The Scars of War
By: Kyle Hill
There I was sitting at home just like any other day. I'd just stay home all day and do my own thing. Everyday was the same thing: wake up, go to school, do my time at school, and then go home. Nothing interesting happened in my life. No horrific or well known events took place. We were in a time of peace. Well that's atleast what I thought. That changed the day a squad of military soldiers came to school.
I was in lunch at the time sitting next to my friends James and Bruce. One man emerged from the squad of soldiers that appeared to be the leader and announced that the military has weakened over the years by soldiers being slaughtered over in the Middle East and that they were going to need take young men/ teenagers to turn into soldiers and stand a better chance against the terrorists. He also added that if we did not come willingly we would be taken by force. Bruce whispered over to James and I and said “Can we leave? I don't want to go to the war.” I looked over at James and nodded. We got up from our table and walked towards the back of the lunchroom where there is an emergency exit. To our surprise there were no teachers to stop us. We pushed open the door and found ourselves standing in a field of military trucks.
A soldier stared right at us and I could feel my face turn warm. “Halt!” yelled the soldier as he marched towards us. He got all up in our faces and asked what we were doing. The three of us looked at each other hoping that someone would say something to him. No one said anything for at least a minute. The silence was broken by another soldier who ran up next to the soldier who was staring us down. There was something different about this soldier though. He appeared to be very young. I asked him “How old are you?” The second soldier replied by saying “I am 16. My school was visited a few months ago and soldiers did the same thing to me as they are going to do to you”. Bruce added “I don't want to go to war. I have an entire life ahead of me and I don't want to waste it going to war.” I asked the question that was on everyone's mind “You're a child soldier?” speaking very shyly. “Yes and now I am here to get you and your classmates ready to fight over in the Middle East. If I were you I wouldn't ask anymore questions and do what you were told. If you don't, you could get yourself killed.” Bruce started to cry a bit. “I can't do this!” Bruce yelled as he ran away. The first soldier pulled out his handgun and shot once. It only took that one bullet to put Bruce down. He laid still for a few moments. James and I were hoping he would just get back up. He never did. Bruce was gone.
The younger soldier said “I warned him. Now if you two follow our rules you will have a greater chance of living.” James and I knew what had to be done. We followed the two soldiers to a long row of desks set up outside of the school. They had lists of every boy in the school. The man at the desk asked “Grade and last name?” I said “Sophomore and Hill.” I then was taken to a truck with James that was packed with a bunch of boys from our school. Some were scarred and others were trying to act tough. It took us at least 3 hours to get to our destination. When we got out of the truck we ended up standing on an airbase full of giant planes. “Today is the last day you will be in this country until we say otherwise. If you don't know already, you are going to become soldiers for the United States military. We will quickly but effectively train you how to kill and survive over at one of our bases in Iraq. Good luck and go win us the war.” said an announcer in a suit instead of a military uniform. All of the boys and I looked around at each other. Then a group of soldiers including the one child soldier that James and I met earlier that day came over to us and directed us to one of the giant planes.
We all boarded the plane and got strapped into our seats. We flew to the military base in Iraq in great speed. Early in the morning of the next day we were awoken by the landing of the plane. When we got off the plane we were greeted with only discomfort and body bags filled with soldiers. Our soldiers. A middle aged man came to us and said “Now look at what we have here. This group should be interesting. I am Captain Rothaw and I'm here to get you prepared for war. We have a month to do this so if you do as I say you might have a chance of going home. My second in command is Corporal Ryan.” To my surprise he was talking about the child soldier who was with us back at school. “Ryan here will assist you with anything you need.” Mentioned Captain Rothaw. Ryan then gestured his hand to signal us to follow him. All of us did and he lead us into a room full of clothes. Here pants, boots, shirts, and jackets were distributed out to us. Sadly not everyone could get everything. Some of us has just boots and pants, while others had just the jacket. Nonetheless our training still would begin. Sooner than expected though. The Captain threatened us to do push ups and if we did not do them then he would beat us with his belt. Everyone of us did push ups until our arms ached of so much pain. Some of us pushed on but others would fall. Those who fell got a slash to there back from the belt. They would then struggle to do push ups for the next 3 hours with only 15 minute breaks in between each hour. Those who did not get hit by the belt at all or very little got to move on to the next stage: marksmanship.
Here they taught us how to fire weapons, reload, and effectively shoot a gun. To some it was easy and to others it was very challenging. We stayed at this station for at least 5 hours until we moved onto an obstacle course. This course had ladders that reached as high as the eye could see, barbed wire that we had to crawl under, and a mile of sand we hand to sprint through. After these three difficult stages of our training we got to go eat a large meal. The food wasn't good but no one cared since we were all starving. We followed this routine for a month learning something new everyday. From the beginning of the month we had at least 200 boys. Now there were only 137. We had lost some boys due to dehydration, losing multiple by a miss thrown grenade, and a squad full of boys were killed on a patrol a week before our training ended.
