashy and barren. The girl went to give Les a hug, and he pushed her out of the way. He only meant it as a nudge, he didn’t quite realize how much stronger he was then her. She slammed against the wall.

    Les didn’t say anything, he just went to his room while Naomi stayed in the living room, crying. The man’s feeling was threatening to burst out, so he started doing push ups to contain it. As he reached his 100th pushup, the energy didn’t feel spent. He punched the floor hard with his good arm, multiple times. It’s lucky his muscles were so exhausted from the pushups, otherwise he could’ve caused serious damage to his hand. As it was, he busted all his knuckles. He still was feeling it, the punching didn’t help. He pursed his lips and nodded, coming to a conclusion. He was supposed to be in that Humvee. That’s what would’ve been right, dying with his team. Leslie took his personal sidearm from where it was in the dresser drawer and put the barrel to his temple. The man started breathing heavily. When he found he couldn’t pull the trigger, he tried amping himself up by screaming. He yelled, wailing in anguish, gun to his head, readying to pull the trigger.

    He still couldn’t do it. He put the gun away and walked out of the bedroom, knuckles bleeding. Naomi was still curled in a ball on the floor, crying. He looked to her for a moment, knowing he should say something. Instead, he just nodded. The man then left to walk around base. When he got back, Naomi was gone. Maybe he should’ve felt some anger about the abandonment. All he really could think though was “Good for her.” He never saw her again.

    The Army gave him a psychological evaluation due to the nature of the trauma he had just experienced. The whole thing was a joke. They trained him to be a soldier, not to feel, and not to tell others if he happened to feel all the same. Then they put him in a room with somebody asking him how it is he felt. The man knew just how to lie to the psychologist to get them off his back. So he told the rudimentary lies and he was cleared by the doctor. His promotion was cleared, and he was now Sergeant Leslie Ulysses Kerr.

    He knew he had to go back overseas. There was still a fight going on, and the people over there still needed him. After everything, he realized that’s why he was still fighting. It wasn’t that he was still clinging to some convictions, he’d abandoned those long ago. He wasn’t fighting for his country or his flag, and he wasn’t trying to somehow connect with his late father. The only thing he was fighting for were the men he was fighting alongside of. And there were still plenty of men over there. That’s why he couldn’t kill himself, he still had a job to do.

    The man had three KIA bracelets made for his fallen team and he patiently waited until he could be sent back. He would fight valiantly, and maybe he’d be lucky enough to get a hero’s death. The wait lasted half a year, but he did get his wish. He was sent back to Afghanistan to lead a fireteam with the goal of searching through regions in the country previously untouched by the war in search of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces. Before heading off to the Paktika Province, he was flown to Bagram to meet his fireteam. Upon walking up to them, they all stood tall and saluted. One of them, a real young kid who barely looked over 18, nudged the man to his left and nodded to Sergeant Kerr’s bracelets.

    Les took in his team. They all looked like boys to him. There was PFC Hank Pierce, PFC Otis Shellenberger, and Private Robert ‘Bob’ Baker. Bob, the boy who had pointed out the bracelets, especially stood out to Les. He was a zealous kid who made his aspirations clear. He proudly told the group time and time again that he had an uncle who was a ranger and that he too would be a ranger one day. On somebody else, the cocky attitude on such an inexperienced soldier might cause irritation, but nobody was annoyed by Bob. He was enthusiastic in the best of ways and a generally fun person to be around. Les liked him, he liked all the boys in his fireteam from their first impressions.

    However, he also felt distant. Leslie often felt like he was detached from his body, looking down at it from above. It made him seem cold and unfeeling. All the same, Les took care to provide his men with the leader they’d need to succeed as soldiers and to stay alive. They all respected him instantly and it didn’t take long before they liked him too. For the first few months, they operated similarly to how he had operated on his last tour of duty with Coates, driving around the country in small fireteams and engaging in multiple small scale conflicts with enemy insurgents they were able to drive out. There was a lot of interaction with the locals, trying to find out what they could about where to find the enemy. His boys quickly learned how to fight and learned what combat was, but they didn’t see any large scale battles during those first few months.

