Brighter FutureMature

A story I had to write for class. :/ Not my best, but it's alright.

Brighter Future

by Anthony Nelson

"All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers."

~Francois Fenelon~


    The sand blew quietly over the desert as Nolan North lay face down in the sand, a pool of blood collecting underneath him. The bullet wound in his side ached sharply, and he felt as though there was nothing for him to do. His team was dead, and the Taliban were coming towards him. What was he going to do? He needed something---someone to help him. But there was no one. He was completely alone in the desert, and despair was his only companion.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
1400 hours
Afghanistan
(Three Days Earlier)
    The hot sand swirled around Nolan North as he trudged slowly through the camp. On his back was a locked and loaded M4A1, the typical weapon for a Navy Seal such as Nolan. In his front holster he carried an M11, a powerful handgun introduced to the Seals back in 1989. He had trained with these weapons so much, that they had become an extension of himself.
    Nolan looked up as he approached the Captain’s tent. He pushed through the opening and entered, slipping off his hat. He bowed his head respectively, waiting for the Captain to address him. In the silence, he could hear the dust blowing against the tent, the wind shaking it softly.
    “North,” the Captain said in a loud voice.
    Nolan looked up at the Captain. “Yes sir,” he said quickly, putting his hand to his forehead in a salute.
    “At ease,” the Captain muttered, standing.
    Nolan said, “You called for me, sir?”
    “Yes,” the Captain said gruffly, placing his hands behind his back. “I did.”
    Nolan adjusted the M4 on his back before quickly taking a seat in a chair not far from the Captain’s desk.
    “Nolan,” the Captain began, beginning to pace back and forth. “Operation SAR is going to be executed in a matter of days and yet your unit is not fully assembled.”
    “Sir,” Nolan began.
    The Captain cut him off. “No excuses. You need another man, which is why I took it upon myself to find the highest trained Navy Seal back at the training camps. It didn’t take long for me to find a strong-minded, tough soldier for your team. He’s on his way now.”
    Nolan’s eyes widened. He stood up. “Sir, you never even asked for my consent,” he said angrily, clenching his fist. “You can’t just---”
    “I can, and I have. You’ll just have to accept it. Why does this bother you so much?”
    “Sir,” Nolan said, taking a deep breath. “The nine of us have been training very hard together, throwing in another soldier this late into training will only trip us up.”
    The Captain smiled. “Then watch your step, Seargent.”
    Nolan said nothing.
    “That will be all,” the Captain said, sitting down and picking up a stack of files.
    Nolan nodded. He stood and made his way out of the tent. He winced as the sand hit him like a sledgehammer, almost sending him flat onto his back. He scowled and pushed on, placing his hat on his head as he went.
______________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, August 14
1500 hours
Afghanistan
    “And...action!”
    The training session had begun. Every Navy Seal was armed, but not so dangerous in this course. It was a free-for-all battle, but to make sure no one got seriously hurt, the bullets were made of chalk.
    Nolan held his semi-automatic sub-machine gun closely as he pushed himself tightly against a wall. He slid across it and edged himself to the corner. He hesitated. The adrenaline pumping through his blood was almost forcing him to turn the corner, but he stayed still. He took a deep breath of dusty air, then held it. Footsteps could be heard around the corner, and Nolan was sure someone was headed his way. He frowned and backed up slightly. He threw his gun onto his back and drew his blade.
    A soldier suddenly appeared around the corner. With a loud shout, Nolan tackled him to the ground. There was a loud thud as Nolan fell on top of him, sending up a cloud of dust as they hit the desert sand. He forced the knife right up to his opponent’s neck, put his head right by the man’s face, which was sweating profusely, and whispered, “You’re dead.”
    Nolan pushed himself to his feet, jabbed his knife into its sheath, then slipped the sub-machine gun off his back. He pressed himself against the wall once more, and listened for a few moments. Silence. With a deep breath, he spun around the corner. He lifted his gun close to his face, and looked down the iron sights as he shuffled across the battlefield. A soldier suddenly appeared at the window. Nolan pulled his trigger which sent three chalk-tipped bullets into the soldier’s chest. The man fell to the ground. Nolan quickly checked his six and twelve before slipping the clip out of the gun and replacing it with a new one.
    He cocked his gun and pushed it against his shoulder for support. His eyes shifted and swayed across the battlefield, and his ears listened attentively for any sound to give away an opponent’s position.
    Suddenly, a crackling sound erupted from behind him. Nolan dove to the left, just as a spray of bullets fired across the wall in front of him. He hit the ground like a sack of bricks, but used the momentum to pull himself into a sitting position. Lifting his gun, he fired two blind shots, but heard each one make contact with a vest. His blurred vision came into focus, and he saw a man laying on his back with two white marks on his chest.
    Jumping to his feet, Nolan quickly looked around, checking that there was no one else. Then he pointed his gun in the direction of his opponent, making sure he wasn’t going to try and get up. No movement. Nolan took a deep breath. He had taken out three men so far, which meant there were probably about four to go.
    A man running across his twelve snapped Nolan out of his thoughts. Nolan quickly flipped out his silenced M11 and fired three shots into the man’s side. He hit the ground.
    Three to go.
    This was assuming that Nolan’s fellow Seals were competent enough to eliminate at least two of their opponents. As much as Nolan had faith in the competence of his men, he knew that they were all friends. That was a good thing, he thought, but sometimes it proved to be problematic. They trusted each other a little too much, in that they sometimes wouldn’t even engage each other in combat during training sessions, which kind of diluted the purpose somewhat. Nolan always forced himself to be aware, and suspicious. He wasn’t a very suspicious person, but his job required suspicions, so there wasn’t much of an option. This was a contradiction, however, because another requirement of his job was to have complete trust in his men. Nolan decided that the compromise would be to have complete and total trust in his men, but stay aware at the same time.
    Nolan slowly pulled the clip from his silenced pistol and dropped it onto the sand. He reached into his back pocket for a new one.
    All of a sudden, dirt shot up to his left. Nolan reached to grab his M4.
    “Whoa, whoa!” a voice yelled.
    Nolan stopped. He looked up to see his friend Jack, second in command in the squad. He was pointing the barrel of his M4 right at Nolan.
    “So pal,” Jack said light-heartedly. “How many guys did you ‘kill’?”
    Nolan smiled wryly. “Four.”
    Jack frowned. “I got three.”
    Nolan laughed. “So I win,” he said quietly.
    “Nope,” Jack said with a slightly maniacal laugh. “You’re going to be my fourth.”
    Nolan’s smile vanished. “I wouldn’t count on it, bud.”
    Before Jack had time to react, Nolan stuck his foot under the clip that lay at his feet. He kicked upwards and sent the clip up into his hand. Swiftly, he chucked the clip at Jack. It hit him square in the eye, sending him backwards. Without hesitance, Nolan grabbed a clip out of his pocket, stuck it in his pistol, then shot four times into Jack’s side.
    Jack hit the ground with a groan.
    “You shouldn’t take time off to gloat, bud,” Nolan said, smiling. “That’s the mistake the bad guys always make in the movies.”
    Jack scowled, but it soon turned into a smile.
    They laughed.
_____________________________________________________________________________




