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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Ranger - 2. The Documentary

April 2020

 

“Why are you doing this?” Brad was surprised Mark had moved out of his own place and settled in the barracks, relinquishing his tiny home to the younger, redheaded veteran.

“It’s not a big deal. I support what you’re trying to do and think you need to experience Haven the way we do. You should live in one of the houses instead of the dorms. Plus, I was ready to move on anyway. I postponed the start day at my new job for a bit, just so I could stick around and help you guys.”

Following the initial January conversation about the documentary, the project nearly unraveled. The individual who had committed to funding it backed out. When he found out CJ was to be an additional underwriter, the host, and narrator, the guy did not feel a gay man who had never served in the military was a good choice. When told CJ had the trust and support of the residents, his reply was “Fine, if they like him so much, let him put his money up.”

CJ’s fathers, Captain Brett Davenport and César Abelló, stepped in at that point. They offered to fund the project through the family’s charitable foundation. Any profits they would contribute to Heroes Haven. The original investor was unaware CJ had relinquished his hosting and narrating duties to Brad a few days after their conversation. The young, former Ranger agreed to serve as the voice and face of the documentary.

“Man, you’re too much.” Brad wrapped his arms around Mark and squeezed him. “Thank you!”

Laughing, Mark was momentarily immobile before relaxing into the hug. When he untangled himself from Brad, he chuckled. “Dude, no homo, OK? I know you’re surrounded by gays all the time, but I don’t play for that team.”

Brad slapped the man’s shoulder while smirking. “Fuck you! Neither do I, and you know it. I do have to admit being surrounded by my dads, my brother, CJ and Ozzie, and CJ’s fathers has relaxed the hell out of me. I was okay with them all being gay at first. They did their thing, and I did mine. Over time, I got used to all the hugging they did. It was cool. It wasn’t sexual.

“The first time I did it to a guy in my unit, everyone assumed I was a fudge packer. Eventually, they realized I was just a hugger. I think the weekend a handful of us went on leave together was what settled them down. I nailed three different Greek girls in a weekend, and I went from potential fag to confirmed stud.”

Mark cracked up. “You lucky shit! I dated a Greek girl when I was your age. We didn’t last long, but man could she take dick. Right before we broke upI was being deployed—I shared her with a buddy. We tag teamed her most of one night. That’s the closest I’ve been to someone’s hard dick. It was hot to feel him fucking her ass while I was in her pussy.”

“PIG!” A smirking Brad wiggled his eyebrows. “You got her phone number? Hook a brother up.”

 

 

“Why are you doing this?” he asked the woman sitting on the couch next to his armchair. When Mark surrendered possession of the house, the one item of furniture Brad added was an overstuffed recliner. He moved around without too much difficulty, and although the prostheses worked well, he was always aware he had them on. Resting the stumps on the raised footrest while rubbing the scar tissue was a pleasure.

“Before I answer, I want you to know how happy I am you’re part of the project, Brad.” Anne Maki touched his arm while smiling at him. She had driven in earlier in the day followed by a Winnebago slated to serve as the camera operators’ crash pad. “As for my reasons? There are a couple of them.

“Most important one’s a cousin of mine. A decorated soldier who came home a hero with a chestful of medals. But those metal discs dangling from colorful ribbons weren’t the only reminders of her service. If a little jumpy at times, she seemed fine for the most part.” Anne sounded oddly detached from her relative’s experience, almost clinical in the way she spoke. Her eyes, however, revealed her true feelings. In them, Brad could see the pain someone feels when a loved one hurts.

“She couldn’t sleep. The nightmares kept her up. She started with coffee to stay awake during the day after sleepless nights. Energy drinks followed and eventually crystal meth. She lost weight, had bags under her eyes, and often sounded paranoid. Constantly checking to make sure doors were locked and blinds lowered over windows.” Anne gave Brad a half-smile.

“You have to realize, none of us suspected how bad it was. We figured she would settle down after a while. We had no idea she’d quit her job and blown thorough her money buying drugs. She never, ever complained to anyone in the family or asked for help.”

Brad shivered, realizing that could have been his story. Like many returning service members, he would have tried to fix things on his own. Most were too proud to admit to mental illness, since they felt it was a weakness. He thought of how his family and friends had not waited for a request for assistance. They took it upon themselves to be there whether invited or not. Bastards pushed Brad hard, and the soldier would forever be grateful.

“Then she disappeared. I don’t recall who was the first one to get a ‘We’re sorry, this number is no longer in service’ message. After a couple days trying to get in touch with her myself, her parents visited her apartment and called me. They found the front door open, the place empty, and a maintenance man painting the inside. It was being readied for a new tenant.

“My aunt and uncle filed a missing person report. A nice police corporal—they told me he was a military vet himselfexplained that many returning men and women have trouble reintegrating into civilian life. That quite a few ended up homeless. And that all too often they did not want to be found. Pride stood in the way of their asking for assistance.”

