To any soldier

Matson and Henry sit in the Humvee waiting for Sergeants Woods and Paddock to return from the operations tent. The operations tent is a mystery to Henry. Every day Woods and Paddock come out with a new mission for the squad. Henry never knows what these missions are, doesn’t want to know. He is happy enough riding in the turret and turning his mind off. Especially now that the weather is getting nice.

Matson is going through the To Any Soldier mail, boxes of letters dropped off weekly by the First Sergeant. “You soldiers should write these kids back at least,” he used to say. “Those third-graders take a lot of time and care in writing these letters and I’m sure they would be thrilled to hear back from some of you.” That was until Coughlin, over there in the fourth platoon, responded to Mrs. Johnson’s third-grade class from Ottumwa, Iowa. “Dear Kids. Thanks for your thoughts and nice letters. Now quit bothering us. We’re busy trying to keep the peace over here and don’t have time to write you little maggots back.” Now the Sergeant Major takes care to make sure no mail from the schools gets through to the 212th MP Company.

“Christ,” Matson says. She balls up the Hallmark and tosses it into the backseat with the others.

Henry is reading a two-week old Stars and Stripes, the paper yellow and curling like the constitution. He turns the page, eyes scanning over words he’s already read a dozen times. He asks, “What are you beseeching about?”

“Some housewife in Utah wants me to convert to Mormonism.”

“I don’t know why you bother with those things,” he says, putting the paper down and looking at her. “I mean, they were fun when we first got here, but now they’re just annoying.”

“I don’t know,” Matson says, cutting open a new envelope with her Leatherman. “I keep hoping to find cash.”

Henry laughs.

“Don’t laugh,” she says. “Back in November, first one I opened, five-bucks.”

“That’s right. I forgot about that. You got spoiled for sure.”

Her head sags with disappointment. “Damn. Would it kill these people to stick a five-dollar bill into these things? I mean, I am out here defending their freedoms and everything.”

“They probably figure they’re already paying you,” Henry says. “I opened a box filled with toothbrushes and Bibles when we first got here.”


“And Bibles. I was like, Motherfuckers, if I need a toothbrush I’ll go down to the PX and buy a fucking toothbrush. I’d rather they send Hustler or Penthouse or naked pictures of their girlfriends or maybe some whiskey. But enough with the Bibles.”

“What about me?” Matson asks.

“What about you?”

“What will they send for me? I don’t read Hustler and I sure as fuck don’t want to see these skanky girlfriends.”

“Why do you assume they’re skanky?” Henry asks. “What do you want?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Five-dollars. Or maybe some furry slippers.”


“Sure. My feet get cold in the mornings walking to the bathroom. And it’s a pain in the ass pulling these boots on.”

“Well, why don’t you write Dear Abby and let her know what the female soldier in Kosovo really needs.”

“Nah,” she says. “You better do it.”

“Me? But I’m not female. And I don’t want any slippers. And I doubt Abby is going to tell her readers to start sending porn over to us. Although that would be pretty awesome.”

“I can’t write to her,” Matson says. She’s finished with the mail and is picking dirt from under her fingernails. “I’ve been blacklisted since junior high.”

“You can get blacklisted from Dear Abby?”


“Jesus. For what?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Why don’t you just look at Sergeant Woods’s Hustlers? He’s got like three-hundred of them.”

“Meh.” Henry shrugs. “They’re old and boring. I need something new to look at.”

“You guys are perverts.”

Henry looks out the window. It is early and the thick gray fog is just starting to burn off. A steady stream of soldiers walks towards the mess hall for breakfast and the air smells of eggs and bacon and weapons grease. Henry leans back and looks out the turret like a sunroof and watches the blackbirds fly north. Two more months until they went back to Germany. Two more months until they would get no more mail from school kids and bored Mormon housewives.

The door opens with a heavy click and Sergeant Woods sticks his smiling face in. “Henry!” he says. “Another day in paradise. Now get your ass in the turret.”

Henry groans, crawls up and behind the machine gun. Matson starts the truck. And the day finally begins.

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