    During this time in the Paktika Province, Les was radioed by another fireteam that needed assistance three clicks east who were pinned down by militants. He and his team headed out, double time. Upon arrival, they found one of the members of the other team dead and another wounded, the two alive struggling to fend off a half dozen remaining insurgents. With the help of Leslie’s fireteam they were able to take out the rest of the enemy combatants. After the firefight had ended, Les went to check on the wounded man. He was shocked to recognize him as Boyd Robbins, his friend from Reception a lifetime ago. Boyd recognized him too, and laughed. “Funny running into you here,” he choked out. They managed to get him home alive, but he’d suffered a wound to the spine and he was paralyzed from the waist down. Les doesn’t know it, but he’d come to kill himself two years later.

    At another point about a week and a half later, they were moving in a squad with another fireteam to sweep and clear a village which was suspected of harboring some Taliban militants. Les was driving as they were rolling into town and he saw a boy no older than thirteen in the shrubbery going to light a molotov. He called out to Bob Baker in the gunners seat with the boys location. Bob swiveled his gun that way, but seeing it was a boy he didn’t take the shot. Leslie ordered him to do his job, but Bob still hesitated. The molotov was thrown, hitting the gunner on the Humvee in front of them who promptly fell to the ground, burning alive.

    Les quickly got out of his vehicle at the same time as the Sergeant of the other fireteam. The other Sergeant shot down the boy who’d killed his man while Les looked to the young American soldier burning alive, screaming in agony, one of the worst deaths a man could have. Sergeant Kerr sympathetically drew his sidearm and ended the man’s suffering with a bullet to the heart. He then pulled Baker down from his gunner’s seat where he was still staring in shock and forcibly ordered him to look at the soldier’s burning flesh. He assured Baker that his inaction caused this death. It was harsh, but it was what was needed to make sure his men never fell victim to the curse of inaction in war.

    They were called back to Bagram for a time, and Les put in to be a Staff Sergeant, feeling confident in his ability to lead after seeing how he’d been able to morph his boys into men, keeping them alive all the while. He got it, but he stayed in charge of the fireteam for awhile. That was what they needed in Afghanistan, it was much more small-scale in the conflicts than wars have been in the past. Come the end of August, Les was put in charge of a squad - his fireteam being a part of that squad. They were sent out the Zabul province in support of Operation Mountain Viper, with Special Operations soldiers having uncovered hundreds of suspected Taliban rebels dug into the mountains. Here, his men saw combat more similar to large scale battles, but still small scale skirmishes in comparison to the kind of combat Les saw in Mogadishu.


    About a week into the operation, Shellenberger was shot in the head. Having just seen his friend get shot in the head, Pierce noted in a calm voice, “Otis was just shot in the head, Otis is dead.” He didn’t check to see if that was the case. Snipers who were covering the infantrymen shot the rifleman who had shot Shellenberger, who was quite a distance away. Les went to check on his man, seeing him stare up at the sky with glazed over eyes. The bullet hadn’t penetrated his helmet, and he was still alive. Les called for a medevac and Shellenberger was brought to a hospital after it was determined he had increased ICP. They had to drill a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. He survived with minimal brain damage, but it was the first time Les realized he couldn’t really protect his men. That realization that he couldn’t really protect his men was the only thing that made Les cry during his time in Afghanistan. Due to the traumatic brain injury, Otis wasn’t cleared to return to combat and he was sent home.

    Mountain Viper was a success, and they killed 124 militants while only losing one US soldier. About a month later, Les was to take a squad out for some search and sweep operations in a mountain range southeast of Kandahar. He had gotten adept rather quickly at leading larger numbers of men and he was confident about the mission from the intel he’d received. His fireteam was leading the convoy of the two other fireteams in the squad to the mountain range where they were to be operating when they arrived at the FOB they were to spend the night at. Baker had the last watch shift. Les woke up right when the sun started to rise and there was just a touch of light illuminating the camp from over the horizon.

