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I’m trying to stay within the alphabet requirements here, and parts of this story are all tangled up because they all happened at the same time. So make sure you tune in J as well for the next part of story.

A message had been passed along from the rear detachment sergeant that my parents had received a call that I was AWOL. I thought terrorists had called my parents, but I wasn’t getting any letters from home and communications moved slower than a snail.

Then I got a most puzzling brown envelope from the Reserves. It was handwritten, with the address for my active duty unit, and an official envelope. If you read my first A to Z Challenge post, you’ll recall that I was in the Reserves in California, and then went active duty.

Inside was a single sheet of paper.


It was February, and the orders were dated for December. At the point those orders had been issued, I’d been deployed for two months.


You’d think someone would have noticed the address it was being sent to. You think?

Okay, so now the AWOL thing made sense. The rear detachment sergeant had probably received a phone call from the Reserve unit because I’d, well, missed movement because I was deployed.

Still, you’d think someone would have noticed they were calling an army unit, and army unit’s rear detachment. You think?

First Sergeant looked at the orders. “No problem. I’ll take care of it.”

So I didn’t think anything further than that.

We now entered early March, and the war had ended. I got a chance to be out in one of the Saudi cities, and we stopped off a pay phone on the street. It was the first time I’d seen a phone almost since about November. I called my parents collect.

First words out of my father’s mouth: “Did you get the Red Cross message?”

I was pole axed.  I’d told him about the Red Cross message process in case he needed it, but I hadn’t actually expected that he would need it!

My squad leader knew something was wrong when I came back, and the moment I told him, I broke down. It was just too much all at once. The first sergeant and captain went on a search for the Red Cross message. We’d moved eight times, and the army no longer kept morning reports, so no one knew where we are. They got the message in record time, and all I could do was stare at the message written by my family doctor. My mother was dying.

Next up will be “Just a minute — i’m a ghost soldier,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.