Friday, August 15
1100 hours
Afghanistan
    Nolan scratched his chin nonchalantly as the rest of the team laughed mirthfully at the story of yesterday’s showdown. Jack was pacing back and forth, reminiscing, throwing in details that Nolan didn’t even remember.
    “The dust was settling, and my gun was pointed straight at him,” Jack said enthusiastically, his hands stretched out, practically reenacting the scene. “But then,” Jack said, sounding desperate for attention. “He flicked up a rock that was sitting in the dirt, hit me in the face with it, then he---”
    “That’s not what happened,” I said with a smirk.
    Jack frowned. “You’re interrupting.”
    “I’m your superior, so I can interrupt as much as I want,” Nolan said, his smirk still sitting plainly on his face.
    The other soldiers oohed and all shifted their focus to Jack, who was probably conjuring up some witty response.
    “I know you’re older than me, but nowadays they teach manners at the Navy Seal training camps,” Jack said sharply, the lightness in his voice receding.
    “That explains a lot,” Nolan said, his smirk vanishing. “They spend time teaching you guys how to have tea parties instead of actually teaching you how to be a soldier.” Nolan squinted slightly. “It shows.”
    The room was quiet.
    Suddenly, it exploded in laughter. Jack was laughing so hard it looked like he was about to cough up a lung. Nolan just smiled and chuckled softly as the other soldiers pounded him on the back.
    That was what the Seals liked to call, “The Showdown”. Where two soldiers argue, and whoever conjures up the best response wins.
    “Good one, mate,” Jack said heartily, handing Nolan a shiny revolver. The revolver was the prize for winning “The Showdown”. It was sort of a running joke, as the revolver had terrible range, and the recoil was atrocious. Jack was the last one to win, and Nolan had never taken part in a showdown before, so Nolan felt slightly awkward receiving it. He shoved it into his back pocket without giving it another thought.
    “Have you ever fired that thing?” Jonathan, another soldier, asked with a smile.
    Nolan shook his head. “I’ve never won it before.”
    Jack shrugged. “Well, there’s still one bullet left in it from me trying it out. You could---”
    Suddenly, someone stumbled into the tent. It wasn’t anyone they recognized.
    “Is Staff Seargent Nolan North here?” the man asked slowly.
    Nolan stepped forward. “Right here.”
    The man looked at him. “The new recruit is here.”
    Nolan sighed.
______________________________________________________________________________