    Les went to greet him and the two talked for a time. About ten minutes into the conversation, he noticed movement over a hill in the distance. Even from far away, he could recognize it as a rifle being trained at the two. He knew he didn’t have enough time to fix his own rifle on the target and he knew Bob wouldn’t be able to register the order to hit the deck fast enough to avoid the trajectory of the bullet, so he made a split second decision. Staff Sergeant Kerr tackled Bob to the ground. About a half second later he heard the pops of machine gun fire. He looked down at Baker to see the man’s uniform covered in blood. “Don’t worry, Bobby. We got you,” Les assured him.

    “It’s not me,” Bob replied. With the adrenaline of combat, Les didn’t even feel the bullet hole his in his back. As soon as Bob informed him that the wound was in fact his, his brain registered a touch of the pain. The full force of it wouldn’t come until later, right now he was needed. The soldier’s were already scrambling, those who weren’t already awake now stirred by the sound of battle as rushing to defensive positions in a hectic manner. Les saw the fear, so he stood up - blood pouring out of the hole in side as he began to lead his men in battle.

    Seeing their leader badly wounded but standing, giving orders, and eventually firing back at the enemy filled the men with a courage. If Kerr could do it in his state, they damn well could too. The men returned fire, and an hour long firefight ensued. Eventually, they managed to fend off the invaders, killing 17 men and taking no losses under Kerr’s impressive command. They had called for a medevac as soon as there was a lull in the fighting and it arrived moments after they had won.

    Leslie felt himself slipping. He knew if the bullet hit anything really important, he’d be dead. But he felt a tingling sensation in his back, a sharp and aching pain reverberating throughout his whole body, and the fading sensation that comes with extreme blood loss. The edges of his vision started to fade, and the man thought it was the end. He was sure of it, this is what bleeding out felt like. For him, the war was finally going to end. He looked to his men as he was carried onto the chopper and said what he believed were going to be his last words. “I’m proud of you all. Stay in the fight. Grace under pressure.” Grace under pressure, he remembers thinking, not the best last words but not the worst in the world either. His eyes shut as he resigned himself to death and drew what he thought was going to be his last breath. In reality, he just faded away into unconsciousness.
    #3 Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2019
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest


    He woke up 37 hours later in a hospital. He had needed many blood transfusions, but they managed to keep him from bleeding out. They told him that he was going to be shipped back to the States as he needed surgery. The words didn’t fully register, it didn’t even fully register that he wasn’t dead.

    He faded in and out of consciousness before the surgery. They told him what was going on while he was awake, but he has no memory of it. It wasn’t until he woke after the surgery that he had any amount of lucidity to him. Les was informed that the bullet had fragmented inside him. They had managed to sew up any damage and remove all the fragments except one. A piece of the bullet laid on his spine, and the doctors did not think they’d be able to remove it without permanently paralyzing the man. Keeping it in would mean he’d have occasional waves of back pain and would be at risk of becoming paralyzed if he experienced a traumatic wound to that area, or a wound that shook his whole body such as an explosion or an automobile accident. He’d still be able to carry a ruck or even get into a scuffle here and there, but any significant trauma carried a high risk of paralyzation.

    Les was informed he was to receive a silver star for saving the young privates life at great personal risk and proceeding to valiantly lead his squad through the ensuing firefight while gravely wounded. It was quite the prestigious award and he supposed he should have felt honored, but he was more concerned with the first piece of news. He asked when he could be shipped back out and they told him he’d have to speak to a board to see if he could ship back out at all.