Anne became agitated recounting the events. The distraught look told of her anguish. It was before noon, but Brad figured it was five o’clock somewhere. “Take a break for a minute, Anne. It’s early, but I think we need a drink. Can I offer you one? I have beer and a bottle of Irish whiskey.”

Her raised eyebrow questioned the wisdom of alcohol at the time, but she ended up smiling. “What the heck. I’ll take a little whiskey. Neat. Not like I’m going back to Brooklyn today. If I get drunk, make sure someone drives me to the motel.”

Originally from the San Francisco area, Anne lived in New York City. She planned to be at Heroes Haven most weekends while working nine-to-five during the week as a producer at one of the twenty-four hour cable news networks.

“Be right back.” Brad rose and walked the few steps to the kitchen, returning with two tumblers and a bottle of Redbreast his father had given him as a present. He placed the glasses on the table between the recliners and poured a couple of fingers in each. “This is good stuff, and you may be one of the only people I get to drink with. Quite a few of the residents are in recovery.”

“I gather you’re not?” Anne picked up one of the glasses and brought it to her lips. “Mmm… smooth.”

“Nah… I could have wound up with an alcohol problem. But back in high school, and again when I returned from the Middle East, my best friend got all up in my shit and made me realize being a drunk wasn’t acceptable.”

“Lucky you and good for your friend. Anyway, the cops couldn’t find my cousin, so the family hired a private detective. She was living under a bridge in a homeless colony. I flew out to California and somehow convinced her to enter rehab. That’s why I was out on the West Coast when I first talked to your friends.”

“How’s she doing?”

“Better, but we’re not out of the woods yet. She’s living with her parents now, and she’s in therapy. I talk to her all the time, and I may fly her out here sometime this summer so she can see what we’re doing.”

“You said your cousin was the main reason?”

“Yeah… Second one’s the absurd need many of us Japanese-Americans have to prove how patriotic we are. It makes no sense, but over 100,000 of us being in internment camps during World War II continues to play havoc with a lot of families. Our psyche requires we prove how wrong the government was. My grandparents were Nisei. Literally second generation. American-born Japanese with U.S. citizenship. That didn’t matter. They looked different, and the authorities assumed they were a national security risk. The need to prove our loyalty to the United States has been passed down through generations, and my family’s no different.”

 

 

“Why are you doing this?” Brad stared as Henk drove a stake into the ground some six feet away from his house. Henrik Green lived next to Brad’s new home. A wiry, mixed-race man with long kinky hair tied up in a bun, his lean, tawny body appeared impervious to the early spring chill. Shirtless, an odd assortment of tattoos covered portions of his arms and torso. There did not appear to be any logic to the designs or the placement.

“Because I don’t want you or any of your crew coming near me. I don’t need cameras looking through my windows.” Henk was one of less than a handful of residents who refused to sign the release allowing their faces to be shown in the documentary.

“Dude, like what the fuck? None of us would do that. We agreed to respect everyone’s privacy if that’s what they wanted.” It was something Brad had insisted on out of respect for his fellow former service members. No matter how unfounded their concerns or how illogical their thinking was. One man feared a cut in his Veterans Administration benefits if he appeared in a movie. Another one did not want to risk estranged family discovering where he was.

“Yeah, right. That’s what all you left-wing, liberal do-gooders say. Then you start offering advice or help and next thing you know you’re forcing us into rehab or some shit like that.”

Brad was momentarily at a loss for words. He had been provided a list of all residents and staff with basic information: name, age, place of birth, and rank at separation. Mark had offered additional details on some. Gossip for the most part.

Born in Atlanta to a German father and an African-American mother, Henrik Green spoke from experience. Brad had learned that Georgia law allowed the use of court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. Addicts could be forced into rehab. Henk had been found in the throes of an overdose in a drug house raided by police. Swift work by paramedics and the use of Narcan saved his life.

Remanded to a treatment facility, he dried out, began therapy, and was eventually released. He tramped around the Mid-Atlantic States, panhandling and sleeping wherever he could. One morning, he was woken up by the minister of the church he had spent the night at—he had crashed on a pew after crawling through an open window—and been given a flyer for Heroes Haven.

“Left-wing liberal? Me?” Brad shook his head in disbelief. “Dude, I’m a conservative, and much to the chagrin of most of my family and friends, I’m a registered Republican. And even though I now regret it, I voted for Trump. Pussy ass bitch should have never been elected.”

“Don’t make no difference. The fact you even voted’s fucked up. Politicians are all punks. They’re the same no matter what they say. No loyalty. All they care about is themselves and whatever power they can get. And your buddy Trump’s a perfect example. He demands loyalty from everyone, but the fucker doesn’t know what the word means. Look at us. Look at the people in Syria who fought by our sides and the chump abandoned.”