Friday, August 15
1200 hours
Afghanistan
    Nolan walked hesitantly up to the Captain’s tent. He knew the new recruit was inside. Something about a new recruit felt strange to him. He knew this man couldn’t be an amateur, but he was still new. He didn’t know what it was like to work with his team, and it could be problematic during the mission. Nolan decided that no matter what he’d be able to work it out.
    He pushed through the opening.
    He stopped.
    A man he didn’t recognize was standing in Navy Seal uniform. He was wearing a turban. This wasn’t too strange. Plenty of soldiers wore turbans to blend in with the people when they walked around. Then again, this man was wearing a turban even though he was inside with the Captain. Usually, to show respect, they took off their head wear. Why hadn’t he? Nolan shut out his thoughts and put out his hand.
    “Nolan North, Staff Seargent for---”
    “Skip the formalities, Seargent,” the Captain said quickly. “Mohammed Aqeeqah has to meet the other men.”
    Nolan froze.
    This new recruit was a Muslim.
_____________________________________________________________________________





Later
    “Why didn’t you tell me that this new recruit was a Muslim?!” Nolan yelled angrily, leaning on the Captain’s desk.
    The Captain frowned. “Because it doesn’t matter. He’s just as much of an American citizen as you are. Why does this bother you so much?”
    “You know why it bothers me,” Nolan growled. “Muslims are the enemy out here, and with all due respect, it’ll be difficult to decipher between friend and enemy now.”
    “The mission is in two days North,” the Captain barked. “Get ready.”
    Nolan grunted. He turned and stomped out of the tent.
______________________________________________________________________________