    They told Les that he couldn’t go back into a combat zone, and that he were to be honorably discharged given his wounds. Leslie assured them he could still fight, but they told him they couldn’t send him into a warzone when even being in the vicinity of an explosion would paralyze the man. Les assured them again, he could carry a gun, he could wear a ruck, he could fight. If he became paralyzed, so be it. They again refused, and the honorable discharge was processed. Les was to receive disability checks monthly. They contained enough money to be a nice supplement to an income, but not enough to live off of. He also received an assurance that the US Government would pay for any care he needed relating to his injury for the rest of his life.

    Due to this, Leslie started to look for a doctor willing to remove the fragment. They all told him the same thing, that there over a 95 percent chance that the surgery would paralyze him. He always told them to go ahead and do it all the same, and every doctor refused. A couple referred him to the psych ward.

    In time, Leslie realized that this was real. He was done as a soldier and he wasn’t going to be going back. Les had experienced a lot of trauma during his military career, but nothing broke him as much as the realization he couldn’t return to his men. They still needed him but he wasn’t there. He couldn’t get the image out of his mind of them fighting overseas while he laid in bed recovering.

    It wasn’t long before Les needed to get a job. The VA helped him with the process and he ended up gaining employment bagging groceries at a Safeway until he could find something more suitable. It was overwhelming boring. Literally, the boredom actually felt overwhelming for Les, highly disconcerting him. He struggled significantly with concentrating on such a menial task and he always found himself staring over the customers as he bagged his items, waiting for them to attack him. His brain had altered from his many years in battle, chemically, biologically, and psychologically. The man had adapted into what he needed to be to survive in the environment he had been in. The structure of his brain had actually evolved to ensure that he would be able to survive. The only problem was while it might’ve been beneficial in war, it didn’t coincide with the reality in which he now found himself. Always expecting a fight is beneficial in an environment where a battle could break out at any moment, but in a world in which there are no real threats to your survival it leads to a detachment from reality and a warped world view.

    About a week into his employment there, somebody dropped a bag of groceries and a jar inside broke. Les hit the deck, his brain instantly associating the loud unexpected noise with a barrage of gunfire. It took a few moments before he realized what was going on and stood back up. He got back to work and while his manager was concerned by the strange event, he didn’t know what to say so he simply said nothing.

    Les knew he missed being overseas deeply. He didn’t have the language skills to put into words why exactly that was. As I mentioned before, he certainly wasn’t a psychopath and he didn’t miss killing. He wasn’t crazy, he didn’t miss being shot at. And it wasn’t the same kind of longing for action as before. He missed that too, but he was older now and he had more of his fill. In some ways, what he missed was the opposite of killing. He missed brotherhood. He missed connection to the other men he was with.

    Brotherhood is different than friendship. Friendship happens in society. The more you like somebody, the more you’d be willing to do something for them. Brotherhood on the other hand, has nothing to do with how you feel about the other person. It’s a mutual agreement in a group that you will put the welfare of the group above your own. In effect, you’re saying I love these other people more than I love myself. Think about how good it would feel to have a bond like that in a small group where you love a dozen other people more than you love yourself.

    You’re blessed with that experience and then before you know it you’re just back in society like the rest of us are, not knowing who you can count on, not knowing who loves them, who they can love, not knowing exactly what anyone they know would do for them if it came down to it. That is terrifying. Compared to that, war psychologically in some ways is easier. Compared to that kind of alienation. Again, he didn’t have the linguistic abilities to make that clear to anybody, but that is why Les missed war.

    Less than a week after he had hit the deck at the dropped groceries, a customer came to him with a complaint. The supermarket was out of half and half milk and she wanted to him to know that was absolutely heinous. That was the word she used, heinous. The same word the Germans used about the American’s actions in Operation Anaconda. In an instance of a dissociative reaction, Les started to yell at her. It was almost as if there was a duality to his brain. Part of him knew that this was just some bitchy women upset about her milk, but another part of his brain was seeing the German on that mountain, it felt almost like he was over there. The words spewing from his mouth weren’t directed at her, they were directed towards that German soldier. As mentioned, Les is a big man and the poor woman was absolutely terrified. Somebody called the police and a Mental Health Response Team was sent over.

