Sunday, December 13, 2020

It's Beginning to Look A Lot...

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"So that's the story on why we're here lieutenant, we got chewed up in the Hürtgen, so we're absorbing replacements before we head back to the line. The Christmas party idea originated with regiment. It ain't a bad idea, we get to host the party here in Hombourg. There's about 30 kids from the village and the surrounding farms and..." Captain Tony Palminteri paused as three men came through the door dragging a tree.

"Here ya go Cap'n, best damned tree in the area, perfect for us and the kids!" 1st Sgt. Morton Saeger paused as he saw his company commander talking with an officer he vaguely recognized.

"Hey Top, this is 1st Lt. Cody..."

"Holy shit! Lieutenant Lawson, how the Hell are you Sir? When you got hit outside that little one horse town in Normandy, we thought you were a goner. Docs patch you up okay?" Saeger was overjoyed to see the "new" lieutenant, in reality 1st Lt. Lawson and then S/Sgt Saeger had been in the same company once upon a time.

"Damn Mort, the Army hasn't court-martialed you yet?" Lawson gave out a big laugh and then gave Saeger a big hug.

Cpt. Palminteri then said, "Well, I guess you know each already. Top, 1st Lt. Lawson is the new XO of Charlie Company."

"Well that's just great, good to see you again Sir, look forward to working with you..."

"So you gonna just leave that tree in the doorway Mort, or do you need help putting it up?" Lawson said as he walked over to the tree and grinned at the two privates standing outside. "You guys ready?"

"Sure Sir," answered Pvt. Karl Roberson, who looked at his fellow messenger Pvt. Timmy Bell and said, "let's pick it up Timmy, the new L.T. is helping us."

"I can see that numbnuts," muttered Bell under his breath.

With Lawson pulling and the two privates pushing, they got the tree into the barn they were going to use for the party. Some of the men had already installed a couple of GI stoves to heat the place, which Palminteri didn't ask about, figuring that they had been "liberated" from another unit.

After the men got the tree standing more or less upright, Bell went back to his quarters. A couple of the guys had received Christmas tree ornaments in the mail, nothing fancy, nothing breakable, which is how they survived the trip overseas. He had definite ideas about how to decorate a tree. The company viewed him as a cranky old bastard, awfully old at 33 to be a "buck ass private." Little did they know that he had actually volunteered for the Army. He had a safe job in a munitions plant, but he wanted to serve. So here he was.

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"Hey Corporal Katz, are you coming over to the party barn?" Pfc. Alexander Boone asked the assistant squad leader of 1st Squad/2nd Platoon.

"You do know I'm Jewish, right Boone?" Cpl. Melvin Katz was somewhat annoyed with the fact that he was the only Jew in Charlie Company. There were a couple in Able and another in Baker, three or so at battalion, but they were spread all over the countryside. He didn't begrudge his Christian buddies celebrating Christmas, but he was really missing the Hanukkah celebration at his parents' house this year. His Mom made all his favorites, the Army wouldn't know a latke from a sufganiyah, and she made the best.

"I didn't know that Corporal. So Jews don't celebrate Christmas?" Boone was from so far back in the hills of Arkansas that his buddies liked to joke that he hadn't seen electric light until he'd joined the Army.

"No, we don't, not normally, but hey Alex, this is the Army. I don't mind having a party for a nice Jewish boy named Jesus." Katz noticed that the remark went over Boone's head, way over. He was turning out to be one heck of a soldier, and handy with a rifle, but he was naive in so many ways.

"Jesus was Jewish?" Boone looked amazed for a moment, then he remembered his days in Bible school, "Well, now that you mention it, the Bible does say that, doesn't it?"

"Yes Private, it does. Let's go over to the barn, my mother sent me some stuff the Belgian kids might like." Wistfully Katz picked up the wrapped box of sufganiyot his mother had sent him. He supposed that he could have them next year.

"Maybe next year in Jerusalem, right kid?" Katz winked at Boone.

"Wow, I didn't know you've been to Arkansas, Corporal, but Jerusalem¹ is way up north from where my people live." Boone figured that Katz had traveled the entire world, he was, after all, from a foreign country.

"Can't say... Ah, the heck with it, yeah Alex, I've been all over." Katz just shook his head as the two men headed in the direction of what everyone in Charlie Company called "the party barn."

US Army Signal Corps Photo

1st Lt. Nathan Paddock was walking down the main straight of Hombourg with his platoon sergeant, S/Sgt Stephen Hernandez. He looked a bit worse for wear.

"I thought you weren't going to get drunk L.T.?" Hernandez asked.

"Well, the local beer is pretty good, a lot more potent than American beer. It didn't take much." As a matter of fact, Paddock wasn't much of a drinker to begin with, the night before was only the second time in his life that he'd ever been inebriated.

"So Top, you don't think I embarrassed with those ladies do you?" Unbeknownst to Paddock, the Army field hospital he'd been treated at for food poisoning after Thanksgiving was now in Aubel, the town Hernandez had taken him to for "a drink or two." They'd run into Captain Edith Parsons, an Army nurse, in the small bar in downtown Aubel. She was already getting a bit drunk when the two men had walked in.

"1st Lt. Paddock, good to see that you're still among the living! Hi S/Sgt Hernandez!" The pretty nurse had waved at them, she had an excellent memory for names and faces.

As they went to join Cpt. Parsons and another nurse at a small table near the fireplace, they'd been stopped by a doctor with major's oak leaves on his collar.

"Gentlemen, I'd advise you to steer clear of those officers tonight, they had a rough day today, damned rough, treating a couple of Belgian kids who set off a German booby trap." The doctor's expression suggested that he'd brook no nonsense from the two infantrymen.