Brad was surprised Henk followed current events and paid attention to what happened in the world; his initial impression of the man was he was a burnout. “You know what? I agree with you for the most part. But I also agree with most of what Trump’s tried to accomplish. Unfortunately, the man’s an idiot. He has no concept of what working as part of a team is. If instead of stepping on everyone’s toes he had been less adversarial, he wouldn’t be as despised as he is. Private Bone Spurs would have never made it in the military.

“But not every politician’s looking out for themselves, Henk. I met Senator Tammy Duckworth a few months ago. She’s a vet who also lost both legs. She impressed me with her concern and diligence. Thanks to her, I know Haven’s gotten support from the VA for some of our programs. I also have a distant cousin who’s a representative in Congress. Good guy. After I returned, he’s made it a point of checking in with me on a pretty regular basis and always asks if there’s anything he or the VA can do for me.”

Brad took a breath and smirked. “And I’ll have you know my best friend’s going to be a politician. You couldn’t find a more stand-up guy. He’s the one who’s on the board of directors here. He introduced me to Senator Duckworth and to Heroes Haven. Mark my words, one day he’s gonna be President of the United States.”

“Good for you and good for him. If he becomes president, I hope he lives up to the trust you place in him. I kinda doubt it. Most people who get elected end up corrupted by power. If he’s your age, it won’t be for quite a few years, and I’m certain I won’t be around by then.”

The pessimistic outlook bothered Brad, but he refused to accept things were as bleak as Henk portrayed them. If he lost hope, he was bound to lose everything.

Copyright © 2020 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading. Your feedback in reactions and comments is welcome and appreciated.

And thanks to @dughlas and @Mann Ramblings for their help in making my scribbles make sense. Any errors remain mine.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Story Discussion Topic

US Army Rangers Sergeant Bradley Thomas Kennedy lost his legs when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. Ranger chronicles the first couple of years following the IED incident. Will he recover sufficiently from his physical and  mental wounds to lead a fulfilling live? Will he get the girl in the end? Here's a little look at the story.    
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Chapter Comments



Great chapter. Education and real. It's nice to see Brad is using his time at HH to learn about experiences different from his own. Thank you for alternating serious stories like this one with lighter stories.

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7 hours ago, avidreadr said:

Just read first three chapters.  They're all great, as usual, and tell a compelling story.  I look forward top reading more and finding out what happens.

Pssst, the win an Oscar. LOL

Actually, the story goes on for a bit after the win. Obviously, CJ and Chipper are no longer the only Squad members in the public eye.

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. Brad's story is going to be very compelling. I love the interviews with Anne and Henk, there stories reflected experiences of too many veterans.

No two are alike, but many vets struggle to reintegrate themselves into civilian life.

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2 hours ago, mikedup said:

Awesome chapter, most informative

Glad you liked it. All three scenes helped introduce the main new characters even though Anne won't play a big role.

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34 minutes ago, frosenblum said:

Great chapter. Education and real. It's nice to see Brad is using his time at HH to learn about experiences different from his own. Thank you for alternating serious stories like this one with lighter stories.

There are a couple of dark moments coming up, but there's also a lot of playfulness. Hopefully I got the balance right.

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29 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Great chapter. You give us a wide ranging view of a veteran’s world which is anything but monolithic. I really like how you set up each scene with the same question. 

Why am I not surprised a fellow author would comment on the repetition. In this case intentional! LOL @Dughlas did mention it when he beta read. I'm kinda proud of it and it did work for introducing 3 new characters even though we met Anne in the prologue.

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1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

Great chapter. You give us a wide ranging view of a veteran’s world which is anything but monolithic. I really like how you set up each scene with the same question. 

I too, thought using the same question was a good way to unify the varied scenes.

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46 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Why am I not surprised a fellow author would comment on the repetition. In this case intentional! LOL @Dughlas did mention it when he beta read. I'm kinda proud of it and it did work for introducing 3 new characters even though we met Anne in the prologue.

Yep I did.

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Excellent chapter and I am looking forward to reading more about Brad and the Vets  stories. 

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55 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

Damn. Didn't Kno that about Georgia and I live there!

Research, my friend. I've looked up so many damn things since I started writing, my head's full of trivia. I've now used Georgia twice in stories this year. You better be happy! :P

 

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42 minutes ago, Bft said:

Excellent chapter and I am looking forward to reading more about Brad and the Vets  stories. 

Thanks! New chapter next Friday.

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Being you opened with the Oscars I figure there's a lot more.  As always, I get too excited and comment before  brain is full engaged!

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9 hours ago, avidreadr said:

Being you opened with the Oscars I figure there's a lot more.  As always, I get too excited and comment before  brain is full engaged!

I'm experimenting again. In Singer, I started off with an event 3/4 of the way through the story and flashed back to the beginning, telling the story in chronological order. With Ranger, I started the same way, but future chapters will flip between the past and the present. Relatively speaking since most of the events take place later than the posting date.

I skipped the pre-Oscars red carpet hoopla, but next week we peek into one of the post-Oscars party.

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