    They were well trained, and they had the tools needed to calm Leslie down without provoking further conflict. They went to arrest him for harassment as the law required, going to cuff him. When going to put on the cuffs the Officer noticed his 10th Mountain Division tattoo... and promptly lifted his sleeve to reveal he had the same tattoo. While they didn’t know each other, the two men were in the same unit. The Officer, a man named Pat Dempsey, stopped cuffing the man and in a breach of protocol put him in the back of his cruiser uncuffed. He drove over to the VA hospital and informed them of the situation, releasing Les into their custody with a solemn nod at the soldier.

    It was here that Les met DeShawn Wilson. He’s what is known as a peer advocate in the mental health community. Somebody who has a mental illness of their own, but has learned to work with it and now is trying to help others do the same. Les immediately liked him. It was clear that he actually understand what was going on and could relate in ways other people simply couldn’t. They set up weekly meeting.

    The meetings helped Les, having a positive impact on his mental health. DeShawn told Les techniques that worked for him, but also understood those same techniques might not work as well for Les. He developed tools to help ground himself and assist in the transition into civilian life. It was clear DeShawn cared for Les, and Les came to care for him as well. He didn’t want to let the man down.

    While Les didn’t end up being entered into the Criminal Justice system for harassment, he was fired from his job. It was about the same time the doctors stopped prescribing him hydrocodone. He kept complaining of back pain, so they kept giving him some even after weeks of recovery. Eventually, they stopped. It was hard to get, but Les figured he needed something for the pain so he started drinking pretty heavily. He found it helped with other things as well. As a depressant, it helped inhibit his exaggerated startle response. It also just plain made him feel better. He couldn’t find another job as he was drunk all the time and his disability checks paid for more booze more often than they went to rent. Eventually he got an eviction notice, but he ignored it. Leslie was highly paranoid during this time and carried a pistol with him everywhere he went, certain that people were out to get him.

    DeShawn tried to encourage him to go to AA meetings but Les wasn’t convinced the alcohol was a problem. The only problem was they wouldn’t let him go back overseas. Usually, Les would drink alone with a bottle he picked up from a liquor store. However one night about a year after his injury he opted to go to a bar. This decision was in part made from the knowledge that he was going to be evicted any day and he didn’t want to be around when they came to kick him out. It was also made from boredom. Around the time of his second glass, somebody at the bar shrieked. Nothing abnormal at a bar, but it spooked Leslie and he drew his pistol. The Staff Sergeant ordered everyone on their faces as he cleared the room in a tactical manner, looking very much like a soldier during a search and sweep mission. The police came and arrested Leslie without incident. In fact, when they arrived Leslie thanked them for providing backup.

    The District Attorney of the county was a Vietnam veteran himself and sympathetic to Leslie’s plight. Given the fact he didn’t harm anybody and cooperated with police, the DA managed to offer a very generous plea deal. One count of misdemeanor brandishing of a firearm. If he took it, he was to serve one year of jail time. Les took the deal and was shipped off to the county jail.

    The beginning of his time there was really rough. Due to its legality, it’s interesting that alcohol is one of the toughest drugs to withdraw from cold turkey. But indeed it is, and the withdrawal was horrible, unlike anything he’d ever felt. The man thought he was going to die. All the same, he did get through it and within a month he was moved from medical watch to gen pop. He found himself to thrive in the environment. It was similar to military life in many ways. There was a clear chain of command and he knew his place in it, it was very structured, he could only do things at certain designated times. He even had a uniform. It all felt very familiar to Les. There was even a deputy there who was a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who had served in Operation Anaconda as well.

    In fact, Les found there were lots of veterans in his pod as well. He became buddies with some of them, and considered the deputy a buddy as well. Les made a lot of jokes during this time. He found the goofy side of himself that first came out way back in Somalia, constantly using over the top phrases or telling funny stories. The only downside about jail was that there was no alcohol, other than that he’d have been happy to stay. DeShawn went to visit him once, letting him know that before his apartment was opened up for rent he had stopped by to pick up his uniform and medals and that he was storing them in his place. It was a very kind thing to do, DeShawn was an exceptionally kind and thoughtful man.