Sunday, August 17
800 hours
In a Helicopter flying towards Takhar, Afghanistan
    Nolan looked out the window. There was a twin helicopter flying next to theirs, carrying the other half of the men. Beside that helicopter was another helicopter. The Navy Seals always flew with multiple helicopters, even more than they needed. This was to protect them if they were attacked by enemy air. The enemy wouldn’t know which helicopter contained the Seals.
    Nolan’s mind wandered to Mohammed. He had been training with him non-stop for the past two days, yet his racisms---no, his suspicions---had not receded. He felt as though this man couldn’t be trusted because of his faith. Maybe Nolan didn’t trust him because he didn’t trust religions. Period.
    Ever since he was a boy, his parents had tried to force a god on him. When he became old enough to think for himself, he hated it. He kept telling them he wanted nothing to do with a god. After all, a god is nothing more than a superior. Someone that tells you what to do and when to do it.
    Besides, such a being couldn’t truly exist.
    Maybe his past was messing with his mind. Maybe he was just prejudiced towards Mohammed because he had a religion and seemed content with it. Maybe, secretly, Nolan wished he was the same way.
    But even if a god existed he couldn’t love Nolan. Nolan was too dark-minded. He had done too many bad things, and had too many bad thoughts. He was a bad person. A god could never love him.
    Nolan shifted his mind to the mission at hand.
    Operation SAR. SAR stood for Search And Rescue. The mission was simple. There was a Taliban outpost a few miles away from Takhar. The Taliban was holding a group of innocent people hostage, and was demanding a ransom from their families. However, the U.S. knew how the Taliban operated. Once given the ransom, they would kill the hostages, and escape. Never to be seen again. Operation SAR was an attempt to find the Taliban and take them out before they could do anything to the hostages.
    Suddenly, the helicopter shook violently. A voice came over the intercom.
    “We’ve been spotted by the Taliban!” the voice shrieked.
    All of the Seals grabbed onto the walls as the helicopter suddenly executed a sharp dive. The soldiers watched in awe as a missile whisked past them, missing the tail only by a few feet. Nolan looked over at the twin helicopter, just in time to see a missile scream into it.
    Nolan jumped from his seat. “NO!” he yelled as he watched the burning grave tumble to the desert ground.
    Jack was in that helicopter, Nolan thought. His eyes shot like darts at the pilot. “TAKE US DOWN!” he yelled angrily.
    The pilot looked at him. “What!? Are you crazy?! They’ll see me land and then---”
    “TAKE US DOWN!”
    The pilot nodded quickly.
    The helicopter dropped speedily towards the ground, but everything seemed as though it was in slow motion. When the helicopter hit the ground, it shook everyone from their seats.
    Nolan jumped out. Hitting the desert floor awoke his numb legs, and sent him into a sprint towards the burning helicopter. Suddenly, a shrill sound echoed off the sand. Nolan’s eyes widened. He looked back at the helicopter to see a few of his men getting out. “LOOK OUT!” he screamed. It was too late. A missile hit the sand in front of the helicopter, causing a huge explosion that completely consumed the helicopter and all the people inside.
    Nolan breathed heavily, looking back and forth between the two flaming wrecks. He shook it off and continued sprinting towards Jack’s helicopter. When he reached it, he dropped to his knees and looked around for any survivors.
    “No--Nolan? Is that you?” a voice murmured.
    Nolan looked over to see Jack, who had a large cut in his side. He was alive.
    Nolan quickly slid towards him. “Are you okay?”
    “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I just have this freaking---”
    “Calm down, calm down. Take deep breaths. It’s going to be okay.”
