Free Story: Worth Fighting For (9/11 Tribute)
This story is a work of fiction inspired by true events. Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Worth Fighting For
Williams heard the buzzing near his ear, and then the impact as the round slammed into the dirt behind him. He ducked his head, though it was already too late.
Fuck, that was close!
He lay face down, gasping hard, sucking in sand. Icy fingers clawed up his spine at the thought that he’d been just inches away from a bullet to the head…inches away from death.
What the hell was he doing here?
They were ambushed on their way back to base. Now they were pinned down and trapped, taking cover in this sandy depression. Mathers and Franklin were dead, taken out in the first volley. Williams looked over at Vitale, who’d taken a hit to the chest. He lay on his back, staring up at the sky and breathing bloody bubbles out of his nose and mouth. He’d be dead soon, too, Williams thought. That left him and DeWyngart, against who knew how many assailants.
What the hell was he doing here?
He wanted to be back home, in his bed, with Kelli in his arms. He wanted to feel her soft nakedness against his body. He wanted to kiss her, to put his lips and his tongue in those places that made her sigh and moan. He wanted to feel the sweet warmth of her sex as he sank into her, so deep that they became one, so close that her body became his home.
Williams remembered that first time, how they’d agreed to wait until their honeymoon to know each other. That was six years ago. That was when she gave him the precious gift of her body. God, she was so sweet! He missed her so much.
He looked over at DeWyngart, who sat on the sand with his back against the rise of the depression. “How many mags you got?” he asked.
“I got two,” DeWyngart said. “You?”
“Three,” Williams said. He looked over at Vitale again. He wasn’t breathing bloody bubbles anymore. Fuck. “Get Vitale’s ammo too. We might be here for a minute.”
Williams sighed and asked himself for the umpteenth time: What the hell am I doing here?
It was a question he always knew the answer to.
Six years ago:
He sat up in bed in the honeymoon suite in the Las Vegas hotel, staring at the television in stunned disbelief. He’d turned on the set when he woke up expecting to see Matt Lauer and Katie Couric sitting behind their desks on The Today Show. Instead he was watching what looked like a scene from a disaster movie. People were running down the street, terrified, as a giant plume of white smoke billowed behind them, seeming to chase them like some wraith from a Stephen King story. Then the TV cameras switched scenes, showing a clip of another plane as it crashed into the second tower.
He couldn’t believe it. Somebody was attacking them, right in New York City. Damn.
He was still shocked as he shook Kelli awake.
“Babe, wake up…check this out…”
She rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she sat up. “What’s this show?” she asked.
Still stunned, he told her. And as they watched, a solemn newscaster announced that another commercial aircraft had just flown into the Pentagon.
Holy fuck. For the first time in fifty years motherfuckers were attacking them in their own house.
Kelli slid closer in the bed and huddled against him. He put his arm around his new bride and held her close. As they watched a replay of the first tower collapse she trembled in his arms. She was afraid. His baby was scared.
That’s when he got mad.
Williams raised his head up slowly and peeped over the edge of the depression. There was an up cropping of rocks about forty yards away, and another at about twenty yards. As he looked, one of their attackers dashed from the distant rocks to the closer group. The bastards were trying to sneak up on them.
Williams eased his M-16 over the lip of his hiding place and pressed his cheek against its stock. He lined up his sight about ten yards from the far stand of rocks and waited.
A moment later another sniper dashed from behind the rocks. Williams lined him up in his sight, leading him just a little.
He held his breath to still his body.
He squeezed the trigger, gently.
The sniper screamed and collapsed to the dust.
Williams slid back down, a smile of satisfaction on his face. He thought about Kelli. That’s one, baby.
He looked over at DeWyngart. “We need to let these motherfuckers know we’re not playing,” he said.
“I got next,” DeWyngart grinned. He looked up over the edge of the depression and lifted his weapon into place.
A torrent of gunfire popped off. Dust and rocks blasted up near DeWyngart’s face. He screamed and fell back.
“Are you hit? Are you hit?” Williams yelled over the gunfire and shouts of the enemy.
“I can’t see!” DeWyngart screamed. “Oh shit, I can’t see!”
Williams didn’t see any blood on his comrade. “Get your canteen,” he yelled. “Rinse your eyes out. Hurry up man, they might be coming!”
DeWyngart cried out again, panicked.
Williams couldn’t tell if the enemy were coming or still hiding behind the rocks.
What the hell am I doing here?
He remembered that last night before he left to deploy to this God forsaken hell hole. Kelli had told him to lie back, to just let her take care of him. And she had, so sweetly. God, he loved her so much.
If he was going to die here now, he wanted his last thought to be of his wife, and of her sweetness. He wanted her to be his last vision before crossing over.
Williams gripped his weapon and steeled himself, getting ready to rise up and open fire. And then he heard a sudden deep rumbling, growing louder.
“What – what’s that?” DeWyngart asked, still blinded by the sand.
Williams slid down in the depression and looked back, skyward. He smiled.
“The fucking Air Force…an A-10.”
DeWyngart screamed “Yeah!” and punched his fist in the air. “Come and kick some ass, flyboys!”
Williams said a silent thank you as relief washed over him.
The A-10 Thunderbolt, nicknamed “The Warthog,” was the baddest motherfucker with two wings. It could fly low and slow, and was packing a 30 millimeter Gatling machine gun that could fire almost 4,000 armor-piercing rounds per minute. And that was the lightweight weaponry. It also carried Maverick surface-to-air missiles, cluster bombs and rocket pods.
The enemy wasn’t firing at them now. Williams looked up over the ridge of the depression. They probably saw the A-10 too, and were probably ducking and running for cover.
Williams said, “Kiss your asses goodbye, motherfuckers,” and ducked down and covered his head. Moments later the earth quaked as the Warthog blasted the enemy to hell.
In another month his enlistment would be up. His commitment was over. As Williams walked up the sidewalk to his residence in base housing he knew that many would think he was a sucker for enlisting. But that was cool.
People wouldn’t understand why he’d joined, and he didn’t know if he could ever explain it, or would even bother to try.
It wasn’t about going after some mythical weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t about getting revenge against Saddam because we failed to get him in the first Gulf War. It wasn’t about oil, if that’s why we were really there, or to help Cheney secure nice, fat defense contracts for his business partners.
Okay, maybe his government had let him down. He could be pissed off about that. He could be mad because the government had failed to let him do what he’d signed up to do. But still, he’d had to do it.
As he reached his residence Kelli came out onto the porch to greet him. They were in each other’s arms in an instant.
Williams held his wife close, and remembered how she’d trembled in fear as he’d held her close on that day six years ago. That’s why he’d joined the military. Because his wife had been afraid. She didn’t know if she would be safe in her own home, in her own country. And because he was a man, if someone made his wife afraid, then damn it, he was going to the source of the problem to handle his business. He’d enlisted to go kick the asses of the motherfuckers who’d made his wife afraid. It wasn’t his fault that his government let him down.
So let the people who cared more about what crazy ass Brittney Spears was doing, or whether Kanye sold more CDs than 50 Cent sit home and judge him. He didn’t give a fuck.
The reason he’d gone to war was right here in his arms.
That’s what he was fighting for.
She was worth it.
In tribute to the innocents who perished on 11 September 2001.
In tribute to all who serve – my fellow warriors.
Handle your business.
© November 2007
Master Sergeant, United States Air Force