    The year passed and Les was released from jail with nowhere to live and nothing to eat. The disability checks had kept coming while he was in jail, so he took the money. He was going to go to DeShawn to ask for advice on what to do and to get his uniform back, but instead he found himself going to a liquor store. He drank a fifth of whiskey that night, and slept on the streets. In the night, somebody had approached him - another homeless man. Les woke from a nightmare to the noise of his footsteps, and in his half asleep state assaulted the man, clocking him across the face. Kerr has a killer right hook, and the man dropped like a sack of potatoes. Leslie instantly realized what he had done. He felt as if he didn’t deserve his uniform back, didn’t deserve his medals. He wasn’t a hero, he was weak. Medals are for heros. So Les went to an Army surplus store and bought an old Rucksack.

    The military is a very mission oriented environment, and soldiers are trained to achieve goals. Les decided he wanted to see the country he had dedicated his life to. So he gave himself a mission. He was to walk from one coast to the other. He’d head west and he wouldn’t stop until he hit the Pacific ocean. Upon having the idea, he instantly felt better. The idea of a mission appealed to him, and he was almost excited about the prospect of seeing the country. It was a long journey, and it wasn’t always an easy one. The ruck hurt his back, and he often had to stop due to excruciating pain. He hitchhiked when he could, but homeless men his age are one of the lease likely demographics to be picked up by hitchhikers.

    When he was arrested way back he was wearing his US Army issued combat boots, and they were returned to him when he was released from jail so that’s what he wore for footwear during his walk to the coats. On two separate occasions, drivers with military experience recognized his footwear and it inspired them to let him hitchhike with them for a time. It took around two months, but he finally made it to the Pacific. He hadn’t showered or bought a change of clothes once during that time, and the man was absolutely filthy. He had a brief moment of satisfaction when he reached the coastal city of Astoria and saw the Pacific, but it was short lived. It was cold and rainy and he had nowhere to stay. And that’s where we see Les now, addicted to alcohol, physically and mentally broken, and with no roof over his head. He’s considering moving down south to California where at least he’ll have the sun, but for the time being all he has the energy to do is get another bottle to keep him going just a little bit longer.

    If you read through this story and enjoyed it, please consider donating some money to either of these organizations.



    While this story might be a fictionalized account of a veteran’s life, there are tens of thousands of people facing similar difficulties and challenges every day. If we all give just a little, we can help a lot.

    I hope you enjoyed the read. Forgive any writing faux paus as I am certainly a novice to writing stories in this kind of capacity.
    #4 Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2019
    WeakLikeWeeds likes this.
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Green = Approves

    Isaac Ramirez - Never thought I'd wake up to a member of Task Force 180 putting a sheet over my ass in some place called Astoria.

    He might see it. Probably not, but he might. That's something. That's more than most.

    He's alive. I think he is. No, no. He's alive.

    He knows sheets. He might know sand, he might not, but he does know sheets.

    Family. A pine box and something about family. No. Well, maybe. He is Mexican. Family.

    He promised he'd deliver it. Will he? He might. He could. He does know sheets, after all.

    Rhett Hundridge - He's a fucking idiot.

    His 'it' is fucking stupid.

    He thinks he's a good fucking person? Hmmph. He knows Ash, anyways. Has beer.

    Please Help Me.... Please....


    You made me weak. It's okay, I guess. I got whiskey from it. I understand more, now. I'm being punished. That is what's right. I think maybe you are too.
    #5 Anonymous, Jan 26, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2019
  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    So many homeless people
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    blame it on the corps, big business bringin all all these filthy alcoholic bums and mexican runaways
    Devon and Leo_Ziegler like this.
  9. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Updated with his bio.
  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Leon Lush?
  11. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Added Relationship(s)
  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Relationship bump