    Jack frowned. “No it’s not going to be okay! We failed the mission! I knew we should have gone in on ground.”
    Nolan said nothing.
    Jack looked at him. “You know, any second the Taliban are going to come over here and finish us off.”
    Nolan scowled. “Not if I can help it. I’m getting you out of here.”
    “Are you crazy?!” Jack whispered sharply. “You can’t carry me out of here in time!”
    Nolan looked around desperately for an idea. “There has to be somethin---”
    “There isn’t!! Get out of here! I’ll be fine.”
    Nolan stared at him, tears coming to his eyes.
    “They’re going to kill me,” Jack said quietly. He pulled out his handgun and cocked it. “But I’m taking them with me.”
    Nolan smiled slightly.
    Jack offered a weak smile. “Besides, I’m only going to bed. Eventually I’m going to wake up and Jesus is going to---”
    “Don’t give me that crap!” Nolan said, irritated. “Jesus isn’t alive!! He died hundreds of years ago. There is no Heaven, no brighter future. Now will you please just give it a rest?!”
    Jack didn’t say anything.
    Nolan took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
    Jack smiled. “No one can escape death. It’s inevitable. No one can escape sadness and despair. It’s a part of life. And no one can escape God, Nolan. He’s always walking right beside you, holding your hand, and giving you strength through the hardest things.”
    Nolan frowned. “He isn’t holding my hand.”
    Jack nodded. “Then put it out, and let Him take it.”
    Suddenly, a voice sprang up from behind them. “Aww...how sweet.”
    Nolan turned to see Jonathan, standing, unharmed, holding out a shiny, silenced M11. Nolan didn’t move.
    Jonathan pointed the gun at Nolan. “Stand up.”
    Nolan quickly stood. “What are you doing?” he asked, his eyes widening.
    Jonathan smiled slyly. “Pull out your pistol with two fingers, then throw it to me.”
    Nolan did as he was told.
    “Now take your gun off your back and toss it in front of me.”
    Nolan pulled the gun off his back and tossed it into the sand. Jonathan picked up the gun and put it on his back. “Much obliged.”
    Jonathan looked at Jack, who was frozen with fear. “Well, look at you,” he muttered. He walked towards him.
    Nolan scowled. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on him.”
    Jonathan looked at Nolan with a shocked expression. “Are you giving me an order? Seargent North?”
    Jonathan aimed his gun and shot Jack right in the head.
    Nolan’s eyes widened, but he stayed still. His anger was boiling to the point of overflow.
    “And you,” Jonathan said with a laugh. He suddenly pushed his gun into Nolan’s side and pulled the trigger. Pain shot up through Nolan’s body. He collapsed onto the ground and held the wound tightly. Blood oozed through his fingers as he growled in pain.
    Nolan shot Jonathan a look of complete hatred. “Why are you doing this?!”
    Jonathan smiled. “Let’s just say that I have friends in low places,” he said quietly. “Very low. These Muslim guys gave me an offer I simply couldn’t resist.”
    Nolan suddenly remembered. The revolver. Nolan still had the revolver he won in his back pocket. He allowed himself to relax on his back, and slowly reached into his back pocket for the revolver. He gripped it tightly as he slowly began to pull it out. He pulled the lever back, and planned his next moves carefully.
    Jonathan grinned evilly. “It took me a while to create the perfect plan. But once I had---”
    Nolan swiftly swept the gun out from under him and pulled the trigger.
    The gun’s recoil was so powerful, the gun flew back and nailed Nolan in the face. Nolan wiped his nose quickly then looked up.
    Jonathan was still standing. Nolan had missed. Jonathan smiled. “It was a nice attempt. But---”
    Suddenly, the blast of a gunshot erupted from behind Jonathan. A cloud of blood shot up from his forehead, and he collapsed face down into the sand.
    Nolan took a deep breath. What just happened?

