She carried the objects that most soldiers carried. The artillery that pulled on her thin frame and the arsenal of bullets outweighed her by at least 20 pounds. Her standard issue combat boots were all but stylish and she felt the drab, camouflage uniform did nothing for her figure, but did accent her light green eyes. She was the only girl in the 23rd Infantry of the United States Army, which caused the feeling of isolation in the jungles of Vietnam to be that much more powerful.
She carried her tarnished shield necklace that had been given to her in high school. The inscription on the back, which read, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9” was nearly illegible after being grasped on so many occasions of discomfort. She carried every ounce of her strength and courage in that tiny, metal shield.
It brought her back to the days when life was easy and the only time she needed to conjure up courage was to kiss a boy after a first date. That shield not only protected her sanity, but she felt it truly protected her well-being.
She carried her family’s unwavering support. She had inherited her mother’s nerves and her father’s audaciousness, which made for a frightened, yet courageous soldier. She carried the scent of her mom’s cookies and the flowing melodies of her dad’s record collection. She carried the number 62, drawn crudely on her inner left wrist. It was her brother’s football number and she wore it with pride. She supported his every effort more than she could ever support herself.
She carried her hatred for this war like a banner across her heart. She despised President Johnson for beginning this conflict and for agreeing to a female draft. All of her anti-war marches and chanting of the Beatle’s lyrics had been for nothing. The brightly colored peace signs had been replaced with brightly colored explosions in the starless night sky. How could she fight for a cause she they did not even believe in?
She was carried home in a military aircraft carrier. She carried the burden of her family and friend’s broken hearts as they solemnly marched up the steps to the church that Sunday. She carried the Medal of Honor pinned to her chest as they covered her casket with a flag. She was praised by many for her bravery, though their words could not cover the fact that an innocent girl was gone. All the things she carried on Earth no longer mattered. What mattered is that she now had wings to carry her.
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