Number One GI
Fatigue lined Todd Douglas’s face, dragged on his muscles, thickened his spit. But he stood erect. Alert. Eyes forward. Ignoring the stares from the panel of judges, the prosecutor, the court reporter, the ghosts of the dead.
“Be seated, Private Douglas.” Captain Anderson, prosecuting attorney for the Judge Advocate General, tugged at the base of his jacket. A small gesture. Perfecting the lay of his uniform.
Todd plucked the sharp crease on his khaki sleeve. He looked pretty spiffy himself.
“Before the recess you were talking about what happened the day Private First Class Hepper died,” the attorney said. “Let’s pick up there. And I remind you, soldier, you’re still under oath.”
The wood on the witness stand felt flatter, harder than it had all morning. Todd squeezed his butt cheeks, squirmed his ass around a little and tried to find a comfortable position. “Yeah, well, we all knew the risks. Everybody knew it could happen—happen to any of us. Shit. We were living with kill or be killed. Every damn day. Every damn night. We had to stick together.”
“Who devised the plan your squad followed?” the JAG’s piranha asked him.
“Sergeant Caldwell figured out where they stashed the . . .” Todd searched for a politically correct word. “. . . the ‘supplies’ we needed.”
“Let's be clear here. Those supplies you ‘needed’ would be considered illegal drugs in the United States. Is that correct?”
“It wasn't illegal in Nam,” Todd said with a shrug.
“Need I remind you which country's laws you swore to follow?”
“It was a matter of survival. But I don’t suppose you’d know about that—what it’s like to live 24/7 in a fucking hell hole.” Todd hardened his eyes. “So let me tell you. Enlighten you ‘bout what it’s like to live over there—if you can call it living.”
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