A few months had passed now and I had seen very little “action”. Another month went by and James, Corporal Ryan, and I were sent with another 20 boys to go survey an enemy base. All 23 of us sat on top of a peak overlooking a plain of sand and smackdown in the middle of the sandy plain was a small town. Well that's what we thought it was at first, until we spotted a convoy of simple cars full of men with AK- 47s in hand driving to the town. James suggested that we sneak into the base and take out any terrorists that were in there. Ryan then said “That is going against what the Captain ordered us to do.” James did care, he signaled a few other of the boys, including me, to follow him down to the base. We followed him in a line and trying to stay as low as possible and moving as fast as we could without making any noises.
We eventually got to the sandstone wall surrounding the base. “Okay men, Hill and I are going to climb this wall and locate the leader of this group. We are going to need you to go to the front gate and make the biggest distraction ever so that we don't have everyone on top of us. Okay?” The other boys nodded and quickly moved around the wall to the gate. They then started unloading their guns at the enemy soldiers. That's when James and I climbed over the wall. We hid behind a small shack until we knew there were no more soldiers running down the main road cutting through the middle of the base. We then moved towards the bases center where we thought the leader would be. We breached the front door. Luckily for us he was there. But our luck was short lived since he had at least 30 guards with him. Once we had opened the doors, every guard had looked at James and I and they started to open fire on us.
We quickly ran back outside and around the corner so that they couldn't hit us. We were cut up by a couple of the bullets but nothing we couldn't handle. The guards fired their weapons into the doorway for a few more moments after we got into cover, and then started to barricade themselves inside the building. James started to blind fire around the wall. He hit at least two of the 30 guards but we didn't know if they were hurt or killed. To kill and injure some of the guards I took the the pin off my one grenade and tossed it into the room. BAM! It exploded and launched debris everywhere. I had a ringing sound in my ear and couldn't hear anything else besides the ringing. If I could still hear I would have heard James yelling at me to watch out for the guy standing at the window above me. He shot and hit me right in the shoulder. I fell to the ground and was shot again this time in my chest. I gasped for air. James shot the guard that had shot me and killed him.
James then came over to me quickly and sat me against the wall. He applied pressure to my chest to try and stop the bleeding. He then heard some guards walking towards the doorway, so he lifted up his weapon to get ready and fight. Once they stepped foot out the doorway he shot everything he had at the guards. They then fell to the ground motionless. James then handed me his pistol and said “Wait here, I'll be right back.” He then charged into the room and only fired 3 shots until his gun ran out of ammo. The guards once again opened fire onto James but this time making sure he didn't survive. As my hearing came back I could hear the gunfire breaking the silence of the night. I could also hear the body of my best friend drop to the floor. I thought to myself, this is the end. I'm going to die here.
The group leader and his 7 remaining guards walked outside and surrounded me. I couldn't really see their faces since everything was so blurry. I attempted to pick up the pistol James had left me but I was too weak from all of the blood loss. The enemy leader gave the signal for his guards to fire on his command. I began to give up on all hope. I then noticed blurry images move in the distance behind the guards. Then I heard the shots of rifles. Not from the guards but from the blurry images from behind them. One by one the guards fell to the cold hard ground. I then see the leader trying to make a final stand as he pulled out his rifle and opened fire on the images. He didn’t stand a chance, he was gunned down immediately.
The blurry images then came closer and became more clear. By the time they came close enough I could make out there faces. It was Ryan and the other soldiers. “You're going to be okay, just try and stay awake.” Said Ryan. He and another soldier carried me to the front of the base for an evacuation. About 5 minutes later a helicopter showed up. That is all I remember until I woke up. I woke up in a military clinic at a base back in America. I was finally home. I was greeted by a friendly nurse and Corporal Ryan. Ryan and I chatted for little bit until I asked “So, when am I going to be redeployed?” Ryan then frowned and said “Due to your serious injuries you will never be able to reenlist.” I started to tear up and asked “Why bring me to the military? Why force me to join if all I was gonna do was get kicked out due to some bullet wounds?” Ryan replied by saying “We made you join because we needed soldiers desperately and having teenagers and kids join would be good because most of them are fit and are still open to learning. It wasn't my call to take you away from your life. For that I am sorry.” Ryan then left the room and that was the last time I had ever saw him.
A couple weeks later I had went back home. I rested and eventually went back to school again. Nothing will ever be the same. The things I went through left a mark on me. It had left a scar both mentally and physically. It left one mentally by showing me that we are not invincible. James learned that the hard way. It left a physical scar on me by the enemy harming me. Ever since I left the military I became more grateful for what I have because one day I never know if I'll lose it or not.