Then, he saw him. Mohammed. He was laying only a few feet away from where Jonathan lay, and he was holding out a pistol. Smoke rose from the barrel. Nolan placed the revolver in his back pocket and stumbled towards Mohammed, who was bleeding profusely from the shoulder.

Nolan clutched his wound tightly as he knelt down by him.

Mohammed managed a smile. “Hello, sir.”

    Nolan stared at him blankly. “You saved my life.”
    “Yeah, I guess I did.”
    Silence.
    Mohammed groaned. There was a river of blood flowing down from his shoulder to the sand. He was close to death, and there was nothing Nolan could do.
    “I’m sorry,” Nolan whispered.

    “For what?”
    Nolan looked at him. “For not trusting you.”
    Mohammed shrugged. “It comes with the religion.”
    Nolan frowned. “Why do you stick with it? It puts you through all of this crap but you seem as though you don’t care.”
    Mohammed said nothing for a moment. He blinked. “I guess I don’t care. I believe what I believe and no one can change that.”
    Nolan said nothing.
    Mohammed looked at him. “With all due respect, sir, it seems like you’ve lost sight of your own beliefs.”
    Nolan sighed.
    Mohammed winced at the pain in his shoulder. “I think maybe it’s time to regain your sight. Believing in something is one of the most important things in life. It gives you assurance that there’s a brighter future just over the horizon.”
    “I don’t believe in a brighter future,” Nolan whispered sharply. “The world is just getting worse and worse.”
    Mohammed sighed. “A little hope never hurt anyone.”
    Nolan looked away.
    Mohammed said nothing.
    Nolan looked back at Mohammed. His eyes were closed. Nolan placed two fingers on Mohammed’s neck.
    Dead.
    Tears came to his eyes but he swallowed them.
    He had other things to worry about. Like the bullet wound in his side, and getting out of here. He looked down at his wound.
    He was losing blood. Fast.
    He started to walk away from the wreck, but something stopped him. He looked out across the desert, and saw nothing but mountains everywhere. There was nowhere to go. He was stuck here, with a bullet wound in his side.
    He collapsed onto the sand.
    It was another form of surrender.
    He had given up on everything.
    Even himself.
    The sand blew quietly over the desert as Nolan North lay face down in the sand, a pool of blood collecting underneath him. The bullet wound in his side ached sharply, and he felt as though there was nothing for him to do. His team was dead, and the Taliban were coming towards him. What was he going to do? He needed something---someone to help him. But there was no one. He was completely alone in the desert, and despair was his only companion.
    Silence.
    “You said there’s no brighter future,” a voice suddenly said.
    Nolan slowly lifted his head and looked. There was a man standing there. Nolan didn’t recognize him, but he was sure he was an enemy of some kind.
    The man repeated himself. “You said there’s no brighter future.”
    Nolan hesitated. He nodded.
    The man sighed. “Then the work I did on this Earth was for nothing.”
    What a nutjob, Nolan thought to himself. He didn’t respond.
    The man looked at him. “I didn’t used to look like this, you know,” he said softly.
    Nolan said nothing still.
    “I used to be everywhere at once. Yes, everywhere, all at the same time.”
    Nolan rolled his eyes. Hippie.
    “But then the people on this Earth sinned. They became evil. And the punishment for sin is death, you know. They were going to have to face judgement one day. My father loved the people though, and so did I.”
    Nolan was confused, to say the least, but he still said nothing.
    “So I died for them.”
    Nolan frowned. “You’re still alive though.”
    The man looked at Nolan. “Yes,” he said quietly. “When the punishment was paid, I was free to return to my father.”
    Nolan pushed himself into a kneeling position. “You’re crazy. That isn’t possible.”
    The man smiled. “Lots of people say that. Some people even think I’m not alive. And that I died hundreds of years ago. And that my home isn’t a real place, and that there is no such thing as a brighter future.”
    Nolan’s eyes widened. “Who are you?”
    The man suddenly looked sad. “I’ve been holding out my hand to you all of your life. I have walked right beside you when you went through the toughest things in life, and all the way through it I held out my hand. I whispered, ‘It’ll be okay,’ in your ear every time you felt as though you couldn’t take another day. I helped you push through when your wife left you. And yet even after all I’ve done for you, you still do not even know my name?”
    Nolan took deep breaths. This couldn’t be happening. This man was just a nut. That’s it. A nut. He couldn’t be who he was claiming to be. He was just a man.
    “Nolan, take my hand, and everything will be okay.”
    The man held out his hand to Nolan. Nolan stared at it hesitantly. Nolan looked away from it. “If you are who you say you are, hear me when I say that I am a bad person. I have done so many bad things in my life. I’ve killed innocent people. I’ve had affairs. I’ve hurt a woman who loves you with all her heart. How can you love someone like me?”
    The man stared at Nolan. Then he said, “Because you’re mine.”
    His hand was still held out. Nolan slowly shifted his gaze to it. Then, even more slowly, he took the man’s hand and grasped it tightly.
    Suddenly, he heard shouts from behind him. It sounded like the Taliban was coming. Nolan started to panic. What was he going to do?
    “Keep holding, Nolan,” the man---Jesus---said, his voice calm and soothing. “Don’t let go, no matter what!”
    Nolan put out his other hand and grabbed hold of Jesus’s hand. He held it as tight as he could as he heard the enemy closing in on him.
    Nolan turned his head, just in time to see a group of Taliban soldiers dash around the corner. They froze and stared at them. Jesus’s gaze was downward at the ground, as if He didn’t even know they were there. Nolan was waiting for fear to run through his body, but it never did. He felt completely safe, even though he knew he wasn’t.
    Then, Jesus looked up at the Taliban soldiers.
    They stared at the two of them with blank stares. One of them stepped forward and lifted their gun. He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. The group slowly backed up, then darted back for the outpost.
    Jesus smiled then looked back down at Nolan.
    He was still gripping Jesus’s hand.
    “Why did they run away?” Nolan asked quietly.
    Jesus pulled Nolan to his feet. “They saw your guardian angel.”
    Nolan was dumbstruck. He said nothing.
    Jesus took a deep breath. “Walk north of here and eventually you’ll get home.”
    Nolan shook away his shock. He looked into Jesus’s eyes and sighed. “I can’t do this without you.”
    “You won’t.”
    In that instant, Jesus vanished.
    Nolan’s hand was still outstretched, gripping the air. Yet somehow, he could still feel Jesus’s hand there.
    He slowly pushed himself to his feet and started to walk, his hand still outstretched.
    It was then that he happened to look down and notice that his bullet wound was gone. It vanished just like Jesus had, the second that he had grabbed His hand.
______________________________________________________________________________