"Sorry Sir, but Cpt. Parsons is an old friend of my L.T., we just want to say hello, we won't make any trouble." Hernandez was ready to take Paddock somewhere else, but the man couldn't take his eyes off the lovely Army nurse. She solved the problem by walking over to the men.

"Now Doctor Williamson, don't you fret now. These boys are very old friends of mine, I'll take it from here." Taking Paddock and Hernandez by an arm each, she'd lead them over to her table. Where she introduced the other nurse, a very pretty blonde, Hernandez noticed.

"This is Captain Beth McGee, we work together, she's my ride home tonight. I plan on getting very, very drunk. I need to forget watching that little girl die, there wasn't much we could do for her. We saved her little brother though, but little Giselle will never grow up... never..."

With that Cpt. Parsons broke down for just a moment, then she recovered and said, "S/Sgt Hernandez, why don't you take Captain McGee over to the bar and see what else they have besides this wretched wine? What are ya drinking Nate?"

Nothing had happened other than Paddock and Parsons getting to know each other a little better and getting very drunk together. S/Sgt Hernandez had bought Cpt. McGee dinner and discovered that they both knew someone in Madrid, Spain. She had taken a semester in college off and had visited there. S/Sgt Hernandez' family was from Madrid. His father had known the man Cpt. McGee had rented an apartment from. "Small world," both had said at the same time.

But today 1st Lt. Nathan Paddock had the worst hangover.

"Top, just shoot me, I'll write out an order telling Captain Palminteri I made you do it!"

"Shut up L.T., you'll be okay by tomorrow. In fact, we're supposed to go back to Aubel tomorrow to pick up some food for the party. We're also supposed to pick up a couple of nurses who want to see our kids' Christmas party."

"Is?"

"Yes Sir, Captain Parsons will be there. I think she's probably as hungover as you are today. Hey, look, the guys decorated the tree!"

Snow began to fall gently as the two men entered the barn. It was really starting to feel like Christmas in this foreign land.

(Source)







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22 comments:

  1. Thanks, Sarge. This is a beautiful part of the story.

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    1. The human side of war, it's not much and it isn't often, but it's there.

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  2. Is this the part where the soundtrack starts going BA DUMP BA DUMP BADUMP BDUMPBADUMPADUMP?

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    1. Heh. But you already know the big picture, no plot spoilers here.

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  3. Yeah, foreshadowing. At least in my mind... This foreboding is about the same I feel in my heart right now.

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    1. The thing is, they really didn't know what was coming.

      We do. Then and now.

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    2. Oh, hell, no,Sarge! I can hear the whistle of incoming right now. Please let it hit the empty party barn at dawn, not during the party!
      I know stuff happens in war, but I'm about worn down on my ability to shrug stuff off.
      Guess I'm invested in your stories.
      Keep on writing.

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    3. The Belgian kids are going to be alright. Hombourg is out of reach of German artillery. For now...

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  4. Well, feels like the sugar is about to turn to s**t real quick. Hope all these fine folks we've come to know make it through the next few weeks. But I'm not holding my breath. Kinda like I feel about our fine country right now - hope it makes it through the next couple of years.

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  5. Man just think of the volume of shipping and trucking needed for those holiday packages world-wide for the US forces. Artful setting up Sarge.....thumbs up!

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  6. Hey Sarge! Thanks for bringing Cpt. Parsons "back"! Great touch. Glad to see the new XO is no cherry.
    Great installment. I'd hope for the best for our characters we've come to know and like but I guess we'll have our own "Bulge" here in the next month or so. Pray for our Republic.
    Boat Guy

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  7. Hi Sarge,

    Long time reader, first time commenter. To provide a benchmark I've been lurking since when you were driving to the second site and back, whenever that was...

    I've really been enjoying the series and I just wanted to make a grammatical suggestion. The singular of Sufganiyot is Sufganiya, so the sentence below would be better as shown. I hope you won't mind the suggestion.

    "..Army wouldn't know a latke from a sufganiya"

    Merry Christmas to your tribe,

    Dave

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    1. I did a rather brief search for the plural of Sufganiyot, didn't know that was it. I shall make that correction. Thanks! (I learn from my readers again. I love it.)

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    2. Happy to have helped. Interestingly, Latke is yiddish, Sufganiya is hebrew hence the different plural structures. Anything else you need background on for the Jewish stuff, feel free to be in contact. I'm going to go comment on an old post with my email in it so it hits moderation and isn't published.

      Best regards,

      Dave

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    3. Most excellent, Dave! I thank you, Corporal Katz thanks you!

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  8. How to screw up the moment in either the civilian or military world. Say, "Gee, it sure is nice right now." Or, "It sure is pretty outside/inside." Or, "Everything is normal for once."

    At the cop shop, saying anything like that or "I'm bored/It's boring/Things are slow..." was quickly followed by all who heard said statement throwing things at or hitting the utterer.

    Because the Fickle Fingers of Fate were sure to hear such silly talk and ensure that said moment of peace, quite and calm would come screechingly to a halt. You could almost hear the celestial needle being dragged across the record of our lives...

    Yeah...

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    1. Ain't that the truth! OTOH saying, "Man this sucks!" is a sure fire way for the Fickle Fingers of Fate to say, "You ain't seen nothing yet!"

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  9. Katz and Boone's exchange made me laugh. A Navy buddy and I were at another buddy's house once when he picked up his Hebrew Bible off a shelf. "Hey Sam, someone stole half your bible!"

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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