08 May 2012

Soldier on

He looked about 23. I couldn't see his rank, and I wouldn't understand it anyway. He was in the Army. He was in the middle seat.

I sat down in my seat, next to him, and said hello. He was on two weeks' leave from Afghanistan. Been there four months, eight months to go when he gets back. He came home for his four-year-old daughter's birthday. He turned down an upgrade to first-class, wishing he was in civies.

He's a Specialist, an E-4, and a combat engineer. He just re-enlisted.

"Do you like it?"
"Not really."
"Then why did you re-enlist?"
"'Cause I got a house and wife and a daughter." He smiles.

The flight attendant came by and asked if we wanted drinks. He asked what was available, and he was surprised when she mentioned beer.

"How much is that?" "
"For you, free."
"Aw, shoot. Yeah, I'll have a beer."

His eyes got wide at the Blue Moon - both of them - and the oranges. He smiled and offered me one. "No thanks, man."

He fell asleep, and his head fell on my shoulder. I could feel his hair poking through my shirt.

He awoke when we landed, surprised - "Oh - sorry, man. Are we here?"
"Don't worry about it - yeah, we're here."
"Dang, I was out. That beer did me in."

He asked what I did, and I told him I was at the Air Force Academy.

"So are you gonna be an officer?"
"Yeah, I'll be commissioned in a couple weeks."
"So the next time I see you, I'll have to salute you."

"I'll try to earn it."