Thursday, May 19, 2011
1300 hours
Los Angeles Airport, California

    Nolan North was giving a speech. A very important speech. It was the last speech these new soldiers would ever hear before they headed out for Afghanistan. They all sat in five rows of chairs, while Nolan stood at the front of the room. There was a podium in front of him. On the podium was his speech in writing, but he didn’t need it. He had it memorized.
    “You’ve heard it all, men,” he said quietly, resting his hands on the podium. “You’re going to war. You’re going to go out from the comfort of your homeland into the territory of the enemy. You’re going to face perils beyond your imagination.”
    Nolan paused. He stepped away from the podium.
    “You’re also leaving behind your family and your friends. They’re going to be very worried about you. You won’t be there to protect them if anything goes wrong. And war isn’t something you can walk away from so easily.”
    Nolan walked forward.
    “But I’m giving you the opportunity to walk away from this now. You don’t have to step up and fight for your country. There will be others.”
    No one moved.
    “Don’t feel ashamed to get up and walk out of this airport right now.”
    Still, no one moved.
    Nolan smiled.
    “This is what sets us apart from the rest. What makes us soldiers. The courage to leave behind all that we have to defend our home. The courage to give up your favorite foods and your bed for years just so you can put an end to the evil that plagues our planet.”
    Nolan’s smile vanished.
    “In the military, you will always have a superior. And in life, you will always have a leader. Whether or not you choose to follow that leader is up to you. After all, there are good leaders, and there are bad leaders. But it is your job to decipher between the two.”
    Nolan frowned.
    “I consider most of my superiors to be good men of valor, but I’m not sure they are very fond of this speech. But they can take away my stripes, and my stars, for this has to be said.”

Nolan shifted his gaze to the ground.

“Men, I told you that there are good leaders, and there are bad ones. But I stand here before you, knowing that there is one leader you can always count on. Someone who will never leave you, even when you board that plane and head off for Afghanistan. There is a leader that is always standing right by you, holding out His hand to you.”

    Nolan closed his eyes as tears welled up in them.
    “And that leader, is God. Follow Him with all your heart, and the battlefield won’t seem so scary anymore. There is a much greater battle than this, my friends. The war against good and evil is bigger than ever, and we all have our place in it.”
    Nolan opened his eyes and stared out at the men.
    “The flame of evil has been burning for far too long. War is brewing, my friends, and it is time to choose what side you’re on.”
    Nolan raised his fist.
    Silence.
    A single soldier stood. He slowly put his hand up to his forehead in a salute.
    Suddenly, the entire congregation of soldiers rose into a stand. And all at once, they saluted him.
    Nolan smiled dryly. He took a deep breath. Then, stiffly, he shot up his hand to his temple and saluted.
    “The people of this world are crying out for a brighter future,” he said, his voice loud and powerful. “And we can make that brighter future the present. There is an enemy who wishes to stand in our way of that. An enemy who is powerful enough to make our mission almost impossible to accomplish.”
    Nolan sighed.
    “But that’s what sets us apart, men. What makes us soldiers. We stand up for what’s right, even when the odds seem against us. We follow our leaders, and our God, who is more powerful than any enemy, to the ends of the Earth. Even when our mission seems impossible.”
    Nolan smiled.
    “And besides, we’re soldiers. The impossible is our specialty.”

THE END

The End

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