Finding Inspiration in the Past

When I was in the army, the single soldier always seemed to be an after thought.  There wasn’t much for us beyond the gym, the library, and the rec center.  I used to go to the rec center a lot.  It had a big TV, games, and a place to hang out.  There was always this one guy there, a regular.  He was older than most of the other soldiers there, and I later learned he was a Specialist, retired.  To retire at a pay grade of E-4, which is one level above private, meant something bad had happened. 

Everyone stayed away from him, usually far away.  Because he was lost in his own world, a world of the past, a world of Vietnam.  Things happened in this world, and he talked to people in this world, and he made the sounds of battle in this world.

I thought about him as I started to write a story for an anthology themed “The Darkness Within.”  Soldiers see things and experience things, and sometimes those things are too much.  Twenty years later, I wonder what happened to him.

I never knew his name.

A realistic looking toy soldier crouches on ground and aims a rifle at camera.

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